‘He had his thingy in my ear at the time’

Disaster! Volumes 4 and 5 of my teenage diaries have gone so mouldy that they have become unreadable and have had to go in the recycling. I know I said volume 4 was a corker (see The dog expects me to make a full recovery): the Lord giveth, and He taketh away. I was such a prolific writer at this point in my life that this only deprives us of a period of approximately six months. Worse than this, however, apart from volume six and the most recent volume (which covers a period of nearly four years), every remaining volume has turned blue and furry (covering 1994-6. From 1996 to 2009, I stopped keeping a diary altogether, on the grounds that I simply didn’t have the time). If volumes two and three are anything to go by, neither my lack of diary from 1996 onwards nor the demise of the intervening volumes has deprived the world of anything too wonderful in terms of writing. Let us comfort each other with volume six, then, which covers October 31st 1993-February 6th 1994.

Obviously, my productivity has taken a sharp dip in the intervening twenty years or so, particularly when one considers the enormous quantity of letters that I used to churn out as well (of which more in subsequent posts)[1]. The urge to record every tiny event, and to produce writing that is notable for its quantity rather than its quality, continues (January 16th 1994: ‘Sorry to have ended in the middle of a sentence, but I have got so much on my hands. There is so much to write, but I can’t really write now’). Even better, a month later I am undermining even this central theme; for example, see February 6th 1994: ‘I have a million and one things to write’; top of the next page: ‘I can’t think of anything else to say, except that there is a disco on Friday. I probably won’t go’. Judging by volume six, the fact that I can now comfortably fill a notebook over the course of four years is partly because of the strains and responsibilities of adult life, which leave very little time for introspection and the recording of pointless tapir-related dreams (see The dog expects me to make a full recovery); but also partly because I have become less self-obsessed. Consider the following musings from November 12th 1993:

I have the most terrible cough. Which reminds me [how, I wonder?] that I have decided not to swear so much, and to be a nicer person generally. I am fed up with myself. As Bruce Springsteen says, I want to change my clothes, my hair (and) my face[2]. I have started wearing my hair up and now that I am almost of child-bearing age [I have no idea what I meant here since I was thirteen years old when I wrote this rubbish], I should stop behaving so immaturely and pull myself together.

I was in an even more priggish and pensive mood on New Year’s Eve, when, with no party to go to, I contented myself with a bizarre summary of 1993, opening with the solemn caveat that ‘I might be forgiven for beginning with several observations regarding the past year. I feel very serious.’

Other trends of note in volume six are my need to be very clear where I am when writing (December 1st1993: ‘am writing this before orchestra: my weekly comment on a Wednesday’); my peculiar brand of non-sequitur (January 22nd 1994: ‘we are working in small groups. I am with Jenny and Sarah, but that’s not the point’); and my very teenage embarrassment at anything and everything that my parents might do or say (December 29th 1993: ‘while I was having my hair cut, Mum took Dad [horror of horrors] to buy me some new bras’). I have also, to my enormous disappointment, become an inveterate gossip. Here we are on January 21st 1994:

Can you believe it? I am incredulous[3]. Sara got off with[4] DUKE VANCE (urgh!) EIGHT TIMES at some disco in Camelford while Daniel Murray sat watching (urgh urgh!). Sara told him (Daniel not Duke) not to tell anyone, so of course he told Jonathan who told Ollie who told EVERYONE (although of course Sara had already told me and I got to say ‘I ALREADY KNOW, TWATFACE’ in a dismissive fashion when he tried to tell me). This was not easy, however, because I am still SO SHOCKED. I am literally open-mouthed with astonishment (much like Sara and Duke, I suppose. URGH).’

What of my enormous proto-crush on Peter Richardson, I hear you cry (see The dog expects me to make a full recovery)? There are, of course, a depressingly large number of pages devoted to this, mostly on the ‘why-oh-why doesn’t he fancy me?’ theme, with the occasion glowing variation on ‘PR talked to me today! It was terribly exciting!’ to spice things up. The only diary entries that have any bearing on actual events, however, are as follows:

January 22nd 1994: My ear has been very sore and I have been taking ear drops for two weeks.

January 24th: Went to see Dr. G today who said I should have my ear syringed. Sounds painful.

January 27th: Today and yesterday I saw the school nurse two days in a row for painkillers and she rang up the surgery and got me an appointment tomorrow with a different doctor (she made a face when I mentioned Dr. G. I will have to miss Music but I don’t care as I can’t hear anything anyhow and my ear really hurts).

January 28th: Went to the doctor today. IT WAS AMAZING. The nurse said, ‘Dr. Richardson will see you now’, and I thought, ‘How lovely. That’s the same last name as PR. I hope he is gentle and nice.’ Then Dr. R came out and it was PETER’S BLOODY DAD (he’s a GP, it turns out[5]). He doesn’t look very much like PR, though (he looks like PR’s brother Doug. PR looks like his mother). PR’s mother is called Rosemary – Dr. R mentioned this in passing while he was looking into my horrible ear so it sounded really loud and booming. ‘Do you know my son Doug?’ he said eventually once he’d asked me all the usual tedious questions about my favourite subject at school and how much my ear hurt on a scale of one to ten (I said ‘seven point five’). ‘Yes,’ I said, trying to sound all casual. ‘But not very well. He’s a bit older than me.’ ‘Ah,’ he said. ‘Do you know my son Peter, then?’ I wanted to nod, but he had his thingy in my ear at the time so I said ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Ah,’ he said, and wrote something on his pad (hopefully about my ear). ‘We’re in the same set for French’, I said helpfully. ‘Ah!’ he said, this time more loudly (or maybe he did something to my ear so it sounded louder?). ‘How splendid.’ Then he gave me some ear drops, which have actually helped and I can almost hear everything again, hurray for me.

January 29th: Today I got to say to PR in the corridor, ‘I met your Dad yesterday. He fixed my ear. He seemed very nice,’ and he said ‘I didn’t know he was your doctor’ and I said ‘he’s not, but he fixed my ear anyhow and I can hear stuff again’, which wasn’t super-sexy but was at least an improvement on ‘Hi, Peter’. Perhaps this is the start of us actually talking.[6]


[1] There was so much correspondence, in fact, that I sometimes used to carry letters with me in case I had a spare moment at school: January 5th 1994: ‘In English today, Mr. Kloska [favourite English teacher, and probably one of the reasons I went on to read English at university] was ill, so we had the pig-in-a-wig (Mr. Kent). Then Mr. Chapman supervised us for the second period and I asked him if I could spend the time writing to S as I had finished all my work. He said that was fine provided he could check the spelling and grammar before I put it in the envelope (I had brought a pre-addressed envelope just in case, which he thought terribly funny)’.

[2]Dancing In The Dark’, of course, which also contains the deathless and oft-ear-wormed line ‘I’m sick of sitting around here trying to write this book’. Amen to that.

[3] Another word that I could spell and use in a written sentence, but not pronounce with any confidence.

[4] I don’t think we even knew ourselves what we meant by this ridiculous euphemism. What did she get off, exactly? The Necking Bus?

[5] Thanks for clearing that up, thirteen-year-old Literacystrumpet. We couldn’t have worked that out otherwise.

[6] It wasn’t.

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4 thoughts on “‘He had his thingy in my ear at the time’

  1. Seymour March 25, 2013 / 4:13 pm

    Let us comfort our teenage selves that at some point we exchanged quantity for quality when it comes to literary output (one hopes) …

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