As those of you who follow my blog will know, writing has always been an important part of my life. From school essay writing, through teenage diaries with their 'will he, won't he' 'does he like me or not' entries amongst the notes of current fashion trends, anecdotes about my friends, snippets from my own life and so on, right through to more recent years and my success with short stories, dozens of social and local history features, my novel,and the daily journals I have been keeping for the last twenty odd years, writing has been something I have always enjoyed. I find it easier to write than talk sometimes, so important things I have wanted to say to family or friends, have often been said in the form of a handwritten letter. This gives me time to gather my thoughts, put them down in a cohesive manner, make sure they cannot be misconstrued, that there are no lines to read between for the recipient. I read them several times over, correcting a word here and there maybe, until it is just as I want it to be, and the message I want to get across is there, plain and simple.
But as well as all this, since the early Eighties, I have been a contributor to the Mass Observation Archives. Now there may be some of you who have never heard of these, so here is a potted history.
They were founded in 1937 by three young men who recruited volunteer writers and observers to study the day to day life of ordinary people in the UK. The M-O archive holds all this information at the University of Sussex and their work continues today. When I joined I was given the option of keeping a daily diary, answering questionnaires, or doing both. I chose to answer the questionnaires, and this I continue to do. They arrive about three or four times a year, and cover a wide range of subjects, from world events, events here in the UK, and less serious matters, all aimed at getting an idea of how people think, live, work and play.
Several books have been published about the M-O, and using some of their material, though I should point out, that rather like in the cult TV series, 'The Prisoner', you are known and filed as a number, not a name. There is complete privacy, and where work has been published from the material held in the archive, it has always been with the express permission of the person whose original work it was. One book which is perhaps the most well known in recent times, has been 'Nella Last's War', which was made into the television drame 'Housewife, 49' starring Victoria Wood. 'Housewife 49' refers to the occupation of Nella and her age when it was written.
If anyone is interested in writing for the M-O they are always keen to hear from people, and the best way to approach them is via their website, www.massobs.org.uk where you then follow the link 'Writing For Us'.