Calendars and diaries and journals and things

How do you organise your appointments? Recently I was on the phone trying to arrange when to meet someone (isn’t this a nice new custom? Meeting people?) and I said something like “I’ll check the diary… or the calendar…”

In other words, I might need to look at both to be sure I was free that day.

I thought then, what is the difference between a diary and a calendar?

From Wikipedia: “A calendar is a system of organising days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years.” But at the top of the page: “This article is about the dating system. For the physical object, see Calendar (stationery.)”

Which reminded me of the whole concept of calendars: Gregorian versus Julian, Islamic or Chinese, Stonehenge, organisation of leap years, the odd fact that December means the tenth month not the twelfth etc.

However, on to Calendar (stationery.) I suppose I think fundamentally of calendars as being pictures (or perhaps objects or of course apps) and diaries as being books.  Traditionally also calendars deal with time generally, and stationery ones deal with future time; diaries with past time.

A diary always used to be a record of what had happened. But now it’s not, because at some point in the last how long? 150 years? someone invented the desk diary and the pocket diary, which are picture-less-calendars-in-book-form. I assume the pocket diary, like the wristwatch, will fall out of use and be replaced by phones, but I am oldish and old-fashioned.

Hmm. A Calendar can be an app. It can also be an object put on the wall, renewed every year. If it is very functional and covers a year at a time it is usually called a Planner and is used to organise and publicise office holidays. But a pretty monthly calendar can also be a Planner, if it has different columns for different members of the household.

Most paper calendars are designed to be attractive, and to have a different picture or perhaps slogan for each month. I am always touched by photos from developing countries where the calendar may be the most attractive object in the room. Many people, us included, give and receive calendars as Christmas presents, and a lot of these are lovely, as well as often advertising a country or town… or a life. For some time it’s been possible to make your own as a gift: the tiny little date-booklet attached to the child’s painting has now developed into the personalised digital photo album.

Their main function however is to help people remember when they agreed to meet Uncle Jack for coffee, or pick up Trish’s children from school.

This function can also be fulfilled by a Diary, the kind that is bought and designed to be a) placed on a desk by the phone in home or office (“appointments diary”); or b) in a handbag, oddly still called “pocket” diary.

Once upon a time, PM (Pre-Mobile), a very fancy form of the pocket diary called a Filofax was all the rage.

Both diaries and calendars can yield a surprising amount of information – national holidays on the other side of the world, phases of the moon, and crucially the start of British Summer Time.

But in the traditional past a Diary was a notebook in which one recorded the day afterwards. Early novels were often in the format of diaries and letters, pretending to be actual records, both of course written in fantastically implausible detail. Diaries have been important historical records for hundreds of years, because they show what happened, and what appeared to be happening, in real time. (And how big events affected or didn’t affect ordinary life.)

I’m not quite sure what the difference is between a Diary and a Journal… maybe a Journal is allowed to be both more sporadic, and more introspective. We are encouraged to “journal,” ie keep a record of spiritual thoughts, experiences or the lack of them.

(Although an updated list of prayer requests, referring to the future, is called a Prayer Diary, not a Calendar.)

A Log is an official diary for a ship… or of course the USS Enterprise. A blog is an online journal, I suppose.

You can also buy “page-a-day” diaries… which are presumably intended to record the past, as surely no one has a page-full of appointments every day.  I’ve probably told the story before of how a “Page-a-day diary” for the year 2012, given me by my mother-in-law, was the place where Dorac began his scribbled adventures.

Personally, I have a complicated system. Family calendar by the (landline) phone, for appointments we all need to know about; and holidays; personal calendar upstairs for checking housework and FAWL (also menstrual cycle when that was necessary); pocket diary for private schedule and reminders and to be portable; journal for miscellaneous thoughts; and the new one: a covid notebook to remind me and make records about mask-airing and who I’ve phoned, and things like that.  None of them electronic, yet.

How about you?

Love from the PPI Blogger

PS In case you were wondering, it is one of the responsibilities of a School Crossing Patrol to check periodically that the Flashing Amber Warning Lights near their site are working, ie flashing around about school time. Hence FAWL.

1 Comment
  • Clint Redwood

    28th May 2021 at 9:17 pm Reply

    The “Family Calendar” by the fridge caused a constant risk of double booking evenings out, especially when one of us was needed to babysit, since it relied on us remembering to copy appointments from the personal appointment diary onto the family calendar and to note the other appointments on the calendar. If both parties tried to arrange meetings on the same day, both were likely to choose the same evening.

    This issue has been entirely solved by Apple’s shared family calendar. Each can see the calendar in real time and is alerted to changes made by the other. Double booking is a thing of the past! Phew!

    We will, as a result, never use a paper calendar again.

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