By Thomas Hocknell
For anyone with admirers and insatiable appetite for chocolates and flowers, it’s your time of year again. Anyone without an admirer in their life on Valentine’s Day should either buy one, or read this post.
What is it about the 14th February that redefines how we express our love for one another? Overnight, a vague ‘I love you’ as you dash off on the school run is deemed inadequate if not accompanied by chocolate in ribbons and overpriced flowers. Suddenly, if you can’t say it with a Cadillac-sized Hello Kitty doll then it’s not worth saying at all.
It’s hard to know what’s most annoying about Valentine’s Day. Of course my distaste for it is NOTHING to do with not getting any valentine cards at an age where your social standing is based entirely upon a) quantity of valentine cards received, b) your parents having a swimming pool and c) your ability to fart on younger children’s heads, the lack of all three having contributed significantly towards my low-ranking social status.
February has apparently been long celebrated as a month of romance. That’s easy to believe, after all; due to not having seen the sun since November, your seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has left you mumbling at unattainable tropical destinations in the travel supplements of weekend newspapers. It’s so dark outside that romance must be the only answer, although there’s the sense of an audience so broken that they’ll clap at anything. Valentine’s Day sure did one thing right, and that was its timing.
The Romans took the day as an opportunity to congregate at some sacred cave where the founders of Rome were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. You can probably see where this is going. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
The goat’s hide was cut into strips before being dipped into sacrificial blood and taken into the streets. Both women and crop fields would then be gently slapped with the hide. This is the first time I’ve encountered women and crop fields with equal billing, and being gently slapped by bloodied hide isn’t exactly the most predictable of romantic gestures, so full marks for the unexpected. However, while I don’t profess to fully understand the female psyche, if this is the sort of surprise they enjoy in lieu of a candlelit meal for two, then I’ve been misled.
The truth behind the Valentine legend is murky. This is rather fortunate for the saint, as I’m sure a few people would like a word in his ear, or at least reimbursement for the enormous Hello Kitty heart doll that cost a week’s wages for delivering to her place of work, which she then has to carry home. Because nothing screams romance like apologising for a soft toy large enough to require a ticket to a carriage of commuters already battling for space. Valentine’s Day is a day when trying too hard, while not doing quite enough have never danced quite so closely.
But, let’s face it, really nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a dying bouquet of flowers.
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Thomas Hocknell is a blogger at idle Blogs of an Idle Fellow – in the manner in which Jerome K. Jerome might have, were he writing in 2016, and not 1886. The Life Assistance Agency is his first novel and is the journey of a blogger, Ben Ferguson-Cripps, who sets aside his literary failures to join the newly established Life Assistance Agency in pursuit of a missing professor obsessed with the Elizabethan alchemist Dr. Dee.