Our High Street this week, I have to say, is a shame to us all. It's gone a trashy shade of red. The colour pollution of Valentine's paraphernalia started four weeks ago. Four! Barely had the dregs of the January sales rails been relegated further into bargain bins when Clinton's was transposed into a sea of red. When I went in hoping to find an 'It's A Boy' congratulatory card and a suitable baby blue bear to go with it, all I could see were A3 sized To-My-Special-One cards, bears with red hearts emblazoned across their bosoms, glitter coated balloons and chocolate carved red roses.
Doesn't anyone have babies or birthdays or new jobs or deaths around Valentine's Day? Love comes first, of course. Well it does when there is a 1.7 billion pound industry to be tapped into according to the FT this week.
Waitrose was no better. The promotional shelves by the entrance were screaming with Champagne offers. You can't miss them because most are wrapped in electric sick-pink cellophane. One can't even buy a cupcake at this time of year without it having an iced heart on it. As for seasonal inflation, even a bunch of daffodils costs a fiver at this time of year.
A survey last week by Adults.co.uk one of the largest UK dating websites found that many couples begrudge the obligation for buying a gift on Valentine's Day and preferred to personalise the way they express their affections. The same survey found that most singles are happy to have a first date on the 14th, shedding the old fashioned belief that it could get a bit heavy.
Here. Here. I certainly don't begrudge rejoicing in the splendid emotion of amour. But I do begrudge the day being dictated to us. What if you've had a row? Or you have the business opportunity of a lifetime which takes you away? I would hate to imagine the dinner penalty for the latter.
There is no other public celebration unaffiliated to religion which has grown as rapidly as Valentine's Day. There are mixed stories as to the origins of the legendary Saint's special day. One theory contends that St Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome who performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons.
Unlike the UK High Street's other commercial honey traps such as Christmas or Easter or the May Bank Holiday, which have authenticized historical roots, Valentine's Day is one built on speculation about a Saint whom we don't know was real or legend.
This week is also Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. This has much more historical significance but there's only so much money to be made from flour, milk and eggs, so there is much less hype. Plus, if we bigged up Lent, it would be dreadful for the profits of the gastronomy industry. It makes much more commercial sense to cash in on the vulnerability of young romantic love. When it comes to love and sex, people will dig deep.
In Brazil, Shrove Tuesday is marked with a carnival. In New Orleans it's celebrated via Mardis Gras. But in a rain sodden country in the Northern Hemisphere all there is to do, really, is stay indoors and beat eggs into batter. The decadence can be directed to the more lucrative Valentine's industry.
I have laid down a no-presents rule for Valentine's Day with my loved one. Red hearts don't go with the colour theme of my bedroom, chocolate is no good for the waistline and anyone who loves anyone should relieve them of the obligation to set foot into a teddy-lined card shop at this time of year.
This is my first Valentine's Day with a partner for many years. Yet I'd prefer to bypass it. Having been a long-term contented singleton, I can't help thinking that it makes much more sense for all to mark a day for single people. Buy them flowers and perfume and life sized cards. Spread the costs.
Couples have engagements, hen party gifts, weddings, baby showers, christenings, anniversaries, kids' birthdays. They hardly need another day to buy a gift and think of another witty line to write in a card. If anyone stays single and child-free by age 40, they have a right to declare a 'Buy me a present day'. Their friends and loved ones owe them a thanks for not having to buy them so many plastic objects throughout the years.
There seems to be a gap somewhere in summer, a few weeks after Father's Day, just as the wedding season is dying down, before we go crazy over Halloween. Perhaps there is room for a Singletines Day?