Paul Fitzpatrick: London, February 2022
For those of us a bit longer in the tooth, Valentines day has turned into a bit of a routine if we’re being honest.
Gone is the nervous anxiety we used to experience from dispatching a Valentine card to a teenage crush who’d no clue you’d been admiring them from afar…. or at least from the other side of the playground.
Unfortunately those heady days are in the dim and distant past, and the euphoria has been replaced by a tired and trusted template for most of us….
Step 1) Try to write something witty in said card that’s neither too flippant or too soppy, oh and something different from last year (if you can remember what you actually wrote 12 months ago!).
Step 2) Procure an over-priced bunch of flowers, inflated by 50% for the special day… but never from a petrol station (we’ve all learned that lesson the hard way!)
Step 3) Source a romantic dine-in meal for two from your favourite supermarket complete with customary Prosecco and chocolates.
Truth be told we all know that Valentines Day has become a commercial juggernaut and whilst the tradition should have every reason to grind to a halt in todays age of instant messaging, it’s still chugging along just fine…
In the UK alone, just under half the population spend money on their Valentine beau’s and around £1.3 billion is spent on cards, flowers, chocolates, etc, with an estimated 25 million Valentine cards being sent.
Whilst we all appreciate, nay expect, a Valentine card from a long-term partner, if we’re being honest, it’s akin to receiving a birthday card.
As we all know, the authentic Valentine experience centres on intrigue, ensuring that all the fun is in the detective work…. looking for clues to uncover the secret admirer.
I’m going back 50 years or so here of course to when we were impressionable teens and such things were deemed important.
I did receive one anonymous Valentine card… when I was 13, but I didn’t dare think about who it was from until I forensically compared the handwriting to my Mum’s in order to rule her out of the equation.
I’ve still no idea who sent it but thank you whoever you were, I should have framed it… although having a 50 year old Valentine card hanging up in your living room wall would be a bit weird.
I also sent one anonymous Valentine… to a girl in Primary 7, I say anonymous but when I walked into class that day with a big chunk of hair missing because someone had convinced me that enclosing a ‘lock of hair’ was a Valentine tradition…. I probably gave the game away.
With no comprehension of how meagre a ‘lock of hair’ should be, I struggled to close the envelope due to the mass of curls I’d tried to wedge into the card.
I imagine the curls sprung to life like a jack in the box as soon as the envelope was opened, attacking her like the creature from Alien and scarring the poor girl for life.
One thing I remember about Valentines back then was the trend to utilise every inch of space on both the card and the envelope with messages, acronyms and rhymes.
Classics like –
“Postie postie don’t be slow, be like Elvis, go man go”
SWALK (Sealed With A Loving Kiss)
The origin of acronyms on envelopes stems from soldiers writing to their sweethearts during the war, using coded initials to convey secret messages.
Some acronyms were sweet like HOLLAND (Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies) whilst others were a bit more risqué like NORWICH (Nickers Off Ready When I Get Home).
We were normally en-route to school when the postman came a-knocking on the 14th Feb, which gave opportunity for some hopeless romantics to day-dream about an avalanche of mail waiting for them on their doorstep.
For a good mate of mine this scenario actually happened, although it wasn’t on the 14th of February.
Unbeknown to him, an ex-girlfriend who wasn’t best pleased with him sent his picture, a dewy-eyed story about him being lonesome, and a heart-felt request for female pen-pals, to one of the popular teen mags of the day. When he got home from school his Mum greeted him at the door with a sackful of mail and a hearty – “what have you been up to now, you little shit?”.
Of course, at the time he had no idea what was going on, but he still had hours of fun ploughing through his ‘fan-mail’, replying to a selected few.
It’s a great story, but it’s his to tell, so I’ll see if I can entice him to share it in all its glory on the blog sometime.
Coming home to a bagful of fan-mail from strangers who thought you were cute must have been uplifting, but I suspect he, like the rest of us, probably falls into one of three camps when it comes to Valentine’s Day now…
The – ‘it’s a scam and a waste of money, and I refuse to be ripped-off ’ brigade.
This guy is normally single!
The – ‘I’m a hopeless romantic, and it’s a special day’ brigade.
This guy is normally single!
And perhaps the most popular….
The – ‘I better make an effort or else I’ll be in the shit’ brigade.
To which I am a fully paid-up member!!