Friday, 2 January 2009

Lett's go!

Monday 1 January 1979
Snowed in at Stansgate. Melissa is writing something called ‘Fight Sexism in the Benn Family’ in which she denounces the men for leaving all the work to Caroline.

I’ve never kept a diary and not really understood why other people do, but I love stuff like that. We buy published diaries of the famous for behind-the-scenes insights and no small amount of dirt, but an incidental pleasure is the inevitable presence of mundane, do-nothing days which the great and good experience just like we do. Naturally, the first day of the year is a magnet for this sort of tellingly dreary inaction, as exemplified by Good Old Tony Benn above (and I like to think he was using his brand new Lett's Muppet Show 1979 Diary for that purpose).

What to do? Brian Eno was inspired on the first to compile his 1995 diary by his dad’s example, though whereas Eno’s was stuffed with highbrow whimsy and big names dropped from the stout end of rock, his father went for the more traditional ‘Shopping and walk to Rotary Club fete. Bought waffle maker: 45p’. For his own part, Eno watched The Red Shoes and put up a bird feeder.

Workaholic Michael Palin failed to enjoy January 1st’s enforced leave in 1975: ‘No newspapers, no letters. A bank holiday and all that that entails […] I should have started a play, Ian [Davidson] should have been writing for The Two Ronnies […] but somehow twelve and a half hours, four bottles of wine, three or four beers, several games of Scrabble and one Indian take-away meal later, we were all still in the sitting room.’

(Palin was experiencing only the second New Year bank holiday in the country, as Ted ‘The Death’ Heath had only inaugurated the thing in 1974. It could have been worse. When Samuel Pepys was scribbling his diary, the year didn’t legally begin until 25th March, for some reason, though the tradition of mundane occurrence was already in place by January 1662: ‘Waking this morning out of my sleep on a sudden, I did with my elbow hit my wife a great blow over her face and nose, which waked her with pain, at which I was sorry, and to sleep again.')

Perhaps inevitably, it's up to Alan Bennett to take the prize for the most humdrum start to the year. Bennett began 1993 logging the appearance of his own name as a clue on Paul Coia’s BBC2 daytime roustabout Catchword. ('Nobody guesses it.') More eventful than the kick-off to 1980, where he just sat at the window of his Camden house looking out of the window. (‘A nun passes.’)

Happy New Year!

[Mundane New Year bulletin: just taken delivery of the Reader's Digest Prize Draw mailout for 2009, and even by that benighted company's own try-hard standards, it's a doozy. Every official-looking stamp and sticker you see on the right is, naturally, drawn on. The small letter explains that the big packet contains an 'FAQ' to help you deal with the coming 'weeks and months of exhilaration' which will inevitably follow when you lay your hands on those great wodges of cash. The usual comedy cheques are present and correct, but sadly the free pens have dried up, and they seem to have decommissioned cheery old Tom Champagne in favour of a dull-sounding 'Prize Draw Manager' whose signature appears to read 'N. Smelly.' Good luck with that one, Smelly.]

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