My Teenage Diaries (with radio link)
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Update: for the next week, you can listen to My Teenage Diaries here.
So when Radio 4 invited me to read my teenage diaries aloud to Rufus Hound, I accepted immediately. I like Rufus Hound a lot. I love Radio 4 more than anything. Well, not anything. But more than a lot of things. Certainly more than I like being given UNNECESSARY RECEIPTS, ooh that’s really annoying me at the moment, people giving you receipts for a pint of milk or a bar of chocolate, as if you’re going to get charged with shoplifting between the till and the door, total waste of paper, then you wander round looking for a rubbish bin and there never is one, so you cram it into your bag or your pocket and soon enough there’s a great COMPOSTING MULCH of little receipts, and sometimes of course you can drop the receipt on the counter but they’ve got wise to that and love to press it into your hand amongst all the change so you can’t filter it out with ease, don’t they understand that trees are a precious resource and space even more so, stop with the bloody unnecessary receipts already.
Anyway, I like Radio 4 more than that.
Besides, I was interested to look back at my old teenage diaries. I’ve never read them, only written in them a long time ago. And I had an interesting life as a teenager - or, at least, an unusual one. I sold short stories to magazines under false names when I was 13, following my heroine Jo March from Little Women. Then I won a competition to write a column for the Daily Telegraph and earned a huge amount of money, like Joan Collins (£75 a week). Then I published a book. Then I went on TV and met all the big names - William Hague, Jason Donovan…
Actually it was just those two, William Hague and Jason Donovan. But it’s unusual for a teenager, no? I was a total failure at all the proper teenage stuff, like being cool or dressing right, or taking drugs or having sex. Nevertheless, I had this curious other life as a sort of professional writer. I was looking forward to going back into the diaries and seeing what I had to say about moving in this grown-up world, meeting people like that, earning a living early.
Turns out I had nothing to say about it at all. Not a word. Week after week, month after month, year after year, there was nothing in my diary but long rambling anecdotes about boys I fancied. Great complicated disquisitions on how this or that one might have maybe possibly looked at me on the bus, but it’s hard to be sure because the conductor was right behind me. That kind of thing. I was pleasantly surprised, looking back at the diaries, to find that some boys had actually been interested in me. That wasn’t my memory at all. I can only remember being completely overlooked and feeling hideous. In the diaries, though, I appear to have been asked out on some dates - though they always go wrong. I never end up snogging anyone. Maybe that’s why I blanked them out in my mind; the sheer embarrassment. Still, at least they asked me out.
Less pleasant a surprise was how completely obsessed I seem to have been about the whole thing. I remembered myself as a rather classy teenager, above all that trivial nonsense, thinking only about reading and writing and having a job. Apparently not. Those things held no interest at all. I thought of nothing but boys. I was as trivial as they come. I made the cast of Beverley Hills 90210 look like Nietzsche.
Nevertheless, I’d said yes so I had to turn up and read out this waffle to Rufus Hound and (unsuspected by me when I accepted the invitation) a live audience. The results of that adventure will be on Radio 4 tonight (Tuesday) at 6.30pm. I haven’t heard the finished programme so I have no idea how embarrassing it’ll be. I’m hoping not that bad, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing a blog about it and pointing people towards the car crash. But it could be toe-curling. If you want a sense of my trepidation, have a look at the serendipitous little narrative that comes out if you read the 18.30 listing followed by the 19.00 listing on the Radio 4 website.