During a recent clear-out of their loft space, my parents came across long-abandoned boxes of My Stuff; photo negatives (remember them?), school rugby team sheets, sample exam papers, revision notes, souvenirs from my travels around the US and Europe, even books, characters and modules from my Dungeons & Dragons days in my early teens. But the items that caused me (and indeed my lovely wife) most consternation were a series of jumbled exercise books.
I kept a diary almost daily from the age of around 17 to 25. Many years ago I destroyed the earliest volumes; they were simply too full of teenage angst for me to bear. Indeed, I thought I had destroyed them all, but apparently not. There still remains an intimate record of my late-night and early-morning thoughts covering the time from my first year at university, through to my first job as a graduate and moving to London.
The diaries include an interrailing trip around Europe, having my heart broken by my first long-term girlfriend, my year studying and skiing in Chambery, a summer as a Eurocamp courier in the French Pyrenees, meeting/going out with/breaking up with Rachel (now my gorgeous wife of almost 12 years!), my final exams and getting a First Class degree, not getting a job during the recession of 1992, and finally moving up to London where almost by chance I did start a career in marketing. The recently-recovered diaries stop around the end of 1992, but I’m fairly certain I wrote until 1994, by which time I had got back together with Rachel and was about to move from London to Cheltenham.
It isn’t all easy reading. Often written late at night or in the cold light of morning, often drunk or hungover, they can be painfully, embarrassingly raw and over-wrought. But they are intensely real. The memories they evoke are shocking in their intimacy. They evoke people, rooms, places, events, and every emotion from the time, despite being up to 20 years old.
I really do want to say a huge thankyou (and offer humble apologies) to many friends who are mentioned (frequently) as agony aunts & uncles, comrades-in-angst and in an enormous amount of fun. Room-mates, housemates, flatmates, friends. You surely know who you are…
Apart from the angst and the drinking and the working and the bickering, what has struck me was the amount and range of music I listened to at university. Despite predating iPods and Spotify, despite only four national analogue radio stations, and despite the fact that I didn’t even own a CD player until 1991, my diary is crammed with references to music, comments on my latest interests, and copious song lyrics that were evidently meant to reflect my mood or preoccupations. I’m certain this use of lyrics & quotations subconsciously influenced my style of blog post titles from the start.
Re-reading the diaries has prompted a whole range of thoughts that will develop into several Reckons, perhaps including the demise of letter-writing, the innocence and angst of youth, and how-come-I’m-still-even-reasonably-healthy-after-all-that-beer…