1998-2020 Diaries

I have kept diaries for thirty-three years. For twenty-one of those, I used the Belmont A7, day-to-a-page, pocket-diary. Its twenty lines per page proved a perfect fit for my daily entries. However, last August, I lost my 2019 diary and discovered the joy of not being constrained to a page per day.

When I was a boy, I thought the spirit of Xmas was receiving: from my overflowing Santa Sack and presents under the Xmas tree. I grew up, and for me, especially after I became a dad, it's giving. I like choosing gifts for family and friends, which is why I say bah humbug to the modern Kris Kringle.

I have kept a diary since I set off backpacking in March 1987. In the early years, I only recorded occasional highlights. However, as I wrote in 32 Years of Diaries (Jan 2018), I made a New Year's Resolution in 2005 to write up every day. Hence, a lost diary is a disaster—it's happened to me twice.

Phil Collins released Both Sides of the Story in 1993. It was a catchy song, but I remember it more for the music video. Scenes of homelessness, domestic violence, military patrols on streets and a ghetto kid mugging a white man, juxtaposed with Collins crooning, We need to hear both sides of the story.

On the vexed question of the ideal frequency for posting to blogs, Problogger's Darren Rowse suggests it "varies considerably from blog to blog" (June 2008). I've been tardy with the frequency of my posts recently, not because I haven't been writing. But because I've been busy writing presentations.

My wife and I visited Turkey in 1988. We had endured our first English winter and spent two-weeks hugging the coastal sites and sunny beaches. We returned in 1990, venturing far from the coast, to the mountains of eastern-Turkey, where Kurds befriended us, and we learned a little of Kurdish culture.

In a recent blog post, I discussed how I'd repurposed a short story written for a writer's circle in the early-1990s. The tutor panned it at the time as "too vague", but I still liked aspects of the writing. So I cut out the "vague" bits and changed the tense from past to present for more immediacy.

In 1998 I started an eight-week evening college course, Introduction to Philosophy. I was in my mid-thirties and was aware of philosophers, of course. But I hadn't read their works and knew nothing about critical thinking. Our text was Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. And our tutor was a Marxist.

In a purple patch of writing in my early thirties, I churned out ideas and outlines for short stories and longer-form fiction almost daily. I was childless back then and had little to distract me from my notebook and keyboard. Some of my "churn" developed beyond half-baked plots — none was published.

In these heady days of Google, Wikis, forums, YouTube and social media, it's hard to believe technical books once sat on the desks of computer programmers. But old-timers, like me, recall when having a reference book at hand was invaluable for learning a language, solving a problem and keeping your job.

Award-winning author Anna Funder discussed her 2003 bestseller Stasiland on the Better Reading podcast in February 2019. Having visited Berlin in 1987 and 1995, her book on the East German secret police piqued my interest. It wasn't on the shelf at my local bookshop, but I did find All That I Am.

The Miles Franklin Literary Award is Australia's premier prize for literature. And I've read four of the ten books on the Miles Franklin longlist for 2019: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, A Stolen Season by Rodney Hall, Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills and The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen.

What could be easier than writing a piece based on travel journal entries from seven nights my wife and I spent in Moscow and St. Petersburg? Well, for a start, it was way back in 1993, and I was still finding my "writer's voice". Many of the entries are inconsistent, and some downright embarrassing.

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