It's dreadful, it's dowdy, and it doesn't rhyme

Anna Maxted says it won't be the end of the world if you don't get a Valentine card on Tuesday. But it may feel like it

The figure standing forlornly in the middle of Woolworth's greeting card section turns out to be Michael Barnet, 24, from Hastings.

One man with crew-cut hair and a leather jacket against hundreds of delicate pink syrupy sweet coochy-coo Valentine cards, an army of chocolate lollipop lips encased in heart-covered cellophane wrapping, and several generations of furry little hugging teddy bears holding itty-bitty signs saying "Kiss Me". It's all a bit much. "They're just too sentimental," he mutters miserably. "I think I'll just send flowers."

Choosing a Valentine card is a difficult business. There is a great deal of choice, but sadly most of it is pap. Amid a vast range I spy an upholstered monstrosity featuring a love scene from Watership Down and the curly-lettered message "Somebunny loves you." This is a perfect card for any one of a couple who wear matching home- knitted mittens, communicate in silly voices and address each other in public as "Wusskin pusskin bottytoots." If however, your intended buys their mittens from Kookai, casually employs words such as "contraversy" and calls you by your Christian name, such a card is not for them. They will certainly expect something a little more funky.

Michael's girlfriend is a modern gal. She will not take kindly to a photograph of two labrador puppies snoring on a bed of roses. He opens a card with a watercolour heart and a splodgey flowers design. It reads: "A Valentine for the one I love, the one who does so much to give each day that passes by a brighter touch. Your love, your faith in me, your gentle understanding all make me realise how lucky I am to have your love and you." From his expression, one suspects that Michael would rather send his lover a letter bomb. "It's dreadful, it's dowdy," he splutters. "And the last bit doesn't rhyme."

The nature of your card depends on the stage of your relationship, and the character of your loved one. Michael finally chooses a sketch of a scruffy cartoon dog with the words "You stole my heart - I hope you realise this calls for a strip search." Cheeky but cute and sincere with a low slush-factor. The idea is to communicate your desire and affection without being too flippant or over-soppy. A foot-tall card illustrated with a long-lashed bambi and the declaration: "I'm happy to be giving my loving heart to you/ And Valentine it's wonderful/ To know you love me too" is perfect in its proper place (the bin) but foolhardy if its planned recipient is a fur-phobic conservationist with a bodybuilder boyfriend who isn't you.

You may, of course, wish to cover all options. Sarah Thompson, 26, from Camden, north London, has bought her boyfriend two cards. She says: "One is a cartoon of a couple snogging on the sofa in front of the TV and the caption is something like `Her heart leapt as he said those three magic words - Sod the football.' It's more or less the truth! I wanted to get a funny one because a big part of our relationship is having a laugh together." Her other card is from the Victoria and Albert museum. "It's Victorian style with cherubs and a poem," she says. "We've been together a while and I wanted to get him something more romantic than a modern card which he'd throw away the next week."

Laura Goldman, 29, from Newcastle, has splashed out on a £1.99 advent- calendar style card for the man of her life. It pictures a droopy-eyed dog sitting under the heading "Do you love me?" and contains 24 little heart chocolates behind windows bearing unique messages like "I thought I'd get you something expensive and special," "You have the body of a supermodel," and "Let's go down the golf course." Their relationship is, Laura explains, fairly casual: "There are some conventional messages there like `I can't stop thinking about you,' but I wanted to take the mick a bit, so I don't appear too stifling. He probably won't get me anything."

The rat! Yet this brings us to the million-dollar question; what if the unthinkable happens and you don't receive a single card? What will you say when your worst enemy crows "How many cards did you get? - I got 55 and he's taking me to New York on Concorde for dinner!" How will you cope when a mighty crop of red roses is delivered to the beastly girl who sits beside you in the office? Huddled alone in front of A Question of Sport with your microwavable shepherd's pie for one, won't you choke on the knowledge that every restaurant in the country is packed with twosomes gazing lovingly over the ketchup and feeding each other oysters?

Toby Robbins, a sports reporter from Leeds, is bracing himself for the worst. His love life is somewhat complicated. Having split with his long- term girlfriend, he'd formed an easy-going liaison with one of his flatmates. He then went on a lads' ski trip where he met a delightful blonde called Tina. Being an honest chap he told his flatmate, who didn't receive the news with whoops of joy. Toby had attempted to avoid 14 February by planning another holiday but this had to be cancelled because of work commitments. "I was up for about four cards, but it suddenly looks like it's down to nought." What about Tina? "She doesn't have my address."

Being a resourceful sort, Toby has several plans to numb the pain. One: make sure he is reporting on a match that night. Two: send himself a card. Three: get his sister to send him a card. Four: stay in bed (alone) all day and thus avoid potentially wounding comments from colleagues. One has to admit that plans number 2, 3 and 4 sound tempting. Yet Toby's fifth option is the real corker. "I plan," he announces, "to be pissed off at first, and then just pissed." Topping idea: two bottles of red wine go so well with shepherd's pie.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

    Recruitment Genius: General Processor

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot