It makes me want to give her a great big hug and tell her that it was OK – meeting Bev Mattocks

Today we’re meeting Bev Mattocks, a successful freelance advertising copywriter and blogger from Yorkshire, whose 1975 and 1976 diaries have been published in paperback and kindle versions. She talks to us about her life in the 70s, and the infamous long hot summer of ’76, as well as what it’s like putting yourself out there and what her diary keeping over the years has meant to her.

How old were you when you started keeping a diary and what made you start?
50 years ago, at the age of 12, I began writing my teenage diary. I think I may have been inspired by Anne Frank’s diary which I read around that time. I wrote it religiously until I went away to Uni in 1977 when life got too hectic and interesting.

What was your life like at the time?
As a young teen I was increasingly lonely and isolated, and very shy. My diary became a means of letting out all the angst through a rocky adolescence. Initially I mainly wrote about boys I fancied, school drama productions, cricket (my grandfather used to take me to county cricket matches), etc. which is why I haven’t published the earlier years – they’re boring!

1975 was the year when things began to change for me, before a bit of a blip in early 1976 when I didn’t write at all due to depression, followed by the Best Time of My Life: the wonderful, long, hot summer of 1976.

Bev in 1975 (Ambleside, Lake District)

How many years did you write your diaries for and how difficult was it to keep them going for that long?
I wrote virtually every day, often at length, until I went away to Uni in the September of 1977 when my social life took off and there didn’t seem any need to confide in my diary – I was having too much fun!

In the mid 1980’s I was living in London and going through a tricky phase which inspired me to return to diary writing. One day, a couple of decades later, I shredded one of these diaries for personal reasons. I wish I hadn’t in a way…

While pregnant in the early 1990s I began writing again, more as an account for my son when he grew older. I wrote for about a year before stopping – too busy being a mum!

What about your diary keeping now?
I no longer write diaries. I kept a blog between 2011 and 2019, describing my son’s recovery from anorexia which he developed in 2009. I stopped writing when I developed PTSD, as can be seen from the later blog posts.

Diary writing also inspired my career – as an advertising copywriter (latterly freelance).

How did you feel when you first began to read the diaries in adulthood?
I was surprised at how fluent I was back then – quite proud of myself! The early diaries are a bit boring as I go on at length about school drama productions and boys. But the two published diaries – 1975 and 1976 – are the most exciting years which is why I published those and not the others.

Tell us how you got to a place where you wanted to share your diaries with the world?
I always said that my diaries would be one of the things I’d rescue if the house was ever on fire! Obviously my diaries were compiled long before the digital age and are a ‘one off’. I’d been typing them up for some time, but as computer platforms, floppy discs, etc became obsolete, it was a waste of time.

Bev’s diaries – old school exercise books kept in a cupboard

However I had a need to preserve them somehow. Initially I thought about serialising them in a blog, but after venturing into self-publishing with an account of my son’s recovery from anorexia, I got the self-publishing ‘bug’. Getting my diaries into print has been a great way of preserving them. Naturally, I changed most names and places for privacy, and omitted some sections which I felt were too personal and private (or just boring or irrelevant). Other than that, the diaries are pretty much as I wrote them.

Additionally, I created fun covers for the books using Photoshop software. It’s all my own work.

What kind of challenges have you faced along the way?
Should I publish diaries for the year 1977? Okay, I stopped writing once I went to Uni in the September, but of course my 1977 diaries continue on from 1976. I decided against it as there are personal entries that I didn’t want to put out there for everyone to see. Instead, there’s a brief summary of what happened next at the end of the 1976 book.

How did it feel when you first let someone else read your diaries?
No-one close to me has read them (I don’t think!). To be honest, I didn’t mind people reading them as I’d changed the names of the main characters and places. Also, it was all so long ago. As I head into old age, it feels good to have shared them with people rather than them eventually disappearing into landfill. I just had this need to preserve them somehow as they were / are so important to me.

In this day and age of blog writing and social media, it’s become the norm to put your inner thoughts out there, on the internet, so it’s not as unsettling as it might have seemed a few decades back.

I read that you published them for your teenage son, what did he make of them?
He’s not read them yet and hasn’t asked to. But of course they’re there if he chooses to at any point.

What kind of reception have you had and how does that make you feel?
Someone put a negative review on Amazon calling my diary “Terrible”, especially when compared to more well-known teenage diaries. But my diaries are what they are, as I wrote them – true and honest accounts. It hurt, yes, and no doubt affected sales. But now there are a couple of great reviews on Amazon. I really appreciate that.

What do you think your diaries mean to those who read them?
I have no idea, but hopefully they will show today’s teens that their grandparents’ generation was also young once, going through similar angst. Also my diaries are ‘of their time’ – the great 1970s – long before social media and the digital era were even thought of, so I guess they’re a kind of historical record, too, or may be in the future.

Who of the people featured in the diaries have read them and what did they think?
I don’t know if any of them have.

Was there anything you didn’t feel brave enough to share?
Yes, as described above, my 1977 diaries – far too personal, not just as far as I’m concerned but as the other people featured in my diaries are concerned. A case of protecting privacy.

Do you have any favourite entries you want to highlight?
Absolutely the 1975 French holiday, described at length exactly as it happened (with some bits omitted to protect the privacy of those involved). Really, you couldn’t make it up – I love re-reading those entries.

What do you think of yourself when you look back at what you wrote?
I think I was pretty fluent in the English language – it’s the only subject I ever got a Grade A in!

More recently, my ramblings have made me realise just how lonely I was as a teen and how common issues these days like depression and school phobia weren’t recognised back then. It’s more a case of what I *didn’t* write: that gap between November 1975 and spring 1976 when I developed a deep depression and school phobia. I was also quite overweight. I feel so very sad for the lonely girl I was back then. It makes me want to give her a great big hug and tell her that it was OK to feel like that.

But it also makes me proud of that girl: how she battled to pull herself out of depression, refusing to give up and went on to completely transform herself through 1976: losing weight, getting fit, making new friends and, well, yes, just a total transformation.

If you could return to the mid seventies and give yourself any advice, what would it be?
How much time have you got?! In a nutshell I’d tell her that it’s OK to be individual and not ‘one of the sheep’ and that I would go on to achieve things that I’d be really proud of as an adult, and develop a great career. But I would say: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t fake it. Be genuine.” Stand up for what you believe in.

About the gap between 1975 and 1976 I’d tell her that, in 2021, depression and school phobia are real issues. There’s a ton more stuff that I’d tell her – far too much to include here.

Bev at the ‘Best Time of Her Life: the wonderful, long, hot summer of 1976’.

How similar to 2021 Bev is 1976 Bev?
Older and wiser! And more true to myself rather than putting on a façade to ‘please’ people.

In 1976 I took up cycling (one of those bikes with tiny wheels that were popular back then); part of the weight loss regime. At 62 I still cycle 30+ miles at a time but on a much more modern bike! I’m still sewing and knitting, too.

The 1976 diary ends saying you’ll publish your diaries from 1977 and let us know what happens with Jeremy – what’s the latest with this?
Hmn… As I say above, I decided not to publish 1977 as there are things I’d prefer to keep private. I think 1976 finishes with Jeremy back in his hometown for the Christmas holidays. When he returned, things had changed. I don’t know if he’d met someone else, but there was definitely a shift in our relationship for the worse.

Things deteriorated in February 1977; then he just disappeared in a puff of smoke. Remember these were the days when you depended on phone boxes or the house phone, or the post, to get in touch with people. So when I phoned the payphone in his student accommodation, he was never available.

I never saw or heard from him again.

I’m angry that he never had the guts to dump me properly.

What’s next for you and Bev from the 70s?
I have no idea to be honest. The 1970s just seem so very far away!

After moving around the UK quite a bit, I now live in Yorkshire, with my husband, cat and adult son. My mum is still alive – in her 90s – but my dad passed away a number of years ago. My sister, mentioned in the diary, lives around the corner and I still keep in touch with “Veronique”, the French girl who came to stay with my penfriend in the South of France in 1975.

Which other diaries have you read and what did you like about them?
As a child I read Anne Frank’s diary. This led me, as an adult, to read other diaries written by victims of the Holocaust and other people who were living in Europe at the time. There’s an especially interesting diary by an American journalist who was living in Germany, describing Hitler’s rise to power as it unfurled and the subtle day-to-day changes. There’s also a diary by a young man incarcerated in one of the Jewish ghettos who, tragically, didn’t survive. As with Anne Frank’s diary, this makes the content particularly poignant.

You can buy Bev’s 1975 and 1976 diaries here along with her other books ‘Please eat…’, ‘When Anorexia Came To Visit’ and ‘To Weston with love…’.

That Summer Changed Everything: My Real-Life 1976 Teenage Diary by Bev Mattocks

I’ve finished reading the second instalment of Bev’s diaries. They’re quite different to the previous instalment because so is Bev. Almost feel like I’ve lived through her late teens with her! It’s another great genuine personal diary whose secrets are available for the world!

Here’s what I wrote about it on Amazon:

Brave and exposing.

Following on from ‘Flares, France and Serious Fashion Crimes – My Real-Life 1975 Diary’ we experience another year in the life of Bev Mattocks; a schoolgirl from Yorkshire studying for A-Levels and on the brink of becoming an adult.

It’s quite different in tone from her previous diary, there’s a more mature style, as she shares her innermost feelings. spending a significant amount of time pouring out onto the page what’s in her head, analysing every situation and detailing all possible eventualities of her numerous relationships. As she says herself on the 11th of October “there are too many men in my life” and it can be hard at times to keep up with the trials of her various relationships with Tim, Mike Heslop (the pain of which still endures), Mark Simpson, Tony, Nick and finally Jeremy… when she falls, it seems she falls hard

It’s an extremely personal account of the summer that changed everything and it’s fascinating in observing the change she goes through as she becomes more confident and less self conscious without really realising it. 

The previous reviewer who described the diary as “shallow, flat, unaware, unfeeling” is to me missing the point: it’s a teenage diary and therefore by its very nature is self absorbed and self indulgent – as all teenagers are! There are still the classic one liners though, “One thing Mark does not believe in is listening to voices other than his own speaking…” and there are no swear words until page 149!

I do think you would benefit in reading 1975 first, so you get to know our heroine, and become absorbed in the 70s – like me I’m sure you’ll be searching for Judy Collins, Steeleye Span and Gerard Lenorman on Spotify!

It’s very brave of Bev to publish such a personal and exposing account of the end of her teenage years and I for one, loved it!

It says in the back that Bev is due to publish 1977 as well! Although no sign of it yet. Dying to know what happens with Jeremy!

You can buy both books here.

Flares, France and Serious Fashion Crimes – My 1975 Diary by Bev Mattocks

Flares, France and Serious Fashion Crimes – My 1975 Diary by Bev Mattocks

I recently discovered (via an internet trawl I think) that someone else has published their diaries – what a thing! This time it’s 16 year old Bev Mattocks from Yorkshire who chronicles her year (most of it anyway).

Here’s what I thought of it:

This is the diary 16 year old Bev Mattocks kept in 1975, between February and September, with one final entry on 7th November. She mainly chronicles a romance with ‘manly, masculine, tall, thin but strong’ Michael Heslop and a holiday to stay with her French penfriend in Provence – thinking in “English with a French accent!”.

Although not written everyday her entries are often long, indulgent and hilarious – just as they should be! I found I was frequently laughing out loud and some of my favourite quotes include:

“When I arrived home I went to my room and cried desperately. I searched through my Jackie magazines to find an article on mending broken hearts”

“Mike’s taking me to another disco tomorrow. I’m tired after this one. One disco at a time is OK, but two, two days running is a bit much”

“Mike says he can’t dance so we jogged around for about two minutes”

But best of all was the paragraph that started, “French table manners” – I won’t reveal it all as it’s well worth £5.99 for you to discover this yourself!!

You get what you’d expect from a 16 year old, desperate for a boyfriend, to feel popular and wanted, studying for O-Levels and only allowed out twice a week, with plenty of time to pour out her insecurities and private thoughts into an exercise book. They’re nostalgic, melancholy, hilarious yet poignant, frank and candid.

I loved reading this and there is a second volume ‘That Summer Changed Everything: My Real-Life 1976 Teenage Diary’ which I’m really looking forward to! It’s a joy that Bev’s decided to publish these – I just wish there was more!

And here’s her hilarious take on French table manners!!

I definitely recommend it if you’re into your true-life teenage diaries! I’m starting volume 2 now and will let you know what it’s like. You can get the diaries here.

Monday 25th December 1989 Christmas Day

To mark the return of 1983 diary, and because it’s Christmas, here’s my diary from Christmas Day 1989!

It is only 45 minutes into Christmas Day. I have just opened my presents from Cathy and Alistair. I didn’t really have the first idea about what they were but they were:-


I mean they were just so good! I mean everything about them is just so good. Alistair got me a little metal type tiny hip flask. In his note he said it was not to be associated with any alcoholic beverage (which is what I first thought of) but filled with patchouli oil. Bloody fucking ace. Then the next thing I just couldn’t think what it could be, but it was in fact two photograph albums to fill “only with pictures of me, him and Cathy having a good time.”

            Cathy got me a funny little brass thing which I think is from ID Aromatics. I think it’s to put incense in. For “2” there was a “2a” and “2b”. 2a was a little key so my guess for what 2b was, was correct. I thought it was going to be one of those strong hold boxes, but I couldn’t believe it when it was filled with packets of Orbit! So good! Then the last present was unbelievably good. It was a facecloth embroidered with the words ‘Jamie – friends forever love Cathy’. There was a little present that she had bought both me and Alistair so that must be it.

Well here I am in the middle of Christmas Day. Everything was really good until some ‘old’ family friends called Mary and Les turned up and Mary’s 163 year old mother. It’s so shit. I ducked out by saying I was going to the toilet. I couldn’t take it downstairs any longer. I rang Alistair earlier on, his Christmas seemed pretty normal, his mum talked to me for a bit. I think that she really likes me. Last night when I saw her I thanked her for doing all the washing up and clearing away on Friday. She seemed really pleased that I did. When they played the trick on Alistair (pretending that the dog had eaten our turkey on Friday) and he rang to tell me, I was really cool and was like – oh we can easily get another. His mum said that she thought I was a really good friend because I didn’t get mad.

            Anyway Mary and Mary’s mother and Les have come and totally ruined my Christmas Day. They’ve also upset Auntie C and Uncle R because they talked about Pudding, that’s Auntie C and Uncle R’s cat which got run over. I know they didn’t mean to do it but I wish they’d piss off back to where they came from. Hopefully they’ll go after Brookside and then Christmas Day will start again.

            I rang Cathy. I didn’t really get chance to talk to her. She said that they were leaving for Long Ashes in about half an hour. She’s going to ring me later when they get there. She sounded really upset because she doesn’t want to go. I wish she wasn’t going too. So does Alistair. We’re not going to see each other for ages. I won’t see Alistair until Wednesday at the earliest. Sometimes I feel that it is dangerous because we are all such good friends. That may sound silly but I think that we all get depressed when we’re not together. It’s because when we are together we are all so happy that when we are apart things feel really low. I really can’t wait until New Year’s Eve because it will be so good I’m sure. We’re all going to get totally rat arsed I bet. God that will be so good. I wish we could all go away somewhere for a long time with nobody else around, it would be so cool. We should definitely go on holiday sometime. I’d love that.

(11.00pm) Well Christmas Day was pretty shit. I mean can you believe it Mary and Les didn’t leave until 10.20pm when Nana and Grandad left. It turns out that the only reason why Mum invited them is because she wants Nana to be friends with Mary again. I mean for fucks sake.

            Cathy managed to ring me back. It was really nice. She didn’t talk much before because she was so upset that she to go to Long Ashes. Luckily she can come up tomorrow morning for a while. Her dad has to come in to Pickersgill you see. Mum seemed to think it was some big problem that Cathy came – because she wants to tidy up. We wouldn’t be in the way at all but Mum always has to find a problem in everything. I wish Alistair could come tomorrow too but Mum would go ape shit. I’m looking forward to seeing Cathy, we always seem to have a lot to talk about and I feel like I haven’t spoken to her for ages. I’m really looking forward to seeing her.

            I thought Christmas was going to be shit this year. It started off well but as soon as Mary etc. came it plummeted downhill. Let’s hope it rises tomorrow. I suppose today wasn’t all bad but it could have been a million times better. For a start it could have been at the Love Parade, or Love Shack, with Cathy and Alistair.

Christmas Present List 1989

Mum & Dad: Calculator, Madonna book, Malcolm McLaren tape, Madonna calendar, couple of singles, £40

Uncle R/Auntie C: £25

Nana & Grandad: £25, shower gel

Sean: ‘Sign of the Times’ video

Nikki & Mazz: £5 record token

Auntie Tina: £10

Auntie Joan: £5

Katie: ‘Cherish’ picture disc, chocolate digestives

Auntie Dorothy: £5

Auntie Cis: £5

Alistair: Patchouli flask, photo albums

Cathy: Incense holder, strong hold box, 30 Orbits, flannel

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

The latest diaries I’ve read are the Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. Although brilliant, they’re not strictly diaries, more daily reflections, as I’ve pointed out in my review:

Adam Kay was a Junior Doctor who spent 6½ years working in NHS hospitals in the UK, becoming a Senior Registrar, before quitting to become a television comedy writer and script-editor (Mrs Brown’s Boys, Grandma’s House, Mitchell and Webb…) His ‘Secret Diaries’ are the result of his reflective practice, where he would write down ‘anything remotely interesting that happened that day’. The best of these entries have been collected into this book.

Despite the book’s subtitle they don’t read so much as diaries, rather a collection of anecdotes. There are no mundane, everyday happenings and you don’t get to know much about Adam – other than when he looks back on each stage of his medical career by way of introducing the daily reflections from each position he held. However the stories he shares are laugh-out-loud funny and also deeply moving.

You won’t read Adam’s diary to get to know him, you’ll read it to understand more about what NHS hospitals are actually like, and the politics that surround them, more about the state of human nature and the ridiculousness of people. You’ll get an insight into a job that, unless you’ve actually done it, you could never understand; a job that is interesting enough to write about everyday and interesting enough for others to want to read about it. That’s what makes these diaries special, and the fact that Adam is a brilliantly funny writer, with a dry sense of humour, and a wonderful turn of phrase.

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