Day by day obsessions

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After socks and doubtful underwear, the diary is probably the most popular present. Jonathan Sale makes a note in his about the selection available this year.

"Monday's knicker night is a particularly good way to start the week," and, according to the Time Out diary, the place for twanging knicker elastic is Brixton's Substation South, a cruise bar which runs a different theme every night.

Yes, 1998 will be another good year for pocket diaries. While they all agree that 1 January is a Thursday and that March 20 is the Vernal Equinox, they are otherwise clearly to be filled in by people living on rather different planets. Published for pounds 6.50, Time Out has an enormous spread, catering for not just underwear warriors but also for those who might want to obtain nappies (from Eezy Peezy or Bare Necessities) or send a Floral Revenge (a prickly goodbye gift to a spurned lover from Society Flowers).

Cosmopolitan's diary (Letts, pounds 5.75) also gets around a bit, from Yo! Sushi in London's West End, where little plates trundle round the restaurant on a conveyor belt, to Nobody Inn, Devon, with its 50 West Country cheeses.

Also watch out for the Melodious Warbler, the Lesser-White-Footed Goose, the Laughing Gull and the Whooper Swan. And oh no, it's that Ruddy Duck again! These can all be ticked off in the checklist provided by Birds (Collins, pounds 5.25), the diary of the British Trust for Ornithology, with separate columns for twitchers to note whether they spotted that wigeon, bittern and coot on holiday or in their own gardens. Remember, no killing of birds in Scotland on Christmas Day.

Diarists who prefer to set the cat among the wigeons, will spend their pounds 4.99 on a different volume from Collins: Your Cat diary. Instead of the usual personal details about the owner, this opens with cat's name, birthday, breed, regular weight and vet emergency telephone number. In case you belong to a two-cat household, extra space is left for multiple entries.

A catty person could spend most of 1998 just filling in the other details, with dates of flea treatment, enteritis injection and worm medicine. For abnormal feline activity, try the the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

If the washing-machine proves cat-free and the reward does not bring back moggie, then I would blame the local ailurophobe. As the glossary tells you, the term means cat hater.

Possibly because it does not exist, the word "equiphobe" does not appear in the pocket book dedicated to another four-legged species, the Daily Mirror Racing diary (Collins, pounds 4.99). "Equiphiles" have a glossary of their own, which translates bizarre terminology such as Trixie, Fido, Round Robin and Super Heinz. A Yap, for example, is a Yankee with shingles.

This diary measures out the year in hundreds of occasions when the owners - of diary or horse - can lose their shirts, from Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury on January 3 to Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on December 28. Boxing Day is one of the highlights of 1998, featuring no fewer than ten meetings.

Four-wheeled folk seem a more anxious bunch, to judge from the AA Motorists' diary (Letts, pounds 5.25) which is full of space for kidney donor notification, insurance policies and Premium Bond numbers.

Underneath this comes (how sweet) a half-page on My Car; please fill in Make, Year, Engine Number and, in case it slips your mind, Chassis Number.

If you are the type to fill in the bit about "My Little Car" with the word Porsche, you probably wouldn't have the AA publication anyway, but instead would be the proud possessor of the Stock Exchange diary (Collins, pounds 6-70). Under Personal Notes you would fill in your credit cards, of course, as well as your mobile phone and fax number.

A wise investment, taken from the Vintage Wine Chart, is 1982 Claret: buy and drink it now. But sell your 1977 Sauternes: well past its best.

An even wiser investment is Waterstone's diary (pounds 6.99, with a desk version at pounds 16.99). Every week comes with an improving quotation and every day is greeted with a bookish anniversary. April 27: John Milton sells copyright to Paradise Lost for pounds 10 . December 14: bad news about Agatha Christie, who had disappeared mysteriously eleven days earlier - she turns up again. September 6: William Burroughs - sorry, dear - accidentally shoots his wife dead.

James Joyce and Marcel Proust meet in Paris(May 18) which continues, "and do not get along". Funnily enough, I seem to remember that I had a particularly ill-matched meeting, though not with Joyce and Proust, on that very day in 1977. I'll just check my diary.

NB check your copy of The Redstone Diary of the Absurd. My colleague's copy has only 11 months in it. Perhaps that's the point.

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