John Retallack talks about his love of diary writing and encourages you to come and share yours at the OFS on Wednesday

My diary is my most cherished possession – when the fire comes and my house is burning, I will run through flame to get it from my bedside. It is my life, and, when it goes, so will the year it records. I lost 1992 on a plane to Berlin and most of 2003 on a taxi to Sydenham. I did everything to find them.

I have only the feeblest outline of those years in my memory, not the subjective account of the emotions and impressions, the sheer intensity of inscape with which I apprehend daily life and its infinite variety in those years that are embossed upon my old diaries.

I started with Letts diaries, moved on, in the 90s, to The Guardian diary, graduated to Paperchase Italian diaries and for the last three years, the full-size Magnum Leather which takes 10 minutes to write a single page, even if writing at top slapdash.

I love to write longhand – it is a break from the screen, from the daily task of typing. And though I can read my writing, I am secure in the knowledge that no one else can. So I can write what I like.

‘What use are they, darling?’, asks my wife. ‘No one can read them. Shall I burn them when you’ve gone?’ Their use is simple; through writing them each night or morning, my scrawling hand reveals to me what I really feel about everything.

The writing varies from very neat and orderly (written at 7am after a sober night) to the wildest and most intemperate hand-writing imaginable, with opinions to match. The hand itself reveals as much as the thought. It is one of the great joys left in life, to write with a pen.

But the greatest pleasure is to read it aloud on New Year’s Eve, looking back at the year with friends and relations around the table. It can be hilarious, moving, bruising – and that is what Open Diary Night is about at the Old Fire Station – a chance to share our ‘instant memoirs’ with others who share the addiction to record their lives in detail.

Those who don’t keep diaries at all, but are interested, are also most welcome. Enjoy the wine, the candle light – and, however briefly, private thoughts aired in public.

Open Diary Night is at the OFS on Wednesday December 16 at 7pm. or 01865 305305.