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Danny's Reading Practice - February

Average: 3.6 (9 votes)

So January, having finally got the message that nobody particularly likes it, has decided to go away and leave us in peace for another year, taking its howling winds, dull grey skies and surprise downpours with it. And now it’s February – an altogether better-behaved month than its miserable older brother. Sure, there may still be howling winds, dull grey skies and surprise downpours, but at least February gives the impression that they’ll be over sooner or later, and that the sun might just shine tomorrow.

February is famous for two things, the first being that it’s the shortest month of the year. This fact barely registers a two-point-five on the ‘oh wow, that’s really interesting!’ scale, and so we won’t be going into it…

The second thing, of course, is Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day used to be big and exciting. I remember one year when I was thirteen years old, casually hanging around the house, waiting for the postman to show up while simultaneously pretending to be too cool to care. And then he appeared with a bulging sack of Valentine cards in pink envelopes covered in scrawled hearts and kisses… and delivered them to every other house in our neighbourhood but ours. My self-esteem plummeted faster than a fat cupid who’d got his wings tangled in his bow-string. I was crestfallen. I was unloved.

When I was fourteen, I got one card. I was ecstatic for about sixteen seconds, and then I recognised my mum’s badly-disguised handwriting and decided that this was worse than receiving no card at all. Valentine’s Day sucked more than ever!

And then, when I was fifteen, on the fourteenth of February at approximately eleven twenty-three in the morning, as I was casually hanging around on my hands and knees on the floor just behind our front door, with my eyes nonchalantly peering through the letter-slot… the postman paused in front of our house, frowned, and rummaged around in his sack! I held my breath and prayed. I watched as he produced two pink envelopes, and shoved them through our door before moving on! Bursting with excitement and oblivious to the possibly fatal nose-bleed caused by the envelopes shattering the bridge of my nose as they had shot through the door, I pulled them out of my face with trembling hands and squinted at them through watering eyes…

They were addressed to me!

I tossed aside the one with our address scrawled on it in my mum’s badly-disguised handwriting – honestly, writing with your left hand instead of your right fools nobody! – and opened the other one…

It was big. It was red and pink and covered in hearts and kisses and witty little poems which suggested that, to the sender, I was the best thing since sliced bread, and that she really, really liked sliced bread. And it was signed ‘from your one true love – you know who! XXX’

The problem was… I didn’t know who. Now I’m thirty-six years old, I still have that card somewhere… and I still don’t know who. I occasionally come across it when looking for something else in the mountain of accumulated rubbish in my office, and wonder… but the universe is old and vast, and some things are destined to always remain a mystery. I guess I’m just chuffed to know that, when I was fifteen, somebody somewhere really fancied the pants off me.

Today, Valentine’s Day means very little to me. I’ve been married for eleven years, and any unexpected deliveries popping up in my letter-box are more likely to be viewed with suspicion rather than excitement. Today I recognise Valentine’s Day for what it really is… a Hallmark holiday designed to help card companies, florists and chocolatiers keep their businesses intact during the quiet period between Christmas and Easter. But was it always like this?

Well, yes, apparently. It was fashionable in nineteenth-century Great Britain to send Valentine cards full of sweet nothings to whoever floated your love-boat, so to speak, and the idea caught on in America in 1847, when a certain Esther Howland started a successful business with hand-made cards based on British designs. The United States Greeting Card Association claims that roughly one billion Valentine’s cards are posted worldwide every year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday in the world, with Christmas coming in at number one. Meanwhile, in 1969, the church removed the 14th of February from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, partly because there were apparently three Saint Valentines around at the time - none of them even remotely associated with the concept of romantic love – but mostly because nobody actually knows who these saints were, except that they were called Valentine. Although, oddly enough, some people believe that the remains of the real McCoy can be found in Balzan, a small town in Malta.

So, this Valentine’s Day, as you wait with bated breath for the postman, and a large pink heart-shaped envelope celebrating the day of a quite possibly non-existent saint completely fails to come through your letter-box, console yourself with one of the following…

With a billion Valentine’s cards sent on the same day every year, the odds are that at least one of them will get lost in the post. And yes… this year, it just happened to be yours.

Then again, it’s quite possible that someone out there really really loves you with the kind of insane passion you can only dream of… but they also loathe card companies with an equal amount of seething hatred, and they would rather forsake their love for you than help the companies reach their annual financial targets. At least you know they have principles.

On the other hand, maybe they simply don’t know your address.

You may find this hard to believe, but all three of these actually happened to me when I was thirteen…

By Danny, EC Malta English language school

Link: Danny's Reading Practice - January