Comment: All you need is life - and a decent diary

Hunter Davies
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:51

JUST BEEN out to buy my diary for 2000 - same sort of shape as last year's, with a plastic folder bit at the back where I can stick my address sheets. Saves me copying them out, worn and tatty though they have become, but haven't we all?

I have kept a diary since 1959. My wife mocks it; says it's not a diary, it's full of nothings, just a couple of words a day, such as Spurs 3 Man Utd 1 - that was a good day.

She keeps a proper diary, 500 words a day, but only every five years. And it's all on one topic: our children. She began it in 1973 so it covers almost all their little lives - ahh. She's not due to write another till 2003, but for 2000 she's going to keep a commonplace book, recording what she does, what she thinks, during the year. There must have been thousands of people who did that in 1900. I've looked all year, but failed to find one.

I started mine in order to do my expenses, filling in the names of people I'd interviewed. Forty years ago, let me see, I was using a Lewis's diary, so it says on the title page. I wonder if I bought it at John Lewis in Manchester, which is where I'd started the year on the Evening Chronicle, before coming to London on the Sunday Graphic. My phone number in Manchester was RUSholme 7570. Severely crossed out. My new number was GLAdstone 4788. Gosh, I was proud of having a London telephone number.

In this week in December 1959 I went to see Gregory Peck in On the Beach, interviewed Marty Wilde and the Vernon Girls, Alicia Markova, Lady Pakenham, David Nixon and Rinty Monaghan. Was he a boxer?

For 1960 I have a half-completed diary, the only time that's happened. I went to Stratford East to see a play, probably one of Joan Littlewood's, driving in my ancient Riley. It packed up and, in bending over the bonnet, I dropped my diary. I had to buy another one, half-way through the year.

Apart from that missing half-year, I therefore know exactly where I was and whom I met, every day for 40 years. Gold dust. Because memory does play little tricks. On the night of 14 June 1967, the Beatles performed "All You Need is Love" on the first satellite global TV thing. I was there with them in Abbey Road. It says so, in several Beatles reference books. Must be true. My diary for the day before records that I was with Mal and Nel, their two road managers. And the week later I had dinner at Paul's with Jane Asher. According to the diary. But the night of "All You Need is Love" is a blank, suggesting I was at home. I feel I was there. Yet I've got no proof.

I have had a few big fat desk diaries over the years, usually because some firm has given me a big fat one for free. For three years I had a BBC diary. Huge thing. What a mistake. Now, on the shelf where I keep my 40 years of life lined up, the BBC diaries stick out, ruining the symmetry.

Mostly they are small and thin, to fit easily into a pocket, which means the paper is small and thin, not to say cheap and nasty. Every year on 2 January, I vow to go upmarket when I see that my scribble for 1 Jan has come through the page. Very symbolic. For does not the imprint of one day dictate the next?

But far more annoying is Saturday and Sunday. For 40 years I have failed to find a diary that truly fits my life. Have a look at your own. Diary, I mean. I bet Saturday and Sunday are shorter than the rest, crammed into one space. So irritating for the millions of us who work at home and therefore treat every day the same, or give it the length we choose to give it, not what we are given. Also annoying for the public now that the nation's Sundays are action-packed.

Yesterday, I've had to write in the Spurs-Newcastle score in very, very small handwriting. I know I'll never be able to read it in the years to come. Perhaps that's just as well.

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