I recently saw a production of ‘Angels in America‘ at the National Theatre. An excellent play, subject matter, script, performances, which I remembered seeing many years ago. I could visualise the image of the angel, a huge white feathered creature spotlit at, I think, the end of the play. And that was the problem. Was I right? Was my memory correct both of that scene and even of having seen the whole thing? The people with whom I might have watched it, said that they’d either seen it at a different time or in a different theatre. So I consulted my memory-bank of theatre programmes. Yes, I buy them for the information they contain, but also as an aide-memoire. I have hundreds. So there can be no argument as to whether or not I’ve seen a play. I have proof positive. And it is so in this case; a programme for the original first part of this play, ‘Millennium Approaches’ in 1992 and the fuller programme for the second part, ‘Peresoika’. I was triumphant; except I still can’t recall, which must have been the case, that I went to the theatre on my own.
If only I had kept a diary. Diaries are invaluable. So much history relies on diaries as well as letters and official documents. The personal is political. History and politics seen through the eyes of people’s accounts and recollections. Some of the most famous are Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, primary sources of the English Restoration, the Plague and the Great Fire of London, and ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank which, if nothing else, reminds us again of the horrors of the holocaust. It is a form used in literature; ‘The Diary of Bridget Jones’, ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole’, ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’. An effective way for a character to take their reader through the events and frustrations of their lives.
As I am trying to write a novel much of which is set during and after the 2nd World War, I am most grateful to those who have recorded accounts of their lives on the home front. It would have been even better had I asked my mother and father, aunts, uncles and grandparents those kind of questions when they were alive and made a record of them. Even a teenage diary of my own would be useful now. I was given a fat and lockable diary as a child which I was thrilled to own, but my initial enthusiasm to write every day soon waned. I lost interest and, I expect, the key. I can remember that!
On my iPhone I have an app, Day One, an online journal. When I first downloaded this facility I did use it every day but not for long. As each New Year arrived, I’d make a commitment – for a few days. Partly due to inattention I gave up, but mainly I disliked how mundane it sounded. Nevertheless this is life and I ought to persist.
I’ve thought of a new method – Siri. No laborious typing, just a few words in his ear. He’s not bad at interpreting what I say and I’m enjoying his misinterpretations. I’ll leave them there to amuse just in case I bother to read what I said at any time in the future.