Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'My husband did nothing to mark Valentine's Day. He didn't even text me. I decided to have a full-on strop'
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The Independent Online

All right then. Just assuming you don't read my column every week (I mean, who would? OK, hello mum and dad, but you should know you guys are weird), I'd like to let you in on last week's rant. It went something like this...



Valentine's Day is for LOSERS. Anyone who even thinks about buying a rose/receiving a rose/going near a rose bush/listening to "Kiss from a Rose" is a total. Um, cock. I made the point that it's just a Hallmark day and it doesn't mean anything and yada, yada, yada. I thought to myself it's just not sexy for a man to be that organised.

Well, guess what my husband did to mark 14 February?

NOTHING. That's right, ladies and gents. He took me at my word. He didn't buy me a card with two seals kissing on it, he didn't send me a massive box of chocolates and he didn't even text me a Valentine's message. I mean, really? Does he know NOTHING about women?

Anyway, I decided to have a full-on strop. This is, I'll be honest with you, quite a scary thing. Most of the time I'm pretty smiley and easy-going, but the "I'll believe what she says about Valentine's Day and I'll treat her the same as I do every other day" thing? I mean, I might be with him for another three years or so and something had to quite obviously be done.

You might know that women can be scary in two ways. There's Plan A, screaming and shouting, or Plan B, going deadly quiet.

Well, guess what? My girlfriends and I have invented a way you can do both. Oh yes, take note. It's called "The Terrify Them Treatment" and it goes something like this. A phone call along the lines of: "I hate you. You're a moron. We are NEVER kissing again!", and then you must go silent. As quiet as a hare. (If they're very hush-hush. Which I think they probably are.) And quickly, too. Like a button being switched off. There is no weeping or wailing or, God forbid, requests to be "held". The first rule is that immediately after the first rant, your mobile must be switched off straight away. The boy panics. Has she thrown herself off a bridge? Has she gone to meet another man? Has she really had enough? Is she moving to Des Moines?

Genius, right? And just when he thinks he can't take it any more – he's asked his boss for the afternoon off, he's considering buying a diamond bracelet and he's called and left messages with your mum (the TRUE sign of pure unadulterated freefall panic) – you call and let rip again: "I can't believe you've done this to me. You must love someone else. Do you want us to no longer be together?" And then you go dark once again. This, over a 12-hour period, is enough to make a man truly lose it.

Hooray for us.

So 15 February wasn't particularly great fun in our house until my husband told me we were off to Paris for the weekend. And with our children. Now, there's nothing more romantic than Paris. Even a heart-shaped box of violet creams given to you on a heart-shaped bed of pink rose petals after a candlelit supper on a heart-shaped island in the middle of a heart-shaped pond is less romantic.

Paris is simply IT. Even if it was raining and I was by myself with a Peperami (the very idea makes me physically retch – it's a pencil cylinder of salami, right? With a personality?), about to purchase a miniature Eiffel Tower made out of spider webs, it would still be the most romantic city on earth.

We sauntered everywhere and smiled at the birds, and as for the kids? Well, all I can say is that every town should have a square with donkeys wearing hats who are willing to walk a three-year-old round for a little bit. I know the donkeys might not like it and they might not suit a straw boater and all that, but you know, they're donkeys.

The whole trip was made even more marvellous because we were staying at the brilliant Bristol hotel, which famously has the best concierge in Paris. They told us where to eat, where to find a swing, where to find the friendliest donkeys, which aquarium had the best assortment of sharks, which crêpe filling was the least sticky and what: "Uh, I'm really sorry and I know I'm a nightmare and please forgive me and you never ever ever have to mention Valentine's Day for as long as we're together which hopefully might even be longer than another three years," is in French.

We tested them over three days. Do you have a pair of goggles for the swimming pool? ("Mais bien sûr, Madame.") Do you know where I can find a shop that just sells mittens? ("Oui. Oui. Oui.") Do you think you could find me a babysitter who would text me every four minutes so that I can relax over supper? ("Ah. Certainement. Her name is Crystal and she is on her way.")

So there it is. The A-Z route to true fulfilment. A concierge. A troupe of uniformed men who are available 24 hours to meet my demanding demands. And for three days my husband provided the hotel that had it. Now that's romance.

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