A few months ago you may remember meeting Bronagh McAtasney, who had kept a diary throughout 1981, capturing ups and downs in the charts, her relationships with boys and the Troubles.
She’s back tweeting daily from her account @NrnIrnGirl1981 and has done a couple of fabulous radio interviews! You can hear her talking about what prompted her to set up the Twitter account, what she thinks about the diaries when she looks back on them and what sort of reaction she’s had to sharing her teenage self online.
Click below for the the Niall Boylan Show from 9th January 2019
Click below for the Ryan Tubridy show from 8th January 2018
The Twitter account has just re-started so you can follow it from the beginning here and if you want to know what Bronagh said when we spoke with her in October 2017 you can find the interview here. It’s great to have her back!
For Christmas 1983, when I was 10, my Nana bought me a tiny Grange Hill diary with a space measuring approximately 1″ by 3″ for each day. I started writing it that day and pretty much kept going for three years…
I’ve been tweeting daily extracts since December 2015 and have discovered other people who’ve done the same. Something I really wished was that their whole diary was available to read, so that’s what I’ve done with mine. Typed, edited for spelling an grammar, and made into books you can get them from Amazon via my author page in paper back or kindle.
Sometimes though, people want that something a little more special and so, if you like, you can get personally signed copies directly from me. The links below will take you to PayPal where you can complete payment. Then I’ll just pop one in the post to you! What could be easier?
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.
If you’re following my 1986 diary you’ll know I’m currently obsessed with Desperately Seeking Susan. A twitter exchange with a fellow fan of the film reminded me of the pilgrimage I took to one of its locations when on a two month trip round America. I took the trip with Cathy (who was in my class back in 1986) and we kept a travel journal where I described what it was like to visit Battery Park:
Monday 10th March 1997 – New York The forecast for today was rain, and although it had rained during the night it was lovely and sunny when we woke up – or rather when Cathy woke up and tried to revive me from my coma.
We decided to head down to Battery Park and to see the Statue of Liberty. Before we got there I bought a Polaroid camera. It cost $90 altogether including some films and tax – about £60. I’ve always wanted one – for years – and I’m glad I took the plunge. I justify it by it being my birthday in 10 days.
When we arrived it Battery Park it was wonderful – maybe I should explain why. As we know Madonna is a passion of mine. One of my favourite films is ‘Desperately Seeking Susan. At an impressionable age I watched the movie over and over and over again. I love everything about it, everyone in it is fabulous, it’s funny, stylish and hip. It’s set in New York, much of it around Greenwich Village/China Town and one of the main scenes occurs in Battery Park. It’s the place where Susan and Jim always met through the personal ads. I’ve always wanted to go to Battery Park – Gangway One – and to see it today was incredible.
It was just like it is in the film – although it was summer then. The benches are the same, the railings where Madonna stood, the gangway where Rosanna Arquette’s purse falls into the water. I was amazed. It was disappointing that we couldn’t actually get to Gangway One because they’re doing renovations. It gave me such a buzz to be there. If New York City, with its steaming grates, fire escapes and noise, is like a movie set, then Battery Park is Desperately Seeking Susan.
You probably don’t get it – but if there’s any film you’re really passionate about – imagine you get to visit the set. For example, if you love Star Wars, imagine you get to walk around the Millennium Falcon! It’s not unusual, people pay homage to Graceland in their millions every year as they do to the set of Coronation Street for God’s sake! As the naïve 12 year old who watched and lapped up every detail of the movie it’s incredible to be a 23 year old actually there.
Seeing and experiencing the places that seemed so unobtainable, so sophisticated and so far away is a true dream. I even think I found Gunner’s Coffee Shop on Centre Street where Dez and Roberta are thrown out. To find the Magic Club would be a true dream. I’d better shut up now as I know Cathy is being very polite when she smiles sweetly as I drone on, and on… and on.
I didn’t know back then that The Magic Club was film set and not a real place. It was pre-google and the internet was in its infancy so useful articles like this didn’t exist
Today we’re meeting JO BOISSEVAIN who has been sharing her diary from 1967, and more recently 1968, since the beginning of 2017. Covering the Summer of Love, and the year she turned 17, there’s fabulous historical detail, typical teenage neurosis (which doesn’t seem to have changed at all 50 years later!) and the minutiae of life in the late sixties. Jo shares with us the journey she took to sharing her diaries and what the experience has been like to lay her teenage self open to all.
How old were you when you started keeping a diary and what made you start?
I chanced upon my mother’s diary of 1938, when her world was “topping,” “ripping” and “A1”. That Christmas I asked for a Lett’s Schoolgirl Diary. I was 12.
What was your life like at the time?
I was living with loving parents and my younger sister in a glass and wood house in Surrey. We’d go skiing at Easter and to the south of France in summer, sail at weekends, eat at French restaurants, shop at Habitat, go to the theatre and watch the BBC. Living in an obscure Surrey village with no transport I scarcely met boys, but I did enjoy my girls’ grammar; in spite of the hypochondria, I led a charmed life. In the words of a troll (who found me in the Telegraph), I was a “privileged snob”.
Jo’s dining room
Jo’s house in the snow
My diary (I now see) was my confidante, my way of handling the teenage years. It was also my way of saving the past, which was important to me (still is). I kept a daily diary from ages 12 to 25, and an intermittent diary until my late 40s. I believe a diary also helps you make sense of your life. It crystallizes your thoughts. In the early years I wrote it up every night. It was the first thing I’d save in a fire.
Have you kept a diary since?
I haven’t felt the need. I now share my neuroses with the people close to me, and Instagram captures the past.
How did you feel when you first began to read the diaries in adulthood?
More interested than embarrassed. Within half an hour of re-reading my diary I enter my former life. It can be entertaining, it can also be unsettling. It’s like when you immerse yourself in a film.
How did you get to a place where you wanted to share your diaries with the world?
Thirty years ago I thought the teenage diaries would be intriguing to publish. So I edited January to April 1967. It was a laborious business in the tippex days, and I had young children to look after. I gave up. Then in 2015 I realised the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love was approaching, and the diaries were languishing in a drawer. Holly, my daughter, suggested that instead of trying to publish a book in 2017 I could publish a ‘day on date’ blog instead. About 15 months later I was ready. On 1 January 2017, 1 January 1967 went online.
What kind of challenges have you faced along the way?
Finding an audience was the challenge. I built a small following on social media, but didn’t start marketing until I had published three months of blog. I emailed every editor I could think of. The break came when a friend knew someone who knew someone who was a presenter on BBC Radio London. I was offered a 20-minute interview with Jo Good in May. It was fun! It so happened The Oldie liked it too, and in June published a page of extracts. In August I had a spread in the Telegraph (and discovered that unwelcome troll). Gradually the audience grew.
How did it feel when you first let someone else read your diaries?
It felt good.
Who of the people in your world at that time have read them and what did they think?
A few friends read unedited extracts before I went public. They liked the 60s references – Biba, Carnaby Street, Procul Harum, the £50 holiday allowance, the Rolling Stones’ drug trial. One of them declared Ingrid a “hoot”. She thought the diary should be published in book form. Some thought it would make good radio.
The family in Antibes
Family and Friends post Ski
What kind of reception have you had and how does that make you feel?
A post a day was scheduled throughout 2017, prepared weeks in advance, with at least two photos and /or a video. Occasionally people would leave comments. That would make my day. It still does! (I’m now posting up 1968, weekly not daily.) Google Analytics peaked after the Telegraph and stayed steady.
What do you think your diaries mean to those who read them?
Not all, but many, are people my age, happy to have memories of 1967 revived. One called the diary a “goldmine for the historian.” Some found the hypochondria hilarious (that was a surprise). Another wrote, “Thank you for an interesting read full of wit and common-sense which the world seems short of today.” That was brilliant. As for my snobbery, it was at least tinged with awareness. “I was staggered to see so many common types in Kingston today” (oh dear!) was qualified with, “sounds snobby, but it did strike me as a lot.”
Anything you haven’t felt brave enough to share?
Various remarks about various people.
Do you have any favourite entries you want to highlight?
Nothing extraordinary happened to me in 1967 apart from being asked out by a “snazz”, and meeting my hero Michel Polnareff. Now I’m more interested in the minutiae of life. Most people who love diaries are. I have favourite lines rather than favourite entries. Such as “Gerry smokes like a chimney, and is utterly vulgar.” I do enjoy the youthful pomposity: “There are millions of families living in this country below subsistence level – I’d be ashamed if I was Mr Wilson”. And “I had a dreadful prawn cocktail with tomato ketchup, and entrecote Bordelaise which was hopeless.” (I can hear my father talking.) I also like, “Last night Martha tried to get through to William Pitt, but got through to her aunt Kath instead.”
What do you think of yourself when you look back at what you wrote?
Ingrid with younger sister Chump in the South of France 1967
If you could return to the late sixties and give yourself any advice, what would it be? The same advice I’d give myself now: ‘it may never happen’.
Which other diaries have you read and what have you liked about them?
I love James Boswell’s animated, intimate 1762 London Journal, and the quieter diaries of Barbara Pym with her ever surprising perceptions. Last year I read the recently discovered diaries of Jean Lucie Pratt, who started writing in the 1920s and continued until a few days before she died. Beautifully written and (to quote Hilary Mantel) utterly absorbing.
What’s next for you and the Diary of a Posh School Girl? Any more diaries to come?
I’m lopping away at 1968 and 1969 (the late teens) – they will be the last to see the light of day. I could never make my grown-up self public. For which my children should be grateful.
I’ve published my diaries in full in book form – is this something you would consider?
I would love to. It’s a very different reading experience from reading online. A blog diary is perfect if you like links to news reels and music, which I do. But you don’t get the flow of the story. An illustrated diary would be a dream.
Jo in 2017
As for what life is like now, Jo is a writer based in Peckham, “I write and edit guide books for a living: I can’t resist collating information. The freelance life is lonely but I enjoy the flexibility. Three years ago I moved from Bristol – my husband is an artist so we kind of fit in. Best of all, our daughters, and young grandson, live nearby. I also love food, friends, flowers, biographies, diaries, Chrissie Hynde, Christine & the Queens, country walks, and London.” You can find her diaries here and she’s also on instagram and facebook.