Pocket money and diaries - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

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Pocket money and diaries

I was given a leather-bound Letts Schoolboys pocket diary for Christmas 1947. My parents knew that I was very keen on writing and it was a touch of genius on their part to give me a proper diary. It cost 5s 6d (25.5p in today's currency). I have kept a daily diary ever since and almost all of them survive to this day. My first entry in the very limited space available was not very illuminating. (See image below left)

As far as I can recall I never heard Kalinnikov's Symphony No 1 in G minor again until 60 years later and I certainly missed any retrospective in 2001 of Kalinnikov's life on the 100th anniversary of his death. My well-thumbed copy of the Oxford Companion to Music (1970 edition) records that Vassily Kalinnikov died of consumption, brought on by a life of poverty, in Yalta at the age of 35; that his 1st symphony was 'effective' and that a 2nd symphony 'exists'. On the 60th anniversary of that first diary entry I downloaded Kalinnikov's two symphonies from iTunes. Vassily would have been both amazed and gratified. I listened carefully to the 1st Symphony but, sad to relate, it brought back no memories of my first hearing of this symphony on New Year's Day 1948. However, I enjoyed both symphonies. They are vaguely reminiscent of early Tchaikovsky and beautifully played on this recording by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi.

Surprisingly, bearing in mind that I was still a keen train spotter, there was no mention in my new diary of the fact the four main railways companies, LMS, LNER, SR and GWR had ceased to exist at midnight on 31 December 1947 and British Railways, the new nationalised railway system, had taken over. I think it likely that I didn't know that little bit of news at the time although I was still a keen train spotter. Over the next few weeks I do recall seeing locos passing our house displaying British Railways logos and new numbers. Along with my fellow train spotters, we started logging the changes but only a few weeks into the New Year our family moved from Wakefield to Leeds and my train spotting days were over.

The 1948 Schoolboy's Diary provided several pages of tiny print giving copious advice on careers. For careers in aviation, both civil and Royal Air Force, one had to contact the Air Ministry in London - but I had no such ambitions then. There were nine pages of Latin irregular verbs, eight more for French verbs, and two for German strong verbs. Five pages were devoted to sporting records: athletics, badminton, men's and women's cricket, hockey, lawn and table tennis, rowing and squash but, oddly, no mention of football or either code of rugby. A section on 'Useful Factors' devoted four whole lines of tiny print to the expansion of (a³ + b³ + c³ -3abc) but I cannot for the life of me remember ever needing that. The world maps at the end of the diary had great swathes of red indicating British colonies and possessions.

This is my pocket money account for January-April 1948. Youngsters need to know that the currency columns represent pounds, shillings and pence (which Latin scholars know was abbreviated to LSD). All the pound columns are zero or blank because I never had that much money to account for.  Note that my weekly pocket started  in February - one shilling (5p) per week. There were 12 pence to each shilling. After 3 months of saving up, the final entry shows that I had amassed the grand sum of 3 shillings 6 pence and one halfpenny, which, in total, equates to about 18p in today's decimal currency. Times were very hard!!

I usually wrote my daily diary entry in bed. I used to hide the diary underneath my pillow, which was not the smartest place although I have no reason to suppose my parents ever read what I had written. Many of my earliest entries are now quite embarrassing to read, more for their naivety than for any other reason. Many are only of interest to me - and some are not even that interesting. Early in 1948 I started writing what were probably the most interesting entries in a secret code; sadly, I am no longer able to decode those entries but I am not about to ask GCHQ to help. In the interests of adolescent confidentiality, and to frustrate possible parental snooping, I annotated many of the dates in my earliest diaries with strange hieroglyphics, which were no doubt very meaningful at the time but which mean absolutely nothing to me now, decades later. However, I can guess what the five stars alongside a date in the 1949 Diary, just after my 14th birthday, meant. As the years passed, my diary jottings became longer and more adventurous and were often recorded in extra notebooks leaving mere headlines in the proper diaries.

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