I gave up writing a diary years ago – a quiet, contemplative hour at the end of the day does not dovetail neatly with having children. Which is ironic, as a quiet, contemplative hour at the end of the day is EXACTLY what you need when you have children.
However, I know when I have flicked back on the ones I did keep, from the age of 13, that they are most fascinating when personal events are described alongside global ones.
The past few weeks have been pretty historic, so much so that I feel horribly cheated today when all I can find on my rolling news channel of choice is a report about Russian athletes taking drugs with the full co-operation – even encouragement – of their government. Yawn. Compared to what we have been watching for the past month, this is dullsville.
Current affairs are interesting, but rarely actually impact on real lives anymore than being something to talk about in the car on the way to Morrisons.
No matter how important politicians think they are, you never get anyone running into the pub of an evening shouting “Have you heard? The Lords are moving an amendment to the draft Criminal Justice Act!”.
But, occasionally, you get an event that gets everyone talking – or leaves them speechless.
My hardback blue jotter from 1981 records how we all went round to my Grandma’s to watch the royal wedding (of Prince Charles and Lady Diana) and how good it was because my Grandma’s chocolate cake was much nicer than my mums, and you got bigger slices.
A year later I detail my hatred for my ‘old bag’ of an English teacher while recording that we had just invaded the Falklands. ‘Go for it boys – I hope we win’. Bless.
Less occasionally, one event is followed by another big event (Lee Harvey Oswald being shot after JFK was killed is the pinnacle here). For me, this would be Diana being killed, and her sad, sad funeral a week later.
Then you get 2016.
Momentous events take on a different colour when you are a journalist, even a local news journalist more concerned with planning application disputes than global atrocities.
When something big happens you immediately start thinking of the local angle, and if there isn’t one, how you can manufacture one. That is why you see so many vox pops – Gods, how I dreaded being sent onto the high street to ask unwilling shopper what they thought of John Major becoming Prime Minister, or Charles and Camilla getting married. The usual answer was ‘not bloody much, now piss off and let me get on my bus’.
If you work on national news it is much worse. You have to get that story, you have to get all over and behind that bloody story, you have to get it out and you have to do it better and quicker than everyone else. With five people yelling at you to do it while not appearing to do a great deal to help you.
The thrill of a big story is always tinged with fear, and, eventually, as you get older and have seen it all before, the internal groan as you realise this means you will probably have to work through your weekend again, or stay up half the night with a phone pressed against your ear and firing off emails, when you’d much rather settle down with Netflix or go to the garden centre.
There isn’t much that is new on the news front – when William and Kate got married one of my baby-faced editors sent out a plan of action email to cover the momentous day, ending with the message that this was history in the making and a ‘unique’ (ouch) opportunity to get involved in a complete one-off occasion we could tell our children about.
For the handful of us who remembered Charles and Diana (see above) and had been at the coalface throughout Diana’s death and funeral, as well as the various jubilees in between, you can imagine our eye-rolling. (There’s a bit of royal theme going here. I’ll ponder that some other time.)
But sometimes, you haven’t seen it all before. Sometimes, shit happens. Usually, it is just one-off shit, and after dealing with that, you deal with the aftermath – Diana’s death comes tops here. Sometimes it is shit followed by a bit more shit – 9/11 in New York and July 7 in London. Very rarely does the shit just keep on coming.
OK, the recent political meltdown has hardly been on the scale of such cataclysmic tragedies, but maybe that is why it is so fascinating.
Politics is pretty dull, involving a lot of in-fighting with a few people who think they are at the centre of the world, while the rest of the world has no idea who they are and what they do. The odd thing happens, usually in the form of a resignation and a sacking, and that’s it.
2016 started off with a spate of big-deal celebrity deaths that had us all re-evaluating our lives. It went a bit quiet for a month or two. Then we had a referendum.
This was pretty dire. The campaign was bad-tempered and boring, with no-one believing either side (quite rightly, as it turned out) and most people apparently deciding how to vote on whether they could remember the war or not.
But since then it has been wall-to-wall drama. Who is in, who is out, who is shaking it all about – every day brings a new twist in this real-life House of Cards. The news alert on my phone goes off every couple of hours, and everyone has an opinion on everything. We are all politicos now, and thanks to global rolling news and social networking we are all in it together and all talking (mainly bollocks) about it all the time.
But if politics just ain’t your thang, there’s plenty more shit going on down. We crashed out of the Euros, to Iceland. ICELAND! A hard-working, thoroughly nice MP was shot – SHOT! – in the middle of her constituency. The Chilcot Report delivered a damning indictment on Tony Blair. There was an horrific terrorist attack in Nice, police gunned down in the US in response to cops killing blacks and there was a failed/fake coup in Turkey.
The year is only just half-way through and the political landscape has been earthquaked into something messy and new. And we’ve still got the US presidential elections to come. By December we will have been invaded by sentient gas clouds from Jupiter. And no-one will be that much surprised.