Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Valentine's, Schmalentine's: aka tolling the bell for the rose with no smell?

Yesterday I paid a visit to a luxury hotel on the outskirts of town, which is well known locally as a venue for conferences and weddings. A friend had been at a work event there recently, and was singing the praises of the hotel's promotional pen that she had used on the day. It wrote so smoothly, apparently, and was lovely to hold. Although she had taken it away with her, it had since run out, as she had used it so much. "Aha, I said", quickly diagnosing the attraction. "I think I know exactly the pen quality you like - partly haptics in the hand, and partly glide performance", to which she replied: "Haptics and glide. Exactly so." 

Sensing a challenge to which I could rise, I first made a telephone inquiry to the hotel, to confirm the identity of the pen and check they still had some in stock, then called in and met the receptionist I had spoken to, who immediately handed me a pair of pens to give to my friend, and refused to take any money for them. "We can't even remember what they cost!"

On the desk at reception I couldn't help but notice two large boutique paper carrier bags with rope handles, each containing dozens and dozens of single stem red roses, individually wrapped in cellophane. It took me a moment to compute that they were probably going to be favours at place settings for romantic Valentine's Day meals the following day, rather than the unsolicited kind touted in armfuls from table to table by the rose-equivalent of a Big Issue seller, endlessly repeating the question: "Flower for the lady?"

Source: flowerspeterborough.co.uk

I remembered how characterless and bland such roses are, with their tiny compact heads - and crucially no smell. Sour grapes you could say, hehe...

Mind you, there was an interesting poll about Valentine's Day reported on the radio yesterday, which found that only a third of couples were planning to mark the occasion "with a romantic interest", and of those, just under two thirds were going to stay in rather than have a special meal out, go to an event, or travel. Along with the Danes and the Spanish, we Brits are the most sceptical and bah humbug-ish nation in the world, with over 80% of us believing that the 14th February is not a "proper" special occasion, but one "celebrated more because of pressure from commercial entities". Perhaps surprisingly, the Chinese lead the table of considering Valentine's Day to be a genuine day for lovers (41%, compared to just 13% of Britons and a paltry 5% of Danes). I found those statistics quite revealing, for if you only based your judgment on the window displays of Clinton Cards and the M & S Food Hall you would get the impression that every woman in the land is going to cop for a bunch of of odourless roses, an oversized and disconcertingly squishy teddy bear, and a heart shaped box of truffles.

I was trying to remember the last time I received a mystery Valentine's card, and I fear it may be as far back as 1983. I eventually worked out who it was from - a boy on my college course in whom, sadly for us both, I had no interest. I am not sure I have ever received a secret card which did turn out to be sent by the person I hoped it would be from. This of course excludes "open exchanges" of cards from partners - and from cats indeed. For most of my time with ex-Mr Bonkers, four cards would change hands each year. I was always very impressed at the coherence of the writing. 

This morning I heard the thud of the post and scurried downstairs to find a pizza leaflet and two catalogues. One of these was called Owl and Barn, and featured a host of ornaments of questionable taste, including a pair of resin ducks dressed in gardening clothes, a Thoughts Tube Lamp (don't ask), a Special Friend Butterfly Tribute "with pink Austrian crystal elements", no less, an Angel's Blessing Music Box, an Illuminated Everlasting (= Faux) Orchids Terrarium, and a selection of the most depressingly mumsy fleecy sweatshirts with demure collars I have ever had the misfortune to lay my eyes on, in equally unflattering colours like Man City blue. Clearly I haven't been surfing right, to have been targeted with a catalogue of such arresting tweeness.

Now I was going to wear a rose perfume as a small concession to the day, but I accidentally sprayed on Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel before I remembered, haha - a more dissimilar scent to rose could hardly be imagined. There is at least a mini bottle of pink Prosecco in the fridge, although it is only Tuesday.  I will also launch a surgical strike on the supermarkets tomorrow, and buy myself some more flowers at a hopefully reduced rate. These cheery tulips are arguably beyond the pale now... 

Do you celebrate Valentine's Day with your significant other - or yourself, even, in the spirit of "self-care"? (Please feel free to shoot me for using that term)

How properly special vs commercial do you feel it is?

And do you also choose your SOTD with the occasion in mind?

If you would prefer to read a more romantic, "on-message" Valentine's post (well, that might still be a stretch in places), here is one from ten years ago today!


Hazel said...

Unless your brother is playing an uncharacteristic double game, I'm not seeing any chocolate, roses or soft toys in my immediate future. More likely recycled chicken in a Thai sauce, reduced-to-clear blackcurrant mousse, and a bottle of white. Not that the day was ever, historically, an avalanche of cards. Not even a snowflake's worth.

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

I sense all my brother's games are probably on the computer? You are lucky to be spared the soft toys if the ones in Clinton Cards' window are anything to go by. Your menu sounds nice, all the more so for knowing how much you are saving versus going out. I already went to Aldi in fact, as the tulips were embarrassing...got a spring bouquet for £3.99 with roses, tulips, hyacinth and an iris. There were also a dozen red roses for the same price!, but they barely looked as though they were breathing...I may mean photosynthesizing, if they can still do that in a bucket of water?

Ines said...

I believe that the original thought of celebrating love is a beautiful one. How it looks like today is another topic.
I celebrated by having a beer with my old friend (she is the best person to have a beer with) and then decided to buy Caravelle epicee as my first bottle is long gone and I love it.

Anonymous said...

Spooky. I have just been mourning the passing of my Sheaffer pen's italic nib. When I wrote with that, it cast a magic spell to make my work look good, but the ordinary nib makes my script look ... ordinary. So I understand how important it is to get the right/write tool, and to what lengths one might have to go to in doing so.

Our cats are really attentive and always send us cards for all occasions.

Didn't think to wear a rose perfume yesterday, but think if I had, it would have been my latest favourite, Portrait of a Lady.


Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

I like the sound of your Valentine's celebration - the company of friends can always be relied on - and it was a good excuse to replace your long finished bottle.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

LOL at "right/write" tool, and it was interesting to hear your Schaeffer story. I have had some long and meaningful relationships with pens myself, and always needed a quick, "glidey" kind of fountain pen to do my note taking in interviews.

Cats are great card senders, aren't they? They must practise holding a pen all the rest of the year, hehe.

PoaL is a very special scent, I agree.

Portia said...

Hey there Vanessa,
Jin and I both spurn Hallmark Day and yet....
We both had gifts for each other, had a pre VD dinner and a Post VD lunch. This year there were no cards and I'm not a flower person at all unless they're still attached to the ground.

Sadly, I'm not much of a pen person. It looks like a fun thing to care about but it doesn't tick any of my boxers.
Portia x

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

I think the idea of celebrating either side of the day itself is a good one! And gifts are a nice touch. Might they have involved perfume, I wonder...?

LOL at preferring flowers attached to the ground. I must say I love spring flowers in the house at this time of year, but am quite happy to buy them for myself.

Anonymous said...

This year a neighbour secretly gave us all valentines, the ones we used to give in primary school with terrible puns. It was quite sweet. -AnnieA

Portia said...

No Vanessa,
Jin bought me a beautiful Tommy Bahama long sleeved linen shirt in navy blue with flowers printed on the shoulders. We had seen them heavily discounted and Jin went back and got the one I liked. It's a really thoughtful gift because I've only got one other dressy casual long sleeved shirt.
He got a Basquait printed shoulder bag that he'd loved one day while we were out shopping. It's larger than his backpacks or messenger bag but still cabin baggage suitable.
Not really romantic buys but we both got things we wanted.
Portia xx

Undina said...

I LOVE Valentines Day, and we always celebrate.
Did you hear people complaining about celebrating Thanksgiving because it’s all a commercial plot? Or a New Year? (I’m not talking about holidays with religious “undercurrent” since it’s different. If you have what to celebrate, why would you care how commercial it is for others? Don’t buy expensive gifts. Don’t go to expensive restaurants. Do something nice and romantic.

We cooked something that we don’t cook too often. Opened a bottle of champagne. And watched together some movie. It was nice.

I always wear Parfum de Rosine Rose d’Amour - it’s my personal tradition. I put on a red top and a heart-shaped necklace (a co-worker with whom I had a Zoom meeting that day complimented me on the V-day outfit :) ).

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

What a lovely idea on the part of your neighbour! I'd appreciate a card with terrible puns. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

I think it is the height of romanticism in fact to spot something your partner likes, make a note, and buy it later. And I do agree that a dressy casual shirt is an important wardrobe item. Bet you both get a lot of wear out of your gifts.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I think you have a very good approach to Valentine's, by marking the occasion without the excessive commercialism, and I love your account of your and your vSO's rituals. Your outfit and coordinating perfume sound perfect. It is also so close to your birthday that you can turn it into one long celebration.

I suppose Valentine's feels a bit more commercial to me than the two other times of year you mention, because apart from having a turkey at Thanksgiving, or watching fireworks at New Year, say, there isn't the same pressure to "buy/do stuff" around that time. Also, Thanksgiving and New Year have always been just what the name says, whereas originally Valentine's Day commemorated the martyr of that name, but the date gradually evolved into this more commercial celebration of love and romance. I feel the same about Mother's and Father's Days really, and so did my own mother, who boycotted both. Perhaps that is where my reticence comes from. But anyway, as I did buy myself some biscuits and flowers, and drank the mini pink Prosecco(!), it just goes to show that I do want to feel part of the occasion after all. ;)