Down a country lane in the deepest, darkest East Sussex we finally arrived at our destination. A farm building where once there was live stock residing, but is now the homely den and office of the author Alexander Masters. The commission was to photograph Alexander and 148 diaries that his friends had found in a skip. At first I thought, ‘wow!’ that must be an amazing find. A treasure of sorts, an unveiling of someone unknown. I started to ask Alexander about the diary and he described the journey of reading them to be a form of detective work. First he had to establish if the owner was a woman or a man and then the journey continued, trying to unravel everything else, including who this person was. It sounded exciting at first but seeing the handwriting, how it started off being decipherable before the writing became smaller and smaller and harder to interpret. (Supposedly this change of writing styles has helped Alexander interpret the person’s state of mind in greater details with the help of a graphologist.) Besides the actual physical difficulties of reading a life time of hand written diaries there is the issue that most people would not be able to write something exciting everyday. When I myself tried too write diaries I bored myself senseless when re-reading them. A good diarist would of course drop out the weekly shopping trip unless they could create a more exciting scenario than “…then I put the milk in the basket, some cheese before I moved to the next isle. There I put two apples in my basket and 4 bananas.”
If one had the patience to meticulously sort the diaries in dates order, read through them all and then painstakingly pick out small details that would help characterise the diarist, then the find would be an extraordinary one. But why would anyone throw 148 diaries in the skip? Surely a collection of diaries would be of great personal value for any relative or even any friend? Which leads me to the next question, what happens to all the other diaries out there when the person has died? Is there a diary heaven, a place where all the hardbacks extend their covers, flap about until they take off and make their way to the seventh cloud for some angel entertainment, or for some God to use to help pass judgement.