This box is always a huge distraction from whatever other task I should be doing at the time. I can never resist dipping into the diaries and reading a few (or many) entries. My grandfather (my mother's father) was a farmer in central west NSW and the diaries were kept (in faint pencil, usually in small Collins diaries) between 1933 and 1950. 'Diary' conjures up a record of personal feelings and emotional responses to the events of the time. These diaries are not like that. By consulting them I could tell you what the weather was like and what the rainfall was for every day across the period they cover. I could probably find for you the prices of wheat and wool. But world-shattering events such as the second world war, and personal tragedies or triumphs - births, marriages, severe illness, deaths - are recorded only by the briefest factual note.
My own birth is recorded in the following way
Cloudy. Light showers in places. Arthur Nash started shearing and Bevis [presumably a shearer] did 102. Ray [his son; my uncle who also lived on the farm] brought Jeff and Deardry Thompson out for a couple of days. Jock [my father] rang to tell us Ed [his daughter; my mother] has a Daughter. Both well. Mrs Phil Hunter up this morning.
How should I interpret this? It's nice to know I warrented a capital letter, but I hope the list of things that happened that day is in chronological rather than in order of importance. I'd hate to think my arrival was of less importance than Jeff and Deardry's visit and Bevis's shearing tally!
I love having the diaries. They depict a world of routine and hard physical work that was taken for granted and has now largely disappeared. They detail men's work - shearing, grubbing, cutting thistles, ploughing, harvesting, moving cattle and sheep and never mention the women's work on which so much depended. The family of the diaries is an extended family - unmarried siblings, children, grand-children all supported to some extent by the farm and all coming and going. And they depict a very sociable world - visitors, shared work with neighbours, frequent sporting events.
For many reasons, I'm glad my life has been different from the life of the diaries. But I do like having direct evidence that this life existed.