Will you be sending a Valentine this year? Do you think you’ll be receiving one? Will there be the grim, slightly buttock-clenching exchange of Paperchase/Moonpig cards in the morning to get it over with? Or will a dozen blood-red roses arrive at your desk from your sweetheart early enough in the day to generate maximum colleague envy? (Waitrose will deliver 12 roses for £65, apparently)
Will you be going out with your established partner for an ridiculously overpriced yet spectacularly disappointing evening meal that makes you both fractious at the slowness of the service and the toughness of the chicken breast, wishing the whole time that the evening could end and that you could just pay and get the hell out of there? And once home, will you feel obliged to be amorous even though you don’t feel like it after the evening you’ve had and besides you’ve got to get up at 5 for an early meeting, but it’s Valentine’s Day, so…?
I’m just curious, that’s all. As a swotty, spotty, clueless teenager, I never looked forward to the Day with the same twittering excitement as all my more clued-up and fashionable friends, knowing that it held only the empty letterbox of disappointment for me. One year a friend and I even made a pact to send ourselves one but TO TELL NO-ONE. But it felt so wrong and I was seized with an attack of the scruples there and then. I blush even now thinking of it, 30 years later.
Later on, I remember receiving one and analysing to the minutest detail the Hertfordshire postmark. My boyfriend was studying in Germany and we hadn’t had the greatest of relationships even when he had been here. So who could this be from? It gave me such a frisson. Impressive that, in a romantic gesture that seemed completely out of character, he’d got a friend to post it in Herts. Geddit?
Darling Daughter, by contrast, came gambolling out of her Parisian school at the age of 6 proclaiming joyfully that she had received “7 hearts from boys, mummy!” There were eight boys in her class. Oh the looks of envy from the other little girls and their mothers!
Then there are the cards themselves. Does one go for a huge, expensive, padded type with a slushy ready-meal rhyme in a copperplate font? Or a tasteless smutty one, open to a huge amount of disastrous misinterpretation by someone who’s personally not in a good place? Or a present? But there’s the perennial problem of what to give a man for a Valentine’s present. I mean, it’s almost impossible to buy for them at the best of times and, in my opinion, St. Valentine’s Day is not the best of times.
Further, the paraphernalia attached to the festival of Lurve grows more audacious every year. There are heart shaped baking tins, and candles, and sweeties, and cushions. Even I am the proud owner of this special edition Le Creuset two portion casserole, purchased in one of those little French kitchen shops In St. Germain en Laye. The idea was to make a hotpot and present it to my husband ensconced in heart-shaped Le Creuset. Desperate, eh? The idea fell flat in the end when he was late home from work (again) and I had to dash out to choir. It’s only rarely been used since, usually by the Boywonder, romantic soul that he is.
How will St. Valentine’s Day move on? A Twitter Valentine? Ah yes. In fact I have seen a Twitter Valentine project which you too can see at http://www.stupidrubbish.co.uk/?p=2955 Or tweeps tomorrow could well witness or receive “I ❤ U” tweetage. But this sort of thing could not be anonymous unless the tweeter set themselves up in a different account. In which case one would either delete the damn thing as spam or report them as a stalker to @Twitter. Or the police. Modern life is complicated, isn’t it?
I wonder what St. Valentine himself would have thought. Actually hardly anything is known about the saint whose day we celebrate on February 14th. I have read (on Wikipedia) that his feast was established in the year 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” Other sources report that Valentine was martyred by the Emperor Claudius for helping persecuted Christians to marry.
Now, in our household, we are generally not for overblown, sickly sweet commercialised “days,” where everyone is trying to get you to buy a card and a plastic thingy, expertly made in China for our delectation. And yet, and yet. Life is dull and grim enough without these little celebrations isn’t it? Especially at the moment. So St. Valentine’s Day might just be the sparkly comma that punctuates the grim, grey time between Christmas and the return of the sunshine and flowers. So why not have a little fun? Which is, I suppose, how the original St. Valentine must have felt. I wonder what he would have thought of Valentine’s discos, and balloons, and stoneware mugs printed in Shenzhen with “Be my Valentine, Chelsee/Aaron.” As I said, I don’t usually think much about St. Valentine’s Day.