February 2022

Hurrah! We are back to meeting at the Pearson Centre. In February’s two-hour slot, Sarah and Margaret looked at two humorous novels, a hundred years apart, that were written in the form of a diary. They also introduced us to non-fiction diaries where personal comments were interspersed with opinions about politics.

For our home tasks we had to continue with the diaries we started in the session. Either writing a funny entry or one that reflected the times we have lived through.

Julia’s Covid-19 diary

Thursday 19 March 2020.

 Day 1 of self-isolation

I haven’t shown any symptoms but I’m not going out today. Did some gardening around 11am but rain stopped play. At this point I’m not sure whether to self-distance or self-isolate as many of our over 70 friends are out and about.

Started a ‘To do’ list of things I can do to keep occupied. This includes gardening, weather permitting, taking up walking again, revising my French, writing my novel maybe. Also, various jobs around the house and sorting the garage. Phew!

Tried to book a slot with Sainsburys or Tesco for home delivery but nothing for 3 weeks and no chance of going beyond that. 70+ get priority from Monday next but how are they going to manage it?? Yesterday I managed to book a click and collect at Toton Tesco for 2 weeks’ time. Reports of empty shelves in shops and huge queues outside waiting for supermarkets to open. Even my cat food supplier’s website reveals huge number of items are out of stock.

Spoke on the phone to a friend on dialysis who of course has to keep going. Agreed we would chat twice a week. Received emails to say 2 of my 3 theatre bookings will be refunded. Just waiting for the 3rd one. What a mammoth task!

The payment for a cruise has been transferred to another one next year. Our holiday to France in June is off and maybe the August cruise with Saga. It’s a waiting game.

Cancelled my haircut but when will I get it done again? My social calendar for the next 3 months is now blank.

I’m planning ahead for meals and have enough for two weeks when hopefully Tesco Click and Collect will provide what I have ordered. Although when I added 5 items to the list I was informed 3 items I had already ordered were not available!

An ex-student from years back is emailing me with the situation in the Czech Republic. Lock down with only food shops and pharmacies open. All have to wear masks from today.

I must resist checking my iphone for news as I will get paranoid about this situation. Thank heavens for some decent TV programmes although in short supply. Loving Belgravia, The Trouble with Maggie Cole and Kate and Koji! As there are going to be educational programmes for children who will be off school from tomorrow, we might further our knowledge by watching some of those. Lol.

Schools closed till further notice, also universities, libraries, churches, theatres, National Trust houses and cafes but not their parks, which are now free, and some London underground stations. Football matches, festivals etc cancelled. Football games will be played with just players and televised. Towns and cities are deserted and buses, trains and trams running nearly empty. Several enterprising small businesses like cafes, restaurants and garden centres are advertising take outs or deliveries. Many will go out of business.

Mortgage payments suspended for 3 months and so it goes on.

Lots of advice from the government about self-distancing and self-isolating.


20th April 1942

Today is my 18th birthday.  I’ve received 4 cards from friends and family, and had one delivery in the post.  My presents are a new home made cricket jumper and some chocolate, and I’m really looking forward to a slice of that gorgeous looking cake that mum’s made.  How she’s done it with all of the rationing I just don’t know!

My cards are from mum, my sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, my girlfriend Prudence and my best mate George.  Dad’s away fighting somewhere but I’m sure he’ll remember my birthday even if he can’t make contact. 

The postman brought me my call up papers.  I’m really upset, but I mustn’t show it.  I have to report to an army training camp 7 days from today to be taught new skills – how to kill and how not to be killed.  This damn war!  I’m frightened. 

21 April 1942

The house is very quiet today.  Everybody’s trying to keep themselves busy.  It helps suppress their tears.

I think we’ll all have to have another piece of that delicious cake, with a cup of tea, when Prudence calls round.

© Bob Reader 2022


Tuesday 1st February 2022

U3A German Conversation Group, talking about how does one use one’s spare time in retirement?  So many people seem to have busier lives now than when most were unhappily working, but now they are enjoying their retirement activities and often get a great sense of achievement or fulfilment from the sorts of things that they do, which includes writing, fishing, sport, helping refugees and asylum seekers integrate into British society, caring for others, holidays, learning, pursuing personal interests in great detail, anything, in fact!

Wednesday 2nd February 2022

U3A Writing for Pleasure Group, talking about telling stories by using diaries.

Glimpsing into other people’s lives is both humorous and touching, and very interesting too!

Diaries are revelatory documents  They are of their time, and give us insights into how people used to live, their societies and its politics, their social environments, and often how the writer felt about all, or some, of these things.  And it was all written in a language which is often so very different to the one we use today.

Diaries read, or presented, in a chronological order are like the waves on the seashore, each incoming wave delivering the next generations memories.

©Bob Reader February 2022

Growing up

1 November 1958

It’s November, my birthday month – I’m twelve! Mummy wants me to have a party – and a new party dress! Ugh! She’s bought this pale blue material to make it. She must think I’m about six. I want to play records and do some jiving. The Everly Brothers or Pat Boone. But she’ll probably want us to play pass the parcel or something.

6 November

I’ve decided to call Mummy just Mum from now on.

12 November

Mum asked Susan over the road to my party without even asking me. I haven’t spoken to Susan ever since Anne and I locked her in the coal shed that time. Anyway, she goes to that la-di-da school in town now, so I never see her.

13 November

THE DRESS looks pretty awful. I’ll have to wear it for the party, but after that I’ll say it’s too tight. When I’m thirteen maybe I’ll be allowed to wear stockings and little heels, so I’ll definitely be too big for party dresses then.

14 November

My big sister had a barbecue in the garden on her birthday, with sausages and crisps, but Mum says it’s too cold in November. I expect we’re having jelly with hundreds and thousands. She thinks we’re still babies.

15 November

My birthday! My best present – Auntie Christine’s going to pay for me to have my hair cut at a real salon in town! Anne’s mother made her wear a ghastly dress for the party as well, but we had ice cream soda which was yummy. Actually, Susan’s quite nice. Maybe we’ll be friends again now.



15th FEBRUARY 1971

Today’s the day! The BBC broadcast called it, ‘New Money Day.’ We’ve all been aware of it coming for a long time but the Government decided that as this is the quietest time of the year for shops and banks, today would be the day! It’s supposedly been done to bring our monetary system into line with similar currencies around the world. So from now on I will be teaching my class that money is based on units of ten, a much simpler system I suppose when we all get used to it. There won’t be much point in getting the children to learn their twelve times table anymore. Ah well, TIMES they are a changing, so to speak!

So presumably, 2.4 old pence is now worth 1p. One new pound is worth twenty shillings or one hundred pence. I’m going to have to keep switching back to work it all out for weeks to come, yet alone teach it to the children. But at least the Government has been helping us for a while by having shop keepers price their items in both currencies. However from today onwards they are showing the decimal price first and then our old money second. Oh it’s all very confusing!

School meals were 1s 9d per day or 8s 9d for a five day week. They’ve now become 9p per day or 45p per week. How weird is that! We’ve also got two new coins as from today- a new halfpenny and a two pence piece.

15th FEBRUARY 1971

I realise it was twenty years ago to the day when our monetary system was decimalised. However did I teach money to my Primary kids before that date? Decimalisation has made it all so much easier for them (and me!) to understand. However I still struggle with metres and centimetres, when buying lengths of material as I never remember if a metre is three inches longer than a yard or vice versa. And as for making cakes or anything else for that matter, when the recipe is only given in grammes- well, I’m lost! I still only think in pounds and ounces. Strangely enough though I always think of temperature in Centigrade now and I would have great difficulty understanding how hot or cold the weather was if someone mentioned it in Fahrenheit to me.


Friday 11.2.22

On my way to Maureen’s suddenly the petrol light in the car came on.  Dilemma!  What do I do, carry on and hope for the best or get some petrol?  I opted for petrol.  Arrived a bit late at Maureen’s.  Went for our usual walk from her house in the Rylands down to the canal and along to the Heritage Centre.  After our lunch we joked about buying an ice-cream from the shop at the Marina.  The weather was cold but we went.  We laughed with the man who served us about where we could sit out of the cold, then he suggested sitting in the smoking area of the pub! He said no-one would be there.  He led us over to it.  It had tables and chairs and  a heater which he switched on for us. Felt giggly like little children!  ‘Push the button up there if the heater goes off,’  he said as he smiled and walked off. 
Two minutes later the heater went off!  We tried to reach the button but it was too high.  Luckily two workmen came along and one switched the heater on again (twice!)
Finished our ice-creams.  Walked past the café and Tony came rushing up to us.  He hadn’t found out anything about the memorial to a young man which we had seen further along the canal, but he would continue to ask about it.
Back to Maureen’s for a nice cup of tea. We met some nice people and had a really good time.

Friday 18.2.22
Going on our usual walk today.  Looking forward to having lunch at the Heritage Centre, meeting friends and talking to people we don’t know!

Marking time? Abbreviated/Edited

1984 [i]extracts

Mon 6th Feb: …………….son, “when I grow up I will be a horse!”

6th February 2022

Today I’ve reviewed my diary-writing skills of yesteryears. Took me most of the morning, that is, after a brisk park walk to energise myself. I only wrote diary content in the 80s. Typically 30 to 50 words a day. They are a record of my energy when I was half the age I am now. Lots of action, – places visited, films seen, books read, menstrual cycle recorded, much focus on the activities of my children, 2 and 6. It breathes busyness.

I wrote in semi-note form. There is some punctuation, a few abbreviations and some complete sentences. The word ‘exhausted’ is common at the end of each daily entry.  Most characters mentioned still populate my life – a few are still friends, some – like M sadly died young. The older generation -my parents, grandmother, aunts, uncles are mostly deceased, leaving me in 2022 teetering on the brink of being of the ‘oldest generation’. I don’t want to admit that.

There are some emotional times, one entry has made me cry, 38 years later.……..

 The diary entries hint at my personal and career development. I’m reminded the diary was written in the 7th year of my enforced career break – a time when I had to resign my job due to pregnancy, and then a move to follow the geography of my partner’s career path. I guess these career advancement issues still effect people – mostly women. But society has changed for the better in that respect. Absolutely no hint of the Orwellian world I might have inhabited. I’d read the book, but my 1984 diary doesn’t hint of societal revolutions. 

Does the diary describe me? Should it? Is it interesting to my family, my friends, or even my older self? Should I bother to turn all 150 pages for 1984? Worse still will it be curse – can I resist the temptation to read the diary entries for another 5 years?  Only fit for the bonfire, the bin…..I find I’m singing to myself, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.[ii]

Margaret Christopoulos

A Day from My Diary

Saturday January 1st, 2022

It’s a fine New Year’s Day. Apparently, it’s the warmest New Year’s Day on record, as the mercury hits 16.2 in London. The New Year’s honour list is revealed. New Year, new hope?

We went out for a short walk, then enjoyed a roast beef dinner followed by treacle sponge and custard. Then we played a game of Scrabble, I won.

Our son receives his PCR result, thankfully it is negative. We can visit the family tomorrow for a belated birthday celebration. That’s great news.

I read the daily newspaper and completed some puzzles too. Masks are to return in England’s secondary school classrooms to help curb the spread of Omicron. An additional 7,000 air cleaning units are going to be provided to schools, colleges and early year settings ahead of young people returning from the Christmas holidays. There is an important review of restrictions on Wednesday by the government. This evening we will watch our new DVD, a James Bond film. I’ve heard it’s very good.


Diary Entry September 11th, 2001

Tuesday was a day I’ll never forget but now as I write this at bedtime, I think it’s a day no one living at this time will forget. It’s hard to remember what happened earlier today when everything was going on in the usual way.  Looking back, it was baby clinic followed by a couple of New Birth visits. After that I had to go to Forest fields to a couple of tricky visits. There are things I have to sort out for both families but I can’t think about them or concentrate on them until tomorrow; I can write up the notes later. 

I went past the School Nurses room. Normally fairly quiet except when Pat’s there!  Today they were all shouting. I could only catch odd words- ‘plane, ’terrorists ‘tower’

 “What’s happened? “I asked Turns out that a plane had flown straight in to one of the Twin Towers in New York. A terrible accident.

Going home from work. On the car radio, all I could hear from New York was shouting and general pandemonium. No other news

Now it seems that this was no accident; a second plane had gone through the second tower. The streets were full of people screaming, shouting into their mobiles, fire engines and ambulances everywhere, sirens screaming. Streets full of smoke, pavements full of rubble. Polices shouting at people to get out of the way, cars hooting

Arrived home. There was Rami glued to the TV. Have you heard what’s happened? We both said that we had watched the news from New York with the unbelievable details.  Mayor Juliano was running everywhere, shouting, trying to get some control. Everything on the television and the radio was about the Destruction of the Twin towers and over and over were repeats of the plane heading for then crashing through the Tower which slowly collapsed

There were reports of a 3rd plane, but it seems it crashed miles away

It was a terrible day, so shocking. So many people have been killed. There’ll be more news tomorrow.  No more for my diary tonight.