This week I kept a day-diary on Tuesday 12th May for the Mass Observation’s annual call-out to capture the everyday lives of people across the UK.
Why 12th May?
In 1937 Mass Observation called for people from all parts of the UK to record everything they did from when they woke up in the morning to when they went to sleep at night on 12th May. This was the day of George VI’s Coronation. The resulting 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. May 12th 2015 is likely to be quite an ordinary day, but for those researching, the ‘ordinary’ it can often provide extraordinary results.
What I love so much about Mass Observation is the idea of contributing to a public research project where my words will not only live on beyond my life, but also help to inform researchers of what life is like for ‘an ordinary woman’ in 2015. (Writing this makes me think of Anne Frank and her famous diary, though she did not have an ordinary life at all.)
I wrote a 12th May diary last year. It’s interesting to read back over what I wrote then and remember that day so vividly.
It’s also topical to republish this book review that I wrote about Margaret Forster’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman. It is written in diary form with just the occasional authorial note, so immediately draws you into the visceral first-person narrative.
Starting off in 1913 when the protagonist – Millicent – begins her first diary at the age of 13, the strong character voice from the outset reveals Millicent to be selfish, stand-offish and pass-remarkable which causes friction in every relationship she has – with family, friends and lovers.
She comes across as reserved, prim, lacking in warmth and not hugely likeable, but with strong principles and a determination to achieve something important.
As well as this she wants – demands – a room of her own (while growing up) – shades of Virginia Woolf – space of her own (as an adult), and time to think, reflect and process her thoughts.
And write her diary. [Read more…]