ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Valentine’s is nonsense – but I’m so in love with it
It seems ridiculous to care but I can’t quite not. About Valentine’s Day, that is, writes ALEXANDRA SHULMAN
It seems ridiculous to care but I can’t quite not. About Valentine’s Day, that is.
Surely a woman in her 60s in a long-term relationship should have nothing to do with such sappy nonsense?
Since when was love measured by the arrival of a bunch of flowers or box of chocolates?
And anyway, wasn’t the whole point of Valentine’s that love could be proclaimed anonymously?
A card propped up on the breakfast muesli from the man sitting opposite you doesn’t quite tick that box.
Sadly, long gone are the days when I would receive genuinely anonymous cards, and spend thrilling hours analysing the postmark and handwriting, hoping that it wasn’t the creep I had met a few weeks before but the gorgeous boy who had taken my number but oddly had not yet called.
When I worked on both Tatler and Vogue, Valentine’s Day could be a fraught occasion.
The building had about six times as many women as men, so come February 14 the reception area was like Covent Garden flower market, only without the porters and bacon sandwiches.
By midday the road outside was blocked with delivery vans. Brave suitors shyly dropped off their single rose before scurrying away.
This was all very well for the lucky recipients – but less delightful for those who had to sit out the day at a flower-free desk.
I remember one year, when my romantic life was going through a drought, arranging to do an interview outside London that day just so I could escape.
Of course I always knew I shouldn’t care.
That my self-worth should not be affected by whether some goon had sent me a card, or my boyfriend had bothered to book a nice restaurant.
But I would wager most women (and a fair proportion of men) secretly crave some recognition of today. And never more than this year.
A survey by a gift-card company announced that 6.1 million people have ‘found love’ over the past year despite the limitations on meeting anyone.
A survey by a gift-card company announced that 6.1 million people have ‘found love’ over the past year despite the limitations on meeting anyone
It sounds extraordinary, but congratulations to them all.
Most of us have found ourselves confined to those we already have in ever closer proximity.
We have had to deal with each other’s highs and lows as fear, frustration and boredom washes over in unpredictable waves.
We have discovered new strengths and weaknesses in each other.
We value more than ever a coffee brought in bed and are driven more mad by soggy towels left on the floor.
Yesterday, I saw a guy from the local building site pop into the post office to grab a ‘Wonderful Wife’ card, its bubblegum-pink colouring standing out against his black workwear.
Call me sentimental, but I thought it was sweet. A Valentine card has few words, but says a lot.
Your country really needs you, Naomi
The UK vaccine rollout has been sensational but the take-up among Britain’s black and ethnic minority communities is still worryingly low.
Local religious leaders are coming on board to help but I’ve been wondering why there’s been so little encouragement from black and Asian celebrities.
Why is it only old whities like Elton John and Michael Caine urging us on – oh, and Diane Abbott?
The UK vaccine rollout has been sensational but the take-up among Britain’s black and ethnic minority communities is still worryingly low
Then I realised that’s because there are actually surprisingly few hugely famous black and Asian stars in this country who are old enough to qualify for their jab. Where are the movie stars, musicians, sportsmen in their 70s whose voices are powerful enough to make a difference? I’m struggling.
Even Lenny Henry’s a stripling of 62.
But thankfully, among younger generations there are many more. Stormzy, Idris Elba, Marcus Rashford, Naomi Campbell and Nadiya Hussein frequently use their voice to promote products and causes.
Even if they’ve not yet had the jab, I’m sure they’ve got older family members they care about. Let’s get them speaking out. Their country certainly needs them.
Charcoal toothpaste that left a sour taste
I’ve lost count of the number of things I’ve bought over the past year that, at the time, seemed to be completely essential. But which are now going to be landfill.
Let’s start with the wretched ring light which was meant to magic away dark shadows on the endless Zoom calls and webinars.
Everyone said they worked wonders, so who was I to disagree?
‘Whitening’ charcoal toothpaste seemed a good idea at the time but which, being black (I guess the clue was in the name), leaves the sink looking like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption
Eagerly assembling the tripod and positioning mine in front of my laptop, I expected an illuminated vision of loveliness to appear on screen.
Dream on. At best I was able to add a rather spectral hue if I turned the supposedly flattering light up to max. Dewy glow was there none.
There’s the ‘whitening’ charcoal toothpaste which seemed a good idea at the time but which, being black (I guess the clue was in the name), leaves the sink looking like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
And so much for the sound bar which was meant enhance the audio for our endless TV watching, but which switches itself off after minutes.
As for kitchen cupboards stuffed with ingredients for recipes we’ve eaten once and will not be eating again… ras el hanout, a North African spice mix, you know who you are.
That buzz on Insta? It’s all down to bees
What do bees and Instagram-friendly bookshelves have in common? Colour-coding.
How much do I dislike the triteness of a colour-coded book shelf? And don’t even get me on to kitchen cupboards.
So I was shocked to discover in the letters page of the London Review Of Books that bees, the species to which we owe so much, colour-co-ordinate their hives.
The pollens and nectars they gather are not just flung in any old how, but carefully stacked in zones: yellow for rape pollen, blue for raspberry, red for wild cherry, and so on.
My regard for bees has made me look at colour-cataloguing in a quite different light.
I had my heart on Carole’s sleeve…
It can’t be 50 years since Carole King released her album Tapestry, can it? What a reminder of how much we are missing through Spotify.
Not in the choice of music, of which we have more than ever, but those album covers that were the emotional wallpaper of our lives.
What girl didn’t want to be the Carole of that 1971 picture – the ultimate natural woman, with her curls, speckled sweater, needlepoint, and of course, her love object, a tabby cat called Telemachus, at her side.
It can’t be 50 years since Carole King released her album Tapestry, can it? What a reminder of how much we are missing through Spotify
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