Saint Valentine's day! The worst day of the year for my poor old postman.
Oh no, not because his sack is overloaded with loving cards and trinkets from my scores of admirers, but because I verbally abuse him for having stolen all of it. Seriously, does he really think I believe his tale that nobody has sent me a single thing yet AGAIN?
In reality, aside from the ones that I've sent to myself (and others that have been well disguised as bills and the Damart catalogue) I've only ever received one Valentine's card in my life.
This was when I was 15 and at school. It was from a girl called Kerry. She was very lovely and drew a picture on a folded Post It note of some cute creature (a cat I think) holding a heart. Inside it said something like "wishing you a happy Valentine's day", i.e. there was no actual declaration of undying love, just a wish for a happy day.
Despite this, it still warmed my heart. I carried it around in my jacket pocket and proudly showed it to anyone who would look. It was a bit like being a New York detective who would whip out his badge to prove his credentials. If anyone made out that I was in anyway undesirable, I'd produce my crumpled Post It note to prove them wrong. I then frisked them down and sent them away to be processed by the boys in the downtown precinct.
In my own shambolic way, I then attempted to court Kerry for the last few months we were at school together. I'd casually loiter around the corridor where I knew she'd be having her last lesson of the day, just so I could say 'hi' to her as she filed past with her class mates.
Just getting a glimpse and a word from her made the long walk home (having missed my bus by hanging around) much more bearable. The first half mile, I was walking on air. The rest of the journey, I was on my last legs (I've never had the gift of athleticism) but still glad I'd seen her nonetheless.
Eventually, several months down the line - in the Easter holidays if I remember correctly - I summoned the courage to phone up and ask her out. This was long before the days of mobiles and texting. Back then, one had to actually talk to the person of their affection right from the outset. And worse still, there was always the possibility that you'd end up speaking to one of her parents if they were to answer the phone.
Despite the risks involved, which felt like they may ACTUALLY kill me, I armed myself with a big glass of water to soothe my sandpaper-dry mouth and a little script of what I was going to say. I must have sounded like a telemarketer trying to sell someone double glazing. Except instead of new windows, the product was a dream date to watch 'Look Who's Talking Too' at the local Odeon.
Despite a very wobbly voice and several episodes of hyperventilation, somehow I managed to dupe her into thinking this would be a great idea and she agreed to accompany me.
My initial euphoria soon turned to sheer terror as I realised that in just a couple of days time, I would be having to, you know, go on a date and stuff. What does one do on these things? Where would this lead? Should I propose before initiating any kind of physical contact?
I felt both amazingly excited and extremely anxious about what lay before me. I couldn't sleep much, but I was weeing a lot.
When the fateful day arrived, I got up early and had like three showers or something and washed my hair twice, trying to get it just right (it was 1990 and I had what I hoped were cool spikes, but they probably just looked a bad kind of messy, stuck fast with gel that went flaky before long).
About an hour before I was due to leave, I had a phone call. It was her! She was ever so sorry, but she couldn't make it after all. She had to babysit someone at short notice.
Was this a genuine thing or had she had an epiphany about what she had agreed to? I guess I should have been upset, but in fact I was elated with relief. What to me was an almighty terrifying task, had just been removed. It was like receiving a stay of execution.
I can't really remember much of what happened after this. I left school to take my GCSEs and only saw her very occasionally. The last encounter I remember with her was at a bus stop a year or so later. I sensed she wasn't at all interested - she had blossomed and was really attractive and clever, so I suspect that she now had lots of fine chaps who could see in her what I always had. Without Twitter or Facebook or mobiles to keep in touch, that was that - we completely lost contact.
As it turns out, 'Look Who's Talking Too' was one of the worst films of all time, so at least I saved some money on that, not to mention the whole dying of embarrassment thing.
Anyway, in conclusion, I know that some people detest Valentine's day for its commercialism and also the pressure some single people feel it puts on them. But it can also be an opportunity to bring people together (even if everything eventually ends up going to rat shit).
I do wonder what St Valentine would make of everything that is now done in his name. I had a quick look on Wikipedia to see what he was like and was struck by the following quote:
"Nothing is reliably known of St. Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on February 14 on Via Flaminia in the north of Rome".
So it turns out that Valentine's Day IS actually nothing but bullshit after all!