Fat raindrops race down the window pane, avoiding the shiny, pearly patches of earlier gusts of rain sticking to the unwashed glass, and end in splatters on the lower frame. A busy wind ruffles and drives last autumn’s remaining shrunk and shrivelled leaves across the moss infested grass, to land at the foot of hedges. Blackbirds fight each other for any crumbs left from the handfuls flung out by my generosity; angrily they chase each other and bicker with sharp cries. Mine, all mine, they seem to warn. Were they kin last year? They look adult now, the aggressive males with bright yellow beaks and the females with their brownish speckled breasts, a little in awe of the males. The females might retreat while the male struts his belligerent stuff, but she soon comes back and sneaks food when his back is turned.
Neither Blackbirds nor the weather take the slightest notice of Valentine’s Day. No chocolates, hearts and flowers for me either. Except that I have already set aside a bottle of Rioja, a bit of steak and some liqueur-filled cherry chocolates for later. It’s too wet and cold to bother picking flowering stems in the garden, so no harbingers of spring indoors.Many of you will know that Valentine’s Day is another of the Christian festivals that took the place of ancient pagan celebrations, for safety’s sake, of course, just in case Christians would be tempted to follow the ancient rituals of naked rampaging and the beating of women for the purpose of ensuring fertility. Plutarch’s description of Lupercalia leaves no doubt:
Hardy folk those ancient Romans. Surely even in Rome the middle of February is cold enough for any man running around naked to be in danger of having his bits frozen off?
A tad different from Hallmark’s contribution to the happiness of modern days females, who are content with a cheesy card promising eternal love and a few chocolates in a giant heart shaped box.
This must be my all-time favourite poem for Valentine’s Day;
‘Valentine’ by Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.