The second instalment of my teenage diaries. The rationale behind the project is here. As always, I will change all names and identifying details, and remove anything that is too easily identifiable. I will also correct all my spelling.
If you read the previous entry, I now have an entirely different group of friends than I did aged thirteen… apologies for any confusion!
26th July, 2001
It was the last day of school two days ago. The last day at the lower school [our school was split site] ever. Next year I’ll be in Year 10 and everything will be different. They’re even putting seating up on the bank where our group have sat for the whole of the summer term. OUR bank.
I have to invite Allie over during the holidays. I am ordering myself to do so. I want to see Caitlin as well, but that’s easier. I’ve known her for longer and somehow she’s just an easier person to know and get along with.
We all wore mufti [i.e. it was a non-uniform day] on the last day of term. I wore jeans and my butterfly top, and everyone said I looked really nice.
I’ll miss them all a lot over the holidays. I know I won’t see most of them. Now I’ve written that it seems untrue. I don’t usually miss my friends. It seems strange that I should. But I think I will.
In so many ways I’m just skating over the surface of my life. I don’t put much in.
I really hate people who try to convince others of what they believe in. Why can’t they keep it to themelves? What IS THE POINT of going on about it to other people?
At least in our debate on Tuesday [we were constantly debating religion, as we had a substantial group of Christians versus a group of atheists/Wiccans/pagans in the year. I don’t think this was actually part of a lesson, although it may have taken place in one.] Hannah was pretty well beaten. I think the name for her religion is Fundamental Christian. I thought of some okay arguments. I feel better that I am not a Christian, ESPECIALLY a Fundamental one. I’d hate to be one. I wouldn’t be able to be one. I am not a very believing person. I like to have proof. But – I never thought I was like that. I don’t need to see it with my own eyes. But I like proof. Sometimes. I guess the word is I’m not good at having faith in things I can’t see. So I’m not a religion person.
One of the points in our debate (Hannah, some other people who aren’t Christians, Claire especially and me) was about the power of the mind. Hannah said that people had been healed by God through prayer. Claire countered that by saying they might have concentrated so hard on hoping to be well that they helped to heal themselves. Not a miracle.
I said “It can work the other way round, too. I heard somewhere about people who believe when someone puts a curse on them, they die. And they believe it so much they die of fear.”
There’s a quote in Harry Potter like that. I think we had Hannah beaten. On the evolution angle as well.
These sort of questions were honestly and passionately debated among my group of friends and many others in our year in Year Nine and into Year Ten. The sort of arguments I put forward are obviously embarrassing to look back on, but I remember how important it all felt at the time. A relatively unusual feature of my teenage years was that Bath at the time was a base for what felt like an evangelical revival, so what I refer to as ‘Fundamental’ Christians (they actually attended a range of churches, but were united by their focus on the importance of conversion and their belief in the literal truth of the Bible) were a substantial minority in my classrooms. Our school had a very active Christian Union (we occasionally attended their meetings to eat free cake and heckle) and I was once hiding from Year Elevens throwing eggs on the last day of school in the school library when I was cornered by another student who tried to talk me out of all my objections to Christianity, and was unable to escape through fear of the eggs. All this is to say that these theoretical questions felt very real and vital to me at the time. It will come as no surprise that this fourteen-year-old girl devoured Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and felt as if it had been written just for her. The use of Harry Potter as an authority is an especially ridiculous feature of this entry, but it does have a context; the more fundamentalist Christians in my year made no secret of the fact they considered Harry Potter to be suspect, and one of my Christian friends actually made a point of giving me GP Taylor’s Christian fantasy allegory Shadowmancer as a possible antidote. Such were the culture wars that raged in Hayesfield c. 2001.