Do you know what? I bloody hate February. It is the smuggest month of the entire calendar, and that is saying something, what with December thinking it’s the dog’s proverbials with the whole tinselly Christmas thing it’s got going on, and August, with its ‘ooh, look at me, I am sooooo sunny’ vibe.
But February really does think it’s something special. First off, there are leap years. No other month feels it necessary to change the number of days in it every four years, and quite frankly, the ‘Thirty Days has September’ rhyme would be a whole lot easier to remember without February mucking it all up.
But it is smuggest of all because it is the month of love. Valentine’s Day. Ugh. I shudder just at the mention of it.
I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion. A passion, it should be noted, that does not require over-priced flowers or chocolates to express itself. Valentine’s Day is the opportunity to tell the one you love that they are definitely not bad given they were second choice all along. Sorry, I mean to declare your undying love. And it is almost compulsory to do this via the medium of ill-conceived gifts. Flora and fauna that die within three days, chocolates that are six hours away from their best before date, or some ceramic tat that offends all notions of good taste and decency. Or perhaps underwear in a box. A bit like a serial killer would assemble as a memento of his last triumph.
Valentine’s Day is supposedly when you send an anonymous token of your love to someone who doesn’t know you have a thing about them. That’s not romantic. That’s stalking. Mind you, not that anyone bothers with the anonymous bit of it any more. Getting a Valentine’s gift from your husband is about as surprising as finding the toilet seat has been left up or three members of your family have stepped over a coat fallen from the rack rather than pick it up. Call me an old cynic, but there is precious little time left for that slightly nauseating concept of romance in family life. And even if there is time, there is scarcely the budget.
Because there is the extortionate meal out, where restaurants go to great lengths to strip you of all remaining cash by halving the menu and doubling the price. But don’t worry, you will get a waiter arriving at your table at the precise moment you are trying very hard not to have an argument and present the lady with a complimentary rose. And so there you sit, looking at all the other couples in the restaurant who are all valiantly trying to a) think of topics of conversation, b) look sexy whilst eating corn on the cob and c) not think about how much this is costing. And then there’s the babysitter. Who is earning money – your money – by sitting on your sofa with the pick of two hundred channels, making a serious dent in your biscuit box, whilst you are crammed into a packed restaurant waiting an hour for a main course that looks like it’s just stepped out of the microwave.
Apparently, around £308 million is spent on gifts for 11 million people in the UK for Valentine’s Day. That’s approximately 10,999,999 people receiving their gift and saying:
‘Oh. Flowers from the garage / supermarket chocolates / the wrong size knickers / a teddy bear holding a heart, you shouldn’t have. No, really. You shouldn’t have.’
Now, if I had to hazard a guess about the origins of Valentine’s Day, I would have said that it all started long ago in the marketing department of Clinton’s Cards, who were desperately trying to rake in a bit more cash in the lull between Christmas and Mother’s Day. But it transpires it all started a tad earlier than that, although the exact details are a little hazy – mainly due to it being in a time some centuries before someone could Facebook it to the great unwashed of the internet.
One theory says that Christians placed their St. Valentine’s Day feast in mid February to ‘Christianise’ (by which I presume they mean sprinkle with crucifixes and remove all pre-watershed blaspheming) the Pagan feast of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration involving wolf-reared infants, a sacrificial goat and gently slapping women round the face with a bloodied goat’s hide. Which makes sitting in a restaurant with twenty other couples who are all pretending that staring lovingly into each other’s eyes is not at all awkward seem a little less like the most unpleasant way to spend an evening. Actually, on second thoughts, there’s probably a live violinist serenading the tables, isn’t there? And some idiot trying to propose at the table next to you? And a huge queue for the taxis afterwards? Hmmm. Maybe not. Here, goatie goatie…