It was Christmas 1960, and I was an excited seven-year old girl full of anticipation over what ‘Father Christmas’ would be bringing me..
Little did my family know, that the gift I received that year would bring me a lifetime of joy, and lead me to achieving a life long dream – of becoming a published author. For, on that fateful Christmas morning, I received my very first ‘lock up diary’.
I was full of joy, happiness and excitement at being able to write down the events of my daily life, including the following excerpts:
1st January 1960
Stayed at my grandmas all day. Had dinner and tea there. Played all day with Marion.
2nd January 1960
We went a walk. Then we went to aunty graces. She gave us sixpence. Went to Grandmas. Uncle matt gave us sixpence.
And so it goes. Apparently I entered my first poem competition February 1965. It was a snappy poem competition in my favourite comic, ‘Diana’. How about that!
Whilst, these entries may not appear exciting to you – they became juicer during my teenager years, and as an adult they have allowed me to get a glimpse of my former self, written in my own voice with all of the insecurities and the peaks and troughs of the teenage years.
When I look back at the entries in my diary written in my own words it allows me to reflect on my life. There are many important events charted in the diary. For example, the exact date I learned to swim, the first day I went to the Girl Guides, the day I joined the Saint John’s nursing cadets. I have even recorded the grades I received for my school exams.
I progressed to journal writing when my son was born, starting with a short family history and a rudimentary family tree. Originally my intention was to chart the day to day family life and the growth and development of my son. My daughter was born three years later and I continued to document both of my children’s growth and development including their educational attainments and sporting achievements. Alongside this I wrote about our day to day events as a family, the places we visited and a little social history. Apparently I was in the kitchen baking, when the news broke about the assassination of John Lennon, which I have clearly documented outlining my distress.
As well as my own immediate family I have also documented important events from my extended family. In addition, I encouraged both of my parents to write an account of their young lives, which they both kindly agreed to. Therefore amongst the many pages of writing, there is a section written in my mother and fathers voice.
My mother added the following details to my journal:
I remember going from house to house for salvage. My part towards the war effort. We did very little schooling so I wasn’t the brains of Britain. I left school at the age of fourteen, I started work in a factory called Barringers Wallace and Manors, it was a metal factory making tins for the troops and gas mask tins for civilians
My father added the following details to my journal:
I was born in Dewsbury. As far as I can recall there was no electric in those days, just a small gas jet and mantle on the wall. And a small gas ring to cook on plus an oven at the side of the old fireplace if you had anything to burn. The houses were all cold and damp and the toilets 20 – 30 yards down a yard outside in a block of six. No flush toilet, just a cut out round hole in wood. These had to be emptied once a week at night by men called “night soil men” These bad conditions were the reason for fever hospitals to be always full of children. Both me and my sister Barbara were in hospital at the same time with Scarlet fever.
I still find it an interesting read, that gives me an insight into past times. The written word can be a powerful tool. I hope that one day, my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and all future generations will read through my journals and capture that moment in time, from the voice of their own ancestors.
I find that writing in my journal is therapeutic and helps to clear my mind of any clutter that is building inside of me.
My advice to anyone who is contemplating writing a journal, is to have no set rules about content or no set times to write. Just go to the journal and treat it like a friend that you are having a conversation with. Write down your thoughts, worries and aspirations alongside the day to day events and the important milestones of your family life.
Most of all enjoy the writing.