It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, with its tenuous promotions and panicked Moonpig orders. I note that Marks & Spencer has revived last year’s horrifying heart-shaped Love Sausage, presumably because we, as a nation, no longer deserve nice things.
I get a head start on this stuff, because my wedding anniversary falls a week before V-Day. I confess we are not excessively romantic about it: February is usually when my husband disappears for a budget adventure holiday on which I refuse to join him. Meanwhile, quizzed by a civic official recently, I had to take off my wedding ring to check when we got hitched (it’s engraved in there – not our idea, obviously). Sometimes I think wistfully of champagne and roses, but then I remember champagne gives me gut rot and I have destroyed his romantic impulses with my weirdly rigid definition of what flowers are acceptable (definitely not roses).
This year’s celebration started with a romantic trip to purchase a new salad spinner. Later we bickered about local planning applications and compared heated clothes rails online, each on our own laptops. After a stodgy dinner à deux, we watched a documentary about Whitney Houston’s drug-fuelled demise. Then, a surprise: a laconic message from our teenaged son, at a party: “Funny story, I’ve hit my head.” A rainy drive, a kind stranger’s house, then that romantic staple: A&E at midnight.
There was an odd romance to it, actually. Sure, the strip lighting, the promised six-hour wait on the whiteboard, the hushed huddled masses don’t immediately scream hearts and flowers. Nor do kidney-shaped cardboard bowls, coronavirus warnings and a well-oiled man in a wheelchair singing about how you can break your ankle “just from walking if you’re drunk enough”. But it gave me time to reflect on all those years: all the minor and major dramas, humdrum weekends and WhatsApp bin squabbles that make up our shared life. There’s no one else I want at my side in an emergency department, or in any emergency, come to that. Also, this year’s traditional anniversary gift is apparently “iron” and there was a lot of blood.