I wish I’d kept my exercise books clean

I STARTED a new diary on January 1.

Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

I have just looked at the entry for that date. It says: “Lunch with kids”.

It’s written very neatly on the line that corresponds with 12.30pm.

These small neatnesses are important. You can’t expect to be properly organised if you’re not careful about such things right down the scale.

You can’t expect a successful outcome to anything if you only concentrate on the big things. Colin Powell has not, for instance, written in his diary, on a day in March: “Attack Iraq.”

One assumes he has more detail than that: another entry somewhere saying: “load planes.”

You can tell from what I’m saying here that I am basically an organised person. I have a genuine desire to be organised, and most of the books say that if you really want to achieve something… you can.

It’s garbage.

I can say this because I’ve just looked up my diary entry for February 1. Written across the page — vertically, so it crosses 10 lines — is the word “definitely”. It’s in my handwriting.

At least I think that’s what it says. The scrawl is not easy to decipher. There’s a telephone number beneath it. I have no idea whose telephone number it is or why it’s there.

There’s also a long-division sum in which I divided 3546 by 13. I’ve just checked it and I got the answer right, which is a good thing, but I have no idea what I was working out.

There is a little star with a face, dancing across the page with a pattern of squiggles chasing it. Also in my handwriting – if a squiggle qualifies as handwriting.

It’s like the exercise books they gave me at school. They always looked so clean and inviting when I first opened them. I made solemn vows to the gods of schoolchildren that this time… THIS time… I would keep it so clean the teacher would stop throwing the chalk duster at me.

By page three I was back to tawdry, juvenile sleazedom.

By page five the teacher had written: “This book is disgusting. If you do not change your ways you will grow up to be a journalist.”

And my head was covered in chalk and bruises.

I don’t know… I truly do want to be better. My wife says I should write myself a note reminding me to fill in the diary, and to look in it daily. I tried, but I forgot to look at the note.

I thought about writing myself a second note reminding me to look at the first one, but that way madness lies…

I have put the diary away, with the other 30. Come to think of it, I no longer need to buy diaries. I’m sure I can find 1997’s in there somewhere, and it has the same days on the same dates as 2003.

I might have to ignore the occasional doodle, but apart from that the damn thing will be virtually unblemished by any kind of meaningful entry.

Or I could just cut my losses and resign myself to tawdry adult sleazedom.

And life as a journalist.