A few tips for Valentine's Day
My late husband Desmond, the incurable romantic, used to send me a dozen long-stemmed red roses every Valentine's Day.
I remember the thrill of their arrival, always with an unsigned card, just to keep the tradition of anonymity going. Obviously, I knew who had sent them.
They were in a class of their own. The stems were as long as my arm, and the gorgeous, tightly furled crimson petals stayed sweetly fragrant for more than a week. Where he bought such special blooms, I don't know, and what they cost him, I dare not think, but the memory lasted all year.
Indeed, since Desi died 12 years ago – and I'm reminiscing about his Valentine roses now – the joy they gave me has lasted a good 20 years. It just goes to show a romantic gift can outlive the giver.
But in case you want to follow his example this Valentine's Day, let me give you a few tips.
Say it with flowers
Unless you visit the florist and select it yourself, it's risky sending a bouquet. I've had some pretty pathetic ones over the years, chosen no doubt lovingly, but limp and faded by the time they reached me.
Mind you, it's also risky visiting any florist at this time of year, the price of red roses being sky high. This is why I've been researching long-stemmed roses online, to see if they're better value, and to give my lovely, absent-minded son a hint or two.
Truthfully, I can't tell the difference between the £60 bunches and the £25 bouquets, but the crucial point is whether your roses will deliver a message of love in bloom or passion that is faded and on the wane.
I just don't know.
How about a bottle of wine, instead? Champagne is the obvious choice. Personally, I am allergic to it. I'm not asking for sympathy, just stating a fact in case my son is reading this and thinking of buying a bottle for me. In any case, sparkling elderflower is healthier and cheaper, although it may not have quite the romantic impact of a £150 bottle of Bolly.
Or maybe food is the answer. As the proverb goes, the way to a man's (or woman's) heart is through his stomach. I would avoid chocolates – bad for the teeth and the bathroom scales.
How about caviar? A friend kindly sent me some for Christmas. Although it was quite a tiny box, he left the receipt in (by accident, he claimed) and the bill was so huge it certainly made me appreciate every tiny, squishy black egg.
It is perfect for either gender and it's entirely up to you how much you want to spend. Amazon is selling sustainable Sevruga (delicious) for about £30 per tin, and sustainable Beluga (even more delicious) for around £150.
Some people recommend buying lingerie for a lady Valentine. I'm not so sure. There's something a bit tacky about it – it's rather too obvious. Instead, how about carefully choosing an ‘experience', such as white-water rafting or ice-climbing – the downside being that if you break your ankle, or your neck, that might cause a rift.
Even the comparatively safe photographic makeover could be interpreted as an insult. So a badly chosen experience could turn out to be a passion killer if you're unlucky.
That priceless gift
If it is really the thought that counts, I have one last idea: offer your Valentine one complete day devoted to your love.
Promise to turn off your mobile, switch off the computer and concentrate entirely on spending time together. No friends, no children, just the two of you. I guarantee that will either kill your relationship entirely or give you a memory at least as lasting as a dozen long-stemmed red roses. And, what's more, it costs no money at all.