I love writing diaries. And reading them. I’ve been a Mass Observer for a few years now, and really enjoy contributing to a long-term social history project such as the Mass Observation Archive; a UK-wide life-writing project which is used for research, teaching and learning.
The 12th May 1937 was the first year that Mass Observation asked people living in the UK to record the details of their day, to coincide with George VI’s Coronation.
The subsequent 12th May diaries “provide a wonderful glimpse into the everyday lives of people across Britain, and have become an invaluable resource for those researching countless aspects of the era.” Some people may live fantastical, amazing and glamorous lives, but the majority of us don’t and it is the minutiae that is the most interesting; a fly-on-the-wall insight into the highs and lows experienced on a typical day, which would likely be in stark contrast to a special day such as a national holiday or Christmas Day. I thought I’d share an excerpt from my 12th May diary for this year, which I will be submitting to the Mass Observation archive, whilst also spreading the word and work of Mass Observation.
“I woke at 4am, but got up at 6am. I had vivid dreams of swimming through many pools, and had ideas buzzing inside my head. I typed some immediate thoughts down on my laptop and then replied to various emails, enjoying the feel of being awake so early. I got ready for work and was in a bit of a rush after my burst of morning productivity, so had to bolt down my muesli (a homemade mix of oats, bran, dried fruit; all sorts). After a short detour, I walked to the train station. The ground was wet from the previous nights’ rain and I noticed that the blossom from the trees has mostly blown away. My train was busy but not so busy that I didn’t get a seat. I phoned my Dad and caught up on some news. I arrived at work…”
Anyone at all can submit a diary for 12th May as you don’t need to be an existing ‘observer’ or sign-up, or even submit it today. The only rules are:
“Write as much as you can about what you do, who you meet, what you talk about, what you eat and drink, what you buy or sell, what you are working on, the places you visit, the people you meet, the things you read, see and hear around you, how you are feeling and of course what you yourself think.”
Go on. Write a diary for the 12th May 2014, and surprise yourself with all that you saw, felt, heard, did, wondered, dreamed…the lives that you touched with yours, the interactions you had, the conversations; and those that you inspired by just being you.