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.

My Teenage Diary by Various Artists

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707.png I have been really looking forward to reading this ever since I found out it was going to be published. I enjoy the shows on Radio 4 as (usually) regardless of the guest they’re really good fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect but had high hopes for plenty of entries from those featured. Here’s what I thought of it:

 

6th June 2018
It was quite good today because I bought two books including the ‘My Teenage Diary’ compilation from the Radio 4 show. I started reading some and I and I think it’s going to be really good. Will give me something to review and blog about and another reason not to look for another job. People always say summer is a bad time to do that anyway.

7th June 2018
Read some more of ‘My Teenage Diary’. It has excerpts from the youthful diaries of 28 different celebrities and each is positioned by the author with their reflections and memories, of their life at the time, and the diary itself. I like this as it sets some really helpful context before you dive into their secret musings. Quite a few of them I’ve never heard of, like Sara Pascoe, but hers was brilliant “Had burger and chips for tea before remembering I was a vegetarian”.

8th June 2018
More of ‘My Teenage Diary’ on the train today. Oh my god, Sarfraz Manzoor’s is the best by far (I’ve been reading them in order but you could easily dip in and out). It just melts your heart but also makes you laugh! In the last entry he says “reflecting on this diary if I become famous I’ll probably get it published. That should earn me a bit.” Oh I wish he would! I’d buy it!! There are some absolute gems in here. Like comedy itself, some one liners that had me laughing out loud. I really loved Julia Donaldson’s as well and all about her trying to meet Mick Jagger. Those are the better ones, that are along a theme, I don’t enjoy the holiday journal type ones quite as much, the proper diaries are better.

9th June 2018
Been thinking about ‘My Teenage Diary’ and that I’ll probably give it 3 stars. A lot of the entries are too short for me and heavily edited, often a few pages taking you across a few years. I’m thinking I’m not sure it really works as a standalone, without the questions and the jokes you get from the show. But I’m going to finish this morning and see what I think…   Very cleverly it finishes with Robert Webb’s diary. I wasn’t particularly fussed about his as I’ve read ‘How Not to Be a Boy’ and I wasn’t that blown away by that. But his entries are excellent – he should have just published those instead of what he did. They’re hilarious! And maybe because of that I feel differently about the collection now. Having read the whole lot it’s left me feeling warm and amused and sentimental – and who wouldn’t want a book to make them feel that? – so I’ve decided to give it 4, I just wanted more. Would definitely buy volume two if they ever do another.

The amazing diary of Ingrid Jo Boissevain

Normally I’m reviewing diaries published in book form but, when scrolling through google search results for “my teenage diary”, I came across an absolute gem!

1967-1968: Diary of a Posh Schoolgirl is a coming of age narrative with detailed excerpts from Ingrid Jo Boissevain’s diary kept in the year when she sat her O-Levels, turned 17 and obsessed over the French pop star Polnareff.

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Ingrid has quite a privileged upbringing as part of a loving family with Mum, Dad and 11 year old sister Chump. They’re having a swimming pool built, and have a tennis court, taking frequent trips on their boat. They have plenty of holidays in Europe, trips to the fashion shops of London, the theatre and parties. This is all recorded in such detail that, whilst perhaps not typical of the times, it’s really fascinating. It’s also recorded with great humility and at no point do you feel Ingrid takes what she has for granted.

Ingrid
Ingrid with her father’s pipe on their boat

I don’t want to give too much away but, attending an all-girls school, boys, or the lack of them, become a real obsession “We kept bumping into those horrible mods, and also this lair of six creepish creeps!”. And it’s hilarious how a fleeting exchange with a German lad while on a skiing holiday becomes the missed opportunity of a lifetime according to Ingrid!

Perhaps unusually she’s obsessed with French pop stars, it being a diary there’s no explanation for this, but she listens to French radio a lot and ends up ringing up hotels in London to see if her idols have made a reservation. One of my favourite entries is Saturday July 15 “THE POLNAREFF PILGRIMAGE”

We fell completely in love with the hotel, it was such a peaceful and friendly little place.  Before we left we touched the door knobs of rooms 1, 2 and 3 and took in all the details – the “thick flowered carpet” they describe in S.L.C. is red with fern patterns. We were in such a swoon the rest of the day we didn’t look where we were going, even crossing the roads. In a Polnareff vacuum, we managed to find our way back.

There’s also tons of historical social detail including what they ate at meals and in restaurants, how much things cost, what was on TV and what they thought of it. There’s detail on the lessons they had at school and O levels, as well as critique on current affairs and social changes which are fascinating. Here’s an example on the legalisation of marijuana – a debate as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

For radio enthusiasts there’s a lot about Johnnie Walker and Radio Caroline (while the opening of radio one gets the briefest mention). Diary 3

As a child of the eighties the sixties are something I hear about as the place where it all started. Being able to read a teenager’s first hand account is a gift. The rise of the mini skirt, the popularity of the Monkees, the good and bad in the charts and on Top of the Pops. It’s all there and documented without inhibition.

Diary 1

I get the impression the diaries are quite heavily edited which I find a bit disappointing, because I want it all, but what is there is absolute gold. Read it – you won’t be disappointed and it’s definitely worthy of publishing in book form. And we simply must bring back the word snaz!

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You can start the diary here on 1st January 1967.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Diary of a BooksellerThe latest diary I’ve read is that of second hand bookshop owner Shaun Bythell. It really is a beautiful and amusing read. He’s very witty so as well as many wry observations there are some great anecdotes as well. A year in the life of a bookseller, I hope there’s a follow up, or a P.S. of some sort. In the meantime I’ve joined his Facebook page so I don’t miss out.

Here’s what I said about the book on *whispers* amazon

There is so much to love in this book, the account of a year in the life of a second hand bookshop, and it’s proprietor Shaun Bythell, in remote Wigtown, South West Scotland. There are the highs and lows of running a business and the comedic relationship Shaun has with his formidable employee Nicky, insights into the book selling industry and the impacts of Amazon, and other corporate giants, on booksellers all over the UK (and no doubt the world) and revelations into the shocking and puzzling behaviour of customers and the vagaries of the human psyche.

Shaun took over the bookshop in November 2001 when he was 31. Just over 13 years later he began recording the things that happened in the shop as an aide-memoire and in turn that became a diary. There are daily entries from 5th February 2014 to 4th February 2015 (Sundays generally exempted) and Shaun’s prose is charming, vivid and peppered with his dry wit and humour making for a thoroughly enjoyable read. He never lectures, and rarely judges, just describes.

If you love books and reading you’ll no doubt love this book too and you should think twice about whether you order it off here, or from Shaun directly. As for me, if I didn’t have fantasies about becoming a writer already, the lure of the Writers’ Retreat and a stopover in the festival bed would certainly have ignited that for sure.

The irony is that I found out about the book using the Amazon search functionality, without which I am sure I’d never have discovered it, or not for a while anyway. So I added it to my wish list and it was delivered by Santa last December 25th. As a result of reading Shaun’s diary I feel a sense of guilt about using that site now. His shop is a drive over over three hours from here, but I’m going to go one day – it sounds amazing.

How Not To Be a Boy by Robert Webb

4159JIpmssL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_The latest (kind of) diary I’ve read is How Not To Be a Boy by Robert Webb. Really is a memoir but it includes some extracts from the diaries he kept as a teenager. I wish there had been more, he clearly relied on them quite heavily to remind himself what he was like and what had been happening in his life, and they were funny. Anyway, here’s my review from Amazon:

 

This came recommended to me by someone who’d listened to the audio book version and knows I’m “into diaries”. I had quite high hopes for it; I’d heard him be entertaining on Rufus Hound’s ‘My Teenage Diary’ radio show and I thought the premise of the book was interesting, the title alluding to an alternative approach to a bloke finding his way in life.

However, and I hate that there’s a however, it didn’t really work for me.

As an essay on gender stereotypes, set against his own experiences, it had some success, as did the autobiographical elements, but when merged together it was a bit jarring and meandering at times.

Also his style flitted from straight narrative, to journalistic research, to poetic prose. It meant that I was confused at times; why was the room wet? Oh, right, he was crying… It just didn’t sit well in the overall context. Also although the autobiographical elements are generally in chronological order they weren’t always and, as this is predominantly about his youth, I was unclear about what experiences happened when which was distracting.

Before reading this I didn’t know anything about Robert Webb, other than he was part of ‘Mitchell and…’ and danced brilliantly to Flashdance for Comic Relief, and now I know a whole lot more. And I’m glad I do, and I’m glad I read it, although it didn’t rock my world. It would have been much better if the essay on gender stereotyping was not combined with biography. On their own they could have been something insightful and special. Together they were not.

I feel like I’ve been quite hard on it in the review, as I did enjoy it, I just felt it could have been more than it was. I’m currently reading The Diary of a Bookseller and it’s utterly amazing. Will, or course, be reviewing it soon!