‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’ In that respect and in that only I am like Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest.
I first began to write a journal when I wrote my first novel. I am now onto notebook 25. I don’t write in it every day – far from it – but still it has become an essential part of my life. At first it was a matter of jotting down ideas or snatches of conversation overheard in café or an account of something that had happened that might one day be incorporated into a novel or story. Or I might sketch out the draft of a short story or write a piece of dialogue or a descriptive paragraph or two if they came to me while I was away from home. For, like Gwendolen, I always have my journal with me.
Over the years I began to record more personal stuff – such as how I felt about major events in my life, like the death of my mother. Above all I started to keep an account of our family holidays, in particular our many trips to Northern France over the last eight years. And now I am so glad that I did. Reading about them is a comfort and a way of visiting the life that I shared with Peter. Often, too, what I have written triggers other precious memories of things that I didn’t record.
I would encourage anyone, not just writers, to keep a journal. So much disappears as one moves forward in time, and is lost forever. But some can be saved: it need not all quite vanish.
The photograph is of me and Peter on the ramparts at Montreuil in Pas-de-Calais.