I’m sitting here at my desk - when I should be writing this article - discussing with Twitter pals as to whether I should make another attempt at watching ITV’s Bridgerton which, half way through Episode One, I actually gave up on. From the huge response of God, yes, give it another go this very minute, I can only conclude the need for Romance - or, as lovely author Faye Keenan calls it, Crikey Moments – is as much on the agenda during these grim winter lockdown months as gin, the last of the Christmas cake and Aldi Salted Caramel ice cream.
Now, whether, after being locked up with your other half (as well as screen-zombied, home schooled, on the verge of feral, offspring) for almost a year is having you reaching out for the Bombay Sapphire rather than your stockings, suspenders and each other, let me remind you that St Valentine is about to come a-knocking and you need to be prepared.
It is said that Valentine, a Catholic priest, defied the order of the Emperor Claudius and married Christian couples in secret, thus allowing new husbands to escape conscription into the roman emperor’s army. Apparently, Claudius couldn’t get any conscripts for love nor money and, having a whole load of newly-married men put up their hands with, ‘Sorry, Guv, you know how it is, I can’t leave the wife’ was a big inconvenience to the emperor. Poor old Valentine who, in all honesty, was just trying to help Romance and Crikey Moments along their way, was beaten with sticks and stones and, when that didn’t work, lost his head (literally, not metaphorically) outside the Flaminian Gate in Rome.
So, I think, having the Man in Charge of Love lose his head in the name of romance, and it being an exceptionally strange year all round, maybe we should push the boat out and celebrate 2021 Valentine’s day as never before? We missed celebrating Christmas this year and, because on February 14th there won’t be the necessity to think about who we’re having and who we’re not having, as happened at Christmas (unless you’re into some kinky group sort of thing which is obviously your prerogative) to celebrate the festival of love and romance, I reckon we should totally go for it and celebrate in style with our other half.
If you’re at home tout seul with no one to send flowers and cards to, as well as the discarding of the greying M and S pants and bra for, then love yourself. It’s your special day: have flowers and your favourite food and shell out on that expensive La Perla/Lepel underwear you’ve always wanted but never imagined actually buying. Appreciate having the TV control to yourself, a bed big enough to spread out in with no cold feet, scratching or snoring to contend with on this special night. And watch a fabulously romantic film: I watched Charlotte Gray last night and while there are obviously dark undertones to any WW2 set film, the romance absolutely sizzles.
Obviously, the most important thing on Valentine’s Day is the actual card, which was probably instituted long before the over-commercialised necessity for chocolates, flowers and sexy underwear was even conceived. The card is the thing. Totally up to you if you choose to go down the slushy/romantic versus the cartoon/funny card: after all, you know the recipient. Or maybe you don’t. Which, I suppose, adds a bit of excitement to the whole thing (much needed, I’m sure you’ll agree, after the year we’ve just had.) Whichever card you go for, think carefully what goes inside. My friend Clare, married to a much younger Swedish man, opened her first Valentine card from him which he’d signed “To my favourite wife, Clare, from your husband, Ulf Johannson.” She laughed so much – as do we, every time she repeats it – the moment for romance was gone. I don’t think Ulf ever quite got the idea of romance: the following year he wooed Clare with, “you have the most beautiful breasts” but unfortunately spoiled it by adding, “even though they’re hanging around for the last thirty years.” I have to report he is now back in Sweden – where, perhaps, sex to keep warm is more of a priority than romance - with another woman.
So, this coming Valentine’s day, the first (and please, God, the last) we’ve spent in Lockdown, ease the tedium of pulling on those sweatpants yet again in Lockdown Land by pulling out all the stops instead. Don those new leather trousers and thigh-high boots you stroke every time you open the wardrobe, but which you are leaving for the day Boris announces freedom. Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom – or some such homily.
We all want reciprocation from a knight in shining armour. Just make sure you don’t end up with a pillock in tarnished tinfoil instead.
Sing Me A Secret by Julie Houston is out now in paperback.