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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

I'm Sorry ... I'll not read that again

It only goes to show that I was wise to fight shy of clearing the study, and not purely lazy because, now that I have started, I am shivery with the ghosts of my past.
For I have delved deep into a dusty old box, stinking of mildew, and which contains diaries and letters from my teenage years.

What very dull reading they make and what a big mistake to open any sort of trapdoor to your youth. I do not feel richer for going there.

Laid bare are the insipid thoughts of an idiot which should have passed straight from pen to page to bin. And possibly bypassed pen and page altogether. Just think, I could have spent even more time watching TV and washing my hair, 2 things I blink to see that I did almost to the utter neglect of anything else and which is at complete odds with the flavour which a marinade of time had falsely given my memory of childhood. Such compelling proof to the contrary is most unpleasant.

Much of it, I found with a hearty dollop of relief, is hard to read, tight scrawls within thinly spaced lines: I did not persevere. Enough is all too legible.
What emerges instead of the rather sweet, thoughtful, shy girl I fondly recall is a picture of a desperately tedious person almost willing herself to miss opportunities, to pass up the chance of a good time who, despite being asked here and there often enough, blandly failed to “bother” for no good reason beyond vacant idleness.
New experiences registered not on my radar, instead I seemed to think it worthy of remark to record that I watched the television, that I did some more patchwork, or bought some wool (“33p, half price, v g deal. V pleased.” – the creative tycoon in me alive then, kicking and fighting to get out. Goodoh.)
It strikes me that I passed my peak years knitting a jumper and the only mercy is that the details of this grim garment have been stricken from my memory by some charitable god of amnesia. Nor was there then this insatiable need, or digital ability, to photograph each and everything that happened so that hideous pully (for hideous we can safely bet it was) is one thing that can happily be consigned to the realms of the past, certainly a place where I did things differently. If I could be arsed, that is.

No wonder I’m not famous.

What sort of grounding was this endless round of buying pencils from Harold Hockey, and totting up my miserable money to the penny (“my interest came today, £29.73. I was v pleased.”) The days flooded back to reveal an introspective, petty, boring creature whose sum of each day was to list with obsessive enthusiasm what chocolate she had eaten, what homework done, how v annoying someone had been – generally my best friends, for whom continual scorn is reserved, (“L so selfish … ‘Wakey Wakey’ she shouted, ‘Zappo party.’ ZAPPO! Her word!! … She was wearing blue eyeshadow!” Clearly about as bad as it got.)
While actually at school an uneasy fixation develops as to how many “free” periods I had in a day, granting me time which I can guarantee was not wisely spent but in a flurry of disapproving inactivity.

My inability to sort chaff and wheat is exemplified by this sort of entry:
“Today is Sunday July 13” well, durr, the printed page tells me that.
Or this:
“Saw film but didn’t follow it”
Or the thrilling news that:
“I made a n.v.n. [= not very nice] apple pie”

The fuckwittery continues, “Today we bought a new puppy we’re going to call him Harry. He’s v sweet ... We don’t know what to call the puppy. v sweet. Saw TV.”

Endless stuff like this, eating up my youth, stretching over several months.
Mapping the whole of one summer is a lamentable level of interest in a waste disposal unit my parents were buying. They would feel sorry for me did they but know. I feel sorry for me now that I do. On and on about its non-arrival, and then its arrival, and its stashing by the piano, then it being moved to the hall and then, oh giddy day, fly the banners and be still my beating heart: its installation.

True, a typical 70s/80s childhood where children were kept in their place (that place being busy with shampoo in my case) did not heave with opportunity to uncover useful things to teach the world. The concept of teenager was most certainly not encouraged (at least not in our house). I think I was 23 before I realised I could have been really badly behaved – maybe skipped a hair washing? turned down a session tidying my room? Steady on now old girl.
My parents were interesting and achieving, but whatever horizons I was given, I lowered the blind further still. Not for me the sneering lip and the fag in the shed, nor the furious slamming of doors. Well, I was too busy with my patchwork. No, about as wild as I got was being asked to a disco. Which I tended not to go to as “couldn’t be bothered. V cold today.” I did at least think to note that one May 5th it snowed which is about the only episode of lasting mark that year.

Yet when something beyond “had fish and chips” happens, do I rise to the challenge? Of course not. Here I find, after turning to the date in question with trembling fingers – so upset have I remembered being – to the death of my childhood dog. Is my misery laid bare? Are tender poignant thoughts strewn across the page rich in raw adolescent pain? No. Don’t be silly. I read this: “Nan (dog) dying of cancer. V sad. My new desk arrived.”
Even when the beast finally kicked the bucket, the passion still fails to fly from the page. I am at pains instead to record that I had a scotch egg for supper.

My strange value system is further revealed in my attitude to the little girl next door who still bears the scar, I know,of the following accident, but do I care? Not terribly, it seems. “P slipped while playing and fell through a spike on railings outside Brownies. It punctured her skin – 4 stitches, but not her uniform.” Well thank God for that.

Interestingly (the word is obviously used advisedly, and this is mere grasping at straws) my diaries are a tiny bit more characterful when I was 13 or 14. But come 15 and 16 woeful dullness was well and truly entrenched.
At some stage I am forced to look beyond my teeny tiny scope and notice the doings of others, beyond which they merely impinged on me for being “v irritating.” Of exam results – and this is in an age when a clutch of 14 A*s were not de rigeurly handed out in recompense for the student happening to amble over to the exam hall – there is an occasion when I hear that my friend’s sister managed a C a D and an O for her ‘A’ levels while another scrapped 2 Cs and an E. Hardly stellar even then, and not much payback for several years’ private education, but I am surprisingly jocular, “Congratulations all round!” I boomed.
I fear that I might even have cracked open a can of Coke to mark the event.

I can only t’ank feck that I did not wear a beret, and that there are no poems. Sometimes the past should just stay in a box. If you are tempted to revisit your ghosts, I can only advise that you think again. Step away, do not look back. We mature for good reason and snipping the ties is no bad thing.
But sadly the child maketh the adult, history repeats itself and I fear that I am fundamentally exactly the same quarter of a century on. That given time all over again I would plod the same dull path - how very Ouspensky of me. The subject matter has shifted slightly, it's called responsibility, so my spotlight has merely swivelled from hair-washing to Dyson, from scotch egg to dog lampshade. Plus ca change.
How v annoying. E went out. I couldn't be bothered. Read. Watched TV. Bed.

47 comments:

bionicwoman said...

I enjoyed that Milla! Growing up in the 70s and 80s (my era too) was certainly very different from today - some worse things and some much better in my humble opinion! I didn't realise I was supposed to rebel in my teens either!!Might have been fun!
Thanks for your very insightful comments on my blog. No need to shoot you - your comments are spot on! I've also worried over writing long heartfelt letters to bereaved loved ones and have someimtes wimped out but from a personal viewpoint I do feel people are touched if you reach out and it can make them less likely to become isolated and bottle up their feelings to try and protect others.

the mother of this lot said...

I despise blogspeak, but I genuinely did LOL at this!

I would have typed that ROF thing but I couldn't remember what the other letters were....

(I bet there was an entry on a Sunday which read '...taped Top 20 on Radio Lux.)

softinthehead said...

Aaahh it all sounds very familiar, but I did go to the disco!!! Even got drunk a few times, but compared with my children's youth, mine was quite tame. But our expectations were so much lower and I think that made us happier. I remember being ecstatic one Christmas when my main present was a bedside lamp!! Radio Lux - with the radio practically out the window so I could get a signal and TOTP every week.

Edward said...

Wonderful blog, as usual. I fear that it was I that forced you to pack away and ship said diaries in our last two house moves - you, I recall, were mysteriously reluctant. "But darling", I said, "just think - when you're old, at least you'll be able to look back and relive your youth". Still, at least you got a good blog out of it.

Flowerpot said...

I poured out PAGES of stuff inmy teens. I was horrified when I read one recently (I threw most of them out) how desperately unhappy and obsessive I was. Truly terrifying!

Faith said...

Oh brilliant Milla - wish I'd kept my diaries. Somehow can't see you staying in doing patchwork and washing your hair. I had assumed you were a wild child.

mountainear said...

Excellent blog Milla - really made me giggle. Your diaries sound like mine from the 60's, though I think in mine a few 'snogged so-and-so's crept in.

Bundle them back up - seal them hermetically if you must. But please keep them. One day somebody will appreciate these snippets of adolescent life. We all seem to be pointing out you were quite normal!

toady said...

Milla so very funny. My can't be botherdness extended to keeping a diary at all. I even bought a fab black leather diary from Biba with the gold emblem on the front. I wish I still had that one.

Inthemud said...

Oh Milla, you made me laugh ,that took me back, I know my old diaries read in a similar way, and I wrote them for years. Big Page to a Day books, but oh my goodness i couldn't bear to read them now, cringe cringe!

But what a wonderful blog, you brought it all back to me and more!!
Dare I ask my mum for my old diaries?? They're in parents loft, so possibly been eaten by mice by now!

Tattie Weasle said...

Thank god Mum started to read mine. I was so pissed off I stopped!!!! But the echoes of mine own childhood.....I'm squirming in my seat with embarrassment!

@themill said...

You knitted a pully? - wow - I bow to you, took me two years to knit a bobble hat.
BTW, I took my driving test on June 2nd (millions of years ago) in a snowstorm.

LittleBrownDog said...

Oh Milla - how much like my own youth that sounds (apart from the incident of the indestructable Brownie uniform, of course) - even down to the appearance of Scotch Eggs for supper. I, too, did patchwork - fiddly little hexagons I seem to remember, that I had some idea of fashioning into a long skirt at one point, though thankfully the skirt never made the light of day). It's fascinating (admittedly, only in that sort of rabbit-in-headlights way) how self-absorbed teenagers are, and how little interested they are in the world beyond the accruing interest in the pages of their bank books. Even today - I have friends with teenagers who sound just the same - albeit knitting and TV often replaced by Facebook and MSN - nothing's changed. If it's any consolation, you certainly weren't alone (mental note to burn pile of mildewed diaries in shed before they finally become too damp to catch fire...)

Brilliantly written. xxx

Zoë said...

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, by 1977 Id fled the nest.

I think I must have been a very naughty teenager; mercifully dyslexia kept me from writing diaries, or at least that's my excuse.

Tell you what though Milla, what you call dull, is incredibly funny when rewritten. I needed a giggle today, thanks for providing it xx

ChrisH said...

Milla, I salute you, you horrid, horrid woman, for being so effortlessly, wickedly funny. I think I'll give up right now. Honestly, that line about the poor old dying dog made me crack up. Still at least the new desk diary arrived in time to fill the pages with tales of sex, drugs and er, scotch eggs. So glad the Brownie uniform escaped unscathed in the dreadful spiking incident - you obviously got your prioties right as a good Brownie. Now me, I got chucked out the Brownies after one night!

Suffolkmum said...

God Milla that was hilarious. I was really laughing out loud. I'm sure we construct our own images of our youthful selves, but most of us aren't brought face to face, as it were, with the harsh reality. Loved the bit about naming the dog. Loved it all, in fact. Made my day.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

You know I know this is meant to be lighthearted, but I actually found this quite sad reading that you are so dismissive of you as a child and I hope that you are much kinder to yourself now and give yourself the permission to be you - and not the you that you seem to judge you should be, or that you you deem we judge you should be.

There have used up my quota of the word you for the day.

KittyB said...

So funny. I am t'anking feck there is someone else out there whose adolescence wasn't a mad hormonal whirl of spots, snogging and discos. I favoured taping songs from the radio, making clothes from Liberty remnants and cross-stitching hideous cards and cushions. Dulllll.. (clunk as head hits keyboard.) I just t'ank feck I was too idle to keep a diary.

Frances said...

Milla, see what a response has arisen to your diaries. I beg you, please do not let them anywhere near a bin.

Add a printout of this blog to the collected journals, and pack them up carefully. You know that your lads will want to know more about their fabulous mom one of these days!

xo

Milkmaid said...

Glad I didn't keep a diary, I wince at some of last years blogs, never mind 20 odd years ago
I wonder what todays teenagers will think, when they perhaps rediscover their Facebook/My space sites 20 years hence

Fennie said...

Quite amazingly brilliant, Milla! So, so funny. It ws the rebel in you, I can't help feeling, that kept your real youth out of the diaries. You obviously wrote them to hide a genuinely sophisticated romantic and adventurous existence from which you were left so exhausted and overwhelmed that it's no wonder that you couldn't be bothered to go to a mere disco which would no doubt be full of girls in irritating blue eye shadow. Now, can you find the really Milla diaries?

Elizabethd said...

Keep the diaries, Milla, and re read them in another 10 years.

Pondside said...

Save those diaries - some great-grandchild will discover them "Eureka!" and make millions using them as fodder for a best-seller.
Great blog!

Wooly Works said...

I have followed advice very similar to yours and done away with the whole box of my childhood junk years ago. I prefer to remember my teenage years from a slightly senile point of view, regardless of how inaccurate my recollections may be. I'm sure I was just as you describe yourself, although much more infuriating, if my mother's state of mind during those years is any indicator. After reading your blog, I maintain that teenagers are the same the world over and throughout time. Thanks for a great read!

Preseli Mags said...

Everything's been said above, so I can't add anything except to say, fabulous blog!

I laughed at the bit about the waste disposal unit and your parents: "They would feel sorry for me did they but know. I feel sorry for me now that I do."

Your diaries sounded all too familiar to mine. Except, mercifully, mine went off to fester in landfill somewhere over 20 years ago.

Superb.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Just look at what all those diaries have done - made you write a good post for all to enjoy and reminisce with you about your youth. I'm a 70/80's girl too and apart from the technology we have today compared to then, kids will still do the same stuff.

Jaja said...

Too funny... Can I have the diary?

Please?

Kathleen said...

I tripped over my own teenage diaries last year or the year before...read a few entries and chucked the whole works into the burn barrel, where they made a brilliant fire. Nothing else was brilliant about them.

"V happy" that you told us about yours! Mine were too dull and disjointed to make sense of.

bodran... said...

HeHE i thought for some reason [maybe the eyeshadow] That you would have been a complete rebel...my daughters found my diary cica 14-15yrs i've had no control over them since!!!!!!!!!!!!!!xx loved it

Withy Brook said...

That was marvellous Milla! I loved every word of it.
My teenage years went from 1943 to 1949 so the end of the war and the hard post war years. My main occupations were listening to records (78's) and reading books. Didn't keep a diary but know I was a very boring, self-centred, lazy, madening person!!! (What has changed?!!)

Withy Brook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ivy said...

I read the diaries of a German Half-Jew who lived in Munich between 1918 and 1945. You would think a professor for ancient history would be an viligant observer of that time that was far from easy for a half Jewish academic in Germany but no it goes "Went to the dentists today" met "Mrs X in the road who told me that Mrs Y's dog died yesterday" Milk price is up by 2 Pfennig" and so on 20 volumes and he sold them for a fortune. So keep them for an other 20 years and sell them to a publisher it might be your old age pension!

Expatmum said...

Milla - you are too hard on yourself. You're obviously not as boring these days or you wouldn't be able to write the way you do. And you must have been a very easy teenager to raise. I wish I could count on my daughter being that interested in knitting, but given what I got up to, I'm bracing myself.
Now, I have a bag full of diaries somewhere. I might take a peep. See what you've started.

Exmoorjane said...

What a stunner. Loved it and made me laugh (rare and wonderful) indeed. If it's any consolation, mine are equally dull - and full of ghastly poems... And I was so into crafts, that I even built dinosaurs from old chicken bones..as suggested in some hideous 'What can I do on a rainy day' book...borrowed endlessly from the library.
The dog dying was brilliant - I didn't even bother to mention when mine died - but I did manage to draw pictures on the entry for the day my Dad died...
Never bin them.....promise?

elizabethm said...

This made me both laugh and cringe. I was one of those teenagers too. Learnt how to be mildly rebellious at about 17 but spent my early teens knitting, making patchwork and being excited when Startrek was on the TV. Sad I know. Glad I haven't kept any of my diaries and as you have kept yours, I don't really need them. Loved the dog story.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Another one that did patchwork ....still got some of it somewhere...hope I don't find a diary! Weren't we so intense then as teenagers.?..thank goodness for Radio Lux!
Brilliant, funny blog...loved it.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Another one that did patchwork ....still got some of it somewhere...hope I don't find a diary! Weren't we so intense then as teenagers.?..thank goodness for Radio Lux!
Brilliant, funny blog...loved it.

Pipany said...

Oh Milla, didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I fear the crying was at the forefront because you sound a lot like me in my youth - never pushing over the parapet. I was too terrified of the world then and now feel so cross that I wasn't more adventurous. Brilliant blog but pack away those diaries and let them go xx

Maggie May said...

There's a lot of me in that too! Well whatever you were like, or think you were like, these were the stepping stones to the blogger we know today, so it must have been the blank canvas that you built up to a good picture!

Lane said...

You have NO idea how much that has made me smile this evening.
Sooo funny.
And after the day I've had .... thank you:-)

Maggie May said...

Milla, there's an award waiting for you over my place.

The Country Craft Angel said...

A really wonderful blog. I too found it quite bittersweet. You write so sharply and made me laugh but then I have a poignant moment to imagine you as a girl writing them and can so relate to your comments.

I didn't have you down as a patchwork girl either.
One thing for sure, you are anything but dull these days...

great stuff.

xx

Moley-Bloke said...

I was a gangly little oik in the seventies.. My diaries read... 'Fancy Gillian Kenyon like mad.. Tried to kiss her but she said my breath smells like sick....'

KAREN said...

So funny. I'm rather glad I didn't keep any of my juvenile outpourings, as I'm sure they'd have read very similar. We just didn't DO very much back in the 70's We didn't even have a telly! On the other hand, at least there was nothing horrifying or upsetting to report :o)

Recently, I did find some replies to a couple of letters I sent, aged 14, (which I posted on my blog)asking a local radio station to consider a play my friend and I had written (and acted out, on a giant cassette recorder), so at least I was doing something vaguely creative! Needless to say, it was rejected.

Grouse said...

Well you might have been dull, dearest, but at least you weren't v.annoying like I was.......

Potty Mummy said...

I once drove my sister crazy when she found my secret diary and, unable to work it out for herself, she asked me what the abbrev, WMH stood for. Of course, I refused to tell her.

But you know, don't you Milla?

nuttycow said...

What a great post Milla. I am so tempted to go and dig out my diaries. I think, contrary to your prudent entries, I tended to waffle on about how much I fancied so and so and whether what's his name was going to smile at me.

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