Keeping a Diary

Do you keep a diary? A journal? A record of everything from when the plumber came to how you felt when your much-loved, one-winged crow disappeared from her aviary. (That would be me  two weeks ago.)

I used to keep a five-year diary when I was a teenager andI really wish I could read those entries now. Among other things, I wrote about my undying love for David my next door neighbour's son who took me out once in his Capri Ghia, promised he'd phone and then never did. I remember still waiting for that call six months later, detaling my anguish in my little lockable journal. That diary was like a friend. But when we moved house it somehow disappeared and I kind of lost interest in diary writing after that, for a very, very  long time.

When we moved to Italy in 1994. Alan and I started keeping a joint diary. After all, it was the experience of a lifetime. We had bought a ruined farmhouse in Umbria. It had no gas or water, no toilet or kitchen, no electricity or glass in the windows. Our farming neighbours were friendly but uncomprehending as we learned to plaster walls and lay bricks. We spent three hours in the blazing sunshine in July digging a round hole for a septic tank that arrived the same day. The driver laughed when he saw the tiny excavation we had made. 'You can plant a tree there,' he said as he unloaded a tank the size of the Ark Royal. It all went in the diary.

Our diary-writing gradually stopped as years passed and life became more 'normal. But I kept a record of my experiences through my weekly letters to my Mum, something I still do to this day. I found a bundle of my letters the last time I went to see her and re-read my tales of buying the geese, cleaning years of white paint off the beams and starting our little language school. You forget so much, you know?

I started keeping a diary again about two years ago and I write in it every morning, usually at about 7 am before I take the dogs out. I detail the boring stuff: got 21 quintale of logs they're too big for the stove!, but also the more interesting things: 'Picchio the handicapped pigeon arrived yesterday and promptly flew round the aviary. It's a miracle!'

I don't think many people keep diaries these days (God, I sound about a hundred years old!) but I think it is very important to have a way to express your feelings and record your life as even the little mundane details bring back a raft of other memories. Facebook and Twitter have their place but  lots of people seem to spend more time taking photos and uploading them on Facebook to prove they have had an experience than actually experiencing the thing in the first place!

So please consider writing a few lines every day in a notebook – writing not typing, notebook as in notebook with paper not electronic gadget – and record everything you do, big and small. One day you'll be glad that you did.

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