A life in the day of… 7



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Do you keep a diary or a journal?   I do; I have assorted books that date from about 1970, scrappy little books with squiggles and fashion drawings in them, larger books a page a day with shopping lists, recipes,  poems, pain, angst, longing, rage, despair, sadness – all recorded. My entries were made when I was angry, or desperate, or even just because I enjoy recording things.

An excerpt here:

Written when I was 65 in 2004. I was working as a care assistant and cleaning a school.

“6am and   I am sleep-walking to the kitchen, make tea, feed the cat and climb into my sensible shoes and uniform. I pin on my badge and get to the hospital before 7am for ‘handover’. The usual wounds, and  bowels to deal with.

Next 8 hours I shower residents, help with dressing, deal with wounds, and generally assist. Another handover this time, to afternoon shift, starting at 2.30.  Had some giggles with the other girls at lunchtime.  Nurses have a good sense of humour. 3.30pm; Then it’s time to wander home in the late sunlight, looking at the lovely gardens in Nicol Street but had no time to enjoy it. Brian gets home at four, I throw a casserole in the oven, and we head to the school.

Hate the football season!!  When I looked in the toilets my heart sunk, the budding AFL stars have covered everything in a nice shade of mud. We work well together, as husband vacuums I get to work with the mops and cloths.  Winter started to bite as my hands froze today, got home to a perfectly cooked casserole and had a naughty slice of apple pie, the diet starts tomorrow, -always tomorrow,

Half watched some TV tonight, and with the warm fire I found it hard to keep awake, anyway that darned alarm is set for 5.45. again tomorrow…. Glad when the weekend comes as I only have one shift.”


In the year we married,  1959, we kept a diary for six months, both writing in it,  that didn’t last did it? The battered old diary  is falling apart now, yet it is a wonderful insight into our younger selves, the innocence is refreshing. We were so trusting, so full of hope.


Later diaries make me laugh, when I read of the staggering amount of cooking I did while the family was growing up, of the shirts I ironed (over 1000 a year)—( because my husband and boys changed three times some days.) The records are boring, listing what we bought at the grocery, how deep the snow was, what the dog ate. How much lunch cost, what I had for Christmas. Clothes we wore to a party, then if we had a hangover. There were quite a few hangovers in those middle years! Our party years well represented. Lots of G and T and Martini, and parties every weekend so it seems.


On a serious note I used my diary as a confessor, as my analyst even. When my father was ill, I was  sure he had something serious, we didn’t find out until months later, but in my diary I had already questioned the doctors reports; recorded the indisputable evidence;  the solution was clear to me, I knew this was not getting better, but I only told my diary.  I kept quiet about my fears.


It helped me to work out emotional problems, then later the ‘war zone’of teenage disasters became a subject I ranted about. It was easier to write than talk at times.


So the forty or so journals and diaries I have sit in a wardrobe.  Full of all those words, those tears, that pain. The happiness, the weddings, the breakups, the divorces, the friends who died, the animals we loved.  Now what do I do with all those journals? do I really want people to read them? Shall I put them in a trunk to be opened in 40 years? Or do I make a funeral pyre. What will you do with yours?


Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. I’ve never kept a diary…even in my teens. Too busy living life to record it, I guess. Dates and times don’t have an impact on me, it’s what connects emotionally. Beloved, on the other hand, DOES keep a diary. And IF I did I wouldn’t want anyone else to read them because they would be private and personal. I’d put them in a trunk Jacqui and let the Grandkids be surprised down the track. Remember The Bridges of Madison County ? 😉

    1 REPLY
    • I think I was hoping once the colourful tales might make me a living! no just kidding. It does help me to rant when I feel the need, so yes the grandkids might find it hilarious or troubling? Had a code for naughty bits.

  2. I’m just home from a funeral where one of the mementos of her mother put amongst other things from her life was one of her diaries. The family have had time in the last twelve months when she didn’t know them to savour what was in the diaries. Keep them!

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    • Love this story, and had a similar experience, one of our young alzheimers sufferers decided while she had the time she would write a book for her family, it was emotional foe us and for her, but beautiful for the family, Nice note thanks for this Carol.

  3. I wish I had Jacqui – my nieces and nephew constantly ask me questions about my parents (2 were under 4 when Mum died and none of them met Dad) schooling, where we lived, other relatives etc and I wish I had the reference point.

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    • Yes its great to share memories. My biggest regret? I asked my Dad to make a tape as he was happier talking than writing, it was finished at a time when I was flat out busy; I was too sad to hear it when Dad died, and it took three years and lots of tears to listen and then wish i had been able to talk to him about it. Life has regrets.

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