The Day of Lovers.
Twenty-nine years ago, in 1983, I got married on St Valentine's Day. It was a romantic gesture, and my own idea. The marriage didn't last. W--- and I separated in 1991, and divorce followed in 1996. But the event hasn't faded into oblivion, because every year St Valentine's Day comes up again, and I am reminded once more.
Back in 1972, forty years ago now, the commercial nature of February the Fourteenth was already well established. Bosh and humbug indeed, but it could be fun. There was a convention that all cards sent had to be completely anonymous, supposedly from a secret but passionate admirer. The fun came from sending them, or, if on the receiving end, guessing who had sent them to you. Secrecy was absolutely the essence. Many a shy teenager (and many a bit older than that) must have had their heart thumping with delicious pleasure when a card arrived in the post, or on their office desk perhaps, quite out of the blue, confessing or pledging a yearning love. A lot of artfulness and cunning went into writing these cards, using a disguised hand and, if posted, paying attention to where the card was posted from, so that its recipient couldn't easily guess who had sent it. Of course, sometimes there was a deliberate clue, to be hotly followed up at the very next disco.
Sometimes of course cards were sent merely to tease. And sometimes with a frankly cruel intention. There must have been quite a number of testy old codgers or spinsters who got a sugary card that spoke sweetly of love, but actually mocked them and made them angry and embarrassed - as it was intended to do.
I wonder if the proper ritual is still observed? Or do people simply send openly-signed cards to whoever takes their fancy, as a clear message that A fancies B, and how about it?
I'm sure that many long-established couples go through an annual routine of buying a card for each other, as if to say, 'Yes, despite our humdrum life together, we're still in love'. As if an exchange of Valentine cards, plus a meal out, and maybe a bunch of red roses from the man, is an insurance against the breakup of an exhausted relationship.
And what am I doing today? Well, my new fence was put up this morning. That was a great start to the day. The two men arrived at 8.00am and had finished the job by 11.30am, assisted by three rounds of tea and chocolate biscuits from yours truly. I expressed great satisfaction with the end result. This afternoon, a trip into Brighton for a little shopping - trainers, socks and a smaller handbag for serious calorie-burning walking - not in the country - in the town, where I can do it in most weathers without getting muddy. Another part of my quest for some fitness. Then I'll catch up with friends at the Clare Project. Then a drink somewhere. Then home to a defrosted meal. All this with nary a card in sight, nor a rose tenderly offered. What's not to like?