I’ve finally started a long-overdue project, something I originally meant to start last year. So sue me, I need to work on my attention span. Last year when my girlfriend’s mum, “Bo” was visiting from England, she brought along some diaries she’d kept when she was young. Bo wants to maintain her privacy so that’s as much as she’s going to be identified by me. I have a bit of a fascination with artefacts and I found these particularly fascinating.
Besides that fact I would have found the diaries interesting in any case, by sheer coincidence she started the diaries just before the outbreak of World War Two. She started writing on December 31st 1938 and she turned 13 right on the eve of Britain declaring war on Germany. So (to me at least) they transform from being an interesting piece of family history to a unique document detailing World War Two through the eyes of an ordinary teenage girl.
Having said that, I feel like I should stress that the diaries aren’t necessarily compelling and exciting. In fact, the very mundane nature of a lot of the entires are what I like – this isn’t someone imagining they are recording history, it’s a young girl making short entries about her day to day life. (Spoiler alert- the outbreak of war doesn’t score a mention; Bo is more concerned at that point with how much birthday cake she has left.)
I love the physical books that Bo records her diary in as well. They are electrical engineer’s diaries she scored form her dad and besides the tiny spaces for daily entires there is a plethora of information that is apparently useful to engineers. This part of the diaries alone makes me feel like I have a time machine.
Because of the tiny space available for each day’s entry the entries are very short – they are like Tweets from the past. Given that I’m a little obsessed with Twitter at the moment, I’m going to set up a Twitter account for Bo’s Diary as well. If I had been more organised, I would have started this project back on December 31st and added an entry each day. I’ve decided to play catch-up and cram in a lot of entries until I reach the current date. I should be up to date within a month and then I’ll post one entry each day.
By sheer coincidence (trust me, it’s a coincidence, I don’t plan things this well) I will be posting the entries exactly 70 years after they were first written. Bo is visiting again at the moment (which is what has prompted me to finally kick this project off) and she has brought a few more diaries from later years. The original set run sequentially for 10 years from 1939, so I’m setting myself up for a 10 year project.
This being the internet I’m sure I will run into people who want to prove how clever they are and the will “uncover evidence” that proves these diaries are fake. I have two things to say to that. First, thanks for thinking I’m that dedicated. Anybody who knows me knows there’s no way I’d put this much energy into a hoax. Second, fuck off. Seriously. I have no interest whatsoever in proving myself to some head-up-his-arse internet troll and I won’t waste any time with any moron who wants to snipe at this project.
The actual way I present the diary is likely to evolve over time. I’ll be able to ask Bo questions about entries (although there’s no guarantee she’s going to remember all details). I’ll do some videos showing details in the diaries. I’ll probably scan some of the other pages from the diaries from time to time. And during the war years, I’ll probably provide links to details of significant events that coincide with the entries.
The sequential nature of blogging and Twitter make them a perfect fit for this project. Ever since I became aware of these diaries I’ve though there would be an audience for them. Even if it turns out nobody outside of the family is interested, this is still worth doing as it creates a digital backup of the diaries and preserves a bit of family history.
Plus, it will give me something to do for the next ten years.