Every year, when I was between about nine and thirteen, I’d buy one.

A Boots Scribbling Diary.Boots Scribbling Diary

On New Year’s Day, I’d open it up and gaze at the empty lined page, headed January 1st. Each year, I decided, this year would be different. This year I’d continue to the end.

The Scribbling Diary was larger than current A4 – foolscap size – with an impressively solid marble-printed cardboard front and back and, as I recall, a week per pair of pages. And it was sold for some reason by Boots the Chemists. Don’t ask me why.

Got up, had breakfast…

Each year, I’d begin, writing down what I’d done that New Year’s Day – which to be honest was hardly riveting. “Got up. Had breakfast. Went for walk on the downs. It was raining, but not much…”

There was even space for a drawing or two. And a few magical pages at the front, printed with important dates, like bank holidays.

In the days that followed, the entries became shorter. Soon, they would dry up. Until next year. Sometimes, I’d come across the diary during the summer and fill out a few more days with detailed reports on what I ate for lunch and how much the sun shone.

It never lasted.

The joy of paper

But I was writing. A habit I never stopped. Later, I’d find other diaries to write in. Exercise books, shorthand notebooks, scrap paper.

My grandmother also happened to have a most wonderful resource, hidden at the bottom of one of her cupboards.

She’d owned a dress shop in London and had retained a number of unused bound order books, each as large as an encyclopedia, every flimsy page headed with the name of the shop but blank on the back. Joy! Hundreds of empty pages to be filled on rainy afternoons with stories, drawings, inventions…

I can see them still.

And so the habit grew. At school, I’d write more stories, parodies, cartoons, scripts for amateur movies. On holidays, I wrote puppet plays to be performed on a proscenium shaped bookshelf in my grandmother’s living room.

I’m still doing it. Writing. Mostly on the computer but sometimes even in diaries.

Habits form slowly. Bit by bit. You never know where they’ll lead.