Posted by Tania Kindersley.
St Valentine's Day is of course an artificial, manufactured, cynical marketing exercise. It is a way to make every woman feel bad about her life. If she is single on the 14th of February, she is sad and unloved. If she is coupled, it gets more complicated. Should the other half forget this banner day, or get the dreaded petrol station flowers, then of course her relationship is at once officially hollow and meaningless. On the other hand, if the beloved other pushes out all the boats - a trip to Paris, say - then she might grow suspicious at such overkill and start going through pockets for hidden receipts. The only answer is the Goldilocks solution: not too flash, not too meagre, but just right. Although who is to say what right is?
But for some reason I feel not sceptical at all today. Who knows where these sudden moods come from? I think: why not make it a day not about cheap romance but celebrating the love in general. (Perhaps this is because I just went to the funeral of someone who knew a lot about love; for family, dogs, garden, Ireland, the countryside, the making of the darkest and most luscious damson jam.) I think: let us all count the ways, today. Love, as Sarah and I wrote emphatically in Backwards, does not just mean the romantic sort. It is bigger and better and more various than that. It is more interesting than that.
So on this absurd day, for no particular reason, I am driven to make a list, of all my loves.
In no special order they are:
Scotland; my dogs; my old mum; my friends; my sister; my nieces; my godchildren; my enchanting cousin G. I love this place that I live, and the people who live here (it is a little commune, although not in the hippie sense of the thing). I love small, random things: my ability to type 75 words a minute; the making of soup; the National Portrait Gallery; the plays of Chekhov; the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson; Mahler's Fifth symphony. I love National Hunt racing and the sky at night and the moment the swallows come back from Africa in the spring. I love the Bar Italia, and Soho in general, especially early on a sunny morning, before the crowds come, when the streets are wet and clean and there is a low hum of expectation in the air. I love the drive up to Tomintoul, where the mountains open up like a book and I can go for half an hour without seeing a human. I love my little Picasso lithograph, which I could not quite afford, but bought anyway, on a shockingly irresponsible whim. I love linen sheets and small vases of scarlet tulips and the stand of Scots pines that lives in the centre of my garden. I love first editions and political intrigues and the semi-colon. I have an unaccountable fondness for sheep. I love good red wine and spaghetti with clams and double espresso in thick white cups. I love thoughtful old men and rebellious cussed women. I love newspapers and the BBC. I love the British sense of humour. I love the sea and the coast of Connemara and a cold pint of Guinness. I love Georgian houses and oxbow lakes and being alone. It turns out, rather unexpectedly, that I love the blogosphere, whatever the grumpy old media types have to say about it, and I hold a special place in my heart for my dear readers. As you may have gathered by now, I have an odd adoration of a good list.
I could go on, but I think that's quite enough of that.
And finally, in this spirit of whimsy which seems to have gripped me today, I give you an entirely gratuitous picture of the day, of too sweet by half polar bears, just because I can:
Happy Valentine's Day.