I suppose it’s mostly to do with my increasing age and senility, but I fear that my life long romantic streak is now becoming dulled by cynicism and an onrushing wave of new technology. Valentine’s Day may be somewhat old fashioned but it does bring a little warmth to the daily grey sludge of wet and windy February. It causes a rush of hearts and cards to break out in gift shops—a rush or perhaps better a rash of pink and red like an outbreak of measles. It’s the month when the price of red roses rises to a Queen’s ransom and a pandemic of cupids infests our supermarket shelves. Come to think of it, cupids are about the least romantic of any creature to represent Valentine. Why on earth should any small fat chubby baby armed with a dangerous weapon make me starry-eyed with love? In these modern days of suspected terrorism and dangerously fake news, I would expect any approaching cherub to be taken out with a killer drone. I shall arm myself with a shotgun as a means of self-preservation. And new technology has helped to squash romance still further. Instead of paying good money and sending a proper card featuring real cardboard in the post (no cupid, please), people nowadays send their Valentine greetings via Facebook or WhatsApp. This is useless as the sender should aim to be anonymous. All kindly and well-intentioned social media such as online Valentine greetings can be traced, hunted or hacked. If not, it’ll end up either deleted as a harmful virus or else dumped into the recipient’s spam folder. Passionate and adoring? I don’t think so…
Long ago I always rather liked Valentine’s Day and the hectic purchasing of cards as I scurried to catch the post in time. Before I had proper real girlfriends, I had a whole host of ‘pretend’ girlfriends. Love was about quantity rather than quality and the more the merrier to brag about in front of one’s mates at school. False girlfriends included the toothy tall girl I had met once on holiday and had kidded myself that she had a crush on me. In reality, she probably didn’t even know my name, but I could still include her in my Valentine card target list. Then there was my cousin Susan who was at least two years older than me and already actually had a boyfriend. I knew this because I once caught both of them secretly kissing behind the kitchen door. But she could still increase the numbers on my Valentine hit list
Then there was the gorgeous small blonde with whom I once had nervously exchanged a smile in the school car park on Parents’ Day. She was the older sister of Johnson from the lower sixth and a bit of an oik. Johnson I mean, not the girl. She was called Amanda and she was going to get my best card because she was HOT. And I had got her address from Johnson so he was alright really. But would she know who the card was from? I needed to include a sort of hint so it was still a secret but that she knew it was from me really. This presented a slight problem. Signing the card as ‘the guy you smiled at next to my parent’s car’ didn’t sound at all romantic. In fact, it would make me sound like a nerd, so perhaps better not to send anything… remain silently romantic in the shadows.
And if I didn’t send a card to her, there was always my sister if I got desperate. That would boost the number of pretend girlfriends up still further. But would my sister like the card with the two hearts floating on a ‘violet sea of love’? Probably not. She certainly wouldn’t like the one with the pink cushion heart and the two cute cuddly kittens. Nobody deserved that one, so I’d send it to mum for a joke. But then I’d sign it so she would know it was a joke and she would have to know it was from me which rather destroyed the whole point.
Over the last several decades, the number of cards I sent (and perhaps more importantly received) has grown considerably less. This is a good thing and is also considerably cheaper for everyone. Last year, I received just the one card. It was a very nice card. It pictured a beautiful painting in red and gold of a couple of pheasants flying round a field. I have no idea who sent it because there is no writing and no clue inside. It was probably from our dog, although my wife might have also had a hand in organising it and sending it. In truth, I think it might have been rather similar to one of the ones I had sent or had received the year before. And that of course is one of the main advantages of sending truly anonymous Valentine cards to people. Not only does it cause confusion and cause the recipient to wonder at the identity of secret romantic admirers, but you can also use them again the following year if you don’t write inside them.
Romantic? Moi? Pass the roses and eat the chocolates!