Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Personal Diary Of Fuengsin Trafford - in 10 volumes!

Fuengsin Trafford, 29 Alpine Close: inside cover of first volume of diary

My mother, the late Fuengsin Trafford, kept a personal diary, covering the years B.E. 2512 to 2517 (1969 to 1974). At the start, my family was in Southampton (Alpine Close), and then we moved to Strood in Kent in 1970 when I was just a toddler, staying there until 1975. I don't know what prompted my mother to maintain the diary - whether it was something she chose to do to help her adjust to British life or whether she was following some advice from a friend.

The diary is mainly in Thai and occupies a varied collection of notebooks, ten in all, most of them fairly small (bit less than A5 in size). There's an entry for almost every day, sometimes running to only a few lines, at others to more than a couple of pages. I estimate that there are 1500-2000 pages in total, but I can barely make out any of my mother's handwriting. :-(

Yet I can extract some simple patterns because there are many names in English (most of which I can decipher, but not all!) These include circles of friends and places visited (many mention Strood, Chatham, and Rochester, all places in the Medway area that are collectively seeking city status). Also recorded are literary works that she enjoyed reading, including a succession of French novels: Préséances (Mauriac), Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), La Porte Étroite (André Gide), L’Assommoire (Zola) and unspecified works by Balzac and Flaubert. There are also contemporary events that hit the national and international headlines, which could be an interesting complement to her collection of scrapbooks.

But how am I going to be able to make more than superficial use? I would dearly like to be able to read the handwriting, but for the moment I am dependent on others and so I'm inviting a few Thai friends to transcribe small portions to gain a better idea of what my mother wrote. I hope that these samples will help me to be able to read on my own.

Even then as there's so much material I shall have to target particular portions for reading, transcribing and translating. I could choose passages where certain people are mentioned etc., but perhaps there are more ingenious ways of delving into the text. Any suggestions would be welcome...