The opening of a British exhibition inviting the public to submit examples from their own private diaries has prompted social historian Joe Moran to write in celebration of daily journal keepers.
Private diaries tell us that history is made up of billions of separate consciousnesses, all swayed by their moods, caprices and animal instincts from one day to the next, and ultimately impenetrable to other human beings.
My only sustained effort at the genre manages to stutter on until Tuesday 25 April before ending abruptly with the single, gnomic utterance: “Watched Goober and the Ghost Chasers and made a different tent.” God knows what historians of the future will make of that. But I am happy to bequeath my Paddington Bear Diary for 1978 to the Great Diary Project, just in case.
Moran’s piece prompted a sublime letter to the paper, which has deservedly been doing the rounds on social media.
From Dinah Hall of Devon, it reads:
There’s nothing like teenage diaries for putting momentous historical events in perspective. This is my entry for 20 July 1969. “I went to arts centre (by myself!) in yellow cords and blouse. Ian was there but he didn’t speak to me. Got rhyme put in my handbag from someone who’s apparently got a crush on me. It’s Nicholas I think. UGH. Man landed on moon.”
If diaries can deliver messages from the past, a question on the AskReddit section of the Reddit website the other day wonders what message we might send from today to our forebears.
“If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today,” it asks, “what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?”
So far it’s attracted more than 13,000 comments, but probably the best – which has also been circulating online – is this:
I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.