When true love goes wrong

There are all kinds of lovers: star-struck, ill-fated, unrequited and just plain daft. On this St Valentine's Day David Randall honours them all

If I have learnt one thing after 36 years of being intermittently considerate to the woman I love, it is this: romantic gestures are most effective when they come as a surprise exception to one's normal oafish behaviour. Though they can work as an expression of guilt, or a means to earn parole from the doghouse, it is motive-free sincerity and spontaneity that cast a spell and let one bask, however briefly, in the glow of passionate gratitude.

Thus one arrives at the heart of the trouble with 14 February. It's one of those dates that get circled (in the mind, if not on the calendar), and so creates expectation on one side and a sense of obligation on the other. And, as many a woman has noted, no man is at his best when feeling compelled to perform. It isn't that we baulk at spending £3.49 on a schmaltzy card, £17.50 on a few roses, or £78.69 (plus tip) on the "Valentine's Extravaganza" night at the local Italian. It's that doing it on 14 February robs it of any sincerity. By contrast, an unexpected bunch of daffs (however bedraggled) on, say, 29 March, has a lot more traction on the "Oh, darling, you shouldn't have" front. Better, in my hard-won experience, to mark Valentine's Day by cooking her a meal, curling up together with the DVD of a good weepie and letting feminine nature take its course.

I'd like to be able to claim that this is my regular – as opposed to once a year in mid-Feb – mode. But this is not quite the case. Despite being a man who proposed to his wife three days after meeting her (and two days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 55 seconds after wanting to do so) – and as someone who has to swallow hard to maintain composure at the end of Sleepless in Seattle – I fail, like most husbands, to put into practice what we know to be sound, sensible romance policy. Ordinary life, indolence, the taking of a little friend for granted so often get in the way.

But there are some for whom the job of finding, pursuing and romancing a mate is something that no power or distraction on earth can impede. And still others with natures so fiery that, if their love is unrequited, rejected, scorned or ill-used, their vengeance knows no bounds. These are the heroes and villains of St Valentine's Day. And it is now time to meet them:

The search

Scouring the planet for The One can be a lengthy process. The average Briton has 22 dates, three one-night stands, and three long relationships before finding true love, a 2008 survey claimed. The experience of an East Sussex civil servant, David Hayhoe, was somewhat to the north of this. A late-flowering, if not actually shrinking, violet who did not go out with women until his thirties, he had, by 2007, dated 731 of them. Thankfully for posterity, he recorded details of each one, and so we can authoritatively say that they included 48 Susans, 23 Lindas, 23 Annes and a whole coachload of unsuitable partners. Among them was Mary, who arrived for their meeting, got out of her car, took one look at his shoes, declared them unacceptably "shiny" and sped off. By contrast, Kelly Mulligan from Brighton had, up to two years ago, dates with a mere five Ians, four Richards, three Nicks, four Americans, two Greeks, one Australian, and 81 others. None seemed to hit the spot.

Love at first sight

It does happen. Sometimes, acting on impulse is simple, other times not, as with the Bavarian woman who, in 2005, had one dance with a stranger in the Austrian ski resort of St Anton and then said goodnight. She went looking for him next day, but was told he'd gone home to Copenhagen. All she knew was his name, Carsten. So, nothing for it but to sit down and write to every one of the 1,100 Carstens in the Danish capital. Finally, letter No 341 hit the target. Phone calls and meetings followed.

It doesn't always end thus. In 2003, a computer salesman, Gregory Betros, was smitten after briefly meeting a Norwegian girl on a train. After a few futile attempts to trace her, he set up a website, offered a reward, placed ads in Norway's papers, and even printed and distributed 30,000 flyers. Finally a newspaper traced the beguiling Gerda. Did it all end happily ever after? No. "I don't know what he was thinking of. I told him I wasn't interested three years ago," she said. Frustrating, too, for Romanian Sandu Gurguiatu who fell so instantly and deeply in love with Judge Elena Lala, that he launched more than 100 lawsuits against his employers just so that he could gaze at her in court. She, alas, was indifferent. Sadder still was Gunther Bergmann, a German so beguiled by the voice of the emergency service operator who answered his call one day that he began ringing the number just to hear her. Only arrest stopped his incessant calls.

How we met

Love can strike at any time. Take the the American woman who dumped her fiancé after falling in love with her wedding planner; and also the unlucky Taiwanese love-letter writer. He sent more than 900 of them to his sweetheart, and, sure enough, she married the postman. Even the briefest note of affection can get you into trouble: witness the US nurse who, in 2001, went on trial for professional malpractice, assault and defamation after she wrote "I love Dr Shaffer" in red marker pen on a sedated patient's buttocks.

Then there was Tatiana Karpov, a Russian woman living in Murmansk, who found true love in even stranger circumstances. In early 2007, her husband, Andrei, staked her in a poker game with a Sergei Brodov, and lost. When Andrei broke the news, she immediately demanded a divorce. And the story might have ended there, had not Tatiana subsequently met Mr Brodov, fallen in love and married him.

The palm for bizarre meetings, however, is probably taken by one David Brown. One night in 2002, he woke after a night out to find a telephone number buzzing around his head. He texted it, asking: "Did I meet you last night?" The recipient, Michelle Kitson, a student in Cambridge, had not met him, but, out of curiosity, she replied. They began to phone each other, met, started dating and eventually married in March 2007.

The date

And so to The Date, an event which is so often proof of the immutable law that good intentions are no protection against calamity. Take the romantic German who, in 2001, decided to give his lady a surprise. He blindfolded her, put her in his car, drove her off to a lake, took off her mask, and there was a picnic laid out with candles and champagne. Unfortunately, as they drove to the venue, a passing motorist had seen a blindfolded woman in the car, assumed the worst and rung police. The picnic was rudely interrupted by the sound of sirens and squad cars screeching to a halt. Only with some difficulty did the couple explain the touching circumstances.

Even if the date does go well, there can still be repercussions, sometimes years later. In 2004, Nikolai Kozlov sued his former girlfriend for the return of the chocolates, nuts, bananas and an apple with which he showered her on their dates. She said it was too late – she'd eaten them. The same year, a 35-year-old New York divorcee broke off her five-year relationship with a 57-year-old executive – whereupon he sued her for the return of the BMW car and $75,000 ring he gave her, plus every cent of the money he had spent on her, plus interest: a grand total of $392,000.

And finally... breaking up is hard to do

The old song is right, and sometimes in ways one wouldn't dream of. Take Alan Jenkins, from Port Talbot, who, in a fit of romance, decided to have a life-sized tattoo of Lisa, his partner, etched on his back. Sadly, not long after spending a total of 20 hours under the needle, Lisa left him for a younger man.

Only he and Lisa would know what went wrong, but sometimes even the least sensitive observer can see signs of trouble in a relationship. Every man should have a hobby, but some can allow them to intrude a wee bit too much. In 2002, for instance, Maureen Roberts from South Wales had to tell her husband, Ray: "Either your ventriloquist's dummy goes or I do." Ray reportedly always laid a place for Charlie Boy at table, took him along on shopping expeditions, and even wanted him there when the couple went for a romantic meal. Mrs Roberts said: "Ray spends more time talking to a lump of wood than me." A common complaint, chaps – don't let it be true tonight.

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
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
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits