Gossip and Notes on Work and Reading

For the first time since 1982, there is no annual Diary by Alan Bennett. He says his life is so dull he won’t inflict it on LRB readers. If it suddenly gets more interesting he promises he’ll let us know. In the meantime, you can read selected Diary entries from 1983, 1993, 2003 and 2013 plus stories, monologues and essays in the LRB archive.

Diary: What I did in 1983

Alan Bennett, 16 February 1984

I’ve kept a sporadic diary for about ten years. Besides the occasional incident that seems worth recording, I put down gossip and notes on work and reading. These are some extracts from last year. London is Camden Town and Yorkshire a small village in Craven to which my parents retired, and where I still have a house.

The Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett, 26 October 1989

‘I ran into a snake this afternoon,’ Miss Shepherd said. ‘It was coming up Parkway. It was a long, grey snake, a boa constrictor possibly, it looked poisonous. It was keeping close to the wall and seemed to know its way. I’ve a feeling it may have been heading for the van.’

Diary: Where I was in 1993

Alan Bennett, 16 December 1993

4 January. On BBC’s Catchword this afternoon, one of the questions apparently consists of anagrams of playwrights. Mine is Annabel Tent. Nobody guesses it.

Baffled at a Bookcase: My Libraries

Alan Bennett, 28 July 2011

A library, I used to feel, was like a cocktail party with everybody standing with their back to me; I could not find a way in.

Diary: A Shameful Year

Alan Bennett, 8 January 2004

15 December. As I’m correcting the proofs of this Diary the news breaks of the arrest of Saddam Hussein. It ought to matter, and maybe does in Iraq; it certainly matters in America. But here? Whatever is said it does not affect the issue. We should not have gone to war. It has been a shameful year.

A Cure for Arthritis and Other Tales

Alan Bennett, 2 November 2000

Insofar as my mother ever voices any ambitions for my brother and me, it is that we should become gentlemen farmers earning £10 a week. This would have been in the early 1940s when £500 a year is a not unrespectable income, though why she has settled on farming, gentlemanly or otherwise, for which neither of us has any inclination – is not plain.

Diary: What I did in 2013

Alan Bennett, 9 January 2014

3 January, Yorkshire. The year kicks off with a small trespass when we drive over from Ramsgill via Ripon and Thirsk to Rievaulx. However the abbey is closed, seemingly until the middle of February, which infuriates us both, and though at 78 and with an artificial hip it’s not something I feel I should be doing, we scale the five-bar gate and break in. The place is of course empty and though it’s quite muddy underfoot, an illicit delight. It’s warm and windless, the stones of the abbey sodden and brown from the amount of moisture they’ve absorbed. Spectacular here are the toilet arrangements.

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett, 16 July 2020

She said, ‘Only living in close proximity together bestows a kind of protective coating on members of the family, so that in normal circumstances they don’t fall for each other, and somehow your protective coating has gone missing. Why would that be, do you think?’ I knew how it started but I wasn’t going to tell her that.

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