Kensington High Street, the weekend before Valentine’s Day.
The stress is tangible. Countless men shocked by heart-shaped window displays into the realisation that 14 February is nigh, and they have done… nothing. By contrast, women take V-Day in their stride - at least those with a partner upon which to bestow a pink helium balloon with love bunnies on it.
For those who will neither give nor receive, a Zen-like state of feigned nonchalance appears to be de rigueur. It’s no good bitching about it being a “Hallmark Holiday”. Leave aside for now that it’s as much a moonpig.com holiday these days, and let’s enjoy the collective madness that comes upon us at such times. When I lived in Manhattan, every child in the girls’ classes had to give each of the other children a card for fear any might be left upset. They were under eight! My cynical British view that to be heartbroken on Valentine’s Day is a growing-up ritual left my bemused daughters at the centre of an impromptu pity party. And yet. Despite the crassness and nonsense, sometimes a thoughtful act can dispel life’s usual mundanity.
I still remember the teenage thrill of having an anonymous, scented hand-written (in gold) scroll, containing one of Shakespeare’s love sonnets, fall on my mat. Like a fool, I opened and read it rather than chase after the unmistakeable sound of an older woman’s stiletto heels walking away. I ran out into the night, but... For a fleeting moment, a Croydon council estate was a place of magical romance. Sadly (?), I never did find out “who”. And I soon felt like a lemon standing there. But, I had the scroll! Ignore the commercialism and rise above cynicism.
If you can do something special for someone you love, whether they yet know it or not, then do. Life’s too short not to spread a little love around. Whatever the date.