Revisiting my diary from the month Jenny died
In writing Twinned I was clear that this memoir on Jenny’s life and death was not to be a therapy diary. I wanted to tell a particular story that matters to me within its wider context. Maybe this has something to do with my love of writing biography and social history, but I also think that I had no need for a therapeutic diary – I’d already written that at the time.
For many years I kept a personal diary. It started in childhood – aged six, way back in 1975. Writing those simple, scribbled statements in pencil became a habit: ‘it is pancake day’ (Tuesday 11 February – pancakes seem to crop up a lot; ‘I banged my nose’ (Thursday 18 September); or ‘I have caught chicken pox’ (Monday 24 November). Eventually that habit became a helpful resource. By the time I was 27, the boyhood phrases in pencil had turned into sentences written down in blue fountain pen, with all the flourish of a young man’s self-importance.
Actually, it was a rather dull life being documented. But when it became interesting in such a horrible, traumatic way, the diary writing habit helped me through. There was just too much to keep in my head, and putting it on paper carefully and systematically helped me make sense of it all.
Years later, 98 pages documenting the time from when I heard of Jenny’s death, to the end of the interment service became a very useful reference point in preparing the manuscript.
The take home message? Don’t take yourself too seriously. But take yourself seriously enough to revisit whatever you’ve taken the trouble to write.