Tuesday 13 February 2007

That time of year again

This column contains a number of valuable Public Service Announcements. I shall abbreviate this to PSA so that I can pack in even more useful information.

PSA 1: it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. I’m proud to think of all the grief that will be saved if this timely reminder sends just one man off to the card shop, florist, confectioner and jeweller. Though in my experience, for what it’s worth, all women ever really want is shoes. So maybe you could try buying a gift voucher for a shoe shop. As in somewhere selling fashionable new ones, not a kiosk that mends heels and cuts keys.

You may be a bit stuffed, though, if you haven’t already booked a restaurant. It’s the busiest night of the year, apparently. PSA 2: keep going back to the same restaurant, and they’ll miraculously find that they can fit you in when crises like this arise. Antonio always used to greet me warmly when I lived in London. “Ah, Mr Hann! Your usual table, of course. And who is the lovely lady? Not quite such a stunner as that one you brought in last week. Now I really could have given her …”

PSA 3: never let your relationship with a maître d’hôtel degenerate into familiarity.

PSA 4: in the event that you do make it into a restaurant, avoid excessively spicy food, baked beans and ten pints of lager, all of which tend to detract from the romantic atmosphere. While drinking champagne from the lady’s shoe may be a delightfully old-fashioned gesture, it won’t necessarily go down too well if she has only just bought it with your gift voucher (see above). Nor will the fact that the voucher was only generous enough to allow her to buy one shoe, rather than a pair.

Who am I kidding? What do I know about a successful Valentine’s Day? Last year on 14 February I dined alone on the 18.02 from Alnmouth to London. GNER did their best, with a gipsy fiddler joining the service between Doncaster and Newark, but I couldn’t avoid a certain sense of disappointment. (That’s a fiddler as in violinist, incidentally. We’ll have no negative racial stereotyping in this column.)

Still, things are looking up, and tomorrow I shall be having dinner with a beautiful woman. She is 82 and my aunt, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction. PSA 5: always look on the bright side.

PSA 6: never assume that having a weekly column in the region’s top newspaper will enhance your attractiveness to the opposite sex.

I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to the lonely hearts ads, but it would be hope triumphing over experience.

PSA 7: people who use dating ads and websites are desperate, and there’s usually a good reason for that. I know, I’ve been there.

PSA 8: don’t even think about it unless you understand the code in which everything is written. For example, “slim” actually means not clinically obese; “petite” = midget; “young 40” = weeks off qualifying for a bus pass; “successful” = less than 20 County Court judgements currently outstanding; “bubbly” = bestially stupid and irritatingly fond of hearing own voice; “gsoh” = laughs at anything, unless it is actually funny; “animal loving” = you really don’t want to go there.

I may stick a full glossary of the real meaning of dating terms on my website, in the admittedly unlikely event that I can be bothered.

PSA 9: if you’re dating someone new tomorrow, don’t fall madly in love during the first course and start planning the wedding and honeymoon. This is a classic example of “do as I say, not as I do”, based on rashly acquiring three ex-fiancées since 1990.

PSA 10: if you choose to ignore that last bit of good advice, contact me for some excellent deals on only slightly used diamond engagement rings.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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