Valentine's Day makes me reach for a gun

The horror is almost upon us. Next Monday, it all happens. The St Valentine's Day massacre. Already the shops are filling up with red and pink objects, in grim warning of the madness that is upon us: Red hearts. Pink soap. Red velvet greetings cards. Pink champagne. Red boxes of heart-shaped chocolates. Pink ribboned nameless things...

"Already I have had floods of inquiries from punters about St Valentine's Day," says one greengrocer who prefers to remain anonymous. "`Have you got anything pink or red?' they say. `A bunch of red fruit or veg as a change from red roses?'

"`Well', I say, `I can give you some rhubarb. Or some pink grapefruit.'

"`Wonderful!' they say. So I've got 40 kilos of rhubarb and a hundred pink grapefruit on order.

"One bloke came in and asked if I had any heart-shaped vegetables. I told him: `The odd potato is heart-shaped.'

"`I'll have a dozen,' he said.

"It's madness!"

And it's deep red, heart-shaped madness!

"Yes, it's mad," says a butcher who doesn't care if he remains anonymous or not. "I've had people from early January asking if we do any heart- shaped pieces of meat. `Well, we do ox heart, if that's what you mean,' I said.

"No, that's not what they mean. Heart isn't heart-shaped, apparently. Won't do at all. Looks like an operation gone wrong. What they want is a steak cut in the shape of a heart, for cooking pink. So that's what I do. More and more every year. It's madness."

Yes, it's definitely madness, according to Dr Hertz van Rental, a psychiatrist who specialises in post-Valentine stress disorder and hates to remain anonymous.

"I have identified several new syndromes caused entirely by St Valentine's Day. One is pre-Valentine anxiety, caused by worrying whether the sufferer, typically female, is going to get any Valentine's card at all. One is post-Valentine anxiety, caused by getting a card but not being sure who it is from, and suspecting even, if the sufferer is female, that her mother has sent her a Valentine's card just to make sure she gets one. Another form of this is caused by getting several cards and not knowing who they are from!

"The strain of having unknown admirers is unbearable.

"There is also post-Valentine stress, in which the sufferer typically dreams he or she is being crushed to death by wobbly pink things, or being pursued by a pink or red monster called `Tiggly-Wumps' or `Your Sweet Thing'. And increasingly, I find that restaurateurs are having anxiety attacks when it comes to St Valentine's Day."

"You can say that again," says a restaurateur who would like the name of his restaurant prominently displayed, so let us call it Wood's.

"Valentine's Day is the most depressing day of the year, especially when it is on a Saturday, when it's going to be full anyway.

"But whenever the 14th falls, you get a room full of silent couples going lovey dovey to each other, which is as dreary as you can get. Ambience? Forget it. Last year wasn't quite so bad, actually. One couple had a huge argument, which everyone else listened to, culminating in the woman storming out and driving off in their car, followed by the man on foot. Unless, of course, it was a well-rehearsed plan to avoid paying..."

This column is dedicated to the memory of Reinhardt Schwimmer, a Chicago eyeglass fitter. Schwimmer was fascinated by gangsters, and on 14 Feb 1929 went along to Clark Street to hang out with the Bugs Moran gang. Before lunch, he had been machine-gunned to death with six genuine gangsters, and thus suffered from St Valentine's Day even more gruesomely than the rest of us.

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