Only three people in the whole world know my best kept secret - and to everyone else, my predilection for curling up on sofas, obliging walls and cross-country trains with a dog-eared notebook and biro is a total mystery. Were they to ask, they would discover that I keep a diary - not only that, but that I have kept a diary every day since the age of twelve, when my mum brought back a slightly shabby Absolutely Fabulous notebook from a local jumble sale. The notebook was years old, fantastically retro but totally unused, with a little metal lock on its side (broken) and a wad of blank pages that begged to be written on.
I started off writing about where I went and what I did, filling the pages with Christmas lists and birthday lists and names of boys I liked, sticking in ticket stubs and gift tags, until the little book was filled with the curls of my small, inky scrawl and the beginning of an all-inclusive, higgledy-piggledy chronicle of my childish little existence. I had always loved writing, sitting on the arm of our couch and dictating away to my grandparents before I was old enough to do it myself, and finally I had endless scope, endless people and places to describe and an endless narrative to record - I was in heaven.
From then on, my diary and I were inseparable. Over the years the content swelled to include many rants, general outpourings, adrenaline fuelled moments of elation and, occasionally, a drunken ramble or two (especially useful if your inebriated memory needs a helping hand the next day), taking me through the gut-wrenching endlessness of adolescence, four years of student madness, two years in China and a whole lot of backpacking.
Of course, the era of my tattered little Absolutely Fabulous notebook had soon passed, its well-loved pages soon used up and replaced by a successor, and then another and another, until I had amassed a whole box full of books - some with lines, some without, some bound with wire spirals, some with thread, some put together by hand in far-flung places, some plucked from the shelves of stationary departments - a mound of hardbacks and paperbacks, plastic, leather, paper and cardboard, all covered in self-analysis, the mundane and the extraordinary, the wonderful and the traumatic, my every thought and escapade for the last twelve years in my own voice and my own hand.
When I was still at school, my best friend was the only person allowed access to my prized notebooks - she would read them the way most people read serials and agony aunt columns, and always found my exceptional capacity for putting my foot in my mouth very entertaining. But since we were seventeen the words have been read by no-one but me, and while a small part of me rather likes the idea of ‘Memoirs of a Raving Lunatic’ one day gracing the shelves of WHSmith, there is something very enigmatic and satisfying about knowing that I alone know the misguided, triumphant and often mortifying depths of my best kept secret. All in all, it’s probably for the best.