Reasons NOT to keep a diary

warning sign, forbidden, prohibited, do not

What was to become a life-long obsession with diary-writing was largely spurred by the chance overhearing of this comment at school when I was seventeen. …

Thursday 9th October 1986
“Not in an unpleasant way.”

I felt compelled to jot down the above snippet of homophobia made by one of my teachers. I made the note in my school homework diary, using Greek letters (I had studied Greek at ‘O’ level) to disguise it. The teacher had made a remark about another teacher which was ambiguous and could have meant that the other teacher was gay. The first teacher then clarified the remark with the words, “Not in an unpleasant way.” Casual homophobia was part of life in 1986. And yet any reference to homosexuality, either positive or negative, was thrilling in those days as it was barely mentioned at all.

From that date I started noting down observations, feelings, events, all in my devised code, based on the Greek alphabet. Within three or four years I was writing lengthy daily diary entries, often totalling thousands of words. The excessive toll on my time aside, I have learnt that there are a number of good reasons not to keep a diary.

You will cringe
It’s painful to read the extent to which I went, just to make any form of contact with Miss Williams, the teacher with whom I fell hopelessly in love at the age of twelve.

I followed her, drew pictures of her and for her, bought hundreds of raffle tickets for a charity she was raising money for. I sent her inappropriate presents, snuck into her classroom and wrote ‘I love Miss Williams’ on the cork board with drawing pins. I offered money to one of her pupils to take photographs of her for me. I ordered fabric with her face printed on it, I hand-made stationery with her face printed on it. I carved ‘I love Miss Williams’ into a bench at the railway station. I wrote out ‘I love you’ repeatedly on scraps of paper and slipped them inside her marked homework books which were ready to be given back to her pupils. I cross-questioned people who knew her, to hear her name or learn snippets of information. And so on, and so on, for years. …

As Enoch Powell once noted, “To write a diary every day is like returning to one’s own vomit.”

It’s incriminating
In my early twenties, at the beginning of the 1990s, I shifted from my Christian public schoolgirl persona to that of a hippie drop-out who wasn’t afraid to indulge in a spot of petty crime. In fact, I built up quite an impressive catalogue.

It all started in 1991 when I was living in France. A friend of mine and I met a young English lad, Chris Smith, who had escaped custody for joy-riding, acquired a one-day passport at the post office, and legged it across the Channel. Chris had nowhere to live, so I gave him a floor. He robbed me and disappeared.

To really turn the screw, I discovered shortly afterwards from the dim-witted woman who owned the only food shop in walking distance from my home, that she had accepted a cheque of mine, which Chris had signed in front of her. As the bank wouldn’t take it, she wanted me to cover the cost. This made me cross. I decided that I would rob back from the shops every item that Chris had stolen from me. I noted down everything I shoplifted, where I shoplifted it from, and how much it cost.

It unnerves criminals
A couple of decades ago, I hung out in a space which happened to be populated by druggies, dealers, fraudsters, and burglars. I would sit for hours with my diary, making no secret of the fact that I was recording everything that transpired around me and everything I heard. One day a couple of dealers, a level up from the norm, appeared from out of town to do business with some of the regular dodgy characters. These dealers wore sunglasses and placed a gun on the table. As usual, I just sat at the edge of proceedings and I wrote.

Sometime later an acquaintance of mine let me know that he had been offered £100 by the aforementioned dealers to steal my diary and hand it over to them.

People find it
Always encode a diary. When I was fourteen our parents sent us on one of the most enjoyable holidays of my life—a canal cruise for girls, run by a group of Christian women. During that week we were encouraged to write a diary. I was forever having crushes on the leaders of these Christian holidays. I recorded this particular holiday’s crush, rather innocently, with the words, “Miss Grant has got very nice clothes and eyes.” I hadn’t learned Greek at this point. The words were in plain English. My sister found it. She went straight over to Miss Grant and shared this excruciating snippet of lesbian attraction with her, in front of everyone.

It drives you to drugs
I became so obsessed with writing in ever increasing detail that I was running out of time in which to record it all. I tried to resolve this problem by engaging in less activity, by freezing my thoughts, and so on. It didn’t work. By spring 1993 I was a few days behind. I started taking amphetamines to keep myself awake, to try to catch up. This back-fired somewhat as the drug experiences themselves needed recording.

On one occasion I kept myself awake for four days and four nights, towards the end of which, during a shift in the Bingo Hall where I was working, I started to hallucinate. Through the window, my home town was on fire. And a giant black spider, several feet in height, was crawling around in the corner of the room. The effect of the drugs had thoughts racing through my mind, which I had to record too. When I realised I couldn’t keep it up, I sat down on the floor and started defacing the next blank pages of my diary by scribbling all over them.

Other diary subjects by means of which I have embarrassed, incriminated, and endangered myself over the years include experimenting with drugs, wandering and sleeping rough, hitch-hiking, and squatting. Please share any diary-related misadventures in the comments. …


  1. Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    A good post, one that provided me with as much amusement as it did insight.

    • Natasha Holme
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Am now realising that my current diary is comparatively lacking in amusement, Michael. Making mental note to befriend more dodgy characters. …

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