The festival of St Valentine almost certainly had nothing at all to do with love. It is a late adaptation of the pagan festival of Lupercalia in which half-clad, quarter-clad or not clad at all young men ran round Rome to ensure fertility. Prior to running around in the altogether, they had sacrificed a goat and cut the skin into strips, which they flicked people with, while they ran. If they flicked a pregnant lady, this was supposed to be extremely lucky for the lady. Less so for the goat. This ancient festival belonging to a culture without little blue pills or antibiotics or organised ante-natal care, is the origin of the date, which was originally a couple of days, and its association with the colour red and lurve. St Valentine, an early Christian martyr, got co-opted without his permission a few centuries afterwards.
The date has remained the same as the original. As it is bushfire season on one hemisphere and black ice season on the other, it isn’t a bad time of year to consider what we really love,
I love having warm feet. Cold feet are such a misery. If you get into bed without a hot water bottle in the middle of winter and cannot get your feet warm, you cannot get to sleep. If it’s that cold the blood will stay round your middle, keeping your digestion and your heart and your breathing going but leave your feet at the end of the bed there like solid blocks of ice. I believe this to be a female thing. If you, a very ignorant young male, fresh from your run round the streets of Rome wearing little, carried away on a wave of fertility, accidentally married a female impersonator, you’d know you had made a horrible mistake when you tentatively reached your sweaty feet down into the depths of the four poster to encounter more hot feet and a surprisingly deep voice in your ear going ‘Well, hello.’
Being female I like warm feet. I am happiest with my feet when nature has warmed them with sunshine. For this reason I do love sandals. Not the Roman laced-up thick soled smelling of fish sauce variety, nor the flat as a pancake chafing thong between the toes kind of numerous cultures (honestly, who would invent footwear that can give you blisters between your toes, as well?) No, I like the kind with heels and padded soles in white or gold. I put sandals away for the winter but I do keep a pair out in the wardrobe that I can pop my head in to look at to remind me that summer is on the way eventually.
We probably don’t love our feet enough, poor things. They carry you through life, including all the extra poundage most of us acquire round the middle when we stop running anywhere and get in a car instead. My poor feet have broken toes that stick up. The first was earned sliding across a newly polished school hall floor in heels. The hairline fracture didn’t show up in the X-Ray, so I walked on with hope in my heart and high heeled shoes on my feet, until the bone set sticking up in the air. The second broken toe was in the second lockdown when, still wearing sandals, like a fool, in November, I walked my bare feet into the open bed drawer and then didn’t go to A&E at all, in order not to fetch the virus home, hoping my swollen toe was just bruised.
If I have to wear socks and shoes I do love a new pair of socks but I am mean with them. Putting on a new pair is a flick to the wallet, even though socks do not cost that much. Consequently I have a shoebox full of new socks which I occasionally open, look at, murmur with surprise about how nice the new socks are, then close the box, forcing my feet into the crunchy old socks, swivelling the holey bit round under the toe and pretending it isn’t there. Know thyself. Skinflint with socks, that’s me.
Recourse to the people we love the most, rather than the closest people, has been helpful during the current difficulties.
I do love Paul McCartney. Me and half the planet. I modelled him as a doll, about thirty years ago. He has the most perfect zygotic arch. As I have told you endlessly here I saw the Beatles in 1963 at the Sunderland Empire. The way Paul sprang onto the stage in the spring of his spring lives in my memory forever; he was the beautiful young troubadour, beloved of the gods and always will be, as far as I’m concerned. You can still find him singing No More Lonely Nights online together with a bit of the film, which was really just a long pop video with a plot about as discernible as most pop videos. I reckon on the video he’s about the same age as the S&H is now, just coming into his forties. I think we will probably never meet, which is possibly just as well for him, as I have the urge to lick his face very thoroughly. He has gone on record as saying people are tongue tied when they meet him, sadly I would not be, in any way whatsoever, and I believe it’s going to be some years before licking people’s faces at all is in any way acceptable as a greeting.
I also love Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons. He started them in the 1980s, the S&H grew up with them and finds them as birthday cards for me. They are not political, which has given them great longevity, but are about the human condition, as seen by animals, which gives them permanence, as long as there are humans (a close run thing, currently) and animals, they are relevant. At the start of lockdown, moving books in the house makeover, I came upon an early large book of them. It got me through the first lockdown laughing, so when the second rolled around, I rowed up the big river retailer and found a couple of second-hand ones. As we slid into autumn and it became clear Christmas would not occur, I paddled further up the river and found a complete boxed set. They were released in 2014 as a boxed set of three books for quite a bit of money. Uncaring I sent away, expecting something well-thumbed but they arrived plastic-wrapped and pristine. Sock-like I have only read the first pair of volumes, so far. I contacted the seller who found me another brand new one, which was the Christmas Present for the S&H, weighing like a brick and costing a fortune to send through the post but worth every penny. The boxed set includes some letters of complaint. sent by readers to the original newspaper publisher, whining, woofing and barking about how sick Gary Larson is, which neatly make several points. I do love the letters and the cartoons and I still have the third volume to come, along with about ten pairs of socks..
And, of course, I love writing. Other pastimes have come and gone but writing in many guises is always there. I still feel happy when I think about the lady who was thrilled to discover she had been writing prose. I have written prose, poetry, plays, letters and had several years of notes to the milkman which were finely crafted miracles of hilarity and brevity. Then the milkman retired and something was lost to the world. I hope he kept them. Post cards, missives, emails, love letters, I like writing. I like writing with a pen, a brush nib, a fibre point, a calligraphy pen, a scalpel, a propelling pencil, a keyboard. I like manual typewriters, electric typewriters, word processors and computer keyboards. I do like painting, drawing, colouring and, of course sculpting. I love sculpting. I am currently sculpting and drawing a lot of cats. I do love cats and miss not having one. Once I am past assorted surgery and restored to fitness I’d love a cat. Gardening is better with a cat.
But most of all I just love writing words. I like writing funny words, sad words, thoughtful words, happy words, cheerful words and all the combinations of those you can think of. I like waking in the morning with the words in my head ready to go on the paper, which happens more often than you can imagine.
I love writing words and you love reading them. We are the perfect pair. You can do it with all your clothes on and not a goat in sight. I can do it frequently in pyjamas currently, sometimes in work-out gear and occasionally in underwear, depending on when the words appear in my head, I have been known to rush in from the garden and do it in my wellies.
I love you being there, reading the words. It’s great. I love reading emails and correspond regularly with readers. This has been happening since I wrote for magazines. I’ve done it myself on occasion. When your life gets so desperate you just want to run away from it but can’t, it helps to write to someone who is always on your side but will never turn up to run their finger along the top of your bookcase and frown at the result. It’s unconditional love, a very rare thing in anyone you’ve known face-to-face for some years but common among cats, who wouldn’t love humans at all if they knew how to work the tin opener themselves, and dogs who just love everything.
It’s love that makes the world go round. (It isn’t really, it’s because the planets formed through spinning, powered by magnetic attraction and the need to run through the cosmos, flicking lesser heavenly bodies with bits of trailing firmament, but, you know.)
And we all love Tim Berners-Lee who gave us the www. so I could be here and you could click on Leave a Comment, just down there and tell me what you lurve.