Lynette Pinchess: 'Valentine's Day is great...if you're eight years old!'
THE shops are full of red heart-shaped balloons, slushy greetings cards and cuddly toys embellished with declarations of love.
Cheesy, saucy, soppy – take your pick, there's a sentiment to suit every romantic.
Valentine's Day is fab... when you're eight.
Before you jump to conclusions that I'm a bitter and lonely singleton, I'm not.
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I've been happily married for 21 years – and I'm a hopeless romantic who loves being wined, dined and spoilt.
I'm all for couples giving each other small tokens of affection but I detest the over-commercialisation of Valentine's Day. I'm sure St Valentine would be spinning in his grave at the sight of sex god boxers, horny devil socks and cuddly toys with the invitation "Let's Monkey Around".
And don't even get me started on the over-inflated price of red roses. Although fair dues to Aldi for selling a dozen for a bargain price of just £5.
My boss insisted that I compile not one but two Valentine's gift guides, so it was with gritted teeth that I trawled through my inbox, which has been groaning under the strain of e-mails with present suggestions. Flowers, jewellery, lingerie, kettles. Yes, kettles. No matter how well-intentioned, you should never give a woman a kettle on Valentine's Day – even if it is red.
Restaurants offer special Valentine's deals but I'd rather have beans on toast by candlelight at home than go out for an expensive set menu, in packed surroundings where the ambiance is anything but romantic. When I was a student, I was taken to a pizza restaurant by my boyfriend at the time: crammed in like sardines, sandwiched between two other couples whose tables were so close we might as well have been going out as a six-some.
Another aversion to dining out stems from the time we went out for a posh five-course dinner. We spent the next 48 hours in bed.... with food poisoning from dodgy oysters.
The ritual may serve as a prompt to all those men and women in stuck-in-a-rut relationships. But isn't it better to show your love all year?
Although we're rapidly approaching our silver wedding, we've kept romance alive.
We still hold hands, say "I love you" every day and surprise each other with simple, random gestures.
The time my husband sent me a bouquet out of the blue to say "I love you" meant more than any flowers I've ever had on February 14.
And what's more romantic? A box of Milk Tray on Valentine's Day or a man who, when you have the late-night munchies, walks to the shop in the pouring rain to buy you a Kit Kat?
The best love can't be bought. Someone who makes you laugh when you're down, who looks after you when you're ill and tells you that you look amazing even when you've a big spot and have piled on a few pounds – that kind of love is priceless.