I will be the first to admit that I’m not the world’s biggest romantic, particularly when it comes to Valentine’s Day.
I don’t feel the compulsion to spend the GDP of a small African country on a random day in mid-February to demonstrate my love for Heather, ignoring the fact that there are 364 other days in the year in which I can do that.
So while everyone else in the world was busy updating photos of roses and restaurants and glasses of champagne, here are five things we didn’t do this year – and what we did instead.
1. Have a lie-in
Okay, this wasn’t by choice. Gone are the days when we would have had a leisurely breakfast in bed. Oh no. 5:30am was the order of the day. (Did someone move the kids forward on to British Summer Time without telling me?)
Instead, my grand romantic gesture was to volunteer to go downstairs with our three kids, sort out breakfast, put Taylor Swift videos on and allow Heather an extra hour and a half in bed, before swapping over so that I could doze for long enough to function for the rest of the day. An ordinary weekend morning, in other words.
2. Buy a card from the children
In the past, I’ve ummed and ahhed over whether to buy Heather a card from the kids, succumbing on a few occasions.
This year I remembered that they hand-make their own cards at after school club and preschool, which is far cuter and cheaper. Speaking of which, why are these special-day cards always so expensive? I picked up an ordinary one – nice enough but not gold-plated or anything – and barely covered it with a £5 note.
Of course, greetings cards are coded rather than price-marked, so the first I knew about the cost was when the assistant rang it up at the till, at which point you can’t really say, “Er, I’ve changed my mind. I do love my wife, but have you got anything a little, y’know, cheaper?”
For that amount of money, the card really ought to come with at least a kissagram, no?
3. Buy an expensive gift
As far as I’m concerned, presents are for Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries and those stomach-churning moments when you realise you’ve forgotten something really important and need to
bribe your way out of trouble make up for it. So, about once a week on average.
Having said that, I do tend to buy Heather a small box of fine chocolates – small not because I’m cheap but because it’s mid-February and she’s usually on a diet. This year the box I selected (a Heston Blumenthal-badged collection from Waitrose) had the additional benefit of being reduced to clear from ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ to ‘merely exorbitant’. But could I get the sticker off the box? No. It was attached with the same kind of adhesive they use to attach a toddler to their favourite toy. Harrumph.
I didn’t wrap it either. What’s the point? It looks much better as it is than it does after my ham-fisted attempts to smother it in paper. Anyway, I’ve always believed that presents – like people – are all about what’s inside rather than the wrapping. (Mind you, by that analogy if you think about it I appear to be advocating nudity. Oops.)
4. Order flowers
And we’re back to requiring the GDP of a small African country again. You pay a premium to order a florist’s Valentine’s special. Then you pay another premium to have it delivered on the correct day. And then they deliver it while you’re out, either leaving it on the doorstep in the pouring rain or with a neighbour, which kind of ruins the effect.
For the amount I’ve paid in the past to get a half-decent arrangement delivered, I’d want it delivered by the Milk Tray man. And he can double up as the kissagram that should come with my £5 card as far as I’m concerned too.
Instead, Isaac and I popped into town a few days before and picked out some nice flowers ourselves in Waitrose, which we then presented to Heather. Personal delivery and about £40 less. Sorted.
5. Eat out
The biggest rip-off of all. To guarantee a table, you have to book weeks in advance and what do you get? You’re charged double to eat from a set menu you don’t want, in a prescribed time slot that you don’t want, with terrible service because the restaurant is crammed full. And you have to pay for a babysitter.
Stuff that for a game of soldiers. I picked up two juicy steaks from our local butcher, hand-picked my own menu and cooked it myself at home. We sat in our own dining room and had a conversation without having to shout over 20 other couples trying to do the same thing. And it still cost me barely half as much as an evening out.
Romantic gestures: if they’re not overrated and over-hyped, they’re definitely overpriced in my book. Give me a nice quiet evening at home any day.
What about you? Was your Valentine’s day one of grand expensive gestures or small personal touches? Or did you ignore it altogether?