Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Less Dear Diary

By now you should all have got over the euphoria of the new year and have it fixed firmly in your minds that you must put 2007 on any cheques you were getting ready to send to me. In which case, Happy New Year!

In days of yore, this time of year would be signalled by a deluge of company calendars and diaries, falling like autumn leaves upon us, but since the advent of the personal computer the supply has withered away. Nowadays people keep their appointment records, addresses and personal data electronically, an immense improvement, as my wife found out when all of her Christmas card list disappeared down a black hole in the back of her computer monitor. We never got it back, and now you understand why you didn’t get a card from us this year, but it did save us quite a bit of money.

We get two calendars per year now, both of which are in exchange for a Christmas box of €10 apiece, making them an expensive but worthwhile investment. One from the French Postal Service, a usefully utilitarian piece of work, and one from our gallant volunteer firemen, Les Sapeurs et Pompiers, containing a group portrait of the crew. I notice that one of them is our local baker, inspired in his volunteer work, no doubt, by thoughts of Pudding Lane and the Great Fire of London.

Free diaries are practically non-existent and it is only due to the good offices of my doctor that I get one at all. This is a rather handsome desk diary, published by a medical supplier, Temerit, who are plugging their drug, “le B-Bloquant,” in it. What B-Bloquant does I have no idea but it’s a jolly good diary and I hope the company does well and that they never find out that their expensive publicity gift has wound up on my desk. It does contain a lot of information on their products which is undoubtedly of value to the medical profession but not of much use to a struggling author. No doubt my doctor will call if he needs any advice. There are, however, some handsome maps and a good deal of useless trivia. For instance, I bet you didn’t know that Papouasie Nouvelle Guinee had an area of 461,691 hectares, that they spoke pidgin English and Police Motu and that the currency of the country is the Kina. If you didn’t I suggest you should see you doctor, since that’s the only way I found that useful piece of data.

In fact I was looking for the dialling code for some obscure country, useful information which last year’s diary had had but that was omitted from this year’s offering. I found out an awful lot about cardiology though.

In the years I was in advertising, I always doubted (although never publicly) the value of these promotional gifts. I never thought that the recipient of a diary from Birtinwhistle’s Sprogget Making and Cogwheel Company would, when suddenly finding himself in need of a few sproggetts or cogwheels, be inspired to contact them in preference to the firm of Diddlebury and Splike, who offered a much better price for their sproggets on account of the fact that they had not spent a fortune on diaries.

Now that these sort of gifts have largely died out, no doubt competition in the sprogget business is a good deal fiercer.

But the old-fashioned diary does have its uses. It is unlikely to disappear down the little hole in the back of the monitor and, unless seriously mislaid, will still be there for us in twelve months time.

So if you get a Christmas Card from us next year, you can thank our doctor for it.


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