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On dedicated diarists
In the Guardian Review in March 2003 William Boyd discussed the journal. I know this because it caught my eye on 9/03/2003 and I gave it a thorough blogging.
There are many sorts of journal (wrote Boyd):
- journals written with both eyes fixed firmly on posterity
- journals designed never to be read by anyone but the writer.
- journals content to tabulate the banal and humdrum details of ordinary lives
- journals meant expressly to function as a witness to momentous events of history.
- journals that act as erotic stimulants or a psychoanalytic crutch
- journals designed simply to function as an aide-memoire, perhaps as a rough draft for a later, more polished account of life.
But buried within these varying ambitions and motivations is a common factor that unites all these endeavours – the aspiration to be honest, to tell the truth.
The implication being that in the privacy of this personal record, things will be said and observations made that couldn’t or wouldn’t be uttered in a more public forum. Said Boyd.
(Wherein lies the blogs fundamental flaw. Do you tell the truth? Or skip the truth and become inventive with it?) Say I.
Hence the adjective “intimate” so often appended to the noun “journal”. Said Boyd.
The idea of secret diaries, of intimate journals, somehow goes to the core of this literary form: there is a default-setting of intimacy – of confession – in the private record of a life that not only encourages the writing of journals but also explains their fascination to the reader.’
Wherein lies the lack of interest in the blog as academic record and reflection; it is your reflection and your record. If on paper it would be in an exercise book or an arch-lever file. Without some truth, some revelation, some disclosure, even exposure, it is but a carapace.
Seven years ago I invited people to comment, formed a group and promised to read the journals given below.
Few fellow bloggers came forward, it’s a Long Run, a life-long marathon, not a thing you do as a relay team or with someone on you back.
Seven years on I may read some more of the journals listed below and see what insights it offers this blogger. I suspect I’ve read everything there is on Evelyn Waugh and Virginia Woolf – and everything they wrote (though I’m yet to jump into the River Ouse with my Gant raincoat pockets full of rocks. A passing thought as I walk the dog most days where the lady drowned herself).
William Boyd’s to Ten Journal Keepers
‘It mimics and reflects our own wayward passage through time like no other writing form.’ Boyd says.
‘You have to be dead to escape the various charges of vanity, of special-pleading, of creeping amour-propre.’
The blog I kept for a decade and a bit more Sept 1999 to early 2000 spiralled a non-chronological ‘dump’ on 37 themes.
Occasionally I take a visit; it’s like digging around in my in-law’s attic (they give the appearance og having kept everything they ever read. They are voracious readers and are in their eighties)
A blog for me is:
- A record
- A journal
- An aide-memoir
- My deleterious exploits
- The past (every memory gathered in, every book read, every film seen).
- Dreams analysed
- My mental state
- Every stage and phase of growing up dissected.
This OU Blog does have an educational remit. For me it’s an attempt to be bustled onto the tracks from which I became derailed. Perhaps. Or a compulsion to empty the contents of my Brian down any drain that’lll take it.
That, and I don’t know what I mean until I’ve said it.
All this and I’m yet to get my head around the Opinion Piece in the New Scientist. ‘Dear e-diary, who am I really?’ and the potty idea of slinging a digital camera around your neck to record your every living moment.
Two things it vitally fails to pick up: what you think and how you feel.
Long live the diary, blog, journal-thingey.
12 months ago I was preparing to apply to West Dean College to study an M.A. in Fine Art, perhaps, now that I begin to look at the diaries of Paul Keel and Keith Vaughan this is where I should be.
The Big House, the Murrays and Domestic Servants
My father called ‘J.G.’ the ‘Governor.’
He’d been a solicitor practising in Newcastle when his father died and left him the business.
There was his Mrs Murray. Her name was Isabella and she was born in 1867; she came from Wylam and their daughter Miss Ethne. Miss Ethne had a birthday in May and was born in 1894, same age as my older brother Percy. There was a harness with everything in glass cases, saddles etc: Miss Effne had a little Shetland pony with a cream tub trap. She had an Italian Governess for a while, a Miss Rosina Frache, a spinster in her thirties. And later a German Governess who had things thrown at her when war broke out; she was interred. They were locking Germans up. The butcher changed his name and we let him get away with that; he made these excellent sausages. He took the name ‘Butcher,’ which everyone liked. After that we made up our own names for anyone that had a German sounding name. Shotley Bridge was made by a German family; it was a German who had set up the sword makers back in the 17th century.
The house had a butler, called Fry.
A housekeeper, called Mrs Kirkpatrick. A cook, called Mrs Woodburn who was replaced by Annie Ridley. A house maid, called Emma Housby, a laundry maid, Kathleen Robertson, a Waiting Maid, Jessie Brown and an 18 year old lass they called the ‘Dope’ as the Kitchen Maid – her name was Edith Walker. There was a gardener, called Booth, two gamekeepers, Jack Bell, and a Scotsman called Frank Carruthers. Jack lived at Elm Park and Frank was up at Allensford, Blanchland. Bell lived on the other side of the railway; he’d come over to cut the lawns on a Monday, if the weather was good. Bell pulled on a bit of cord and Booth pushed; it wasn’t motorised and you weren’t to use a horse or pony because that would spoil the lawn. They had these big rollers too; they kept it like they were going to play cricket. All you ever saw was a bit of croquet or lawn tennis.
Jack Bell paid the wages for everyone working at the Big House. He kept these single entry estate books up at the Royal Hotel.
We were living in the lodge
As a boy, I used to come up to the yard to fiddle on with the engines. I remember at one time there were these great crates of dinner sets to unpack for the cook.
The ‘Old Man’ and my mother’s side
The Old man was the local vet in Wigton
He was never a qualified vet but he did the job all the same. He had all these beautiful instruments in a doctor’s bag; he looked the part and the people who came to him were grateful. I have those instruments somewhere. He had all sorts.
I remember going over there once and being taken up to Heather’s Gill where we did some shooting.
My mother’s side were farmers at Bell Gate House Farm, Dalston
Mother, whose name was Sarah, was the eldest of six girls.
My aunties were Margaret (b1874), Ellen (b1877) then Elizabeth (b1880), Ada (b1883) and Emma (b1886)
Mother, 24 at the time, went home to Granny Nixon to have me.
I was born on the farm on 20th August 1896 and christened in Dalston Church.
That’s what women did when they were expecting; they went home to have their baby and would be taken care of by their mothers.
The farm was a real mixture. It had an orchard and pigs. We rented it from the estate. There was a market garden in Carlisle. Granny Nixon used to take a pony and tub trap into town once a week to sell eggs and butter at a stall.
I’d go in on the occasions I was there and help out on the stall for a few coppers.