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Peter Clark has kept a diary for over fifty years. “I knew I was going to have an interesting life,” he says. “Hence the diaries.” He was right. He spent thirty-two years in the overseas career service of the British Council. This involved work promoting British educational opportunities and cultural relations, and meant meeting lots of people. He was given the opportunity of studying Arabic and worked mostly in Middle Eastern countries where much depended on personal contacts.

Peter Clark  

diarist - walker - translator - historian - educator

...and still ready for a challenge

 One of Peter's other passions is walking. In 2011 he read about Charles Dickens walking the thirty miles from London to Gad’s Hill in Kent, leaving at 2 am. He repeated the walk with two friends, also leaving at 2 am. Dickens took seven hours. Peter and friends took twelve. But Dickens had been forty-five, whereas the combined age of Peter and his friends was 194. Peter has written about the walk in Dickens: London into Kent, which has been described as “a  mixture of literary pilgrimage and psychogeography”.

No faulty memories here: Peter with his 50 years of diaries

 He has also walked to four cities from Frome, taking one day for each: Salisbury, Bristol, Bath, and Wells. In 2014 he walked overnight to Stonehenge for the midsummer solstice, and in January 2017 he walked from London to Birmingham over nine days, along the Grand Union Canal.

  Talking of the Frome Writers Collective he says he enjoys “sharing my writing with others, sharing problems and getting good constructive criticism.”

  Peter is a man up for the challenge - both literary and ambulatory.

 

Emirates Diaries: Culture, Peace and War in the Gulf is due out in September 2017.

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  "Writing a page-a-day diary became a habit rather than a discipline," he says. "I have always written early on the morning of the following day. I am always thinking about events and conversations and about how I will record them in the diary. The following morning my mind is clear and I have the previous day in perspective."

 All his diaries remain as they were, spontaneously written. He has now edited the volumes he kept in Syria between 1992 and 1997. These were published in 2015 as Damascus Diaries: Life under the Assads. A prequel about his time in the United Arab Emirates between 1988 and 1992 – Emirates Diaries: Culture, Peace and War in the Gulf is due out in September 2017.

 When edited for publication, nothing is changed apart from improvements to spelling, grammar and punctuation and occasionally clarity. Otherwise they are a fascinating record of events and background influences in a part of the world that is today of critical importance.

 

  Peter left the British Council eighteen years ago but has continued to travel to the region, either as consultant or as leader of tours to Turkey, Egypt, Iran and – until 2011 – Syria. For four years he worked for the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, chaired by Emma Nicholson, dealing with Iraqi refugees in Iran. He also designed the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, popularly (though incorrectly) known as the “Arab Booker”.

  Peter’s published work includes eight translations from Arabic – two history and six fiction – and he has written several of his own books.

"Writing a page-a-day diary became a habit rather than a discipline."