Valentine’s Day didn’t pan out as it usually does in the Canavan household.
For the first time in our 10-year relationship (10 years of nagging, rows and a general feeling that there’s probably someone out there we’re each better suited to but we’re too old to start dating again so we may as well stick together...), I bought Mrs C a present and a card.
Previously I’d not bothered. I put this down to my dad, who treated Valentine’s Day the way a doctor treats the Ebola virus. By that I don’t mean my father wore breathing apparatus, a white plastic suit and insisted on sitting in isolation in the kitchen all day. I mean he didn’t like it. The whole notion was, he complained, Americanised rubbish.
My mum didn’t seem to mind his attitude, but unfortunately Mrs Canavan is less understanding.
In the early years of our relationship, she would wake on Valentine’s with the excitement of a small child on the first day of a family holiday to Disneyland. As the day wore on and neither a present or card materialised, this enthusiasm receded and she began acting like a child on the first day of a holiday to Bridlington. In late November.
Finally, at about 10pm at night (just as Vera is finishing, which invariably means Brenda Blethyn single-handedly arresting a crazed murderer at some isolated location despite the fact that it would be much easier for the crazed murderer to bump Brenda off and do a runner before her colleagues arrived), Mrs Canavan would look across at me and say, defeat in her voice, ‘you’ve not got me anything again have you?’
As the years have progressed, she has begun to accept I will never partake in the overpriced nonsense that is Valentine’s Day. And then, on Sunday, a weird thing happened. I was in Sainsbury’s (I’d gone for cat flea tablets after noticing a couple jumping around the bed and realising we’d last treated Percy the cat in April) and, walking past the flower section, suddenly had a weird impulse to buy some roses. This was partly to do with love, partly to do with the fact that these roses had a sticker on them saying ‘reduced to £2.50’.
I picked them up and looked at them admiringly.
A woman next to me wearing a Sainsbury’s jacket – which meant she either worked there or had extremely worrying taste in fashion – looked across and said:‘I wouldn’t buy them love. I was about to chuck them. It looks like they’ve been trapped in a car door.’
I looked at them again. She was right. They were awful. But then I glanced at the sticker again – £2.50 – and concluded that with a bit of clever arranging I’d be able to make them passable.
As I was buying flowers, I decided I had to go the whole hog and get a card, too, though, unbelievably, this cost me more than the actual gift – £3.49 to be exact.
It was also incredibly difficult to choose. All I wanted was a small plain card with a quirky, entirely unromantic message, like ‘Thanks for 12 months of doing the washing-up’.
But they only seemed to produce one kind of Valentine’s Day card – one with a pic on the front of two bears holding hands and kissing, and a message inside along the lines of ‘Darling, you are my moon, stars and the very air that I breathe, I love you forever’. There was, ironically, a bucket next to the card stand which I’m assuming had been placed there in case anybody needed to vomit. Needless to say there was no way I was going to purchase a card like that – I mean it might give Mrs Canavan the idea that – I’m fond of her. So instead I bought a thank you card which was blank inside, allowing me to add my own touching message, ‘Dear Liz, from Steve’.
I wandered home with the cat flea tablets, manky roses and the card and de-fleaed the cat, put the flowers – or what remained of them – in a vase, and wrote the card.
Then I glanced at the kitchen surface and saw a note, which read: “I’ll be home Thursday – remember to put the bin out.”
I had managed to clean forget that she had gone on to Nuneaton on a work course. All that effort and £5 down the drain – rarely have I been so furious.