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Rutland columnist Allan Grey explores Valentine's Day traditions in a bid to find gift inspiration for his wife

Can you believe just how fast time is passing us by, asks Rutland columnist Allan Grey.

A full year and the angst has returned, the cold sweats at night, the shaking hands during the day, and I’m not talking about this never ending winter lockdown. I’m talking about the fast approaching Valentine’s Day, February 14. I would swear it can’t be more than six months since the last one, when I was also in panic mode, wondering how to treat the lovely lady, what special gift she might treasure as a sign of my undying love and devotion. Well here we are again, what on Earth do you get for the lady in your life who has everything, most of all you, what else could she possibly want?

So, I thought a little research was called for. Where does this tradition come from? Is there something there that might give us all a clue?

Will Allan's lovely lady be getting a goat as a gift on Valentine's Day?
Will Allan's lovely lady be getting a goat as a gift on Valentine's Day?

Well it seems it goes a long way back, all the way to the ancient Romans, and although there are many differing versions, it appears the month of February was the month of love. The ancient Romans celebrated a holiday on February 14 to honour the goddess Juno; her special portfolio was fertility, child birth and marriage. This celebration was all part of a three day bank holiday named Lupercalia during which the lads would likely down X pints, get themselves well and truly smashed and sacrifice a goat outside their local, the Frog and Gladiator. After that they’d run round the village lashing all the local lasses with a whip made from the goat skin. Lots would then be drawn and lads and lasses would be matched up, many of them eventually finding love, after the scars had healed, some couples even getting married; unsurprisingly this ancient tradition is believed to be the origin of “speed dating”, although apparently the goat skin whip has been replaced by the exchanging of fluffy pink handcuffs.

It wasn’t until the 1500s that messages, or valentines began to appear, and by the late 1700s Hallmarkus were printing cards commercially. Cards would usually depict Cupid, the god of affection, also the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of our emotions. Quite where red roses came into the equation is not certain but Venus was said to have loved them so much that she had a weekly delivery from Markus and Spencicus.

One of the most notorious Valentine Days was February 14, 1929, when a bitter gang war between Al Caponicus and Bugsy Moranitia erupted in Whissendine over control of the lucrative trade smuggling and trafficking goats for use in ritual sacrifice. Seven men were gunned down outside the Wookies speakeasy on Main Street, an horrific event which became known all around the world as the Rutland Valentine Day massacre, and is now celebrated as part of the village’s annual Feast Day, although sadly it’s just burgers rather than goats that are barbecued on the village green.

Gradually the raucous nature of Valentine’s Day subsided, and goats are also no longer scarificed outside the Grainstore on February 14, although they do a mean barbecue and real ale festival over August Bank holiday. Lads and lasses can still use this festival to get matched, however, this more often leads to a one night stand than ‘until death us do part’.

So, now you know a little bit of the history of Valentine’s Day, but if you’re like me you’re probably still wondering what you might present your lovely lady on Sunday morning. However I don’t think a young goat will cut the mustard. With lockdown still in operation, you can’t take her out to dinner to her favourite restaurant, you can’t take her up to London to see a show, you can’t surprise her with a sunny week in Torremolinos, so the options are somewhat limited. Whether you can get away with taking her for a stroll round town, buying her a take-out from Caffe Nero, finding a park bench on Cutts Close while you drink it whispering sweet nothings in her ear remains to be seen, but I think it’s unlikely.

Nevertheless I have been doing some research and have found an extremely helpful website offering ideas for gifts for people that have everything, practical gifts for the elderly, gifts for people with arthritis, gifts for people with dementia, basically gifts suitable for many folk in Rutland on Valentine’s Day.

Now one of my favourites is the smart dosset box. It is basically a programmable pill box that organises and alarms when it’s time for her to take her medication; the box bleeps, vibrates, wakes her up and lights up the enclosure of the pill to be taken, pretty smart eh? Then there’s something a little lower down the technical spectrum, a pair of non-slip socks, to help prevent those trips and falls around the house, and there’s a key finder using an app on her smart phone, that is if she can actually remember where she put it, the phone that is.

You might consider one of those big button TV remotes if the lovely lady is a bit short sighted, or maybe an annual subscription to Wiltshire Farms. No more worries about what shall we have for dinner tonight, just get Sunday’s out of the freezer, stick it in the microwave and the job’s a bobby. Extra long shoe horns are very popular if she can’t reach her shoes, and heated gel wraps are going a bomb for those stiff knees. But without doubt my favourite is brand new from Amazon, the ‘Amazon Ada’, Alexa’s grandmother. When you say, ‘Ada, what’s the weather today please”, she replies: “I’m sorry I don’t think I heard that, you’ll have to speak up, I’m a little hard of hearing, but here’s one of my favourite Glenn Miller tunes anyway.”

So, while I’m wracking my brains and idling my way through Facebook, an advert pops up, red light therapy lamps, the greatest thing since sliced bread. It cures everything from the menopause to arthritic joints, or so the ad says. I discussed this with the lovely lady and we have decided to buy two, one from me to her, and one from her to me, his and hers red light therapy lamps. Who says romance is dead? I’ll probably still trot down to town and buy a dozen red roses, might even sacrifice a goat on the way.

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