Is it worth it?: Dear diary...

Time waits for no man. But, with the 'Portobello' organiser, at least you can manage it better

If you find the potent scent of fresh paper sexy, then you may already have been tempted into luxury stationers, Smythson of Bond Street. Since 1887 Smythson has been peddling posh stationary products and now counts the Queen among its customers. Its newest diary, the "Portobello", carries a price tag worthy of such regal patronage - pounds 205 buys you this leather covered beauty to sit in state atop your desk.

Inside the tan pigskin leather cover are hundreds of pages of Smythson's signature pale blue paper, a little under A4-sized. Surprisingly the diary isn't quite the heavy beast it looks; Smythson claims that if it didn't use its specially developed lightweight paper then the diary would be a full three times as thick and heavy. The pages may look flimsy, but they are capable of taking an ink pen and, believe me, they can execute a pretty mean paper cut.

But as any keen organiser will tell you, pages don't maketh the diary, it's the layout that counts. Portobello allows one double page spread per week, and at the back of the diary there are pages for notes - one page for every day of the year. The Portobello user is expected to hop gracefully from calendar section to notes section with the aid of classy grosgrain ribbons. Seems like a satisfactory way of ordering your business but is the diary really user-friendly?

Premier league PA Clare Swift asserted that "the week at a glance pages are just what you want", and the space given to penning in lunch appointments was gratifyingly large enough for noting restaurant bookings. The back pages though, didn't fare so well. Swift dismissed them, saying "there's no way I'd use them".

It is in the first dozen pages that Portobello earned its PA gold star. The section given over to useful dates is the result of careful Smythson research and the directory (hotels, airlines, international dialling codes) is quite formidable. "It's brilliant; exactly what you need" was the verdict. It's only really the unnecessary inclusion of the dates of blood- sport events which leaves a nasty mark on Smythson's blue leaves.

Portobello's leather casing, granted, is flexible, but its leather wallet (which is what bumps the price up) is far too traditional-looking for the rather boho image it's name conjures up. For pounds 95 the Portobello is yours sans case. This makes a more decent annual investment for the person who really needs to have the number of Claridge's to hand.

Anyone else should get down to Paperchase (week-per-page diaries start at an affordable pounds 8) and become familiar with directory enquiries.

Smythson: 0171 629 8558

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