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It's Cardboard Hearts Day

I am the worst person to write any kind of Valentine’s Day post. Partly because I’ve been married for over twenty years and was no earthly good at wooing before that, and partly because, well, I’ve been married for over twenty years, so I’m hardly the person to come to for “One Hundred Ways To Console Yourself This Valentine’s Day.” I also don’t entirely understand the need for consolation: it’s just a day, does it really matter if you have anyone to spend it with or not? No, I never really got the whole dating thing, either. And yet: married for over twenty years*. Sorry. I should probably write some sort of rambly thing about the history of Valentine's Day, and how Saint Valentine wasn't really much of a romantic, or some other anti-commercialism, mildly depressing rot. Or at least a barely-veiled advert for books extant and upcoming (you know, What Cecil Did On His Holidays would have been perfect for a Valentine's Day release). Instead, here we are. Because what I am good at, in theory, is thinking of pleasant things to do in general. So here are ten Valentine’s Day suggestions that should work whether you’re alone, or with someone, or with more than one someone.

1. Flowers and chocolates. They're a classic for a reason. Everyone loves flowers.** Everyone loves chocolates.*** Getting them, or just having them automatically cheers you up. Whether it’s a bunch of tired, crispy-edged red roses from the supermarket, a massive, ostentatious, probably-overpriced bouquet from a designer florist, or a couple of barely-opening daffodils from the patch beside your door, flowers have the power to lift your heart. Buy them for yourself, buy them for a sweetheart, buy them for the overworked person behind the till. Watch someone smile as you hand them over, or fill your own room and feel a little better every time you turn your head. Chocolates are less decorative, but there’s something about giving or getting a box, about sharing a box, or about curling up under a blanket with a whole box of chocolates all to yourself, that can make a warm glow of happiness spread all the way to your toes. On which subject… 2. Bake something. The world is full of adverts for Melting Oozing Caramel-Filled Extra-Divine Sensuous Whatever right now. If you want something to do with the day, or if you’re in search of a reasonably manageable romantic gesture, then baking your own gooey indulgence can be just the way to go. There are hundreds of recipes on the net, so you’re bound to find exactly what you want, whoever you’re planning to feed it to. As an extra bonus you get to turn your nose up at all those adverts, safe in the knowledge that yours is bound to be better. Also, your whole house will smell of baking, which is even better than flowers for lifting the spirits.


A close up of my kitchen counter: I have a bowl, a sieve, two eggs, double cream, cocoa, two big bars of Cadburys Bourneville, caster sugar (in which I buried a vanilla pod some time last year), golden syrup and about two thirds of three different recipes. I also have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.
"Decadent Molten Brownie Hearts." How hard can it be?

3. Take a bubble bath. I don’t know why bubble baths always seem to get relegated to the sexy-getting-ready sidelines on Valentine’s Day. Personally, I could spend hours in there with a few candles, something bubbly in the bath, and something bubbly to drink (maybe not alcohol with all those candles around). Share with someone you love (if you think you’ll both fit) or put on something to listen to — I recommend Greg Jenner’s You’re Dead To Me on BBC Sounds - they even have a Valentine’s special — and lounge in blissful solitude.

Alternatively...

4. Get out of the house. Go for a walk in the woods and look for the tips of green leaves and the first budding flowers; go and hide in the cinema behind a giant tub of warm popcorn - hand to hold entirely optional.

If you’re feeling down, just getting out and doing something can help, and if you’re with someone you love — in whatever way — then even the most boring activity can seem fascinating and new. If that’s not quite enough… 5. Get out and explore.

Wander round a local museum or walk through a gallery and make up your own names for all the art installations.

Perhaps visit a zoo or wildlife park to make some new friends — did you know that elephants think humans are cute? — or actually take that trip to the one slightly too out of the way place that you’ve always meant to visit.

Or if all that sounds far too much… 6. Stay in and relax. Marathon your favourite trashy**** series, or stream something high-brow from the Royal Opera House — Giselle is perfect for watching in romantic company or consoling yourself that you’re better off alone; or just find a streaming service, put some popcorn in the microwave, and let the cinema come to you.

If a lazy night still isn’t exactly what you had in mind… 7. Stay in and learn.

You can even attend talks or lectures online these days. (I know: I’m old and out of touch, now shush and let me enjoy the wonders of the modern age) My plans for the night involve The Regency Cook’s event Love And Loathing On Saint Valentine’s Night (you can still get tickets at https://www.paulcouchman.co.uk/courses/ ), but if that doesn’t thrill you to your bones then you’re bound to find something more to your taste. Failing that, BBC iPlayer is probably full of documentaries right now. Or if that’s all too serious… 8. Stay in and play. If the last suggestion sounded almost, but not quite right, try a games night. There are hundreds of board and card games out there (Mayhem, the Chronicles of St Mary’s card game was my idea of a good Valentine’s present last year), and you can play with your true love, or your untrue love, or with your friends, or go online and play with total strangers at https://en.boardgamearena.com/ (or if you’re in the mood for something rowdier and sillier there’s always https://jackbox.tv/ ) If that still doesn’t sound quite right… 9. Stay in and start something new. Take up crochet, or Portuguese, or juggling fire. A new hobby can be a wonderful — or merely hilarious — thing to share, and the sense of achievement when something finally clicks is a great way to feel good about yourself. Besides, you never know when it might come in useful. And lastly, of course… 10. Read a good book. If all of the above sound like too much work, try falling back on an old favourite, or pick up something new. I am contractually obliged to recommend that dazzling so-called anti-romance The Vicar Man here (or I would be if I was under that kind of contract), but any book you love will do. Read to someone special, for an intimate cosy night, cuddle down and read to yourself, or just close your eyes and let an audiobook take you away from it all. Blankets and hot chocolate optional.

*Very happily too, thank you. **Except the allergic ***Likewise allergies **** "Trashy" Pfft. Who decides these things anyway?

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