For anyone with admirers and insatiable appetite for chocolates and flowers it’s your time of year again. Anyone without an admirer in their life on Valentine’s Day should either buy one, if that’s still allowed, or read this post.

What is it about the 14th February that redefines how we express our love for one another? Overnight, a vague ‘I love you’ as you dash onto the school run is deemed inadequate if not accompanied by chocolate in ribbons and overpriced flowers. Suddenly, if you can’t say it with a Cadillac-sized Hello Kitty doll then it’s not worth saying at all.

It’s hard to know what’s most annoying about Valentine’s Day. Of course my distaste for it is NOTHING to do with not getting any valentines cards at an early age where your social standing is based entirely upon a) quantity of valentine cards received, b) your parents having a swimming pool and c) your ability to fart on younger children’s heads, lack of success in all three contributed significantly towards my low-ranking social status.

February has apparently been long celebrated as a month of romance. That’s easy to believe, after all, due to not having seen the sun since November, your seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has left you mumbling at unattainable tropical destinations in the travel supplements of weekend newspapers. It’s so dark outside that romance must be the only answer, although there’s the sense of an audience so broken that they’ll clap at anything.  Valentine’s Day sure did one thing right, and that was its timing.

The Romans took the day as an opportunity to congregate at some sacred cave where the founders of Rome were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. You can probably see where this is going. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. Rather typically cats avoid this. The goat’s hide would then be cut into strips, before being dipped into sacrificial blood and taken into the streets. Both women, and nearby crop fields, would be gently slapped with the hide. This is the first time I’ve encountered women and crop fields with equal billing, and being gently slapped by bloodied hide isn’t exactly the most predictable of romantic gestures, so full marks for the unexpected. However, for anyone attempting this today I’d recommend that you establish the are not a vegan beforehand. While I don’t profess to fully understand the female psyche, if this is the sort of surprise they enjoy in lieu of a candlelit meal for two, then I’ve been misled.

The truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, which is rather fortunate for the saint, as I’m sure a few people would like a word in his ear, or at least reimbursement for the enormous Hello Kitty heart doll that cost a week’s wages for delivering to her place of work, which she then has to carry home. Because nothing screams romance like apologising for a soft toy large enough to require a ticket to a carriage of commuters already struggling for space. Valentine’s Day is a day when trying too hard, while not doing quite enough, have never danced so closely. But, let’s face it, really nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a dying bouquet of flowers.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is obviously the perfect Valentine’s day gift, and is available here –

and here,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –