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Vinegar Valentines and more - our anti-Valentine's Day roundup

February 7, 2014
by Laura Canning | offbeat | seasonal

Is it just us...? Whether you’re single, smugly coupled-up or in that twenty-first century state known as ‘it’s complicated’, if you’re the type to make dark mutterings  about Valentine’s Day, we at salute you. (Not that we’ve ever been known to express cynicism about an event the entire country/world is supposedly salivating over, of course.)

While we’d never turn down a lavish February gift of a steak dinner, choccies, wine, or indded an early spring lodge holiday - and while we actually can sometimes be romantic old soppy types (after the fourth pint, at least) - we have always been a bit curmudgeonly about Valentine’s Day.

It's not because of the trauma inflicted at school as The Beautiful People waltzed up to our spotty mulleted selves with a fistful of cards and enquired sweetly how many we’d got (not that we ever sent any to ourselves using heavily disguised handwriting, oh no). We have been known to have received a card or two since then, and not just from our mums either. But we still object to the day itself as supposedly the only day one can be 'romantic', and as an overall clichéd fluff trap designed to part people from their money, whatever the tenuous reason . (So there.)

And yet! Our grouchy anti-Valentine’s Day browsings have unearthed some traditions, hilarity and downright schadenfreude which have cheered us up no end, and which we will be laughing at while downing a bottle of gin and watching back to back Summer Heights High on the evening of the day itself. (Lest it doesn’t seem so, these are happy pastimes.) So in anti-celebration/fellow commiseration mode, here’s our look at the shabbier aspects of the Hallmark hol:

Horrible histories

Romantic Valentine's Day cross-stitching Our black little hearts have been lifted to know that Valentine’s Day has a gory history worthy of a recently dumped Tarantino. The original Valentine appears to have been not a sickly Hallmark card but a priest in the time of the emperor Claudius the Second, who helped Christians flee from persecution and who was clubbed to death for his pains.

(Another story has him merely imprisoned for helping couples to marry, but in the absence of reliable data we’re going for the bloodthirsty account.) We mightn’t be into Valentine’s Day as it is now, but we’ll be raising a glass to Valentine later all the same.

Cheapass customs

If you’re coupled up and have the type of partner who insists on hot air balloon rides, diamond rings or any other Valentine’s Day present costing more than a tenner, there are a few customs from years gone by to try instead:

  • In Saxon England, it was traditional for young men to give young women gloves. (Primark usually sell two pairs for £1. We’re just saying.)
  • Or take your beau birdwatching : if a woman sees a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, she’ll marry a sailor; if she sees a goldfinch, she’ll marry a rich man. We’re sure this will work these days if it’s the man eagerly scanning the skies to see who he’ll marry, but be sure you’re actually a sailor and/or rich before introducing the custom.

It’s also said that the first man an unmarried woman sees on 14 February will be her future husband: we think this can be safely filed under ‘not leaving the house all weekend’.

Vinegar Valentines

And you thought online dating was tough The nineteenth century equivalent of online trolling, albeit with a good deal more wit, vinegar Valentines were cards with a barbed verse sent to individuals who apparently needed to be told a few home truths. In other words, a sort of poison pen letter in verse:

Your bright shining pate is seen at all shows

And invariably down in bald-headed row,

Where you make conspicuous by your tender care,

Your true ardent love for that one lonesome hair.

While our lovely natures mean we can’t quite call for vinegar Valentines to be revived for the average pleb, we think there is a large market to get them introduced in the political arena . We’re composing as we type.

Disastrous dates

How we’ve enjoyed reading through woe-ridden accounts of Valentine’s Day and first dates gone wrong, even though they’ve made us either consider shackling ourselves to our lesser halves for life to avoid ever dating again, or strengthened a resolve to stay happily single.

From being subjected to a chokehold to being followed by ‘a bloke dressed in shoes and socks, a woolly jumper and nothing else’ , these are our favourite tales of dating gone awry. Feel free to add your own in the comments:

  • ‘First date. Asked my age. Me: "32, why?" Him: "Well, I really want kids and at 32, your ovaries are dying.”’
  • ‘I went on a date and he took me on a burglary.’
  • ‘Met guy at his flat, opened door in blue check fleece dressing gown and an electronic tag on his ankle, "Shall we just stay in?”’
  • ‘..he kept his arms folded. Later he told me that the shirt he was wearing was so old that he had Sellotaped the holes in the armpits together. By lunchtime the Sellotape had got tangled up with his armpit hair and he was in agony.’
  • ‘He kept on an overly large coat throughout. The reason became clear when he stole my handbag while I was in the toilet.’
  • ‘On the way to restaurant he proceeded to take off his shoe to air out the fungus that was growing on his foot…we remained friends but the relationship never blossomed.’ (Sprouted?)

If you really must

Despite all the cynicism above, we do operate a ‘live and let live’ policy at (mostly; we have a List of Things Excepted), and as noted, we can sometimes be quite romantic when the spirits take us. Just not on a designated day. And so, a few holiday options for loved-up couples for the rest of February, March and beyond; add your dates to our availability calendar to see what's what:

Sites in a remote location

Einon Valley Camping Pods , Ceredigion . Pods from £20 a night! Assure your beloved this merely saves more money to spend on champagne. Pods are available now.

Wild camping sites

Camping Saltire , Málaga . One-bedroom lodge with ensuite loo, shower, double glazing and heating, set in the Genal Valley 20 minutes from the Sierra de Grazalema Nature Reserve. From £47.29 a night, available now.

'C'mere, you.'

Peaceful campsites

BCC Loch Ness Glamping , Highlands and Islands : Riverside hobbit house camping pods with one double and two single mattresses, wifi and firepit. Gas and electric included. From £35 a night, available now.

And, because it's bargainous and in Hungary (brownie points galore):

Tranquil Pines Caravan and Camping Site , Tolna : Touring caravan with double bed, electric hook-up, heating, ensuite loo/shower and heating, in the rural village of Koppanyszanto. From £25, available now.

Adults-only campsites

Grooby’s Pit , Lincolnshire : lakeside camping pods on a fishing site and birdwatching haven. Pods from £49 from 1 April; pitches available now from £17.

See also

Campsites in France - romantique

Campsites in Spain - romántico

Lodges, pods, cabins and huts

Sites with shepherd’s huts

Sites with a hot tub

Sites with a restaurant nearby

And – but perhaps best to wait until summer – naturist sites .

Happy Valentine's Day, all! (Bah.)