Reasons Not To Keep A Diary

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What was to become a life-long obsession with diary-writing began like this …

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 when I was seventeen.

I made the note in my school homework diary, using Greek letters (I had studied Greek at ‘O’ level). The teacher had made a remark about another teacher which was ambiguous and could have meant that the second teacher was gay.

The first teacher then clarified the remark with the words, “Not in an unpleasant way.”

From that point I started noting down observations, feelings, events, all in a 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 the teacher with whom I fell hopelessly in love at the age of twelve (‘Miss Williams’ of my published diary. Names have been changed).

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 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 twenty-three years ago when I was living in France.
A friend of mine and I met a young English lad, Chris, 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 roof. 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.

He had declined.

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 with the words, “Dr. Andrew has beautiful eyes.”

I hadn’t learned Greek at this point.

The words were in plain English.

My sister found it.

She went straight up to Dr. Andrew 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 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.

Have you ever kept a diary?

Natasha Holme is author of Lesbian Crushes and Bulimia: A Diary on How I Acquired my Eating Disorder.

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  1. Helena Whitbread

    I have had the privilege of being allowed to read a transcript of a couple of years of Natasha’s diary and it is a very compelling read. It is written completely in a complex esoteric code -which is a fantastic feat of literary obscurity, comparable to the journals of the lesbian diarist Anne Lister and also to those of Samuel Pepys – but where they used their codes intermittently, Natasha’s pages are written entirely in code.Fortunately for us, Natasha has published her transcripts online. I recommend her book, not just for lesbian readers and sufferers from eating disorders but for the general reader also, who will hopefully gain a new depth of understanding of the complexities of life for those who are ‘different’ from the norm (whatever that is!).

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