Loving for the over 60s... yes, it can happen.
PUBLISHED: 15:08 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:00 06 February 2018
Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year, I seem to remember
It’s coming up for that time of year again – V-Day.
My husband was up in the attic last week (now he’s fully retired I keep him up there weekdays, 9-5pm) and he found the first present he ever bought me, in 1973. It is a card with little pop up plastic hearts, each containing seeds of love. The card is decorated with art nouveau-type pictures and each set of seeds has a poem.
As romantic gestures go, I don’t think that has ever been surpassed.
We gave up doing Valentine’s Day about five years ago. Frankly, we had run out of inspiration. There wasn’t a sentiment we hadn’t expressed, a frolic we hadn’t shared, or love tokens we hadn’t exchanged... except for soft toys. We drew the line at that.
We’ve done the intimate restaurant meal for two; we’ve done the not-so-intimate Valentine’s “Dine in for two for £20” from Marks and Spencer which differs from the dine in for £10 by a starter and a box of chocolates. We’ve even thought about going away for a romantic weekend... thought about it really seriously.
Planning in advance, that’s our difficulty. It is such a faff.
I do admire life’s planners. People who buy the year’s cards in one go and have them all written, stamped and addressed by the end of January. People who assemble a holiday online, bit by bit, arranging flights, hotels, car hire, outings, dietary preferences and special requirements with the precision of an army logistics division.
People who volunteer to organise staff meals out and take it in their stride when people cancel, drop out on the night, suddenly remember they are gluten and lactose intolerant, or say they shouldn’t pay as much as other people because they only had a soft drink while others drank wine. I only drink water with meals but I always feel that it’s right to pay an equal portion of the drinks bill because I’m so boring and sober.
I always liked to think of myself as more spontaneous – someone who would make a romantic gesture when it was least expected. The thing is, I now have to plan for spontaneity too. At 62 (63 in less than a fortnight) any surge of enthusiasm has to be nurtured to keep it alive until such time as it might come to fruition.
“Let’s go to the pictures,” says my husband.
“Okay (sigh). What’s on?”
“I don’t know... there’s sure to be something. And we could go out for a meal first.”
“I don’t know... somewhere.”
By now his spontaneous act is withering on the vine of complications. Half-heartedly, you check the cinema listings to find a couple of sequels to films you haven’t seen, plus a couple of movies everyone is raving about: The Greatest Showman and Darkest Hour. Do we want to watch a critically unacclaimed but entertaining romp with Huge Ackman or a serious film about Sir Winston Churchill during the early days of the Second World War? Needless to say there is a 50:50 split of opinion. Then there is a lack of agreement over where to eat and, inevitably, we stay in, watch a DVD and crack open the last two cans of baked beans; on toast with real butter. That’s the sort of luxurious lifestyle we live.
Then there was the doomed selfie. I decided I needed it to accompany one of my newspaper pieces. On a grey, blustery, wet day (like so many days, recently), I set off into town with my trusty smartphone and smiled at myself before pressing the camera button. Back at the office, I surveyed my artistry and quickly made an executive decision.
“I’ve deleted that picture,” I said to a male colleague.
“Why?” he asked. Where to start?
“Well, my smile was lopsided, my hair was all over the place, my nose looked big and I wasn’t wearing any lipstick,” I explained.
“Nothing wrong with that,” he said. “You looked natural...”
At which point a female colleague, who had overheard our conversation, declared in shocked tones: “You can’t say that.”
“Natural. You can’t say a woman looks natural...”
I have been pondering this and I can understand why looking “natural” might not be a huge compliment but it is considerably better than “death warmed up”. At the same time, some women spend a fortune to look “natural” (ie quite a lot younger than they actually are) whereas I had spent nothing at all and, I think it’s fair to say, it looked like it.