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.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

    £30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

    C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Law Costs

    Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution