Dear Diary….February 2016

When I was entered into the UK Blog Awards for 2016, I needed to write a summary about my Blog (although I understand that somewhere I have made a spelling mistake, describing my writing as a ‘Blob’, which actually is probably more accurate).  I found this quite difficult to do (a) because I find condensing anything difficult; if I can use more, rather than less, words I will and (b) because what I envisaged in April 2015 has actually changed.  People say things like ‘I didn’t know that about you’ or ‘Are you writing an autobiography?’.  I did start out just wanting to write about individual tea towels but memories interconnect; people appear at different points in my life and I have discovered this ability for tea towels to re-engage memories.  All these ideas are constantly floating through my mind.

However, I was reading the Mail on Sunday Magazine (don’t ask me why; it’s another story) when I came across an article about diarists, five people who had written a diary for many years.  They were interviewed about why they kept a diary, how they did it, what was difficult, who their favourite diarists were, what tips they would give to someone thinking about writing a diary, what they had learnt ………. It made me think.  I’ve never written a diary.  Actually that’s not strictly true.  As a child, I always thought it would be a good idea; each January I would start but never got beyond the first day or so.  The one I remember very clearly was in 1963; I remember this because on 18th January that year Hugh Gaitskill died. I actually remember writing about his death, almost like an obituary.  I was very excited about this, that I had something to write about and I also remember that I didn’t get any further than that in the year and it was probably my last real attempt at a diary.  It was strange writing about Hugh Gaitskill because I had no interest in Party politics (that’s also another story).  In this article in the Mail on Sunday, asked about writing a diary, Michael Palin said “Don’t be put off by trivia.  You  don’t need to sum up the Sunni-Shia conflict and how it affects you each day.  Just let it be about you”.   So is my ‘Blob’ more like an unco-ordinated diary – a lot of trivia, a bit about me, the odd political comment, some unwanted historical information and facts only useful in a Pub Quiz?  When Gyles Brandeth was asked why he kept a diary he said “Keeping a diary is like looking in the mirror to make sure you are still there”.  Maybe a Tea Towel Blob provides the same function for me.

I like the idea that the Tea Towel Blob is a disorganised and out-of-sequence diary that one day someone could organise sequentially (job for Jai when she inherits the tea towels perhaps) but I would hate to be tied up with the fact that I only bought tea towels in the future that I was going to be able to write about.  I like the current randomness of it all.  I like the ‘journey’ I have started; a way of recording things that I had long forgotten but are brought back to life by an unlikely trigger; a way of recording  some funny moments or things that did not make a lot of sense at the time and sometimes painful things.

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For example, here is a tea towel I bought in 2013, in a National Trust shop.  I saw it and it immediately reminded me of a National Trust tablecloth, oven glove and waste paper bin that I was given as a wedding present in 1976.  It was a gift from Audrey Johnstone, a friend of my parents, someone I didn’t know that well – one of those people I would never have chosen to invite to my wedding because they weren’t a friend of mine.  This was, without a doubt, my favourite wedding present because I thought they were so beautiful and unusual .  The tablecloth was navy linen, uniformly patterned with the National Trust symbol of acorn leaves and acorns.  I don’t know what happened to the tablecloth, waste paper bins and oven gloves after my divorce.  I had long forgotten these things until I saw this tea towel – not even the same colour or design but the iconic shape.  Now that memory would have been lost forever without the Tea Towel Blob.  I have no intention of starting a diary, I’ll stick to the Blob, but I will keep to the good things about the diary,  following Richard E Grant’s words on writing a diary “be yourself, be honest and be unequivocal”  and avoiding Alan Clarke’s four ‘I’s – immediate, intimate, indecipherable and indiscreet.