I was listening to an interview the other day with a historian who referenced the imprisonment of Marie Antoinette. She explained that nobody knew what happened to the infamous aristocrat while she was in jail ahead of her ultimate execution. There was for the most part, no record of how she was coping, how she was treated or what she was thinking.
Only one person was known to have visited her and that person kept a diary. Any historian thinking that this might be the goldmine they had long searched for was quickly brought back down to earth by the entry, which read something along the lines of, ‘Visited Marie Antoinette today. We talked.’ That was it. No detail, no record of the jail or the conversation, just: we talked.
While it seems that historians value diary entries from, ‘ordinary everyday people,’ they are as rare as hens’ teeth in reality. These days you might argue that every personal facebook account is a website of diary entries, but people tend to put the good stuff on their pages and skip over the boring tedium of day-to-day existence.
One man, Nicholas Feltron produced an annual report of his daily activity every year for ten years, ending in 2014 but this is largely statistical data and lacks narrative.
I guess it is nice think that someone with what might be thought of as a relatively humble life, is gold dust to historians of the future – the everyday experiences and lives of people are what is going to be of interest, not the elite and extraordinary.
With this in mind, I present for you: Thursday
My husband left for work at 5.30 am, which means he woke me up at first at 4.15am when he got up, then at 4.45 am when he had a shower and again at 5.20 am when he came in to say goodbye. The wheels of his suitcase rattled on the paving stones of our drive as he set off up the road to catch the train to the station where he would be travelling from and where he would return to tomorrow after an overnight stay away.
I got up and took the dogs by car to the two football/cricket ovals near my house as the park where I normally walk then is used by a group of retirees for archery every week and the place is best avoided if you do not want to be skewered.
I started my day at work with a brief discussion with a colleague about the current impossibility of avoiding, ‘car-crash Twitter’ which is currently and endlessly pumping out new and bizarre stories during the first rocky weeks of the new Presidency in the US. I say that, because I generally follow left-leaning media and commentators. It could be that someone from the rust belt is following the triumphs of the same presidency from their account.
I spent some time working with a very talented graphic designer, who specialises in motion, to design a look and feel for some digital clips I want to use in the next few months then went back to the office where I engaged in a series of planning meetings and, if I am honest, stared in horror and misery at Twitter from time to time.
One of the things I am doing at the moment is a course in management and as part of that I have been asked to complete a personality test by answering a series of questions about myself. It turns out I am high in dominance, low in conscientiousness, lower still in steadiness but feel I have quite a lot of influence. It was just like being 14 and completing a personality quiz while reading my Jackie magazine again.
I left work early today to get back home for the dogs. It was hot and I drove them to the park, where they barked at passing stakeboarders, ignored a local who likes to sit on the bench and drink his pension and then rested in the shade before allowing me to take them home via the Chinese supermarket to get my current favourite food: enoki mushrooms.
As I went to pull away, another dog walker stopped me. His pear tree is full of fruit at the moment and he had harvested a bag of hard green specimens which he gave me. I got home and let the dogs out the back garden with a big bowl of water into which I had slippped a few blocks of ice. Then I took a tray of lamb off cuts that my husband had bought for fish bait and never used. I sliced the raw meat up and put the bowls outside. Archie treated it with disdain so Lucy had both meals.
A text message came in from a friend who has successfully applied to be involved at a massive event in Abu Dhabi later this year, which I will also be visiting. She was pretty excited and we chatted for about half an hour. After I hung up, I sent a screen capture of the SMS she had sent to give me the news to another friend.
I did not intend to watch TV tonight, but in the end gave up and switched it on. The problem with this time of the year is that I get back from Xmas holidays and then have a week before the first pubic holiday, then another week before we head up the coast for my husband’s holiday: Workus Interuptus.
So there you have it, the boring details of an ordinary day – although it was preceded by a dream which had an amazing image, but that is a blog for another day. In the meantime, historians: enjoy!