List of those not buying cards and/or red roses on February 14th:
- Richard the Second (not the one of car park fame) – too busy being murdered in Pontrefact Castle (1399)
- Captain James Cook – also too busy being murdered, but by natives in Hawaii (1799)
- Alexander Fleming – too busy publishing a mouldy old report (1929)
- Al Capone – too busy arranging the massacre of members of a rival gang (also 1929)
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn – too busy being charged with treason, being expelled from Russia and revoking his citizenship (1974)
- Husband Klaus – not too busy, but of the mindset that Valentine’s Day is part of a great Hallmark conspiracy to make him look bad
Those sending cards may well have included the eponymous saint. During his captivity in the 3rd Century A.D., Valentine is alleged to have fallen in love with a young girl to whom, on the night before his execution on February 14th, he sent a card signed, ‘ From your Valentine’. Or Latin words to that effect. Or not?
Legend, the mating habits of birds and Medieval notions of courtly love became so entwined by the 14th Century, that Chaucer in his ‘Parlement of Foules’ wrote
‘For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make’
( Translation: ‘ For this was on St Valentine’s Day when every bird comes there choose his mate.’)
and, in doing so, sowed the seeds for cellophane bouquets six hundred years later. The first ‘cards’, a love letter and a poem, were written in the 15th Century – one in English, one in French – and are kept in the British Library archives (though not on view). But they are there. Facts. History.
So whatever your associations with February 14th – whether the folklore, historical or contemporary elements most appeal – could you use them as the starting point for a story? And not necessarily about love. Up to 2,200 words by May 1st – get writing! .