So how did you spend the Bank Holiday weekend? With friends and family, at a sporting fixture, perhaps gardening or DIY, or just chilling? Bank Holiday Monday chez nous was the day of the great garage clearance. It was the day to sort out which items, that started their life in the house, then migrated to the loft and were then stored in the garage ‘just in case’, would make their final journey to the council’s recycling centre. The dump so to speak. Predictably amongst the obvious candidates for recycling oblivion, were a number that we agreed we couldn’t possibly part with. The original coronation mug my wife has carried around with her since 1953, and a selection of Dinky toy cars from the late 1950s made the preservation cut.
What I rediscovered though in the process was a box containing all my old work diaries starting from 1981 and running up to 2018. When I was working for local authorities we were expected to keep our diaries for a number of years – I was never quite sure how many – for the purpose of knowing where we were and what we had been doing on a particular day. Back in the day I think it was as much about proving where you had been as you claimed travel expenses, as it was about providing evidence of whom you had met and where. As I moved into working for the Church in 2013, I continued with this tradition. I do use the ‘Outlook’ e diary, but still find the hard copy invaluable and easy to review if needed.
As you can imagine stumbling on these again was a great incentive to stop the more arduous aspects of what I had planned to do, and instead take a look at what I had been up to on this date in a few sample years. May 27th always being around the fixed Bank Holiday weekend as opposed to the moveable Whitsun of my childhood, there was in fact very little of interest to show – leave, a staff meeting, a course about pre-sentence report writing, and supervision sessions were about the sum of it. But there were one or two references to meetings with young people in the youth justice system, which was my area of work from 1979 until 1991, and as I tried to picture them in my mind, I thought about where they might be now. They would be in their late forties or early fifties by now, and so I wondered if our interventions at the time had had a lasting effect.
I didn’t look through each of the 37 diaries – the dump was closing at 4pm and it was already 2.30. But I will return to them shortly, as although they are simply appointments and scribbled notes, they say something about me, the organisations I have worked for and how our work practices have changed over time. They contain a spectrum of memories of people I’ve worked with, and some I’d perhaps like to forget! Also being able to show where you were on a particular date, whom you were with and for what purpose, was an important accountable record for future reference.
I note that there is a new edition of Anne Frank’s diary about to be published. We already know a great deal about her life and sadly her death, but her insights and observations are remarkable, of course going far, far beyond the sketchy diary entries I looked at again today. But for every entry in the handful of those 37 volumes I dusted off (literally), there is probably at least a short story to tell – if only I could remember all the details. If you keep a diary, take a look back at a few entries – they may have some messages for today.