According to Roman Hagiography the origins of St Valentine, is obscure, all that is known is that he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate, after trying to convert the Emperor Claudius Gothicus on the 14th in the third century AD. No romance there, and neither was he the patron saint of lovers. How did St Valentine's come down to roses and chocolates heaven only knows?
It was in the 14th century when Chaucer wrote about the 14th as a feast day, that it came to be associated with lovers. However the allegory of the red red rose, is a powerful symbol of love, because while Venus and Flora were nonchalantly scattering white rose petals, Adonis was fatally maimed by a boar. Venus grazed her voluptuous thigh on a white rose thorn when rushing over to mourn her lost lover and thus her blood tinged the white rose, red. That's food for thought when you receive your customary bunch from a mystery lover and if you wish to cultivate admirers and lovers, then read, no further than Dangerous Women :The Guide to Modern Life By Clare Conville, Liz Hoggard and Sarah-Jane Lovett.
With heavy hints on how best to be a femme fatal and adventuress; it also advocates being a gentlewoman in the 21st century; no easy feat. A lexicon covering 600 subjects, it explores ways of living a charmed un-harried life from bee keeping, holding soirées to tap-dancing and cultivating graciousness.
The book loves the 'gentlewoman' going to proper department stores like Peter Jones, writing thank-you letters, behaving well as a houseguest and to never speak about your health to your hostess. Whilst entertaining is a high priority domesticity is not, taking Nancy Mitford's view that housework is more 'frightening than hunting'. 'Behind every immaculate house is dull person' and 'many people spend more time loading and unloading the dishwasher than having sex. This is unwise.' Studying philosophy and reading poems in queues is time better spent.
Grooming, and glamour are also high on the agenda, extolling the virtues of creative corsetry, petticoats and a beautifully cut tweed jacket 'even if you haven't got your own personal crag, highland, stretch of gorse or patch of heather.'
The Guide addresses all kinds of moral dilemmas; should you have an affair? By all means but not if the wife is desperately ill, and that 'Cinq a sept is that magic time to conduct an affair, recommending that 'afternoon sex has its own pleasures and rewards.'
D.W does not dig up acres of moral high ground it says 'don't take it'. Loose morals, affairs and wild parties are allowed (bad manners are not). There is even the redemptive path too, explaining how to enter a convent.
To save you wading through the turgid waters of 'Self Help' and 'How To' books this guide book reduces the pool of received knowledge on women's psychology, alternative therapies, curative measures for depression and grief into pithy sound bites. 'You should just lie on the sofa and sob for two days,' or adhere to Winston Churchill. " When you are going through hell just keep going".
With a good dose of realism the distinction is made between 'aloneness' and 'loneliness'; that the former is about enjoying solitude and the latter is a grinding sort of hell. And cites Cicero; "'never less lonely than when completely alone.'
The book is both philosophical and practical, laced with witticisms, anecdotes, aphorisms and quotes from literary sources as diverse as Alain de Botton to Cicero. Occasionally the odd platitude has slipped in, posing as an irony like' tomorrow is another day' from Gone With The Wind" or 'quite a lot of fuss is made about childbirth.'
A 'feminine' rather than a 'feminist' treatise, the authors point out that 'feminism has become a dirty word' although the guide remains firm on sexual equality. Never prim, and always proper, the guide even stresses that 'twice is polite', for one-night stands or as the French put it more subtlety sans lendemain.
'Dangerous Women' is for the bedside or poolside, although it would appear there is scant time for reading in bed when you could be making love or sleeping off a hangover after a wild party whilst the entry on swimming is a 'form of positive existentialism'; think about that when you are next doing your obligatory laps.
Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Rather than flowers and chocolates, or worse the sickly chocolate infused 'Angel' fragrance, the more inspired, the treats, the more heartfelt; although a dozen of the best are still wildly romantic. When a dozen roses were delivered the offending bunch caused my husband much anguish until I explained it was from Moonpig who are the exemplary red rose company. One is either a rose person or a lily one; I find roses haughty and austere, I prefer the latter, carnal lilies smelling as if dipped in vanilla clotted cream.
For an amourous interlude, consider Bailbrook Hotel, near Bath, a neo classical mansion, to rekindle passions or ignite them. My husband and I had a test run.
We stayed in a magnificent suite, sleeping in a barley sugared four poster and bathing in a copper bath beneath a plasma screen, every luxury had been laid on, an acreage of white towels, those waffle type dressing gowns and magazines aplenty. It is soothing and spacious, hardly like a hotel except for the lift and fire escapes.
The Cloisters restaurant is in the bowels of the building, formerly the old kitchens, and the menu of meager helpings are frankly, suited for tuberculoid sparrows.
It is a British trait to be so fussy on presentation (much flourishing of napkins etc) and fail on the food. My husband's soup was served in a coffee cup, our bland Welsh sea bass, atop a smidgeon of pureed potato and creamed cabbage, had barely a trace of the clams and mussels in butter sauce, my miniscule crème brulee was cold and did not have that delectable crust that has to be torched, and doubtless was not, while the canapés were stale although the champagne was dry enough. The cheeses arrived on a slate that resembled a mousetrap and considering the hotel's propinquity to the cheddar gorge, why three exiguous pieces to nibble on? More of the same at breakfast or should I say less, rations really, one rasher of bacon, one scrambled egg, one baby tomato (on the vine mind you), need I go on, this is cuisine nouvelle (served on the obligatory discus size white plates,) gone bonkers, the chef would do well to enliven the menu.
The hotel is well placed for Bath on the local bus, the princely town of honey coloured Neo Classical architecture, where many of Jane Austen 's heroines secretly and discretely fall in love.
A daring and salacious Valentine date, is a night out on the tiles.... literally. At the Museum of London, they are unleashing hitherto unseen erotic and sexy 18th tiles, on the 14th, (Late London, the City of Seduction). The explicit tiles were unearthed in the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet Street, fifty years ago, are a Hogarthian version of the Karma Sutra, that include a woman spanking a man's bottom with a switch, I shall go, try to patent the tiles and attempt some of their instruction.
Or woo your beloved with 'Hammamas' ('the clever cotton towel') attached with a voucher to the Peak Health Club at the curiously Levantine Jumeirah Carlton Tower, wafting with scents of oudh. I had a masseur pummel me and an enfleurrage body wrap; a mélange of bees wax, vitamin c, and sorgham (to tighten the skin). I was then sealed in cling film, like 'polythene pam'; and after I had been hot flannelled down, radiant with the resulting 'Lunafirm body firm and glow spa', I had a wine glass of beetroot and ginger juice, price, a steep £8.50, maybe worth it for the panorama at the top of the Carlton Tower. For an extra boost, I swallow 'Bee Prepared' capsules and brighten my mince pies with Sampar eye anti puffiness, -dark-circles and wrinkles -roll -on -gel; magic stuff. Thus pummeled, radiated, inspired by erotica, I am primed for Valentines; 'Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori' Love conquers all, so we too shall yield to love.'