Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A striking amount of documentation

Anyone reading the last post must have wondered how I could possibly remember where I had driven on holiday over the last eleven months. Well, I do have a very good memory for this kind of thing. I pay attention to routes taken, and places visited.

But I can also turn to one or more of the records I maintain as I go along. There was, for instance, the diary app on my phone, which records planned journeys of any length, and the destinations of day trips while on holiday. Thus my diary for the middle of June 2017, which covered my last days in Northumberland, and my first days in Scotland:

But if there were any doubt about where I was on a particular day, there are other records, also on my phone, in a series of 'diaries'. Photo Diary lists the places where I took pictures. These were the mid-June entries:

And of course, there were the photographs themselves, all captioned by me, but in any case containing embedded EXIF information that would vouch for the date and time taken, and much else. 

Money Diary is a very large annual spreadsheet that records all my bank and credit card transactions, and many of my cash transactions too. And (among many other details) says where the money was spent: 

Then there's Caravan Diary, which mentions what I did and where I went, while pitched at a particular site:

And if anything happens with my car, there will always be an entry in Car Diary:

During 2017 there has been yet another diary kept, this one to record in great detail what I've been eating, in connection with my long-term Slimming World aim to lose three stones in weight. Food Diary shows meals out highlighted in pink: 

There may also be various other contemporary notes on the phone, recording this and that, which would show where I went on any day. And of course I meet people everywhere, and sometimes include the encounter in a blog post. I dare say some of these people would remember me!

All these notes and pictures integrate perfectly with each other, and it would surely be possible to reconstruct every day of every holiday in astonishing detail. And to do it for years past. 

I sometimes wonder why I maintain all these records. Obviously it all comes naturally and easily: I have an undoubted passion for chronicling my days, even at home. But to what end, really? 

Perhaps I need to leave a well-defined footprint, so that my personal history doesn't have to depend on a fallible or selective memory. And so that, if anyone wants to know what I did, and where I went, and if I really met who I say I did, they don't have to accept my own unsupported word: I can show pictures and supporting facts and background detail.

Who is actually going to ask? I've no illusions: nobody is very likely to. But you never know. 

There are nightmare situations in the back of my mind, in which my ex-spouse or later ex-partner might seek to rake over the past again, with a view to extracting some additional advantage which they think they must be entitled to. Keeping records, including original paper documents, as well as electronic notes and spreadsheets and copies of past emails, is a defence against that. My personal capital was taken. I want to fend off attacks on what's left - my home and pension income.  

And (unlikely, but still possible) there might be enquiries from the police. I'm thinking of enquiries arising from mistaken identity, or a mistaken sighting of my car. In that case, I might have to show the police that it wasn't me - or couldn't have been my car - at or near the crime scene in Hackney, or Lewisham, or Notting Hill, or wherever. Because here's a picture of me at the relevant time, taking a selfie on the Scottish Border. And here's the credit card statement showing that soon after I paid for seven nights at the Balbirnie Caravan and Motorhome Club Site at Markinch. And here's all kinds of contemporary notes - please take copies of the whole lot if you wish, and check it all out - which together demonstrate that I was many hundreds of miles away from the crime scene. 

So my careful records might establish an unassailable alibi, and save me the stress and grief of enquiries.  

Am I paranoid? Well, there is a fundamental vulnerability in my life. My immediate family have vanished. There is nobody to step in and rescue me. No safety nets of any kind. So I must look to my own defences, and maintaining a comprehensive set of records is one way to make sure that I can account for my movements and show what really happened. 

The blog is also part of this. It's a place to put things on record, possibly forever. Many people fear the Internet, and see it as a curse, an enormous threat to their personal security and privacy. But I take a different view. I want the Internet to preserve what I place on it, and make all of it easily discoverable. And to disseminate it widely, so that deleting part won't matter, because multiple copies exist - too many for a malevolently-inclined person or agency to erase. I want the future to know that I existed, and that my life was like this.

So long as human civilisation persists, there will be the Internet or its successors, and being part of it ensures that I can't vanish into oblivion without a trace. Here's a thought. What if some archaelogist in the year 9595, investigating a waste dump on the Old Planet, unearths an ancient electronic device, and, reading its indelible contents, sees all the stuff illustrated in this post? 

'At last! A personal record of ordinary life. We haven't seen anything quite like this before. Most people of the time didn't bother. She seems to have been an older woman given to travel. You can even see what she ate, although I'm not sure what a banana was.'     

1 comment:

  1. I used to love the internet, it seemed to be our friend and threats where low key and mostly a nuisance at worst. Sadly, along with much human invention, good ideas get corrupted and turned to evil. The internet has become a vector for crime and may because of laxity lead to chaos.

    Many of us have made considerable input in content outside of the frivolous social media. How this content will survive the constant changes I often wonder but do not know.

    Fingers crossed for those who did more than a short tweet or clicked a like button, those who showed something of themselves to the world and opened a way to worldwide communication.


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Lucy Melford