‘Don’t expect roses’ said The Artist, shortly before our first Valentine’s Day, ‘or a card. In my opinion, giving someone a piece of compressed wood pulp doesn’t prove how much you love them – it’s merely a cynical ploy, an opportunity for greetings card manufacturers to increase their profits’
‘You could make me one,’ I said, thinking how cool it would be to show off some of his original artwork to my friends and colleagues. (Little did I know that his actual pictures would shortly be hanging on my walls, stacked behind the sofa and propped up against the TV cabinet, waiting for the paint to dry.)
‘Hrmph,’ he replied, in a tone that I soon came to understand meant ‘No’, ‘I believe it’s the thoughtful little things that you do for your loved one that count.’
Like noticing, on our first date, that the kitchen sink in my house was minus a plug. A day or two later, when I hadn’t contacted him (I was ‘playing it cool’), a bulky envelope landed on my doormat, containing one. Written on the front, above a smiley face, was the message ‘Don’t let our ‘thang’ go down the drain’. Of course I had to call and thank him. The rest, as they say, is ‘written.’
This gentle-manly wooing didn’t stop when we began living together.
Each morning he’d fetch my car from the garage we rented a street away, warming it up and pointing it in the right direction so that I could snatch a few extra minutes in bed. He’d frequently call me at the office, amusing the receptionist by asking to speak to ‘the most wonderful housing officer in the world.’ When I came home on a winter evening, my slippers would be warming by the fire, a hot meal on the stove. In the summer (remember them?) a deckchair was always waiting at the sunny end of the garden, a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge.
My female workmates expressed jealousy, complaining that I was spoiled. But he charmed and disarmed them all – even the career-focused Chief Executive and my lesbian line manager. (And, incidentally, the latter’s cat, who allegedly couldn’t stand men but rolled over with her legs in the air, tummy exposed, the minute she set eyes on him, then draped herself over his lap, butting his hand with her head. The memory of which continues to amuse him to this day.)
He laboriously painted the kitchen in blue and yellow check, because I’d seen a similar (but not as detailed) effect in a magazine. When we decorated the bedroom, he walked into town and back, in the rain, to buy luminous stars for the ceiling – keeping his journey secret until we turned out the light.
Knowing my fears about motorbikes didn’t stop him from riding. He encouraged me on to the pillion, telling me what – and more importantly, what not – to do. Once I’d relaxed enough to enjoy sitting behind him, my arms wrapped around his waist, he took me to the bike shop to buy my own gear. And when another customer suggested that I could make do with a budget crash helmet, my man dismissed him with ‘This is the most precious cranium in the universe, mate,’ and selected a quality one.
He spent months preparing his modified 1964 MGB, so that we could travel across Europe to Germany – where my son was appearing in ‘Starlight Express’ – pulling up outside the stage door on my birthday, as he’d promised we would. He drove my mother, her budgie and me from Plymouth to Portsmouth (in her ancient 70’s hatchback, with steering so heavy that we were amazed that she could manoeuvre it), to watch my daughter take the lead in a play that she’d written and directed for graduation from her Performing Arts course.
I could go on but I’m conscious that this is beginning to sound as though he’s no longer with me, when in fact he’s a few feet away on the other side of the studio, checking out ‘boys toys’ on the Internet. And I hope I haven’t made him sound too much like a saint – because he can also be a complete nightmare (but I haven’t got time to go into all that now – this is a Valentine Day post, after all.)
I don’t wish to give the impression that he never brings me presents, either. One February 14th he returned from a ride-out bearing a teal, rust and cream coloured, tufted jumper, reminiscent of Rumpleteaser from ‘Cats.’ People always smile when I wear it – with me or at me, I don’t care. The Artist saw this quirky top and thought of me, that’s all that counts. Although, I have to confess that it is a bit tight now, (must’ve shrunk) so I’m considering transforming it into a cushion.
While we were shopping on Friday I spotted a couple of packs of yarn that I felt I couldn’t leave behind. Despite the fact that my work table is piled high with a rainbow assortment of spun fibre, (not to mention the seven clear boxes of same, stacked beside it) my understanding husband carried them to the till, saying ‘you always regret what you don’t buy, never the things that you do.’
True to his word, my Valentine has never sent me a card, or brought me flowers. But this year he bought me the materials and tools to create roses to my hearts content.
And – like the love we share – this is one bouquet that will last for ever.