David Randall: How do I love thee? Let me survey the ways and use it for marketing

Romantic corners of the world
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The Independent Online

Valentine's Day, traditionally a festival of love, is one or two other things, too. It is, for men especially, a carnival of moral blackmail, when, however revolted you are by gouging prices charged by florists and restaurants, you feel obliged to cough up, lest your failure to do so is the subject of frequent reminders in the year ahead. And it is also the peak season for spurious surveys.

Here's a sample that we have received (and see how many of the figures you think are convincing): 80 per cent of dog owners would not date someone who did not like their pet; 36 per cent of pet owners touched their pets more often than they did their partners; a majority of women in Essex expect to receive gifts to the value of at least £100; and 27 per cent of people turn their phones off on 14 February, lest they are tempted to call their exes. No, we didn't believe them either.

* There are many who, mystifyingly, believe that giving some highly original gift for Valentine's Day says more about the depth of their feelings than day-to-day attentiveness. For them, Bronx Zoo has just the thing. Forget the box of chocs, bunch of over-priced flowers bought at the station on the way home, or the saucy underwear, the zoo is offering an entirely different way to show him or her just how much you care: naming a cockroach after them.

But this is not just any cockroach. This is a Madagascar hissing cockroach, and, for a mere $10, sentimental types can give their lover a creeping, crawling namesake.

No need to hurry while stocks last: they breed freely, and, at the time of going to press, there were 58,000 awaiting a name. As the zoo says: "Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever." Ahh.

* Some of us will mark Valentine's Day by having a meal with our partners, while others will spend the occasion in other, less conventional, ways. Take Dave Hockey, a 57-year-old from Nova Scotia, Canada, for instance. He will not be at home with Mrs Hockey, but touring the world with six female companions. His wife, he says, doesn't mind. This is partly, we suspect, because he seems a little bit strange, but mainly because his female chums are blow-up dolls.

"My wife," he says, "understands it is a hobby." Quite which ones are accompanying him on the $25,470 (£15,900) trip is not known – he does, after all, have 14 of them to choose from, ranging from the $3,200 Bianca, through Jocelyn, Lilly, Ruby and Jessica, to the diminutive Miyuki. He's done this sort of thing before, filming a previous road trip to California to meet fellow doll owners, during which he took Bianca for a ride on a Harley Davidson, and sky diving. You old romantic, Dave.

* Always a bit risky to proclaim your love in public, we've always felt, and now the proof has come from Germany. A 29-year-old man was trying to fix on a motorway bridge a sign marking 10 blissful years with his beloved, when he slipped, fell and was hit by two cars. His widow has been informed.

* A New Zealand radio station rather keener on generating publicity than it is on showing some intelligence has set a new Valentine's Day low. The station, which it would love us to name but which we won't, is running a Win a Wife contest.

Quite a few "wife wanters" have entered already, submitting profiles and photographs, from which the "lucky" winner will be chosen. They will then – and this is where it gets a bit tacky – be flown to Ukraine for 12 nights to pick their bride from a selection of what the radio station calls "potentially hot foreign chicks".

Predictable complaints have followed, to which the radio guys responded with the Top Gear laddist defence: "It's only a bit of a laugh". The Ukrainian authorities, as well as New Zealand's immigration service, may well have other words for it.