Dobson’s Diary 17.1.61

On this day in 1961 we find the out of print pamphleteer Dobson on his travels:

Woke up without the faintest clue where I was. It rapidly became apparent that I was zipped up tight in a sleeping bag. When I struggled out of it, I saw I was in a tent. I have absolutely no memory of going camping. In any case, I hate camping. In my experience, one finds that wherever one pitches one’s tent soon becomes a haven for moles. You fall asleep on a flat patch of ground and when you wake up the entire area is riddled with molehills. Usually.

That was not the case today, as I discovered when, emerging through the canvas flaps, I found that the tent had been erected within a hotel room. This was a curious occurrence to be sure, and I ransacked my memory to work out why it might be so. Was I so bent on travel that I had to double the experience, as it were, first booking into a hotel and then pitching a tent within it? It is something I have done only once before, when I was young and foolish. Now I am old and wise, at least by my own reckoning.

I abluted in the en suite bathroom and pranced out into the corridor in search of breakfast. I noticed something decidedly odd about the sausages and the cornflakes, and beckoned a hotel person. Finding myself inexplicably bereft of speech, I pointed at the sausages and the cornflakes and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

The explanation I was given for the oddness of my sausages and cornflakes sent my brain reeling. Not only was my tent in a hotel room, but the hotel was on a space rocket! I was hurtling at unimaginable speed towards a distant planet. And I could not speak because of what the hotel person, who I noticed had special breathing apparatus attached to a tinfoil helmet, called “space muffling”.

I had been planning to take a walk in the grounds of the hotel after breakfast but clearly this was not feasible, so I returned to my room and, once inside, crept back through the flaps into my tent. I set up a portable escritoire, took out my jotting pad and propelling pencil, and set about writing a pamphlet. Space Age Dobson, I decided to entitle it, immodestly.

Shortly after I had scribbled my opening sentence, and was chewing the end of my propelling pencil trying to think up a second sentence, the captain made an announcement over the space tannoy. Due to the wrong sort of particles in the galaxy, we would have to turn back and return to Earth. I scribbled out my title and my opening sentence and continued to chew the end of the propelling pencil, which tasted remarkably similar to both the sausages and the cornflakes.

We bumped back to earth about half an hour later. I disembarked and made my way home by bus. I told my inamorata Marigold Chew all about my excursion.

“You were never much of a traveller, Dobson,” she said, “You always get upset about moles.”

That gave me an idea for a pamphlet, and I repaired immediately to my escritoire, where I wrote in one sitting my pamphlet Are There Any Moles In Outer Space? No, There Are Not!*

* NOTE : Out of print.

Captain Scott’s Diary 16.1.12

The diary of Robert Falcon Scott on this day in 1912:


Camp 68. Height 9,760. T. -23.5°. The worst has happened, or nearly the worst. We marched well in the morning and covered seven and a half miles. Noon sight showed us in Lat. 89° 42′ S., and we started off in high spirits in the afternoon, feeling that tomorrow would see us at our destination. About the second hour of the march Bowers’ sharp eyes detected what he thought was a cairn; he was uneasy about it, but argued that it must be a sastrugus. Half an hour later he detected a black speck ahead. Soon we knew this could not be a natural snow feature. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs; paws – many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. Tomorrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day-dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return.

Ford Madox Unstrebnodtalb’s Diary 15.1.13

The diary of Ford Madox Unstrebnodtalb, on this day one hundred years ago:

I gargled. You gargled. He, she, or it gargled. We gargled. You lot gargled. They gargled. That was the gargling done, and it remained only to regargle before getting down to the lesser business of the day, the gargling and regargling being, of course, the main business, on this day as on every day in the current dispensation.

I know for a fact that some queer folk like to gargle with stuff that comes prepared in bottles available from the chemist’s shop, such as Dr Baxter’s “Zippy” Fragrant Spitting Fluid. I abhor those concoctions. I make my own, a mixture of ice cold water scooped from the duckpond, table salt, crushed violets, vinegar, and goaty milk. The precise quantities of each ingredient I measure out in my so-called “gargling jar”, which in truth is just an ordinary jar with horizontal lines scratched on the side with the sharpened ends of a pair of sugar tongs. It has served me well these forty years, and will I hope continue to do so for as many more years as the Lord sees fit in His ineffable wisdom to grant me. Not that I am a religious man. Pious yes, religious no. If there is a Lord, then He is a phantom in my head, lodged somewhere between the brain and the skull, forever eluding the forceps of enquiry.

I must admit that there are days when, having gargled and regargled, I find myself at something of a loose end. On occasion I throw caution to the winds and repair to the bathroom to gargle one more time. Spellbinding as this can be, I know it only staves off the inevitable, which is to buckle down to all those non-gargling activities with which I am afflicted. On any given day these might include: not gargling, taking a constitutional round and round the flowerbeds, scooping water from the duckpond, plucking then crushing violets, milking several goats, resisting the temptation to regargle, firing off a letter to the editor of the Gargling Gazette, shimmying up and down a rope ladder as part of military training for a war I am convinced will never come, dispensing alms to beggars and widows and orphans, communing with my spirit guide, hooplah!, polishing the gargling jar, and writing in a crabbed and barely legible hand in my diary. Today I did some of these things, not others, but with a heavy heart. I felt drawn, irresistibly, to the bathroom sink, to gargle again, though I knew it was madness.

Dr Baxter himself, in spite of his “Zippy” potion, warns against the dangers of overgargling in a pamphlet distributed by an urchin in the village square. I do not think the urchin receives a farthing for his labours. Come rain or shine he stands there, weedy and disease-ridden, handing out pamphlets to passers-by. “Sickness Of The Brain Brought On By More Gargling Than Is Wise And Proper” are the words emblazoned on the cover, below which appears a mezzotint by the noted mezzotintist Rex Tint showing a horrifying brainsick mad person in the throes of unreason. Why does Dr Baxter at one and the same time manufacture and sell his spitting fluid while dissuading people from wishing to purchase it? The only reason I can think of is that he is brainsick himself, perhaps from overgargling.

My own head, it must be said, or the brain inside it, has not yet succumbed to lunacy. I feel my phantom Lord, nestled within, would tell me were it so. He said nothing today, which I count as a perk. And so to cot.

Saint Mungo’s Diary 14.1.73

Today is the feast day of St Mungo, so let us unearth one of his diary entries, for this day in 573, precisely one thousand five hundred and forty years ago.


Woke up in the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Sausages for breakfast. Thought about building another cathedral but quite honestly did not feel up to it. While I knelt in the muck praying, a messenger person came hurrying along and told me that a mad prophet by the name of Lailoken was rampaging about the place. He is apparently one of those wild men of the woods, the only difference being that he spouts prognostications which have the effect of turning the heads of the peasantry away from the glory of Christ Jesus.

“Can you do something holy to bring an end to his mischief?” said the messenger person.

“I shall see what I can do,” I said, wearily, for forsooth I was weary and footsore and had many another malady as tend to afflict those of us living in such barbaric times.

I struggled up from my knees and tottered off towards that part of the blasted and inhospitable countryside where this mad fellow was reportedly to be found. On my way I saw a bird that never flew and a tree that never grew and a bell that never rang and a fish that never swam. It is not often you see a bird and a tree and a bell and a fish all together in close proximity. A bird and a tree together, yes, and conceivably a bird and a tree and a bell, but the fish as well, that seemed anomalous. I wondered if it might be a miracle sent by the Lord. If so, what did it portend? These are weighty matters of great spiritual significance.

Something that is most definitely not of great spiritual significance is the raving of this wild man Lailoken, who I found cutting capers at the edge of the forest. He was engarbed in animal pelts and exceedingly wild and hairy. I brandished a jewel-encrusted crucifix from the cathedral at him and bid him desist on pain of hellfire. It started to rain and he retreated into the woods. I blessed a few Strathclyde peasants who were loitering thereabouts and was pleased to hear them begin wailing and keening my name over and over again – “Mungo! Mungo! Mungo!”, they wailed and keened. It was music to my ears.

In the evening I had a bath and an eerie premonition of death in a bath at some point early in the next century. Oo-er, missus!

Dennis Beerpint’s Diary 13.1.03

The weedy poet Dennis Beerpint leads a far more exciting life than one would expect of the author of several precious slim volumes of twee verse. If, that is, one is to believe his diaries. Here he is on this day exactly ten years ago.

Woke up and ate a bowl of thin gruel, apt for invalids, for breakfast, but not before I was engaged in a life or death struggle with an enraged and half-starved panther which leapt upon me from somewhere among the pansies and phlox in the garden. Eventually I was able to smother it with a pillow, ruining in the process the pillowcase embroidered by Aunt Dot so many years ago with winsome scenes of Alpine frolic and glee. I wept, for pillowcase not panther.

After breakfast, I went to languish neurasthenically in a nook, there to wring from the depths of my soul a verselet or two of twee beauty before succumbing to the vapours. No sooner had I adopted my posture of languishment, however, and before e’er I had the strength to pick up my quill, than the bright red bakelite emergency hotline metal tapping machine concealed in the shrubbery began to bleep. I had an urgent message from International Woman of Mystery Primrose Dent, warning me of imminent attack by insurrectionary forces. Barely had I digested the news than a trio of helicopters whirred into view overhead, disgorging, on rope ladders, dozens of brutish and pitiless special commandos, who tipped me out of my hammock, crushed my quill underfoot, pulled a grotesque sponge hood over my head and yanked me up into one of the choppers. I was being abducted!

Hooded, manacled, and drugged with a serum, I had to think fast before I lost consciousness. I marshalled the techniques of the mystic oriental art of Goon Fang and freed myself, snatched the vial of serum antidote I spotted in the pocket of the helicopter pilot, and, risking all, leapt out of the chopper. I made a wager that we were flying over the sea, and I won. I plunged into the ocean, and sank many fathoms deep, but just as I was about to relax and come bobbing back to the surface, one of my ankles was grasped in the tentacles of a gigantic undersea Pontoppidan monster, which dragged me further down, down and down, to the sea bed where was its lair.

Luckily, just at the point where I thought my lungs would burst, I found an anomalous air pocket among the rocks. I calculated there was enough air to keep me alive for ten minutes. But the Pontoppidan monster looked hungry, and I reckoned I had half that time at best. Goon Fang would do me not a jot of good in a subaquatic environment, that much I knew. But I had a ray gun, and I used it, zapping the monster between the eyes. I then had to chew myself free from entangling fronds of seaweed before, in the nick of time, I made it back to the surface and swam ashore.

I took a breather on the glittering sands, and ate a seagull which I beat to death with my bare hands. I began to trudge inland, hoping to find a bus stop. Sure enough, I came to one soon enough, and waited no more than an hour for the number 666 which would take me home. Half way there, however, the brakes on the bus failed at the top of a perilously steep slope, and the driver perished from a heart attack. The bus gathered speed as it careened down the slope towards, I now saw, peering through the windscreen, a vast warehouse stacked with drums of highly volatile and flammable chemical compounds, beside which a careless janitor had just dropped a lit match. As I clutched hopelessly at the steering wheel of the bus, it came away in my hands. In a few seconds time, I would be engulfed in the fires of a hell.

It is at times like these I find poetry such a comfort, my own verses in particular. I began to recite the opening lines of my sonnet I languished, neurasthenic, in a gazebo… when all of a sudden an ineptly-piloted hot air balloon came crashing to earth in the path of the bus and acted as a miracle cushion. This gave me an idea for a new poem, and I could hardly wait to get back to my nook to write The Miracle Cushion before it evaporated.

I watched the warehouse explode in a sheet of flame and thanked my lucky stars. I walked home, exhausted but cheerful, whistling. Only as I unlatched the garden gate did I realise I had left my bus pass on the bus. I began to sob, and crumpled to the ground, keening like a widow woman. My shattered nerves could not withstand such a loss. I fell into a swoon where I lay, and that is where I was found, at midnight, by the Ghoul of Gack, which enwrapped me in a grisly shroud and dragged me away to its awful cave. I was in for a rude awakening on the morrow, but the morrow is Saint Mungo’s Day, so I pray for his protection.

Gösta Ekman Senior’s Diary 12.1.38

The diary of Gösta Ekman Senior, on this day in 1938:


Woke up and snorted cocaine. Plunged my fabulous head, with its boyish good looks, into a pail of ice cold water, then snorted some more cocaine. Sat for a while pondering whether to spend the day as a farmer’s son, an eighteenth century aristocrat, an octogenarian lunatic, or a clown, in all of which roles I am of course equally convincing. Busy schedule of acting, directing, rehearsing, filming, recording, and administration, all fuelled by more and more cocaine. Felt a bit queasy and conked out.

The Grunty Man’s Diary 11.1.13

In a staggering breakthrough, tiptop gruntologists at a gruntorium high in the Swiss Alps have discovered what they believe is the diary of the Grunty Man, that terrifying figure from children’s nightmares. As we all know – and shudder as we remember – the Grunty Man dwells in a filthy and horrible and tenebrous cave. Weirdly, some sort of magnetic anomaly in the rock of which the cave is composed has led to the Grunty Man’s bestial grunts being somehow recorded and preserved for posterity. By harnessing state-of-the-art 78 rpm shellac disc engroovement technology, the Swiss gruntologists were able to transfer the awful sounds from the dank interior of the cave on to state-of-the-art 78 rpm shellac discs (with grooves). A collection of said discs has now been made available to the public, so we can all relive the terrors of our totdom.

Here is a transcript of the Grunty Man, musing upon his existence on this day in 1913, and 1813, and 1713, and 1613, and back, back, at intervals of a century, to before the earth was formed, to before the universe existed, to before time and space, back to that unimaginably distant past when the Grunty Man was all there ever was, or ever is, or ever will be:

Grunt grunt grunt.

A Peasant’s Diary 10.1.49 BC

Woke up in my hovel. Ate a mess of pottage for breakfast. It was a bracing day in Cisalpine Gaul, so I thought I would take a trudge down to the river to wake my weary bones and slop out the pot. It is not the best of rivers for slopping out, for the water is muddy and red, but at least it is shallow, so there is no danger of drowning.

So there I was slopping out my pot in the river when, from behind me, back in Cisalpine Gaul, came the thumping and clomping of a Roman legion. “Legio XIII Gemina” it said on their banners, which I had read in the papyri was under the command of Julius Caesar. And indeed it was he, leading his legion, who now bore down upon me, a frightful look on his face.

“Hail, rude peasant!” he cried, “What river is this?”

I tugged my forelock and sprawled in the muck, and told him it was the Rubicon.

“So over on the other side is Italy?”

“That’s right, O mighty Caesar!” I replied, cowering.

Even though I am a mere peasant I am quite learned. I regularly read the papyri and have a grasp of current affairs and the laws governing the Roman Empire. I thought it best to tell Julius Caesar what I knew, so I pointed out that if he entered Italy at the head of his legion and tried to exercise imperium, the inevitable punishment was death, not only for him but for all the chaps in the legion.

This gave him pause, and for a while he seemed unsure what to do. While he was thus hesitating, the following incident occurred. A person remarkable for his noble mien and graceful aspect, appeared close at hand, sitting and playing upon a pipe. When, not only the shepherds, but a number of soldiers also flocked from their posts to listen to him, and some trumpeters among them, he snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran to the river with it, and sounding the advance with a piercing blast, crossed to the other side. Upon this, Caesar exclaimed, “Let us go whither the omens of the Gods and the iniquity of our enemies call us. The die is now cast.”

I watched as he led his legion across the shallow muddy red Rubicon into Italy, then took my slopped out pot and trudged back to my hovel. Nothing much else happened in Cisalpine Gaul for the rest of the day, though I suppose it is worth noting that I spotted a flock of birds swooping across the sky at dusk. Alas, my knowledge of ornithology is sparse, so I cannot say what kind of birds they were. Linnets? Starlings?

Bobnit Tivol’s Diary 9.1.26

Fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol is one of very few fictional athletes to have kept an entirely nonfictional diary, though quite how it came to be written is anybody’s guess. Here is what he got up to on this day in 1926:

Bounded out of bed spry and sprightly and cut two or three brisk Boswellian capers around the room before plunging my head into a pail of ice cold water. Then I was out at the cinder track. Being fictional, I do not need to travel from A to B, I can simply be in one place and then a moment later in another place. Generally speaking, that other place is the cinder track, unless I am taking part in a competition, when I might materialise in a field or a stadium. Nor do I need to eat breakfast, or indeed any other meal, except for fictional purposes, for example if a sense of drama is wrung from me having stomach cramps from overeating seconds before an important qualifying heat in an important sprint championship.

Today I was in training for just such a competition, the Pointy Town All-Comers High Speed Breathless Panting Round And Round A Cinder Track Trophy. Those who follow my fictional career know I placed in the top seventeen in this contest in 1922 and 1923 and 1924. Last year, of course, I was attacked by a swarm of hornets on the eve of the final and was unable to compete.

My coach, the irascible chain-smoking Old Halob, who is as real as I am fictional, was nowhere to be seen on this fine cold January morning. I missed his reassuring presence, but did my practice sprint anyway. I ran round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round the cinder track at high speed, panting breathlessly, all day. This is where I have an advantage over nonfictional athletes, who would collapse in exhausted heaps after a few laps. Being insubstantial and, some have said, unkindly, one-dimensional, I only collapse if there is a sense of drama to be wrung from my doing so. This usually occurs in important races, such as the final of the Sawdust Bridge One Hundred Mile Flat-Out Sprinting Cup, and not when I am merely on a training run.

I would have kept on running round and round the cinder track after the sun went down, but it was at that point, as night o’erspread the sky and all was plunged in darkness, that Old Halob appeared. If he was not real I might think he was a vampire. He looked at his stopwatch and blew his whistle and coughed up an unseemly amount of catarrh and led me away to a nocturnal pole-vaulting area. I had completely forgotten that I also had to get in shape for the Pointy Town Nocturnal Pole-Vaulting Challenge Ribbon!

So all in all it was a pretty good day, and night, as my days and nights go. Eventually found myself tucked up in bed at 5.59 AM, just in time to spring out of bed spry and sprightly at 6.00 AM tomorrow.

Orwell’s Diary 8.1.39

Three eggs.


Regular readers will be aware that whenever I quote from George Orwell’s diaries I give the full and unabridged entry for the day in question. Tomorrow we will have to move on to a different diarist, so it is only fair that I take the opportunity to draw your attention to further, ornithologically significant, excitements in Orwell’s life which took place on the ninth of January 1939. Not merely

Two eggs


Saw large flock of green plover, apparently the same as in England.

Did he think foreign plovers would somehow differ from clean, decent, English plovers?

Babinsky’s Diary 7.1.66

The lumbering walrus-moustached psychopathic serial killer Babinsky was a conscientious diarist. Here is what he had to say for himself on this day in 1966:

Woke up feeling murderous. Preened my moustache and sharpened my axe and cleaver and slicer. Tossed them into a gunny sack, slung it over my shoulder, and went out on a rampage. The sky was blue, birds were singing, and the municipal flowerbeds hereabouts were splurged with glory – plastic glory, in the depths of winter, but glory nonetheless.

I am no Panglossian, far from it, but even I was persuaded that this might indeed be the best of all possible worlds. In fact, I felt so chipper that when a beggar person approached me, his grubby withered paw outstretched for alms, I pressed a penny upon him and wished him all the best. His awful gob broke into a toothless grin that warmed my cockles. Further down the street, several puppies were frolicking. I struck the fear of the dog-God into them and they scampered away.

Above, in the blue sky, a trio of cranes flew by, and I thought of Sibelius. He was a baldy man with a drink problem, but he knew how to write a symphony. I thought about popping into a Finnish church to say a prayer for his immortal soul, and I stopped a passer-by to ask if there were any Finnish churches in this neighbourhood, ones I might have overlooked. I have only been here for a couple of days, after fleeing the coppers following that gore-splattered business over by Pointy Town Town Hall.

The coppers here have not noticed my presence yet, except for one particularly inquisitive and irritating constable who demanded to see my library ticket. I smote him, as if we were living in Old Testament times, and then I smote him again, and again, and when he was thrice smitten I slew him with a flaming sword. Setting fire to a sword is easier said than done, but I recently came across some kind of flammable jelly. Smear that liberally on your sword, and strike a match, and hey presto!

The passer-by was ignorant of any Finnish churches, but he told me where I might find a guidebook to the local amenities. He was so helpful that I spared his life, just having a few little chops at him with my cleaver, nothing that emergency paramedics in a well-equipped air ambulance won’t be able to patch up.

The guidebook I found as promised in the newsagent’s kiosk did not list a single Finnish church. What kind of bailiwick was this? Humming a few snatches from Sibelius’ majestic sixth symphony I smashed the kiosk to firewood with my axe, and then set off in pursuit of the newsagent, who had run off screaming into the hills. I soon caught and slaughtered him, and it was such a lovely spot, up there in the hills, despite the cold, that I snacked on his brains and liver and lights before going back into town for a bit more rampaging.

But in the meantime, the coppers had arrived, headed by that relentless Detective Captain Cargpan, my Nemesis, so I had to go into hiding. I am currently cooped up in a hut at the waterworks. Tomorrow I will have to create a diversion and make my escape. It’s a pity I have run out of flammable jelly.

Kenneth Williams’ Diary 6.1.53

How impossible it is for me to make regular entries in the diary. I suddenly remember how I used to puzzle over the word at school. Always wondering why diary was so like Dairy and what the connection was. Never found out. Like that label on the bottle of Daddies sauce – it never stopped. The man on the label was holding a bottle of Daddies sauce and on the label was a man holding a bottle of Daddies sauce . . . ad infinitum ad nauseam for me at any rate.

Kenneth williams - article

Thus Kenneth Williams in his diary for this day in 1953. Astute readers will recall that Franz Kafka was also subject to diary-dairy befuddlement – or at least the manufacturers of postcards in his memory were so befuddled. It is unclear why this is connected to the infinite regression of the Daddies Sauce bottle label chap, unless Williams is trying to tell us that he has spent his entire life to date continuing to fret about the connection between diaries and dairies. But then he was a very fretful man, as was Kafka.


Dobson’s Diary 5.1.58

Dobson’s diaries contain a huge number of undated entries. Over the past several years, a team of indefatigable researchers has been busy attempting to pinpoint specific dates where possible, in a project funded by an unfathomably secret organisation possibly led by international woman of mystery Primrose Dent. The team’s most recent success was to deduce, from internal textual evidence, that the following was written on the fifth of January 1958:

After a breakfast of kippers, hare-brains and jellied celery, I was all set to spend the day slumped at my escritoire, scribbling, but my inamorata Marigold Chew had other ideas.

“We must go on an outing!” she cried, frighteningly.

When I asked why, she replied that we ought to celebrate, by outing and picnic, the birthdays of Scarlatti, Zebulon Pike, Frederick Converse, Herbert Bayard Swope, Yves Tanguy, Stella Gibbons, Wieland Wagner, Friedrich Durrenmatt, W. D. Snodgrass, Walter Mondale, Umberto Eco, Raisa Gorbachova, Jan Leeming, Diane Keaton, Linda Clare, and Joan Balawejder, while also commemorating the anniversary of the deaths of Edward the Confessor, Catherine de Medici, Karl Alfred von Zittel, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Amy Johnson, Charles Slee, and Mistinguett. When I said that I had no idea who some of these people were, she announced that today was also the anniversary of the Great Fire of Eindhoven, the discovery of X-rays, and the foundation of the Nazi Party.

“So let us pack our picnic hamper and set off on a hike!” she added.

Which is what we did. After the picnic (cows, rain) we stopped in at the Museum of Ack-on-or-near-the-Vug. It was about to close, due to the pomposity of the curator, but we had a few minutes in which to look around. My eye was caught by an exhibit of indescribable gorgeousness. Well, I say indescribable, but the pompous curator made a pretty good fist of describing it on the card placed next to it, which I copied out in my jotting pad with my propelling pencil:

It is 45 cm. in height, has a jewel-encrusted crimplene base, ivory fluting, ruched silk underbelts, hectic trimmings, a delightful milky-green ribbed spandole, villainous scraping marks, a gutta percha rim, opalescent bison-head motifs, swivelling glutinous beads inlaid with serried gems, fleur-de-lys hatching, precise web-and-tuck dufraiment, talc stipples, a riband nightside opening on the velveteen casing, some rather brusque kaolin relief work, tiny cack-iron clips, berry lagging, a splendid gilt Spode handle, and corky frets on the oversling.

It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Marigold Chew executed a quick sketch in her jotting pad with her propelling pencil, but as we left the museum a jackdaw swooped out of the sky and snatched that page of the jotter in its beak and flew away, away, up into the overcast sky.

Tiny Enid’s Diary 4.1.34

Tiny Enid’s diary for this day in 1934.

Milk slops for breakfast, washed down with gin. Read a fascinating article in The Ipsy Dipsy Doo about Mussolini, Il Duce in faraway Italy. Having thoroughly digested it I decided to set off for the railway station to make the trains run on time. This is precisely the sort of activity a plucky tot such as myself ought to be engaged in.

On my way to the station I encountered a tearaway pulling the wings off flies. I kicked his head in and then made him glue the wings back on using a glue composed of his own blood, spittle, and bone marrow. Then I made him swear a solemn vow to be an upstanding citizen for the rest of his natural life. It is a shame such ne’er-do-wells can no longer be transported to Botany Bay.

Thinking of Botany Bay made me think of botany, so I paused by the railway embankment to pick some peonies and marigolds. Because of my deeds of derring-do and penchant for violence people often forget that I am just a simple little girly and take great pleasure in my flower press. Sometimes I fancy I hear the flowers shrieking as I press every last smidgen of life out of them.

At the railway station, the dithering old station master, Mr Cribbins, was faffing about with flags and hooters. Needless to say he cannot make the trains run on time. I lured him to some sidings by pretending my little dolly was trapped in the rails, then buried him up to his neck in coarse sand. I read him the riot act, or at least a version of it improvised by Il Duce, translated into English by my mysterious mentor. Back on the platform, I took up Mr Cribbins’ flag and hooter and deployed them in such a manner that I struck fear into the hearts of train drivers throughout the land. It was a good morning’s work.

Later I cut this picture out of a magazine: