Being the kind of person who celebrates at the drop of a hat – Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Groundhog Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day etc etc I always do something to mark St Valentine’s Day.
It’s rarely anything that costs much so when I see the plethora of red-hearted tat filling the shops and websites and outrageously expensive flowers, I’m tempted to exclaim in that exceptionally annoying American way “Puleeease!”
(Only I don’t because don’t automatically accept Americanisms. They must bring something to the language and the jury’s still out on ‘Puleease” because one really wants to slap anyone that says it. Oh and that was a big fat fib about Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil has enough fans already.)
Why does anyone apart from hormonal teens carried away on a tide of ‘IloveyouandI’mgagginforit’ romance fall for this arrant commercialism?
St Val should be re-beatified as the Patron Saint of Florists and All Things Tasteless.
Some examples from the Firebox catalogue. But if you don’t know about Firebox, it’s an on-line shop. Now at Christmas, Firebox features the kind of things that really impress your best friends…erm…let’s see… remote-control helicopters, a witty calendar perhaps… some chocolate that taste like bacon (impressed yet? No neither were the recipients) … ok, so it’s not for everyone.
But just lately, in the run-up to Valentine’s day, Firebox has surpassed itself for offering meaningless crap including a slab of chocolate spelling out “love” for £8, a plastic digital picture key chain for £13, cushions that look like Scrabble tiles spelling “L O V E.” Oh dear.
And for £41 you get a few lillies, a small box of chocolates (heart-shaped box, obviously) and a bottle of bog-standard prosecco. The words “money” and “old rope” spring to mind.
Then there was the very unlikely “Love in a Grobox.” It sounded uncomfortable – I was thinking perhaps a Japanese form of sexual congress involving bonsai bushes in confined spaces. Nope. Nothing that interesting, just a small cardboard box of compost and teeny bulbs alleged to produce “red flowers” eventually.
My view is that Valentine’s Day should be a private celebration between two people. The key is to have a partner who is Easily Pleased; perhaps one of those blokes who would readily go along with the core message “Get naked. Bring beer.”
If you throw in hand-drawn card (mine usually feature cartoon pigs for no particular reason other than they are easy to draw and you can do amusing things with the tails), uninterrupted time, fizz, candle-light and savoury snacks (“Steady tiger – you’re crushing the cheesy footballs…”) you’re more or less sorted.
Oh and it’s that time of year when you might be visited by the muse, all of a sudden, when you’re least expecting it. A poem is a thought from the heart – preferably several. Mine are either short and sweet or long and comic. My poetry is not Bard but this one, Sonnet 116, is both good and Bard.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
I came across this one recently, by John Fuller. I love it. It starts brilliantly, goes on a bit, dips slightly two-thirds in but picks up the pace again towards the end and concludes very satisfactorily.
The things about you I appreciate
May seem indelicate:
I’d like to find you in the shower
And chase the soap for half an hour.
I’d like to have you in my power
And see your eyes dilate.
I’d like to have your back to scour
And other parts to lubricate.
Sometimes I feel it is my fate
To chase you screaming up a tower
Or make you cower
By asking you to differentiate
Nietzsche from Schopenhauer.
I’d like successfully to guess your weight
And win you at a fete.
I’d like to offer you a flower.
I like the hair upon your shoulders,
Falling like water over boulders.
I like the shoulders, too: they are essential.
Your collar-bones have great potential
(I’d like all your particulars in folders
I like your cheeks, I like your nose,
I like the way your lips disclose
The neat arrangement of your teeth
(Half above and half beneath)
I like your eyes, I like their fringes.
The way they focus on me gives me twinges.
Your upper arms drive me berserk.
I like the way your elbows work,
I like your wrists, I like your glands,
I like the fingers on your hands.
I’d like to teach them how to count,
And certain things we might exchange,
Something familiar for something strange.
I’d like to give you just the right amount
And get some change.
I like it when you tilt your cheek up.
I like the way you nod and hold a teacup.
I like your legs when you unwind them.
Even in trousers I don’t mind them.
I like each softly-moulded kneecap.
I like the little crease behind them.
I’d always know, without recap,
Where to find them.
I like the sculpture of your ears.
I like the way your profile disappears
Whenever you decide to turn and face me.
I’d like to cross two hemispheres
And have you chase me.
I’d like to smuggle you across frontiers
Or sail with you at night into Tangiers.
I’d like you to embrace me.
I’d like to see you ironing your skirt
And cancelling other dates.
I’d like to button up your shirt.
I like the way your chest inflates.
I’d like to soothe you when you’re hurt
Or frightened senseless by invertebrates.
I’d like you even if you were malign
And had a yen for sudden homicide.
I’d let you put insecticide
Into my wine.
I’d even like you if you were the Bride of Frankenstein
Or something ghoulish out of Mamoulian’s Jekyll and Hyde.
I’d even like you as my Julian
Of Norwich or Cathleen ni Houlihan.
If you were something muttering in attics
Like Mrs Rochester or a student of Boolean mathematics.
You are the end of self-abuse.
You are the eternal feminine.
I’d like to find a good excuse
To call on you and find you in.
I’d like to put my hand beneath your chin.
And see you grin.
I’d like to taste your Charlotte Russe,
I’d like to feel my lips upon your skin,
I’d like to make you reproduce.
I’d like you in my confidence.
I’d like to be your second look.
I’d like to let you try the French Defence
And mate you with my rook.
I’d like to be your preference
I’d like to be around when you unhook.
I’d like to be your only audience,
The final name in your appointment book,
Your future tense.
PS: If you are short of inspiration for a poem, there is an alternative; nip to the Firebox website now and look for the gold-plated Rolo. I mean, what lucky Valentine wouldn’t be impressed by that? Fifty quid. Bargain.