Thursday 17 March 2016

My Mother's diaries

For most of her married life my Mother kept a diary and these give an interesting insight into everyday life in English suburbia during the last third of the 20th century.

The first diary I have managed to locate is dated 1955. I was particularly pleased to find this one because I had been born in late 1954 so quite a few of the entries mention my early childhood. Sadly she stopped writing half way through the year and the next volume I have been able to locate is her Boots Diary for 1969. There is then an unbroken series of diaries covering her life right up to the time that vascular dementia kicked in - at which point she stopped writing regular entries.

The gradual decline of my paternal grand-parents is covered in poignant detail. They died aged 98 and 99 meaning that my father was 72, and so well into retirement, before he became an orphan. By contrast my wife reached this unhappy milestone when she was only 40. Both grand-parents said they were "ready to go" almost a decade before they actually died and the whole concept of them sitting around waiting to die is quite upsetting.

For many years my mother's closest friend was "Aunty" Chris. She lived in the same street as my parents and she and my mother had many interests in common - especially the Townswomen's Guild and its associated drama and poetry groups. The two of them would meet up two or three times a week and their respective lives were very much inter-twined.

Then Chris was taken ill and in a matter of a couple of months she was dead. My mother briefly mentioned going to her funeral and then nothing - she just put her sadness behind her and got on with her, rather more restricted, life. My mother was like that sometimes, some part of her emotional brain had been damaged by her very traumatic childhood and she was good at coping with sad events of this type.

It was noise that she couldn't stand. At various times in her daily dairy entries she would launch into a rant about the noise made by the boiler, the TV, the fridge or the school across the road. She would also worry about world events for a three week window just before the annual overseas holiday. Wherever in the world Mum and Dad were due to visit you could be almost certain that some related man-made or natural disaster would cause her to have sleepless nights.