Class conscious

Last year a northern friend - even chippier than myself - rang to arrange a drink. As I hesitated before agreeing, he barked into the phone, "What's going on?" I said I was looking in my diary, and he nearly hung up on me as punishment for my pretension. He and I both grew up in homes where important dates tended to be marked on a calendar in the kitchen depicting, say, various Yorkshire waterfalls, and since then we've both had a fraught attitude towards diaries, which are indeed symbols proclaiming the busy-ness and, by implication, success of their owners. Being a more aspirational person than my friend, however, I've always used one, though not without a lot of agonising at around this time of year.

In my twenties I'd go for a red WH Smith diary, which I thought was safely middle class by virtue of the thin red ribbon used for marking the pages. In truth, though, it was a diary for middle managers, suggestive of a prosaic life of drudgery. You could tell this by the humble appendices: metric conversion tables going on for ever, a map of the motorways with a depressing mileage chart.

As I became more successful - I use that term in its loosest possible sense - I sought out diaries marked "genuine leather", which I thought befitting my status. If I could get one of these for under a fiver, which I generally could, albeit not until March, then so much the better.

Later, I'd buy my diaries from the swanky Bond Street stationers, Smythson's. I would always buy the "wafer" diary, which was Smythson's polite way of saying "the cheap diary", but nonetheless it has pages of pale blue suggestive of aristocratic decadence and features appendices including "Principal London Clubs", and "Vintage Wine Chart", which I enjoyed fantasising over until I noticed its perplexing and off-putting caveat, "good vintages not shown".

But this year I am trying to forgo this seductive little number in favour of a much cheaper Oxfam diary, which marks me out as moral, unsnobbish and unconcerned with the date on which the grouse season starts. I'll probably have binned it by February, though, and replaced it with another "wafer", with its genuine leather, and promise of the high life to come.