Today was a totally horrible day back.
—Me at the start of school in 1992, underestimating just how bad things would get later on
This year, 2020, is significant to me for one particular reason: it’s got the same date structure as 1992, due to a 28-year cycle I figured out (seven leap years, cycling through which day of the week 29th February occurs on), which is the year we moved to Worthing, one of the worst things to ever happen to my family — and also the year that I, over twenty years before starting this blog, began writing a diary, which I’ve continued to this day.
(Sorry, this is gonna be a looong, self-indulgent post…)
I started writing it in something I’ve just reminded myself of in an Amstrad CPC emulator: the word processor aspect of Mini Office II, which my folks got for me for Christmas 1991. It was yesterday (Monday 6th January), more than a quarter of a century ago, that I began on the first day of the Spring term at my secondary school, and already I knew we’d be moving away from Walton-on-Thames due to my grandfather’s job being transferred down south.
Boy, that program was unwieldy, and limited to 16kB worth of characters — and some idiot non-h4x0r must have programmed it to count even the empty spaces of the margins either side of the actual document to count as characters in the memory! Hence I only wrote it on school days, because I simply didn’t have enough room to include weekends (except maybe a brief flashback on Monday) — and I also didn’t write during holidays (again, with a summary afterwards, especially after summer).
Indeed, I almost stopped writing after the half-term holiday twenty-eight Februarys ago, but fortunately only missed out one week — and shortly afterwards, lost the Wednesday 11th March entry due to changing the side of the 3″ disc I was saving to, and not realising (thanks to the Amstrad not dating files)! Fortunately they were the only diary entries I lost, though I certainly came close in November, when I accidentally erased the files I’d been writing since September and the start of my time at a new school, but fortunately even the Amstrad could “unerase”.
And so it continued for the rest of my school days, and indeed university — though I did use two other word processors: the copy of Tasword I got from Amstrad Action just before Easter 1993 sucked, and it was very reluctantly that I used it for the first couple of months in 1997, when my 3″ disc drive was malfunctioning, and I had to do everything on my secondary 3½” disc drive (upon which Mini Office II couldn’t run), until the situation was resolved. That program had even less space (and justified paragraphs together unless they were space out with blank lines), and I had to split weeks into separate files!
And then there’s disc images: all the data of a 3″ disc transferred to a file on a 3½” disc (formatted for a PC to read), which meant I could back everything up to my university personal hard drive space, and access via Amstrad emulator (running a disc image version of Mini Office II) — hence I was still able to write if my Amstrad wasn’t available. This was significant in early 1998, when it gave up the ghost, though when my folks helped me find a Worthing chap selling a refurbished 6128, I also got hold of the far superior Protext — and if I’d had that from the very start in 1992, ooh, I wonder how much more I’d have written (including weekends)…
I kept my e-mails while I was at the American university in 1998-9 and during the summer, hence at least having some semblance of a journal, but when I returned to university over here, I was able to buy my own (second-hand) PC, and install upon it (my mother’s PC’s copy of) Win98 — and although I still wrote only diary entries on weekdays (except on special occasions) and split the weeks into separate files, I was now using… wait for it… Wordpad. Well, at least I could do bold, italic and underlined, and different font sizes — and now it was proportional instead of monotype! And I wasn’t limited to 16kB, which meant I could say a bit more.
I didn’t write anything contemporary after university, until the end of 2001: I’d been compiling the text of all my diary entries (this time, the weekly documents transferred to my PC as text files) into Word documents, complete with superior formatting (and yes, I corrected some spelling mistakes!). Thanks to things like e-mails (again) and receipts (so I could see when I’d bought things), I managed to write monthly entries about my time back in Worthing with my folks up to that point, after which I finally wrote “live” again — still in the form of monthly entries (based on daily notes I kept). When I went back to university as a postgrad in 2003, I resumed writing on weekdays (and not during holiday periods), in my old style, albeit now in Word properly.
I finished my post-postgraduate time in 2004 going back to monthly entries (sometimes written much later, and in one case not compiled from its notes at all!), but in 2005 I started something new and more convenient: writing maybe a paragraph about each day, including weekends, with no break periods and no retrospectives! Except sometimes writing about Friday on Sunday (which I came to call a “Sunday Night Special”), and of course after holidays (including trips with my friends and Christmases with my folks), but I kept going, recording my life in what I often referred to as “these hallowed pages”. I did this in Word at first, but then ditched Microsoft for the OpenOffice suite, only to convert back when my workplace let me have a copy of Office 2007 (and later 2010), somehow not losing any text or formatting in the process!
It was only in 2012, after the worst time of my life, that I ended that 2005-2011 Word document and started a new one, finally writing multiple paragraphs of feeling each day like I used to before I got lazy, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Yes, I still write at weekends (admittedly mostly saving Saturday’s text for Sunday), but obviously I can only write retrospectively for holidays abroad (such as 2013), and still I take notes for holiday breaks when I’m near a PC (such as my convalescence in 2018) for later compilation into something readable.
(I’ve also been writing a “prequel” of events in my life prior to 1992, thanks to things like family memories, the dates on comics and magazines, and BBC Genome — yes, I remember a lot of TV from my childhood!)
Yes, I want it all published some day (hence I sent what I’d written thus far to my mother when I was about to go under the knife), but it’d probably be best to arrange for it to happen after my passing… partly so it would be my testament to the ages, but mainly so I’m beyond legal action for insulting my classmates over the years! Right from the start, when I thanked the readers for their time and bade them “g’night” in the first entry, I’ve been writing this for others than just myself…
Will it one day be regarded as a modern-day autobiographical version of the Bible, and usher in a utopian, Bill & Ted-style world where war is ended and everyone gets on with their lives, due to laughing at my jokes, impressions and parodies? If so, could someone travel back in time and let me know…?
— — —
Would I travel back in time to January 1992 and relive my earlier life? Well, er, no — I still ate meat in those days (only so much as considering vegetarianism in 1995), and I’d have to face leaving behind the place I’d liked living in since 1985, and a school I’d enjoyed since 1990, to a dump of a town (in which my family’s been stuck ever since) and a school full of bullies (not all of them male!) — in late 1992 I didn’t contemplate suicide, but I certainly wished I was dead sometimes. On the other hand, my grandfather and Scraps would still be alive, and at least I’d have a few more months at a school where I was happy…
I’ve probably said it before, but I wouldn’t go back in time to “enjoy” my past — okay, maybe 2013 when I was sorting my life out (and getting into Gwar), or the second half of 2016, when I’d finally made a name for myself at work (and almost got a girlfriend), before things really began to go wrong in my bonce. There’s also circa 2006, when although the house in was dismal, at least I was living with my postgrad friends — indeed, I just happened to visit my old street in the Wood Green area recently (having just gone dancing in nearby Seven Sisters). Oh, and 1998 in Michigan, of course, but this time taking things slower (assuming knowledge of the future stayed in my head, and not the brain tumour).
Ah, memories… sorry, I was miles away — no, I really don’t want to go backwards, just forward to better things. However, it’s always good to learn from the past, lest we repeat it…