Tag Archives: Winston Churchill


I’m a great potter-er. Sunday is a good day to potter around my house, doing minor tasks, playing with my Stuff. Even after my recent purge (see my recent post about The Guys and the Grand Purge) I still have plenty of Stuff left to play with. Believe me.

I was paging through my  old notebooks, dating back to the early 1990s.  Regrettably I have a weakness for notebooks. I can’t resist them. And don’t let me find a sale offering bargain price notebooks, because we all know what will happen.  A quirky cover? Cute Cats? Gold and sparkly ?  Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

So there I was, reminiscing with my notebooks when I was struck by a thought: what will happen to my notebooks when I die? Will the family be sufficiently interested to read them? Always assuming, of course, that they can read them. My handwriting varies from the semi-legible to a jerky scrawl …

Added to which I have developed a  series of abbreviations over the years, which enables me  to write quickly, and the chances of anybody else working out what I  intended, are not good. I spent years slaving behind a typewriter, and latterly a keyboard, which means I can type much, much faster than I can write. I can type at the speed of my thoughts. Very satisfactory, and also legible. But obviously notebooks are handwritten, in a variety of places – coffee shops, aeroplanes, retreat centres, other people’s spare bedrooms – anywhere and everywhere, and the  notes are not always legible.  Even to my eye.

The notebooks contain ideas for future  blog posts, draft poems, notes to self, articles, writing exercises, outpourings of angst, lists, titles of books and authors and  must-reads. And so on. Let’s face it: because I’m not a famous writer, nor a noted social diarist, it’s doubtful that anybody else will be remotely interested in my scribbling.

On the topic of noted social diarists, some very famous people e.g. Winston Churchill, or famous  writers e.g. Noel Coward  kept detailed – and regular – diaries. I own a copy of a fascinating compilation of diary entries, arranged by date and kicking off around the era of  the mid 1660’s (Samuel Pepys)  up to the late 20th century  (Alec Guinness, Brian Eno, Andy Warhol), titled The Assassin’s Cloak,  edited by Irene & Alan Taylor.   Of course, the social diarists entries are a delightful  mix of gossip, innuendo and scandal, whilst the politicians are dealing with weighty matters of state, or declaring war and so forth.  A far cry from my notebooks.

Thinking it over, I should probably tear out the written pages, burn them, and donate the remaining unused notebook to a charitable scheme collecting stationery for  disadvantaged school kids.  That’s what I should do . I probably won’t get around to it, and my family will stare in dismay at the pile of notebooks and say : “What the hell are we going to do with these?” Good question.




D is for:,  Desert Island books, Diaries,  Dickens,  Dictionaries, Dirty Books 

Desert Island books: Remember the old radio show Desert Island Discs? I think there was a book version too. The very idea of having to choose only one book to last me for who knows how many weeks? months? years ? (I mean, look at Robinson Crusoe!) fills me with angst. What to take? Something huge and voluminous (and probably dull) to last for ages? Like Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell, for instance (weighing in at 800+ pages), or The Museum of Innocence (728 pages), or maybe Shantaram (934 pages;at least they were entertaining pages, on the whole).Then there’s the Collected Works of Wm Shakespeare. No, I think not. Maybe an omnibus edition of a good crime writer?  But what do you do when you’ve read it once and know whodunnit?  Perhaps a bumper book of The Times Crosswords? No, no, I’ve got it: now’s the chance to tackle something you’ve always meant to do/wanted to do, and never found the time. So how about Teach yourself Mandarin?   Or Trigonometry for Beginners ?  AAArrgggh! It’s all too much. Time for a cold shower and a lie down.


Diaries:  Does anybody still keep a diary, I wonder?  Time was when everybody of any consequence was a diarist, ranging from Winston Churchill to Noel Coward. I have on my bookshelf The Assassin’s Cloak , edited by Irene & Alan Taylor, a fascinating day by day selection of entries from the famous & notorious. Entries for 1 January include the entries of Samuel Pepys, James Boswell, Sir Walter Scott, Adrian Mole (!),and  Katherine Mansfield who writes pettishly: what a vile little diary! But I am determined to keep it this year. We can all identify with Katherine M, I’m sure. I know nowadays people are journaling, blogging and tweeting the minutiae of their lives. But I do notice that the stationers and booksellers still offer diaries for sale, ranging from nice My Barbie pink diaries to solemn, leather-covered, devotional day by day diaries. Time will tell.

Dickens:  Hands up anybody who has read a Dickens novel that wasn’t a school set-book? Yes. I thought so. The only person voluntarily reading Dickens seems to be British novelist Nick Hornby, who admits to a passion for Dickens. I keep buying Dickens novels on charity book sales, because I’ve always meant  to read Nicholas Nickleby or Dombey & Son and duly influenced by Nick Hornby’s recommendations, I add the tomes to my To Be Read Pile. Where they remain. Luckily tucked away in a cupboard, so at least they are not gathering dust.

Dictionaries:  During a clear-out when elderly friends moved to a retirement home, I inherited their Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in two volumes. And mightily useful it has been. The onionskin paper, the dense, tiny black type, the cut-out alphabetic index heading up each section is exactly what a dictionary ought to be. I’m not comfortable with on-line dictionaries, crammed full of peculiar American spelling. As Churchill dryly observed “The English and the Americans have everything in common, barring the English language.”

Dirty Books :  No, not that sort of dirty book, although I must confess to discovering my father’s hidden copy of Peyton Place, and devouring the rude bits, which – in light of today’s fiction – was milk & cookies tame … but not for the early 50’s, it wasn’t. No, I mean books that are physically dirty. Like a recent library book: one of TV star, Dr Phil’s books, which was so dirty that after about 6 pages I closed it, and washed my hands with Dettol, picked the book up with my braai-tongs, popped it into a plastic bag and returned it to the Library, before I got infected with some awful disease –  cholera, or typhoid, or rabies, or something.  That library book had not only been thoroughly read, finger-licking page after page, but the plastic cover was sticky and grimy, the pages were creased with wear and tear, and stained and gritty. Ugghhh.


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