What do you do if you are sharing breakfast with your spouse – or, if yours is a modern union, your live-in partner person – and he or she is hogging the morning newspaper? Here’s a tip: read the cereal packet.
I particularly recommend Kellogg’s Just Right, not so much for its taste, which is OK, but for its box, the back of which features the open page of somebody’s diary. We know neither the author’s age nor sex but, as with most diaries, there is an irresistible urge to read on.
Diaries appeal to the curious, not to say prurient, streak in all of us. This is true mainly of those that are not intended for publication, or at any rate not until the author is dead, and which are full of indiscretions and secrets. Pepys, the most revealing and honest diarist in the English language, never fails to excite our interest, whether he is burying his prize cheese to protect it from the Great Fire, or fumbling beneath the skirts of the home help.
Other diaries, like those of the fictitious Mr Pooter, reveal more about the writer than he intends. Such is the risk in confiding one’s innermost thoughts to the page.
The Kellogg diary comes into the second category. Reading between the lines we can discern a thoroughly modern man or woman. Let us for the sake of argument assume that he is male, though his obsessions might apply with equal validity to women of a certain kind. Either way, our diarist is middle class and modish, and quite possibly a little simple-minded.
The first entry begins: “Monday 2nd February, 2004: Had breakfast!”
Now, as the literary deconstructionists say, this can be read on two levels: either the author is aged about six, since most juvenile diaries begin with phrases such as “got out of bed”, or breakfast is new to him and sufficiently exciting to warrant an exclamation.
He cannot wait to tell us more: “Bowl of Kellogg’s Bran Flakes topped with a sliced banana with ice-cold semi-skimmed milk. Bran Flakes is the perfect food for me as I’m trying to be healthy…”
The next day does indeed see our man getting out of bed, confirming our suspicion that he leads a dull life. “Set alarm 30 minutes early so could walk to work. Woke up with energetic body scrub!” Again that exclamation mark! The body scrub, whatever that might be, was plainly another first. What next? Maybe he’ll put on a pair of shoes, or blow his nose!
Wednesday 4th February sees him experimenting: “Tried Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n’ Fibre for breakfast, with freshly squeezed orange juice.”
This sudden change of diet may have had an effect, as the next sentence reads: “De-stressing exercise at desk – felt less stressed at work.” Perhaps he had rushed into the Fruit ‘n’ Fibre too quickly and felt the strain.
Wisely, he seems to have skipped breakfast on Thursday, but his obsession with dietary concerns continues: “Had lunch in town. Tuna and salad on nutty, wholemeal bread.”
That, too, may have upset him since he continues: “Decided to walk round the office in the afternoon instead of e-mail and phone. Feel better already!”
His office might be unusually large, given that the effort of walking around it has an unexpected consequence. “Friday 6th February: Woke up late – had nutritious Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bar and apple mid-morning to keep me going until lunchtime.”
Was this wise, given the problem he had with the Fruit ‘n’ Fibre two days before? Not to worry. By the evening he’s cooking “home-made pizza – piled high with lean meat, vegetables and fresh tomato sauce!”
It’s Friday, but note that the exclamatory excitement with which he began the week resurfaces at the mention of tomatoes.
Saturday, and he’s off shopping. “Not raining for once so wore denim jacket. Doesn’t smell of disgusting nicotine since gave up smoking!” So now we know what’s behind those strange mood swings, the monomania about food, the Ian Fleming-type obsession with brand names. He is suffering withdrawal symptoms, poor fellow. But rest assured he won’t allow it to get on top of him, because the next entry is: “Went out at night – danced for hours – great exercise!” Again, perhaps a bit too self-absorbed. He danced all night, but seems unable to recall any of his partners. Or at any rate to consider that they might merit a line in his diary.
“Sunday 8th February: Bike ride and picnic – great to get some fresh air and a good opportunity to catch up with friends. Pub in the evening – had a great laugh – laughter is the way to a healthy life!”
One so hopes his friends were laughing with him and not at him. Had he regaled them with stories of the ice-cold semi-skimmed milk, the Kellogg cereals, the pizza, the upset stomachs – they might have laughed. Equally, they might have nodded off, which might have caused him to laugh. He is, after all, a little weird.
There is an omission in his diary that is worrying. There are detailed accounts of food going into his system, but no mention of waste matter leaving it. Anyone as concerned with his health as our diarist would surely have recorded his bowel movements. Could it be that he is costive!!!