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So last week was Valentine’s Day, a day of abject misery for singletons, a day designed by Hallmarks to boost their profits, a day which men everywhere dread and engage in through a mere sense of reluctant duty… Or so we are told.

I myself rather enjoyed it.

Now I’m not going to come across as the sort of person who loves the occasion for what it is. There is still much to despise about it, not least the horrendous scenes that greet you should you take your girlfriend out to a restaurant on February 14th. Indeed the service industry gets Valentine’s day totally wrong. In their eyes we all want to sit down with our partner (horrible word, apologies) and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes while being serenaded by a violinist like some sort of human Lady and the Tramp. Fine, some girls like that. Some boys like that. They are however both odd.

This is not normal

This is not normal

I would however go as far as to suggest that anyone who gets caught up in the more awful, commercial end of Valentine’s Day has been slightly lazy.

Those people who are seen queuing for Lidl own-brand roses on the way home from work. Those people who get ripped off on Interflora because they can do sub-24 hour delivery. Those people who end up being patronised by an irritating waiter in an unfathomably expensive restaurant… They are all the victims of their own disorganisation and lack of originality.

I planned a week before that I would cook a meal at mine for my girlfriend, and it became a fun project. I am, after all, a person who likes entertaining but requires motivation to do so. As such, Valentine’s Day became an excuse for me to try a few new recipes, to make the place look nice, to finally drink that bottle of champagne I’ve had since god-knows-when. All of which was genuinely pleasant.

Earlier in the week, while discussing Trivial Pursuits’ weekly strategy (miraculously there is one) on email, Ed had countered Beenie’s anti-Valentine’s sentiments by correctly pointing out that all girls say to their boyfriends that they don’t really care about Valentine’s Day… Until they catch wind of where their friends are being taken by their boyfriend, then carnage ensues… Usually involving at least one or two female utterances of “It’s fine, blended with an air of underlying menace not seen since the Berlin wall came down. “It’s fine” can standardly be translated for men as “you’re fucked”.

Yes, of course it's fine...

Yes, of course it’s fine…

The fallout of the sort of scenario depicted there is that the man will have to completely reassess his plans (or lack of) and ends up falling into every single one of the aforementioned last minute commercial traps. This then repeats itself year-on-year until the object of his affections has a ring on her finger, at which point she chills out a bit. I imagine.

But enough of that. What I like about Valentine’s Day is that it is an excuse to do something you have wanted to do. A friend took his girlfriend to Cirque de Soleil, a show that they had wanted to see for a while, yet I know that he wouldn’t have booked were it not for the excuse/obligation. Those who made a proper plan probably all had a great time.

It’s a very similar scenario to New Year, in my mind. Every November you ask people what they are doing and you pretty unanimously get the response that: “New Year is a waste of time, it’s always a disappointment, I can’t be arsed to do anything this year, blah, blah, blah…”, Then, with about two weeks to go, they all face up to the reality that they’re not 50 yet, and that a quiet night in with Jools Holland is about as appealing as a romantic citybreak with Oscar Pistorious (too soon?) and they panic. Panic leads to a crap last-minute plan. And they end up having a bad time. Which further reinforces their lack of enthusiasm for the following year. The wheel keeps turning.

The thing about both events, and I’d be tempted to add birthdays into the equation, is that you should never feel some sort of grinding obligation to do anything just because conventional wisdom says you must.

I’m fed up of people who moan about how much of a pain in the arse Valentine’s day is. If you don’t like it, ignore it. If you feel like you should do something, then do something you want to do. It is what you make of it, so if you resent the occasion, you only have yourself to blame. Now cheer up and I’ll see you on December 31st.

by Harry Harland