Footloose and fancy free

There’s a no shoes policy in Estonia.

I don’t mean that people just wander the streets barefoot, of course, as that would be completely insane in these temperatures. You’re allowed shoes for that. No, the shoeless requirement applies to houses and apartments. It’s a cultural law.

I have never yet seen anyone wearing shoes in the house, over here. If you enter someone’s home, the first thing you’ll see them do is remove their footwear and place them neatly in the row of shoes and boots beside the door. I’m not sure what would happen if you just wandered on in without following suit, because I’ve always just followed their cue, but I suspect that they wouldn’t be too shy about telling you to expose your socks.

Even when we were apartment-hunting, and looking around flats with our hapless estate agent friends, the shoes always came off before we advanced past the hallway. It’s just What You Do. And, I dunno, it always makes me feel kind of self conscious. Mainly because I suddenly realise that my big toe’s sticking out of a hole, or that I’m wearing the socks that got dyed in the wash and are now covered in embarrassing black smudges. But also because it feels like a very comfortable, private thing to do, wander around in your bare feet or sock soles – not something you do when you’re in a stranger’s house for the first time. For me, taking my shoes off in someone’s home always used to imply that I felt at home there. Not only that, but it suggested that I intended to stay around for a while, and wasn’t planning on getting out of their hair at any time in the near future.

So it was OK to kick off my trainers in the McLovely household, for example, and curl up on the sofa to watch TV, because I was there all the time and they were my friends, and it was a case of “our home is your home”. It would not have been the done thing, on the other hand, to carelessly throw off my shoes in the house of someone I hadn’t known for very long, or someone with whom I had a relationship that was more formal than friendly.

I never sat and thought all this through, you understand. I had no handbook on shoe ettiquette. It was just something I knew, like how you’re not supposed to be naked in the street or eat spaghetti using your hands in a fancy restaurant. There was always a point, in any relationship, where I’d say to a friend with whom I was spending an evening: Is it OK if I take my shoes off? Of course, the answer would always be Go ahead! (or at least Are you kidding? I don’t need to be suffering that smell all evening!, which means yes anyway), but I’d always ask anyway, that first time. After that, it was OK. People did the same in my house.

I’m just mentioning all this because I went to Tartu for a few days this week, and stayed in a hostel. It was my first Estonian hostel experience, and having beome quite familiar with how hostels operate elsewhere in Europe, it stood out as an obvious difference when I entered and my barefoot host paused in his introduction speech by the long line of shoes, waiting expectantly for me to add to the collection before he continued with the guided tour. Had I not been familiar with the Shoeless Policy, I would have looked blankly at him and probably disgraced myself by wandering throughout the hostel in my welly boots. Fortunately, it was instinctive as soon as I saw the shoe line. It just wasn’t an action that I associated with something like a hostel. I can’t help but wonder if they’d have the same policy in a swanky hotel.

I suspect not, but the thought of hundreds of guests leaving their shoes in the lobby causes me considerable amusement nonetheless.

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Irritating Things

Just because I’m sooooo in the mood for a good rant, and I haven’t done that for ages. Can’t be good for me, all this pleasant, positive and inspired blogging. I need to take a leaf out of Ed‘s book and start complaining a bit more often. Just maybe not that often.

Anyway, here are some things that really, really annoy me.

1. My bank. My UK bank, that is, for my Estonian one is so user-friendly that doing a transaction there is almost like receiving a large birthday present wrapped in sparkly, shiny paper. Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to manage my finances so that Paypal payments can be transferred into a non-UK account, and so I am stuck with the UK one for now. But I don’t have to be happy about it. Greedy, unhelpful, sneering, sneaky, dastardly rats. I just want something into which people can place money for me when I earn it, and from which I can immediately withdraw it in order to ward off starvation for another week or so. I realise that I am not an ideal customer, from the bank’s perspective. They’re making no money from that set-up. So they have to use other methods.

And so they briskly whisk away my hard-earned tenners as soon as they see them arriving in the account. They charge me a fortune to withdraw the money abroad, or to transfer it into my Estonian account. But that soon gets boring, so recently they started charging me a fiver every month for underfunding, too. Apparently having a little bit of money in my account isn’t good enough. Which is sucky, but I didn’t really notice when my account was in funds. Was it enough for them? Was it heck. Now, although work has been a little slow lately and I haven’t paid anything in for a while, I’ve always been careful to ensure that there’s at least a couple of quid in there, since I don’t have an overdraft facility, and being charged for that would be more than I could cope with. Well, now I’m in dire straits because it seems that they’ve gone ahead and taken another fiver fee for something or other, which has put me in minus figures, and they’re going to charge me a fiver every day until I’m no longer in the red. Extreme Panic. If they’d told me they were about to take out money that wasn’t there, I would have been able to fix the situation – or at least close the account in desperation. They exceeded my overdraft limit, not me, and now they’re going to financially cripple me into the bargain. I think the anxiety is going to kill me, so I have had to have a few cigarettes just to feel that I’m contributing to the process. Evil, heartless, underhanded swines.

2. People who moan and complain about absolutely everything. It’s OK when I do it. No, seriously, I don’t complain all the time. You know that. For the most part, I pick up on things that amuse, delight, inspire and please me. It’s really starting to grate on me how some people just seem to spend their lives grumbling about how everyone they encounter annoys them for reasons X, Y and Z, and how everything is stupid and crap, and how if only everyone could be like them, the world would be much better. I’m thinking specifically of some [acquaintances, rather than] friends on my Facebook friends list, who seem to while away the days by constantly griping about everything and moaning and bitching about everyone who crosses their path, via their status updates. Good grief, give it a rest, would you? The venom and bitterness for their fellow human beings is sickening. And yet instead of removing them from my friends list, I find myself watching for the next poison-filled update with morbid fascination. And that really annoys me, too.

3. Cigarettes. Why, oh why am I living in this Everything Is Bad For You age, when smoking a cigarette has become a social evil on a par with strangling a small puppy and making decorative earrings out of its floppy little ears? Why couldn’t I have been around in the days when smoking was the cool thing to do; when taking a long drag from the cigarette in the holder clasped delicately in your elegantly gloved hands was the very height of glamour and sophistication; when adverts actively proclaimed the benefits of smoking rather than showing you in horrifying detail how each puff was turning your insides to tar; when there would occasionally be a No Smoking corner in a Smoke Away! restaurant, rather than a small doorway laughingly called a Smoking Area where smokers must huddle miserably in the lashing rain with their post-meal ciggies; when you weren’t denied the simple pleasure of enjoying a smoke with your coffee? It would have been wonderful. Instead, I am fully and depressingly aware that SMOKING KILLS, and must fight a lifelong battle against my addiction, giving in every now and again in moments of extreme stress (see point #1) and then feeling guilty about it, whilst feeling paranoid about the smell of smoke on my clothes and my breath. It is crap.

4. Small children. Not only are they loud and whiney, but the very voices with which they perform said whining are ear-splittingly high-pitched and incredibly difficult to endure. I think I could put up with it slightly better if they had deep, soft voices, but those unharmonious soprano tones pierce my brain to the point of torture. Case in point: I was on a two and a half hour bus journey the other day, and had the misfortune of sitting in front of the only small child on the entire bus. He was no more than two years old, and was possibly reading a picture book. Anyway, for reasons best known to themselves, small children like to repeat things over and over again until the most reasonable adult in the world has to restrain themselves from screaming very, very loudly. This child was a master of it, latching on to words that I presume his mother was using to explain pictures, and repeating them for what felt like whole centuries. He started with “thank you”. Aitäh! he said, high pitched-ly. Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aiiiiiiiiiiii…..täh! Aitäh! Aitäh! There was a brief pause, during which I emerged hopefully from underneath my coat, where I had been trying to suffocate myself in order to end my suffering. Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Aitäh! Täh! Täh! Aitäh! I flung my coat over my head again and rocked back and forth as he gurgled mindlessly for a while before starting on “two”. Kaks! Kaks! Kaks! Kaks! Kaks! Kaks! Kaks! Kaks! And so on and so forth, to infinity. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHH, ARRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHH, ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

5. Sloaney know-it-alls. I mean the ones with marbles in their mouths and entire history books and scientific manuals in their heads. Mummy and Daddy probably got them a private governess and taught them which bits of cutlery to use when, and they have no tolerance for anyone who has an IQ of less than 190 or a bank balance of less than 50k. They appear on shows like University Challenge and look utterly disgusted with themselves if they get a question wrong, smirk in undisguised amusement when some poor non-Sloaney bugger gets one wrong, and give their confident answers with a roll of the eyes to indicate how ridiculously easy that one was, pursing their lips with a look of utter smugness. They want a good Getting financing is always difficult, but people get good results when they apply at låna-pengar.biz – and pick a choice. shaking, and a couple of weeks living amongst some real, working class people, just to knock the airs and graces out of them and make them a bit less instantly detestable.

6. Myself. And more specifically, the fact that I can’t write a soothing, ranty post like this without being scared that it’ll offend someone and they’ll leave me nasty comments and I’ll have to cry myself to sleep and go round in circles trying to justify my thoughts and feelings and opinions, eventually taking them all back and issuing a humble apology and a meek promise never to do it again. Gah. Well, I’m posting it anyway, so tough.


Sesame Street Style

Hannah has been having fun giving out letters upon which we must base our blog posts. My letter is P. It’s very straightforward: this post is about ten things that I like beginning with the letter P.

1. Poetry. I love poetry, whether it’s beautiful love poetry or clever wordplay and silly rhymes. I love to read it, recite it, and write it. My favourite poem is The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe – I love hearing it read aloud, with its wonderfully musical rhythm and pace. I’m a fan of Robert Burns, particularly the funny ones like To A Louse. And I enjoy the lyrical poetry of  Wordsworth, and the sonnets of Shakespeare, and this love poem by Yeats. Sadly, when it comes to writing poetry, I’m not particularly gifted and have to stick to silly rewrites and amusing observations rather than anything serious.

macnichol2. Peter MacNicol. This is John Cage or “The Little Biscuit” from Ally McBeal, and I love him. Always have, always will. I grant you, it’s probably the character rather than the actor, but I definitely wouldn’t like him so much if they got someone else to play him. Peter MacNicol is a perfect choice – he’s got one of those very expressive faces, a cute little high-pitched voice, and great comic timing. And he’s sweet. Who didn’t laugh till they cried when he did his Barry White dance in front of the mirrors in the unisex, or when he played bagpipes at his frog’s funeral service, or when he practised his “dismount” from the toilet? Let’s take a moment and appreciate Peter.

3. Purring. There’s something about a cat’s purr that makes me feel all snuggly and happy and warm. When a cat cuddles into you and starts pressing its head against you, purring loudly, you feel very loved and wanted, all of a sudden. To be able to make another living creature make such noises of utter contentment, you’ve got to be doing something right. Unless I’m mistaking the cat’s intent, of course. Crap… I’m becoming Crazy Cat Lady anyway, despite being separated from Kat the Cat…

4. Peace. I would be a hippie if personal hygiene wasn’t so important to me. I’ve been to the anti-war rallies, I’ve had the ban the bomb symbol tattooed on my shoulder, I’ve scrawled lyrics from Imagine in chalk on the pavement and sat in a large crowd of people singing Give Peace A Chance. I do not like war. I do not like hatred. I do not like fighting – whether in terms of politics or personal lives. Confrontation makes me nervous; shouting makes me miserable; bullying and aggression terrify me. I am one of those dippy creatures that intelligent people like you look at scornfully – one of the ones who just wants everyone to co-exist happily and peacefully, without fighting, without hurting each other, without arguing about every little detail. I want peace in the world, peace in relationships, peace of mind. I don’t think it really exists as a permanent possibility, but it makes me blissfully happy when I do catch a glimpse of it.

5. Pasta and Pizza. Italian food is a joy. Pasta and pizza are the ultimate comfort foods for a night in front of the TV, and yet can also become a really luxurious treat in a nice restaurant. I love spaghetti bolognese and creamy carbonara, not to mention the explosive vodka-chilli pasta that I learned to make in my student days. I’m a big fan of Da Vinci’s in Tallinn – gorgeous starters, delicious pastas, good wine, and a really nice place to eat. As for pizza, the best I’ve ever had was in Grimaldi’s, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Loved it!

3228196223_e4ac6378936. Parks. I’m very much a city person, but that’s not to say that I don’t like to be surrounded by nature. That’s why I love parks – a perfect way of bringing some green space into a bustling city! One of my favourite places in the world has got to be Central Park – but I also adored Riga’s selection of much smaller parks, scattered along the sides of the river that separates the Old Town from the New Town. I like kicking through leaves in the autumn, crunching through snow in winter, breathing in the fresh air and new life of spring, and having picnics in the summer. Parks are great for all of these.

7. Photos. Photos are memories that don’t fade away to nothing. I love to look at pictures of my friends and family, of good times we’ve had together, of places I’ve been and events I’ve enjoyed, of funny things that I’ve seen. And I like looking at other people’s photographs, too.

8. Pastry products. I have a serious weakness for savoury pastries, particularly sausage rolls from Irons Bakery just down the road from The Parents’ house. When I lived in Glasgow and anyone came to visit, they always arrived with a box of Irons’ sausage rolls. This was as essential as the multipack of Tayto Cheese and Onion. The sausage rolls would be frozen and carefully rationed until someone next came to top up the supplies. However, it’s not just sausage rolls that I love, in terms of pastries. When I was in second year at university, I got a summer job in the Glasgow Tourist Information Office on George Square, right next to Greggs Bakery. Ah, Greggs. I put on so much weight that summer. The smell would waft into my little cubicle and taunt me mercilessly until I went in and purchased a bridie, or a cheese and onion pastry, or a steak-filled slice… fabulous. Here in Tallinn, I am equally enthusiastic about the savoury pastry products available in Kaubamaja, the M&S of Estonia. I am trying to curb my enthusiasm before my jeans burst. I shall forever be a slave to savoury pastries.

9. Puzzles. I am a geeky sort of soul, and I enjoy doing things that stimulate my mind rather than just watching TV all the time. Not that I don’t enjoy the occasional Lost, Friends, 24 or Ally McBeal marathon. I’ve become fond of logic puzzles, although my lack of any logic whatsoever prior to starting these means that occasionally they do lead me to throw things and scream. I also love crosswords and arrowwords – I was addicted to the latter when I worked in the tourist office. (I was stuck in a tiny bureau de change cubicle all day, and there was really very little to do in between customers. Arrowwords saved my brain.) Lately, I’ve been loving doing jigsaw puzzles from this collection with Riho. I get a sense of tremendous satisfaction when we complete a 1000-piece masterpiece, but he forbids me from keeping it, framing it, and putting it up on the wall. We are not going to be those people, he said firmly when I pleaded. I have to look away when he tears them apart to make room on the table for the next one. It distresses me.

2707145953_1deacf499a10. Paris. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally go there. It is a beautiful, chic, lively, friendly (no matter what people tell you!), buzzing, culture-rich city. Good food, good wine, good people, famous sights, lovely scenery, sexy language. J’adore Paris.

So there you have it. Ten things I love, starting with P. Feel free to add your own preferences in the comments, or indeed to ask for a letter if you want to do your own post! Today’s post was brought to you by the letter P and the number 10.

The Facebook Friend

As I idly scanned the list of my friends’ status updates on Facebook, I noticed that one friend’s announcement that she was “really tired now, and going to bed” was immediately followed by another friend informing me that he was “trying to work, but [had] a sore head”. Intrigued by the thought of Facebook status updates forming rhyming couplets, I decided to play around with the idea. Yes, work is a bit scarce at the moment. Why do you ask?

Anyway, this poem is the end product. It is made up entirely of status updates (both complete and partial) from people on my friends list within the past few days. I daresay someone somewhere has already had this idea, and with much better results than I’ve achieved, but for now I’ll happily delude myself and claim it as my very own idea until someone points me to the inevitable Original Version. It was fun to do, and I actually kinda like it…

The Facebook Friend

Is grumpy, is happy, is lonely, is sad,
Is angry, is hungry, is frazzled, is mad.
Is really tired now, and going to bed,
Is trying to work but has a sore head.
Is very sleepy and in a bad mood,
Is in a dream world, is feeling good.
Got coffee, has the sound of drills in his ear,
Is eating her first Easter egg of the year!
Is looking forward to her dinner date,
Is panicking ‘coz her essay is late.
Got her own place, wants to talk,
Has forgotten how to walk.
Planted a tree, bought a red nose,
Is in denial, loves the red roses.
Is very nervous – new boss starts this morning,
Wishes relationships came with a warning.
Dropped his lunch on the kitchen floor,
Ate too much (blurgh), is watching 24.
Was on vibration plates – not a pretty sight,
Is looking forward to being wined and dined tonight.
Is pondering, feels crap, respects Jack Bauer,
Has been sitting on her feet for an hour.
Olllllll (keyboard hijacked by cat),
Is going to look at another flat.
Just learned how to play Gin Rummy,
Has two sick children, is such a dummy!
Is happy for Venezuela, is told he snores,
Has no direction any more.
Can’t wait for the weekend, can’t wait till tomorrow,
Can’t wait to watch the DVD he just borrowed.
Is grinning, is puzzling, is ready to go,
Is chillin’, is starting to like the snow.
Wonders where that damn puppy has got to,
Can do the CanCan but would prefer not to.
Did 2K on the treadmill, needs alcohol,
Has the AGM tonight, is having a ball.
Got the bill but is refusing to pay it,
Can’t believe they didn’t play it!
Needs crutches for a kid, found a home for the cat,
Would do anything for love, but won’t do that.
Is cooking dinner for his beautiful girl,
Is seriously pissed, is eating a Twirl (mmmm).
Is happy for a friend, shares his wife’s concerns,
Is still studying, needs a hug, never learns.

Bed Woes

I’m having issues with my bedding.

It’s not that we disagree on major political issues or anything, it’s just that it keeps attacking me. I do not think that “aggressive” is a adjective that should be applied to bedding. Soft, yes. Warm, certainly. But not aggressive. Or sharp, for that matter. I know I have gotten into fights with duvets in the past, as much earlier posts will testify. In those days, however, a duvet generally behaved itself once you eventually managed to get it inside the cover. Unfortunately, my Estonian-bought duvet has different ideas, and seems to believe that just because it has to lie there with me every night, doesn’t mean that it has to be happy about it.

And so it stabs me with feathers.

I don’t have any problems with the feathery end of feathers, you understand – the soft, fluffy, tickly part. No, my duvet is stuffed with thousands and thousands of perfectly soft, warm, feathery feathers which keep me all snug and cosy. It’s the other end of the feather that upsets me (and occasionally draws blood).

I can’t be sure, but what seems to have happened is that the duvet manufacturers, or the people who are employed to divest the unfortunate birds of their plumage, have spent obscene amounts of time carefully filing the ends of the feathers into needle-sharp points. Whether this is a result of boredom or a deep hatred of humanity, it is difficult to say; however, the evidence that this is how they while away the hours at the factory is right here in the most user-unfriendly duvet I have ever encountered.

It’s not just the duvet, either. Last night, as I lay in bed trying not to move lest I be stabbed to death, I counted no fewer than seven feather-ends sticking into various parts of my body. Then I realised that two of those were actually protruding from my equally disgruntled pillow, spearing me at either side of my head and essentially trapping me.

Pulling the feathers out makes no difference. It’s like when you pull out a grey hair and two more supposedly grow in its place. Getting angry and starting to pull out five feathers will, in a frighteningly short space of time, lead to you having pulled out 155 feathers and finding yourself now being stabbed by 160 (I did the maths), all the while choking and suffocating in an increasingly feather dominated room.

This would not be at all comfortable. Waging war on the duvet is not advisable.

Who ever thought that sleep could be such a perilous activity?

A Gift From A (Very) Strange Man

You really can attract them!

So said my mother in an email the other day. Although this statement could have applied to any one of midges, cold germs and mosquitos (amongst other things), she was actually referring to my incident with the Russian-speaking woman in Latvia. I mulled this over, for I had not looked at it from that angle before. I’d always thought that I just have a knack for putting myself into surreal situations. It had not occurred to me that perhaps – just perhaps! – the nutters and oddities actually find me. I am a giant loon-magnet, if you will. Remember the man who kissed me on a bench in Paris? The child who buried me in the sand in Parnu? It is a long list, when you start to think about it.

Anyway, I came back to the apartment on Friday evening and was greeted by Riho. Not one of the afore-mentioned loons, incidentally, but not exactly a shining example of non-eccentricity, either. My laptop battery ran out, I explained as I set down my bag and began rummaging in it, and also, an old man started harrassing me so I had to leave. He gave me a book.

Hold on, what?! asked a slightly confused Riho, at which point it dawned on me that this was possibly not a normal thing to happen to someone on an average day. I retrieved the book from my bag and, seeing his blank expression as he leafed through its yellowed pages, realised that some more details would be required.

Erm… where WERE you?! he asked in some confusion, realising that I couldn’t just have been sitting innocently in the mall with a coffee like hundreds of people do every day without any difficulties whatsoever.

Sitting in the mall, I responded, somewhat defensively.

It was just my luck that my laptop battery ran out at the exact moment that the old man next to me woke up with a start. He’d fallen asleep almost as soon as he’d sat down, and I’d just ignored him. This became a little more difficult to do when he began muttering quite loudly to himself and looking all around him as if he had no idea where he was or how he’d come to be there. When he started to direct his mutterings at me, there was only so long that I could pretend not to hear him, since I no longer had the cover of being engrossed in my typing.

I’m sorry, I don’t speak Estonian, I said eventually – although, as I was unable to make out a single word of his most likely drunken mumbling, I was merely guessing that Estonian was the language in which he was attempting to communicate. He continued his incessant babble, and I repeated my phrase in Estonian, which seemed to make a little more sense to him.

Unfortunately, the same force that prompted him to believe that he was forming clearly-spoken sentences and caused him to fall asleep in a crowded shopping centre also led him to feel that he could speak English. He could not, but, full credit to him, this didn’t stop him trying. In Estonian, the word order of the sentence is not nearly as important as in English. It’s practically irrelevant most of the time, as long as all the words are in there somewhere – for example, you could say Tomorrow I will go to the big market or I tomorrow the market big will go to and it won’t bother anyone. It’s great. My new companion, however, not only attempted to do this in English, but also seemed to believe that if the word order didn’t matter, the words themselves weren’t all that important, either.

Basically, he seemed to be forming largely verb-free sentences using every English word he’d ever heard, regardless of what they were or if he knew what they meant.

Very old, day, he said earnestly, gazing into my eyes, One… one very I day.

The worst part was that unlike my Russian-speaking friend from Riga, he seemed to expect answers, of which I had none.

I… I… he said, agitated now. Day one, very very yes I! Yes?

I looked helplessly at him as he waited for a response. I’m sorry, I said for the fourth or fifth time, I really don’t understand. I could probably have said The aliens are coming for you and the answer is 42 and it would have made just as much sense to him. Anyway, feeling somewhat embarrassed at the attention our conversation was attracting, I made preparations to get up and leave – at which point he produced a fabric-covered hardbacked book, seemingly from nowhere, and pressed it into my hand. Old! he said triumphantly, as if that explained everything. Confused, I reached it back to him and he put it into my hands again.

We played pass-the-parcel for a while with the book.

Very, very, I, old, day! he explained earnestly as I gave up and leafed through the book.

It is my book now. He insisted, and I feared that he might cry if I refused to take it. I have no idea what it is, as not only is it in Estonian but it is indeed rather old, and in an overly-decorative and difficult to read font. It smells musty. Maybe it is a first edition of a book written by the old man’s great great great great grandfather, and is worth a lot of money. Maybe it is a piece of missing treasure. No one can know these things.

photo-46photo-47

Riho looked at me in amazement as I finished my tale, and handed me back my new book.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen to most people on a regular basis, does it? I asked, worriedly.

No, he said rather firmly. No, it does not.

Young Love

I wasn’t sure if they’d celebrate Valentine’s Day in Eesti, but the somewhat alarming invasion of the giant heart-shape balloons et al into all the shops and malls recently made it clear that this is a widespread celebration. It’s the only “celebration” I know of that seems to unfailingly make more people miserable than happy, which is an intriguing characteristic for a celebration to have, I feel.

When you’re single, you feel either depressed and lonely and left out of this day of coupledom, or you announce that you don’t give a damn and instead spend the day (and the run-up to it) complaining bitterly about what a waste of money it is, polluting the air with your lemonesque vibes and draining the fun out of it for anyone who does enjoy it. No matter what you claim to feel about it, however, there’s always that faint sense of anxiety mingled with hopeful expectation, which shatters as soon as the postman arrives and the ony thing he’s brought you is a phone bill and a flyer for Domino’s Pizza’s special Valentine’s Day offer.

When you’re in a couple, it’s most likely that both of you will go with the flow and announce your scorn for the occasion, and there is no sense of anxiety or panic about being alone for Valentine’s Day because (a) you’re not and (b) even if you were, the whole thing’s nonsense anyway, right? But you’re caught in the law of St. Valentine nonetheless – Jo over at Please Don’t Eat With Your Mouth Open makes a very good observation in her most recent post, where she says that Valentine’s is a day when couples do things together, “if only because it would be weird if you didn’t. Like if you just decided to go out with all your mates on Valentines Day when you were in a couple, that would be odd.” So no matter how much someone in a couple moans about the hype surrounding V-Day, they’re still going to hope for, nay, expect some expression of love on the day. So not getting said expression of love when you’re pretty much exempt from the Singleton Panic by virtue of being part of a couple, is about ten times worse than not getting anything when you’re single and didn’t expect to get anything, even though as a single person you would still have been hoping and secretly crushed when you didn’t…. do you see?! Do you see how much trauma and anxiety is woven carefully into this day? Bevchen sums it up very well in today’s post at Confuzzledom, and has posted that fabulous poem by Liz Lochhead, I Wouldn’t Thank You For A Valentine. Go and take a look if you don’t know it – I think it’s a perfect reflection of how this day makes most women feel, whether they care to admit it or not!

I was never the receiver of countless Valentine’s cards. I’ll always remember my first ‘real’ card (the ones my Great Aunt Eileen sent to The Sister and me from “Guess Who” when we were children don’t count), when I was in first or second year at school and had a crush on a boy at the youth club. Boys never noticed me. I was a bookish girl, a bit of a geek, lanky and awkward, usually hiding in a corner and peering nervously over my glasses at all the cool people. Thankfully I am now super-cool and confident, and as I mentioned in last year’s Valentine’s blog post, often find myself drowning in a sea of fluffy toys and red roses from devoted admirers at this time of year.

Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t get a card. I never had before, and I wouldn’t this time. It was impossible. Except it wasn’t, and I did. There it was on the mat – a big card addressed to me! It didn’t say much, but I clutched it in trembling hands the whole way to school, my heart singing, looking at the card every five seconds to make sure that it was real. I wanted to believe that there was a remote possibility that it could be from the boy at youth club, but even if it wasn’t, it was still a card, from a boy, to me, and this was something of a miracle.

My friends were as incredulous as me. Who’s it from? Could it be from HIM?! Let me see the writing! What boys do you know? (I went to an all girls school, and quite embarrassingly I really didn’t know very many boys at all until I was about 17 or 18.) I shared their disbelief, but with the smug joy of one who is living in an impenetrable bubble of happiness because someone actually sent her a Valentine’s card.

This lasted for approximately 25 minutes into the school day, when someone asked to see the envelope and casually pointed out that there was no postmark. I stared at it, and saw with a sinking heart that there were some squiggly lines in place of the postmark. A cynical being might suspect that they had been drawn on to give a vague appearance of a postmark. But how would it have gotten on to the doormat of our house without a postmark?

Pop!

The bubble burst. It was a very nice morning, though, while it lasted. And since then, I’ve always known since then that someone cared enough to send a Valentine to an awkwardly shy adolescent who just wanted to be like the other girls and share a bit of the attention for once.

Thank you Mum, for my first Valentine. And I love you, too. :)

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