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
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
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
News
people
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
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
Arts and Entertainment
Jeffrey Archer holds up a copy of 'Kane and Abel', a book he says was ripped-off by Bollywood
books
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Fay Weldon suggested authors should tailor their work for Kindle readers
books
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: 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...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

    £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

    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
    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
    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
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers