And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

20 December

1689
Jacob Bee,
tradesman

‘A figure of a comet appeared about three-quarters of an hour after four at night, the first appearance was in the form of a half-moon, very firie, and afterwards did change itselfe to a firye sword and run westward.’

Very fiery comets

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1768
Mary Coke,
noblewoman

‘The new opera, I am told, is extremely disliked. Mr Walpole says he will go to it no more. He made the Princess Amelia a present of his snuff-box with the picture of Harry the Fourth of France, who she was expressing her admiration of. As he had wore it in his pocket for above a year, I don’t think it was proper, at least I should have thrown out the snuff; however, it was very politely received and accepted.’

Violent, absurd and mad

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1920
Thomas Cairns Livingstone,
bookkeeper

‘Agnes in the washing house all day, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and it RAINED. Likewise, it was very cold. Not a good ‘drying day’, in washerwife talk. Unemployment getting very serious. Bread a farthing down today. Hallelujah!’

The turkey we didn’t have

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1916
Gabrielle West,
policewoman and carer

‘Here we are in Chester. Very nice rooms, very nice landlady, very nice place and very nice work.

There are three shifts: 5.30 am to 2.00 pm, 2.00 pm to 11.00 pm and 10.00 pm to 6.00 am. We do afternoon and morning alternately, with an occasional night, but night work doesn’t come very often as only two people do that at a time, whereas there are eight or nine by day. The factory is about 5 miles from Chester and you go by train. On the morning shift you have to rise at 4.00 am. Horrid! Still, you get the afternoon to yourself, and as the work is not too hard you aren’t too exhausted to enjoy yourself, as at Woolwich.

The work consists of the following duties:
Searching incoming workers for matches, cigarettes spirits etc. in pockets, baskets etc.
Searching outgoing workers for stolen property.
Keeping guard at the gate and allowing no one to enter without a pass.
Conducting stray visitors round and dealing with new workers, lost passes, lost clock cards etc.
Keeping order in the clocking shed. Locking and unlocking it.
Keeping the office where clerks etc. sign on and off, enquiries are made, visitors passes visa’d and entered etc.
Patrolling to see that no one is larking or slacking.

We take turns at all these various jobs, none of which were taught us during training. We have two hours off for meals, so life is not too strenuous.

Chester is a lovely old town of half-timbered houses, a fine cathedral, a very interesting old church and also a complete city wall you can walk all the way round, about 3 miles. The river is good for boating, so in the summer I shall try and learn how to row properly. Do you remember how Joan and I used to splash round at Tewksbury and Evesham, and how you scandalized the neighbourhood by paddling a canoe a la the university with its head in the air?’

No larking or slacking

**************************************************************************************

1928
George Hubert Wilkins,
aviator

‘For the first time in history, new land was being discovered from the air’; and ‘We had left at 8:30 in the morning, had covered 1300 miles - nearly a thousand of it over unknown territory - and had returned in time to cover the plane with a storm hood, go to the HEKTORIA, bathe and dress and sit down at eight o’clock to dinner as usual in the comfort of the ship’s wardroom.’

The first aerial explorer

**************************************************************************************

1982
Michael Spicer,
politician

‘Stood in for CP [Cecil Parkinson] at Conservative Central Office party. Main job was to introduce PM to everyone. She was tired and therefore relaxed and at her most personable. For once got on rather well with her. She actually touched my arm at one point! CP, however, still furious with her performance at Cabinet. She had complained he was taking a week’s holiday over Christmas – skiing – whereas she claimed to be working herself the whole time. Drive down to Chequers with CP for election planning meeting. PM in abrasive form. Clearly does not want a general election until 1984. Sit next to PM at lunch at her request. Why me? Answer: earlier in the day it had been decided that I should replace Ian Gow [Thatcher’s PPS] on her tours round the country when he is in his constituency. Norman Tebbit [Employment Secretary] very much around; he is a favourite. He kept on warning me that unemployment would be the clinching issue. He sat on her other side.’

The spiceless diaries

**************************************************************************************

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Notes and Cautions
In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

For any other use of these diary extracts other than browsing please refer to the original sources.

Any author, publisher or other copyright holder who takes the view that I am unacceptably breaching their copyright please let me know. I have tried to remain sensitive to copyright rules (using far fewer quotes, for example, when a book, by an author still alive, remains in print and popular), but it is not practical for me to seek authorisation for every quote and article, since I maintain these websites without any funding or advertis-ing. I take the view that publicity for the source books is a quid pro quo for my use of the extracts, but I am more than happy to remove the extracts if asked.

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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.