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Fuck Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2021

I did something yesterday that I’ve never done before, even though I gather it’s enormously popular on Instagram. (I am, as Woody Allen once described his relationship with nature, at two with Instagram.) I took and posted a photo of a meal I was about to eat.

I took the photo because the meal did look pretty good and to post it with this message: “You don’t need a Valentine to have an excellent Valentine’s Day dinner. You just need to have Val McDermid with you.”

This is what I normally post on Valentine’s Day.

Yesterday, after posting it, I added this one for fun.

Fuck Valentine’s Day.

I say that, not because for much of my life there has been no “Valentine” in my life, but because it is a stupid, ridiculous “holiday” manufactured by Hallmark and Interflora.

Okay, not entirely manufactured. St Valentine Day does go way back, a day marked in the Catholic calendar to commemorate not one, but two Valentines martyred by Claudius II in third century AD. At the time of his reign, the big thing in February was the three-day festival of Lupercalia, during which men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. (Fun, eh?) It wasn’t until the fifth century that Pope Gelasius I succeeded in banishing the pagan festival from the calendar.

And, yes, as this NPR piece observes, Chaucer and Shakespeare made a number of references to Valentine’s Day, the making and exchanging paper cards began in the Middle Ages and the Victorians just loved Valentine’s Day. In 2011, the year the article was written, between cards, candies and flowers, Valentine’s Day generated $18 billion. No doubt well over $20 billion by now.

Fuck Valentine’s Day.

On 14 February 1993 (the year after we got together), Mike walked into the Greenpeace office and presented me with a dozen long stem red roses. I guess it was a sweet – dare I say romantic? – gesture, but the truth is it embarrassed the hell out of me. I told him to never do it again. Yes, we exchanged cards (funny ones from Urban Empire, a shop on the Drive some of you will remember) and, yes, some years we went out for dinner, but I would just as happily have let the stupid day go by unmarked in any way.


When the chef at our wonderful island restaurant sent me a copy of the menu he’d created for yesterday and Saturday, I took one look at it and then forwarded it to a friend, asking if she wanted to be my “Valentine”.

Of course she said yes. Then we had the big dump of snow that put paid to our Saturday reservation. Sigh.

When the local paper came out last week I spotted an ad in which our grocery store listed its specials, including frozen half lobsters and asparagus. Ha! I thought. I’m going to make myself a very nice dinner on Sunday and I’m even going to use the good china. Which I did.

My thanks to the grocery store and to my friend Catherine for the last of the birthday bottles of Stoneleigh she bought me and to Val McDermid for being an excellent dinner companion.

It was somehow my first date with Val. I don’t know how this is possible, as she’s been the queen of Scottish noir for years, but I’d never read one of her mysteries. I knew immediately, to steal a line from my favourite film, that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Given the size of her back catalogue she may very well still be my date next year. Now that is something to celebrate.

Fuck Valentine’s Day.

From → Blog

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