IN THAT sumptuous stationers, Smythson, in New Bond Street, there are beautiful books marked "Anecdotes" so that you can list every amusing story you know from one to a hundred, thereby proving that you are the most boring and anally retentive person the world has ever known.

Others are marked "Lovers" or "Blondes" or "Politically Incorrect", so that you can transcribe non-PC thoughts, which, for your average Smythson customer, I suspect, are not in short supply.

Personally I go there at this time of year for a diary, and my visits always bring on a dilemma: should I buy my usual small pocket diary or go for a big thing that would enable me to make a proper chronicle of the year's events? Price plays a part, of course. The little diary costs pounds 20, whereas the big one I have in mind is this year retailing at pounds 249. But then surely the investment would be worthwhile if one could reap rewards on the scale of those going to the family of Lord Wyatt of Weeford?

I kept a diary intermittently as a teenager, and often feel that I should continue to do so. The other day, for example, my young son said that he wanted the word "electricity" to be written on his knee so that, if burglars came into the house at night, they wouldn't touch him (or at least they wouldn't touch his knee) for fear of getting a shock.

Now that sort of thing demands to be written down, but on the other hand if you're forever waiting with pen poised for people to say charming things, they never do. A watched pot never boils, which is why I'm sure that 90 cent of those "Anecdotes" books bought at Smythson are ultimately filled with games of hangman or shopping lists.

Another argument against keeping a diary is that most memorable events are, of course, bad ones and the diarist has to not only endure the bad event, but also to write about it with good grace. Scott of the Antarctic had no problem here. In his expedition diary of 1912 he wrote that on the whole it was "a pity" that he was dying, but expressed the hope that his and his colleague's families could be properly looked after. Compare this to my own entry, made on 12 March 1974 in response to the appearance of a spot on my chin: "This is so typical of the way things are going for me right now..."

If I do start keeping a diary, I'll tell people that I'm doing it. Then they might be nice to me, for fear of being the subject of a devastating thumbnail sketch. (It worked for Kenneth Williams, I believe.) And I shall certainly be writing in the hope that my diaries will eventually be published with an introduction written by some suitably eminent person, beginning: "Although Andrew Martin lived a life of almost complete obscurity, his diaries cast an invaluable light on the..." Ah, but on the what, though? There's the rub.

This year, once again, I have decided that the little diary will serve.