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The Lady
Ms London

An owner's guide

Congratulations! You are now the owner of a new calendar. It doesn't matter much how it came into your hands - a free gift from a garage, perhaps, or a Christmas present from someone who didn't want to give you anything very expensive - but the point is that you now have a calendar which will cover the whole of the next year. That means it is going to be in service for a whole 365 days, and you want to get the best out of it during that time, so one or two basic points should be observed as you embark on its care programme.

What day-to-day maintenance does a calendar need?

None at all. That is the beauty of a calendar. It only needs attention once a month when a page should either be ripped off or turned over, depending on what kind of calendar you have.

How many kinds of calendar are there?

Two. The arty-farty and the W H Smith. The arty-farty tends to have pictures from Modigliani's late phase and the W H Smith tends to have pussy cats or cottages.

Is there any cross-over kind, with arty-farty pictures of pussy cats, or rose-tinted drawings of war scenes?

Yes, almost always from clever-dick publications departments of museums. There is also another kind of calendar, the kind given to you by a garage or a tyre fitting service which has just one picture and a tiny calendar dangling underneath.

Is this picture of the garage? Or of the tyre depot?

Of neither, usually. Strangely, it is often of a lady who is feeling too warm to wear anything on her top half.

Is this lady a personal friend of the garage owner or tyre fitter?

Chance would be a fine thing.

What should be done with that kind?

It should be thrown away as soon as you receive it.

In which room should I hang my new calendar ?

In the same room in which you keep your telephone. Your calendar must be ideally placed so that when someone says on the phone " Why don't we get together next Monday and thrash it out? " or " We'd love you to come round and have dinner next Monday ", you can look up at the calendar and see what is written on that date.

What is written on that date, as a matter of interest?

A cryptic message.

What is the cryptic message written on that date?

" SOS Bidet ".

What does that mean?

Heaven knows. It was written by your partner and she never told you what it was all about.

So what do you do?

You say on the phone, " There's something written on the calendar but I'm not sure what it is. Can I have a word with Caroline and ring you back? "

Who's Caroline?

Your partner.

Ah. Right.

The point being that this gives you a breathing space in which you can consult with Caroline to see if she really wants to go out to dinner with these people. Or whether she thinks you ought to go round and thrash it out that day.

So calendars are really just an excuse for not having to make a decision just yet?

That is one of their great advantages, yes.

What would happen if there was nothing written in that space on the calendar?

You would still say that there was something written there that you had to consult Caroline about.

What would happen if you had no calendar at all there? I mean, if you are actually fabricating what is written on the calendar, why not fabricate the calendar itself?

Because if you didn't have a calendar hanging there, you might forget to offer the excuse about consulting Caroline, your partner.

Doesn't this all make it seem as if you can't do anything without consulting Caroline?

Not at all. Caroline says exactly the same when she answers the phone, except she uses your name, and makes it seem as if she can make no move without you.

I see. Incidentally, what does 'SOS Bidet' mean?

It is a hasty writing of S's Bday.

And what does that mean ?

It means Sarah's Birthday.

Who is Sarah?

Your Aunt Sarah, whose birthday you have forgotten every year for sixty years.

Crumbs. You're right.

What this means is that your partner has remembered Sarah's birthday and you haven't, even though Sarah is your relative and not hers. Don't forget that whereas the male brain is incapable of retaining more than three vital anniversaries per year, the female brain is capable of remembering well over 100 different birthdays.

With the aid of a calendar?

Or without.

If she can remember birthdays without a calendar, why does she bother to write them on the calendar?

To remind you, you idiot.

For more information on how to get the best from your calendar, write to the Calendar Information Centre, Twelvemonth House, London W1.

The Independent Friday Dec 16 05