Saturday, 31 December 2011

Time has no divisions

I wonder how many diaries will be started tomorrow, and how many will outlive the month? In my experience of reading them, the most diligent diarists don't tend to write much on new year's day, as though they felt that the date itself was already too overburdened with significance. (This blog, by the way, waited until 17 January 2009 to get going.) Here is a brief selection of those that did bother to write something on the first day of the year. Happy new year everyone.

'Waking this morning out of my sleep on a sudden, I did with my elbow hit my wife a great blow over her face and nose, which waked her with pain, at which I was sorry, and to sleep again.' - Samuel Pepys, 1 January 1662

'We were kept awake last night by New Year Bells. At first I thought they were ringing for a victory.' - Virginia Woolf, 1 January 1915 (her first diary entry).

'I felt the "blues" I'd missed last night enfold me like a mist, helped no doubt by an article in an American magazine the Atkinsons sent in, speaking of war as inevitable after 1951, and hinting at atomic bombs being puerile when compared to the germ bombs Russia was concentrating on. All my fears and conjectures of before this last one rushed over me.' - Nella Last, 1 January 1950

'It is the first time in my life that this day has been a national holiday. The only papers were evening ones! It is little short of scandalous.' - Kenneth Williams, 1 January 1974

'New Year's Day. These are my New Year's resolutions:
1. I will revise for my 'O' Levels at least two hours a night. 2. I will stop using my mother's Buff-Puff to clean the bath. 3. I will buy a suede brush for my coat. 4. I will stop thinking erotic thoughts during school hours. 5. I will oil my bike once a week. 6. I will try to like Bert Baxter once again. 7. I will pay my library fines (88 pence) and rejoin the library. 8. I will get my mother and father together again. 9. I will cancel the Beano.' - Adrian Mole, 1 January 1983

'Through a chink in the bedroom curtains my unenthusiastic eye caught an early-morning glimpse of the New Year: it looked battleship-grey. As I reluctantly swung out of bed I noticed my feet - never something on which I like to dwell. They appeared to be crumbling, sandstone monuments, the soles criss-crossed with ancient, indecipherable runes, which probably hold the secrets of eighty years of living and partly living - of happiness and fears, of distresses, of rather embarrassing successes and expected failures.' - Alec Guinness, 1 January 1995

Mundane quote for the day: 'Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm of blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and  fire off pistols.' - Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain


  1. I happen to be reading James Lees Milne's diaries at the moment, so here's his entry for Jan 1 1946:

    'No one asked me to a party last night, so I dined at home and went to bed early. At midnight heard the sirens and the distant cheering. The idiocy of it. Buried my head in the pillow and turned over.'

  2. Lovely, thanks Jules. A man after my own heart.