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This week's installment takes us back to 1986, when Derek appeared to be assailed by a succession of doubts, minor illnesses and financial worries. Several people have commented on the improbable names of Derek's friends and I'd be inclined to agree, but my parents' social circle included a Dudley Futter, Sybil Liquorice and Cynthia Snodgrass (which I'd always assumed was a comedy name), so I remain open minded.
We begin with a heart-wrenchingly honest account of married life:
'Brenda looked most attractive yesterday. She made a new dress for herself on Saturday, and matched it up with green, heart-shaped earrings, and a green necklace. I suppose the colour was turquoise, but that is a difficult word to spell, so I have called them "green". Anyway, among the new choir members she shone like a star.
It has been good being at home with just Brenda. We have a natural comfort in each others company. We are like well-worn slippers. If there were only a physical relationship related to this fellowship, I should be the happiest of men. As it is, I weep inside and suffer quietly. A covenant is still a covenant.
We had great concern last night. It seems that the marriage of Mike Sheepwash and Hermione has run into major problems. Mike has been sacked from his casual job at Sainsbury's for daring to ask for some time off. I cleaned the bathroom before tea; during my eating, I watched a film on televsion: "The Battle of Midway" and became quite angered by the unnecessary blasphemy that it contains. But the battle scenes were good.
I am not sure of my life at the moment. It seems prosaic and empty as though I had reached an end of things. Certainly I seem inhibited with the same old problems that have haunted me for years. I am a rotten missionary, do very little compassionate work, and seem hidebound by patterns and habits that I seem not to have the energy to break. The failures and disappointments of this year are heavy upon me. I seem to have nowhere to go in my life except the grave. And yet I have so much! Why must I be so hidebound by a sense of continuing failure? Surely there ought to be some fight left.
I browsed in my old journals this afternoon and perceived how boring, how inadequate a record they were. It is all such a mish-mash. Still, perhaps my children will find some comfort and joy in it. But I see now that I could never have made a living from writing.'
Some of Derek's entries are unintentionally funny, but these disarmingly honest extracts are terribly poignant. Here is a man in middle age, disappointed with both himself and his life. Derek clearly loves his wife, but feels starved of affection, let alone anything else. In one terribly sad entry, Derek notes the rare pleasure of receiving a hug from Brenda.
Derek's children obviously didn't receive much "comfort and joy" from the diaries, which is why they were thrown out. It might seem a callous act, but I'm not sure if I would like to discover a cache of diaries written by my father.
I should add at this point that perhaps there is an unconscious motive behind my decision to keep Derek's diaries. My father was also called Derek and must have been born around the same time. Like his namesake, he was a faithful husband, deeply religious and, on the surface, seemed the epitome of the safe, suburban, working man. But deep down he too was plagued by insecurities and unfulfilled passions and dreams. His life ended in illness and disappointment, but he derived some solace from a grandson that he never thought he'd see.
If all that has left you feeling thoroughly depressed and wishing you'd gone to "Chimps on Ice", I'll finish on a lighter note:
The office was rather startled on Friday afternoon. Mr Sumpter required me to go out into the country with one of the ladies to get an error corrected. I said that I was not happy to do this if it meant travelling alone with her. Several heads shot up. But the point was made, and now Mr Spry is going with her. One has known too many evil situations arising in the past caused by married persons being thrown together in lonely situations.