On Monday the people of the UK were invited to record their movements, no matter how small or seemingly trivial, by way of a diary entry and upload it to the Mass Observation Archive. The idea is to obtain a snapshot of life in the UK.
This is nothing new, of course. They’ve been doing it for ages and was perhaps most famously utilised by Victoria Wood in Housewife 49, a book and then a film based on the wartime diary kept by an anonymous woman in World War II.
I’ve looked at a few of the archives trying to find ideas for stories and it is a sightly surreal experience. You are poking your nose into someone’s private life. It feels like you’re trespassing and shouldn’t really be there at all. It is even stranger because the early diaries were written before computers and so are handwritten on scraps of paper and then scanned in. Somehow, being able to see a stranger’s handwriting allows you to form an even clearer picture of them in your mind’s eye.
So I wrote mine. Monday was not a particularly remarkable day. It rained. I went about my normal business, cleaning, cooking, studying, writing. My children started their exams so that will probably mean that the day will affix itself to my memory but other than that it was pretty standard.
But that’s kind of the point. If you look at Facebook or Instagram you’d think that the whole country was living the dream – well who can blame people for wanting to filter out the good bits of their lives to project and leave the chaff behind? What I liked about writing my diary for the project was that I had permission to talk about the mundanities of life, the daily grind that makes my world slowly turn. And somehow writing that down for an anonymous audience allowed me to be more candid than perhaps I might be if I’m aware who is reading.
I don’t suppose anyone will ever read my record of Monday 12th May 2014 but it’s there nevertheless, allowing me to make my own little bit of history.