Mrs. B's Diary

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 1 December 2007

I've kept a diary ever since 1981.

Each year Jim would buy me a big full-page, A4, lined jobbie, which I would fill religiously with waffle. A different colour each year, so I have a library of red, blue, black, and so on.

The journal kept me sane. Family issues were laboured over. Work troubles were all recorded. The good, the bad and the unpublishable were all written down and I had a special pen for the job.

My Conway Stewart with its wonderful soft nib, was swapped for a pink, plastic 'Woolies' fountain-pen back in 1958. Gillian Quick, the bane of my life at Cowley Hill Junior School, got the bum deal. I've always wondered whether Mr.and Mrs.Quick knew of their daughters rash trade. I still use mine, although the plunger doesn't work so I have to dip it into a bottle of ink.

One of my duvets is stained with a massive green blob where a bottle of 'Mont Blanc' tinte tipped off my bedside table.

I have cried into my diaries, written funny poems, stuck paper clippings, jammed in photgraphs and flowers, but always I have written as if somebody else, other than myself, was reading it.

Then one year Jim bought me a five year diary from Camden Lock.

When Camden wasn't a tourist attraction we would go regularly. We lived in Queens Crescent a short walk from the Lock. Past Dee Dum curry house, Marine Ices, and the Round House, over the zebra crossing and then right into the flea market itself. Alan Williams, the jilted manager of the Beatles, had a stall, as did loads of out of work actors, trendy dealers and hippies.

In the bottom of a big tea chest, lying on its back, leather bound and batterd was a locked five year diary. The key had gone awol but we bought it any way. It felt ever so slightly intrusive when Jim broke the lock open with a chisel.

The handwriting was in perfect Marian Richardson script. A slight forward slope, neat and legible.

The years: 1951 - 56

I'm trying to remember the details - I haven't read it for an age and I've forgotten where I've put the bloody thing.

But what I can remember is the journal was owned by a young woman, who never revealed her identity. She lived at 61 Frognal Lane, Hampstead, NW3. Her parents were well off, her mother a housewife and her father an architect, he designed the very house they lived in. Our Convent chronicler wrote of the rows, sometimes violent, between her mother and her father when he came home worse for wear.
Our heroine, a devout Catholic and snob, recorded her attempts at becoming a professional singer. Her family were well connected so she was able to realise her dream.

She was hired as a session singer at the BBC, warbling on the wireless. She was taken to hear 'Negro' music in a club in Romilly Street, Soho. Holidays were left blank, and real emotions were written in code. The minutia of her life is rivetting.

Now she didn't write for anybody but herself, an act of catharsis, an act of self emmolience. One year sitting under the last slowly a picture of her life emerges. Her new hair styles, mummy's anxieties, her struggle with her talent and her constant irritation at ghastly Communists and noisy Jews.

My hands were hardly the ones that she would have wanted her dairy to fall into. But aint it the way, just when she thought all her secrets were under lock and key along came a man with a chisel, and a woman with an insatiable appetite for dirty linen. Jim and I went to look at Number 61, Frognal her father had done a good job, modern for the 50's. Whether her family still lives there only they know, and what happened to her or how her diary found its way into a tea-chest will forever remain a mystery, however, after reading about our Classical chanteuse Jim bought me my very own five year dairy. I now have four of them, three years into my present 'bergundy' bound one.

2005 sits atop 2006 which sits atop this year, its easy to see the cycles in my life. This time last year I was doing a 3 day week for GFL. We pre-recorded 2 shows a week, it was knackering, and I was unsettled. The year before, after a night out on the town, my old agent fell down the stairs, broke his wrist, and bruised his pride. I was unsettled. You can see a pattern emerging - yes I am unsettled this year too. It must have something to do with the phase of the moon, the planets, the setting in of winter or maybe I'm just unsettled!

I record the weather, my moods, B's bits, Jim's jobs. All our lives are set down in ink. I no longer keep a big A4 diary, but when things get really hairy I write 3 pages of A4 every morning, I unload, make judgements, cast aspersions, argue with myself, moan and whinge. I don't read any of it back I merely stab the page with a sharp writing implement, then leave my irritations behind me.

Blogging has replaced my big books, although I only reveal my public/personal not my personal/personal. Of course the real difference is that, this time, I know that people are reading it, ( well I jolliwell hope they are! ) for which I am eternally grateful.

So there we have it, the first entry for December 2007. I forgot to pinch and punch my husband this morning, I must have been feeling unsettled, which meant he didn't punch and kick me back. Never mind I'll give him a whack when he gets in tonight.

Have a good night and tell me how you're doing.


p.s. don't forget to send me your etiquette and manners comments by tomorrow afternoon.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At December 1, 2007 6:19 PM chrissie T or C wrote:

Hi Jeni,

I guess blogging must be a bit like keeping a diary but its true that it would be a bit shallow to write personal/personal things.It would be like leaving your open diary on the underground for all to read.
Can understand why you feel unsettled at the moment. Lots of things going on and no clear sight of the future. Feeling a bit cheesed of myself. Not sure if the problem stems from being away (8 months) or from comming back!!
Perhaps next week will be better for both of us.

LBC tomorrow:
Shouldn't people finish a meal with the knife and fork together and 12 o'clock - 6 o'clock position on the plate?

What are the rules for eating meat if it is presented with a bone still in it? I wonder about things like chicken legs, lamb chops etc. Pick it up or cut around?

Chrissie x

2. At December 1, 2007 8:08 PM Libby wrote:

Hi Jen

Freaky, when I was a Nanny (many years ago) my first job was in a house in Frognal Lane I don't remember the number but it was a strange house, it was three stories, but both from the front and the back of the house it only looked like a two story house......small world eh?
Hope you're feeling better, Lots of Love
Marmite Girl xx

3. At December 1, 2007 8:09 PM June wrote:

Oh Jeni
I jolliwell am reading it, it cheers me up no end!
I just loved the thought of you devouring "the diary" what a find!!
I too have kept diaries for the last twenty or so years but the question I have been asking myself lately is do I leave them to be read when I'm drinking gin and tonics in heaven or do I start destroying them now one by one? Do I really want anyone to knowing just how grumpy, sarcastic, self pitying and petty I can really be? But to destroy them would be hard and when I do occasionally read them they make me laugh at myself which is no bad thing.
So what do you intend doing with yours Jeni?
All the best

4. At December 1, 2007 11:26 PM Glenn wrote:

Hi Jeni,
When you write as you did today, I wish I could give you a big hug and tell you everything will be okay - regardless of what happens. Please feel well hugged and know there are folks out there in cyberland that do care about you.
Won't be able to hear you tomorrow because it's finally the opening night of our musical extravaganza. Fingers and toes and broken legs. :-)
luv from Hamburg, Glenn

5. At December 2, 2007 2:18 AM SiamSuzie wrote:

Hi Jeni.

I'm Aries and for the past three days I've been 'unsettled' things are just not quite right. I can't pin point what the actual problem is. It must be the moon and planets playing games, and they're not letting us play, for some reason.

The writing of a diary, blogging, Jackson walking and 'wife-ry' (that word doesn't sound legal to me) will no doubt keep you out of mischief, till the planets let us play again.

Take Care.


6. At December 2, 2007 7:59 PM Caz wrote:

Hi Jenni,
My husband enjoys reading your blog and forwarded me your first December post.
We loved watching you on GFL and were lucky enough to come and be on the show as guests a couple of years ago it must be now. When it came to the wine tasting I was definately a cheap date but the champagne, well, I had it when it counted let's say! A few of our friends were watching who didn't know we were going to be on, boy did they get a shock! HE! HE!
Anyway, I wanted to say how fascinating it is to hear how therapeutic it has been for you over the years to write your diaries as I have just begun to write myself (not very well, but hey it's not for anyone else!). Like you my life is very unsettled, well blooming tough at the moment if I am honest and to get it all out on paper for no-one in particular is a great outlet. I was amazed at how much I got out on my first sitting! I haven't had a chance to write over the past few days so perhaps that is why I am feeling frustrated.
It is good to talk with friends but I think sometimes I just need to rant and rave and get out all the "stuff" that I don't want to tell anyone else.
I do hope that you have had a good weekend and that you are feeling less unsettled.
Here's to a blooming good week!
C x

7. At December 3, 2007 6:21 AM christian wrote:


No matter how strange your life is or gets it is going forward to the place it is destined to be ,,,,,,
in other words better.
It is said that we only are given what we can handle no matter if we agree with what is given at the time.
.but we survive and manage.
........the trick is to believe....
I know..........
but that is what life is.
we are here not to learn to be Spiritual beings or Spiritual things.......
we are Spiritual beings sent here to learn how to be or to learn what it is to be HUMAN.
God (in her wisdom help us all)sent us to experience that
she see/knows the bigger picture in all this and all other plains..........
remember the wonderful anigram......


8. At December 3, 2007 10:23 AM angibettis wrote:

Being born in March like you I wonder if it's an Arie thing. I was made redundant in March this year, tried a couple of times to get a job but being over 50 nobody wants to know although they never say that is the reason, so I'm feeling out of sorts too. I'm looking forward to the new year and maybe a new start. I haven't written a diary for years but I think you're right it's a way of getting rid of all my frustrations and worry about what is round the corner, can only be good can't it?

9. At December 4, 2007 10:03 AM Martin and David in Brighton wrote:

Hello Jeni

It really must be this time of year that does it. David and I have been together 16 years at the end of November. 15 years ago I was sat by his hospital bed wondering if he'd ever walk again after he'd broken bones in his neck and back in a motorcycle accident. Well, he being young recovered after a few months, and I met his parents for the first time (up til then they thought I was a girlfriend he was living with, so you can see how tense that meeting over his sandbagged and unconscious body was...). And they have turned out to be great friends for all this time.

And now, in December, we are facing another challenge. Tomorrow as I write (Wednesday) we shall find out whether David's job is relocating to Johannesburg in South Africa. If he goes, then he wants to take me with him to live there.

It is an extremely big decision, leaving family, friends, everything we know as familiar - and because of the positive action laws in South Africa, I would have to give up my own financial independence, as he would have to support me.

The time of year, the weather, this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness heading into winter exacerbates this feeling of not being completely in control.

But I guess that's the point of this time of year - it's about what will yet happen. Philip Larkin I think once wrote a poem about lambs born into snow:

"Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow."

This is actually quite exciting - just like these lambs in Larkin's poem don't know about the sudden shocking wonderful surprise that awaits them when the snow melts and the grass comes forward, so as we move through this season into next year we too may be shocked and wonderfully surprised by what may come forward.

Mind you, that doesn't make this decision on South Africa any easier!

Thank you for your blog - we really do enjoy it very much.

Best wishes

Martin and David

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.