The Most Middle Class, Passive-Aggressive, Valentine’s Day Card You’ll Ever See

Ok, so let me get straight to it, yesterday was my first Valentine’s Day with a another human being* (*not to say it’s the first Valentine’s spent with company, I have enjoyed many a V Day with cats, TV, wine, chocolate…). However I just can’t seem to get my head around making a song and dance out of chocolate and roses. I thought it would make complete sense when you have someone to buy stuff for but instead it’s actually worse. Its like Inception, the deeper and more involved you get the less and less it makes any shred of sense.

For me, the pinnacle of the V Day confusion and inner turmoil was the important part of selecting a low to medium value cruddy piece of tree we call ‘gift cards’ (you can probably see where this post is going already). The difficulty selecting a suitable Valentine’s Day card embodied completely the inner awkward-come-British-come-Alice reaction to the whole Western festival.

Now most people (including the tall bearded one) just write in their cards, “To X…Love Y” No one gave me this memo. As a result, instead of getting a cutesy, charming note, my Valentine essentially got a passive-aggressive message reflecting the inner frustrations of his other half’s quest to find (and buy) said card.

img_1628

img_1626

Message reads as follows:

To Stewart,

My God, if you knew how much middle class, British, stress I went through just to find this ruddy card. Like seriously why do all Valentines cards have to be either so ridiculously over the top (since when are men turned on by fluffy bears?!) or look like they belong at a funeral? Christ, where is the middle ground? It’s like buying low fat hummus when there’s a shortage – it shouldn’t be that big a deal but it damn well is!

Anyway, happy Valentine’s day. Your face and personality are kinda awesome (unlike my lovey dovey card writing abilities). I bought you man stuff (vodka + energy drink) because they contain red. Boom – should plan weddings.

Christ, don’t make me write another one of these.

Alice xxx

And let it be known that I deliver on my promises, this is what the tall one got from me…

img_1631

(See what I did with the bubble wand? After a bottle of vodka that bubble wand is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.)

I know right? Best damn girlfriend there is.

Why “National Singles Day” Needs to Be a Legit Thing

Happy 15th February!

How you react to that opening line will determine so much about your personality. If you are in a relationship, do not own a calendar or just have yet to find the TV remote from the bottom of the Christmas sweet wrappers (big up my piggy hermits), then this day will mean nothing to you. If, however, you are single (be it happily or unhappily) this statement screams one thing:

HALF PRICE CHOCOLATE DAY!

A day where (in theory) all the loved up couples can move along with their roses and stuffed teddy bears and make way while the singletons of this world feast on the leftovers. Granted, that’s a desperate and somewhat depressing way of looking at it, but that’s really what it’s all about.

For me it’s simply another year, another day eating cereal, another evening wondering if I should actually have a go at ironing that nice shirt I’ve only worn once. My Valentine’s meal for instance was this bad boy:

WP_20160214_13_25_08_Pro

For me personally the day has no great bearing on my life in the same manner that it used to. Last year for example I proposed that single folk be allowed to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, alias Pancake Day, in the same over-the-top manner couples tend to apply to Valentine’s day. Still waiting for the Archdeacon and the Pope to get back to me on that marketing idea.

But although I don’t care about V Day nearly as much as I used to, I know and am sure of plenty of other people out there who probably do care about their single status at this time of year. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there. Let me take you back… (wiggle lines, wiggle lines…)

(This will help set the tone)

 

Back in the mid 00’s was a meh-time to be a young person in the Cotswolds. I studied at an average sized school with a uniform that basically consisted of a baggy jumper and long skirts, however because we were conservative in every sense us girls were spared the torment of wearing a tie. With my hair forever tied back and the world’s thickest fringe, at the age of 15 I was hardly going to win any beauty awards.

Into this mix of greasy hair and textbooks the school decided to up the social pressure. Every year around Valentine’s they set up a stall to encourage students to buy their loved one or crush a rose. You’d pay £4 (a pricey figure, just think how many Starbursts you could buy for that!?) to reorder and then ever year on, or close to, the 14th, students would come round form rooms reading out names and handing roses over to lucky students (often girls) who in turn would squeal and compare numbers received. Some girls got just the one from her boyfriend, others would t four or even five.

Guess how roses yours truly ever received.

Now don’t go all sympathetic on me now, you’re years too late. Looking back on it, the popular girls were in fact buying roses for their friends, or worse, themselves and by lunch time people were dashing about with wet paper towels in a desperate bid to keep the cheap, dead, things alive. Sat here now it seems like a joke. A highly profitable one.

At the time though I felt rubbish. Why didn’t anyone want to give me a rose? The world around me is screaming that this is the season of love. It’s in shops, online, heck, even CBBC is playing romantic episodes of cartoons, or that Tracy Beaker episode where she gets it off with that geeky guy.

Thank God it was a teenage phase and once at University it had thoroughly passed. But with all the lovey dovey stuff going on at this time of year it got me thinking: why isn’t there a semi-official day for those who are single? For instance, in China it’s actually a big deal, it’s actually bigger than Valentine’s Day itself:

 

 

Yet in this country (and the West in general) we don’t seem to do anything. Many years ago on the television show The Apprentice, the teams were tasked with creating a new commercial festival. One team came up with Green Earth day (kinda failed given you were supposed to send cards to each other), the other put forward the idea of celebrating single people (including widowers, single parent families and single people in general). They won the task hands down, the commercial companies only complaining over their choice of date. The 15th February was seen as too close to V Day.

Despite the companies declaring (much to their surprise) that The Apprentice had actually cottoned onto a brilliant idea, nothing ever happened following on from the show. A year later another series rolled onto our screens and the same companies went back to rolling their eyes at cat pyjamas.

Now I’m not saying card shops need to start radically commercialising another aspect of our lives, but does it not seem just a little unfair that we live in a society that openly celebrates those who are together, but not those who are not (even if the choice is not always theirs?) As a single person (oh yeah, by the way, I’m single) it would be nice to have a day which was unattached to V Day, a day where we could get cheaper cinema tickets, get store discounts or even go to somewhere knowing that I could have a good time and if Mr Darcy happens to be two rows in front then yippee there’s a good chance he’s single!

But taking me out of the equation, I think it would help those who find the whole V Day experience rather depressing. Here would be a day that says “you’re not alone, we all love you just as you are” a day where you can buy chocolate for yourself and not have to ignore the big “I Love You – reduced, now 50p” heart-shaped box. With the rise of social media in the past 10 years it’s no wonder that more and more people are feeling depressed. It’s bad enough with people taking endless selfies or boosting about their amazing lives, but Valentine’s just takes it one stage further. One overrated event is blown vastly out of proportion and we have nothing to balance it out.

Again, I’d like to stress that despite my rantiness over the subject, I personally do not have any feelings towards Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, when I actually do go through the 14th February for the first time with boyfriend in tow I’m sure I’ll be absolutely unbearable. There’ll be chocolate and teddy bears and expensive meals galore (at least one of us will be getting that at least). But right now I don’t see the harm in bringing in a National Singles Day, at least trying it out. The best thing I ever received on Valentine’s was a bag of fingers and this message from my housemate while at University:

163318_10151255878341050_1648656838_n

It was a little message but it meant so much. It also came around the same time that I finally started to realise that I didn’t need to change or be made to change to fit in or be liked. I was thoroughly respected and loved already. We often say or think things but don’t realise how much a difference it can make to someone to see it written down.

If the commercial companies are failing to acknowledge and clock onto the single market, then what’s to stop us creating one for ourselves. A card, a posit note, just once day where we can say to someone “you’re single and that’s actually not a bad thing. You’re pretty awesome and I wouldn’t want you any other way. Now, lets watch Bake Off.”

Oh, and FYI supermarkets, I know what your game is. I w into several of your establishments today and found no trace of reduced chocolate. Try and palm off your roses on me? Hah! Keep them! You can try and convince us as much as you like to try and buy full price Easter chocolate instead but seriously how stupid do you think we are. Never underestimate us singletons. We don’t have to think about others when we shop. Our standards may be low but by golly or savviness and spending potential is high. And don’t you go forgetting that.

Happy Valake Day!

Ah February – that wonderful time of the year where you either freeze to death in the cold or narrowly avoid death slipping on ice. Yes, February is a wonderful time of the British year. I don’t know what people are saying when they say February the 14th is just an excuse for companies to make money out of us. It’s not like you can only go to restaurants because it’s too cold for a picnic, only want to buy cheesy tat because the thought of buying t-shirts makes you shudder…Oh wait. In my 22 years on this planet I’ve gone through a variety of Valentine’s Days. I’ve had the personal ‘being single sucks’, the fake Valentine’s cards, the snotty friend going through a break up, right through to where I am now, the ‘meh, just another day, ooh look reduced chocolate!’ One common theme runs through every V Day though, I’ve always been single on it. Before anyone sits there thinking ‘oh poor, poor Alice’, don’t, just don’t. On the other hand, if you think for a second that I’m the kinda girl to preach on about companies making money out of us, well you can just keep walking. I genuinely have no strong feelings on the subject or the day itself. I actually think in a modern society filled with faceless social media and online gaming there’s a need to force people to show affection. On a separate but related note, the other day I saw this advert on TV and I made me a very little bit annoyed:

“OH COME ON! REALLY?!” (As if this website needs further drilling into our lives) Another ad campaign which is doing its rounds in the UK is the ‘Love Your Imperfections’ series of adverts by Match.com.

Saying ‘Love Your Imperfections’ is all well and good, but one of my imperfections is spilling coffee and tea over everyone and thing and I’ve yet to find anyone who loves that about me. It’s not even endearing, it’s ‘oh for God’s sake Alice’. Love is definitely too strong a word to describe my imperfections (#BlasphemeYourImperfections). (Sorry, I have to say something now as an FYI for the future. If you run towards me on a first date I WILL run away in fear, if you alter my collar I WILL find it controlling and I swear to goodness if you photo bomb a picture with my friends I will give you two words and push you away. And if that photo was even vaguely decent, run. Run away and never return. I won’t be responsible for my actions if you don’t. (There are many people in Southampton who can testify to all of this). So that’s where my head is at with Valentine’s. Love it, loathe it, or be indifferent to it. Single or taken, you can say whatever you want about the day. This year though was slightly different to normal years in that Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day) was the Tuesday straight after Saturday 14th February. Potted Bible lesson: Shrove Tuesday is the first day before Lent, the period where traditionally you’re meant to forbear ingredients such as eggs, flour and milk for the 40 days before Easter. These ingredients were meant to be thrown out or consumed before Lent, and put together they make great pancakes. Shove Tuesday = Pancake Day (there is some logic behind it). Pancake Day gives people the excuse to binge on this delightful foodstuff and add all manner of toppings to it. Lemon, sugar, chocolate, fruit, the list goes on and on. Someone at work suggested savoury fillings like ham and cheese. She was shut down fairly quickly. If you’re like me, you also get excited when you inadvertently make your pancake look a little like a face: WP_20150217_20_41_44_Pro It looks like a face!

It got me thinking, why can’t single people quit their whining and celebrate Pancake Day like a sort of ‘singles day’ (without calling it that.) Think about it, you can go round to a friend’s house and laugh over the whole batter making, flipping, pancake on floor, start again thing and it’s socially acceptable to binge yourself silly. You don’t have to feel guilty eating your weight in sugar and Nutella. You can watch a guilty pleasure film or do anything you want under the tag line ‘I’m giving this up for Lent’. If you don’t fancy staying in there are all manner of ice cream/pancake/waffle parlours across the land that will do the job for you. Let the couples have Valentine’s Day, but let the single’s have a day too. If you’re in a relationship you’re probably feeding each other chocolate covered strawberries or spaghetti, or whatever it is couples eat. Single people are normal humans, we work and have money to spend and, with no one else around, we can be very impressionable. For example, I convinced myself that I would look awesome in animal hats thanks to a hat display in a shop. Oh, I don’t regret it, I do look awesome. Let us singles have a harmless day to binge and have fun and not feel guilty in doing so. Give me the chance devour these over an oversized teddy any day: MG_0645-624x416banana-pancakes-4

Blueberry-pancakes

Seems like a fair trade.

Valentine’s or Pancake day, or, as I would like to call the whole period, Valake Day. Why make two events exclusive, when they could work together to make everyone happy? Couples, don’t get lovey dovey on Shrove Tuesday. Singles, stop wallowing in self pity and get a pancake down your throat. Do this and who knows, we may get through this depressing month a hell of a lot quicker.

Alice and India Take on Cardiff

Yesterday I went to visit my dear sister in her university city of Cardiff. Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, but it also happens to be the location Brad Pitt will fly to when the Zombie apocalypse comes:

(I think all Welsh persons will agree the post-crash footage isn’t really a fair visual representation of Cardiff. I’m sure Americans were equally up in arms about this, if not…)

Anyway, I visited Cardiff for the day. I’ve visited the city before, once to see India’s halls and silently weep over the fact I’m not a fresh-faced student any more, another time to go to the castle and a final time by myself to undergo some retail therapy. This time though I was able to pick up on more things about Wales and then put them to my 19 year old sister who has only been in the country for six months (because that’s enough time to make someone Welsh right? We are 25% welsh after all.) First of all, I asked her why every train I take towards Wales is late: WP_20150118_09_38_22_Pro

Admittedly this photo was from another train I took to Cardiff (delayed by 14 minutes), but the train yesterday was 19 minutes late. That day it was due to ‘a train fault’. I wonder if First Great Western do some sort of delayed train I Spy, because I’m certainly well on my way to having enough points to claim for my ‘delayed commuter’ badge. India had no idea, so I had to assume it was because they were coming from London (if in doubt, blame London).

I tend to voice my irritation at simple things when I’m with other people. For example, in John Lewis they had a Valentine’s Day section. Sis and I were playing a ‘what would we want if someone was buying for us’ game when I saw this product:

233936554

It’s simply two separate keyrings saying ‘You complete me’ and ‘We fit together’. Aside from the cheesy lines written on the product, to all intents and purposes the product is useless. That heart is a lot bigger than the picture suggests (my opinion it’s clunky) and when taken apart the two pieces mean nothing (a heart with a massive hole and the line ‘you complete me’ sounds more like a break up gift than a Valentine’s present). I also spent a good deal of time trying to get the jigsaw piece to fit into the heart. Surprise, surprise it doesn’t (the keyring chain itself hasn’t been heavily factored into the design). India managed to force one in eventually, because forced love is the best kind.

To try and take away the irritation we then went swiftly over to the chocolate and sweet section. We both got surprisingly serious over our discussions of what our imaginary boyfriends are buying us. India was certain hers would be buying her Jelly Belly beans, most likely a couple of poles so they could have a jelly bean fight beforehand:

230487790

I decided that I’d be getting a load of Hotel Chocolat chocolates (or as I called them, Hotel Chocolat chocolats, because I’m classy and annoying like that). In particular these (at £22):

260716-Valentines-2015-Sleekster

And these (at £16):

230672706

I was then asked which chocolates I’d have and which ones my boyfriend will be eating.

“Oh no, you’ve got me wrong sis, I’ll be having all of them.”

“Then what is your boyfriend going to have?”

“These.”

234166518

“But they’re only £2.50?”

“Look, I was having a very exhausting time in the office the day I got paid that £2.50, he should feel grateful I’m giving him any money from that particular day!”

It was at this point we realised people around us genuinely thought we were being serious, so we put the products down and slipped out of the John Lewis store.

We then went to Hollister for the first time where we quickly learnt what people are talking about when referring to the lack of light in stores.

“Are we in men’s or women’s?”

“I’ve no idea, these look like girls’ shirts…”

“Oh no wait, these are guys t-shirts, turn back, turn back!”

“This must be women’s. It still smells like aftershave, but a more feminine aftershave”

“Yep, you’re right. Look, there’s no upper half, but those legs are definitely too thin to be a man’s”.

Again, we were getting looks, but this time from people half our ages.

“India, do you ever feel you’re 50 years older than you are?”

“Erm, yes, yes I do. How about you?”

“I didn’t before I entered this shop, but I do now.”

After all the looks and all the ranting, we were both ready for coffee and a sit down. We chatted about life, discussed gothic literature (“look, all I’m saying is that when I got to Heathcliff forcing Cathy to marry his son I did think ‘oh for goodness sake Heathcliff!'”).

There was also the compulsory “you’re so cool, with your freedom on weekends and money for fancy coffee. You could have fancy coffee all the time!”

“I could have fancy coffee India but I don’t live in Cardiff do I? I live in Swindon.”

“But you could have fancy coffee and cake if you wanted to.”

“Swin-don!”

Conversation cut (thankfully) short by mumma Bennett calling us to have a three-way conversation. This plan was dropped quickly when the speaker phone function resulted in sound echoing around for all to hear and mum being unable to hear anything. ‘I can’t hear you, who is that singing, why can I hear rustling, what are you doing?!’

India took control of the call and I decided to play about, writing stuff down for her to say to mum, or try to read and not laugh.

 WP_20150208_19_29_14_Pro

India failed massively, laughing at all of them.

When I got given the phone I had a mother who was clearly fed up.

“Have you got anything sensible you want to say or ask?”

“Did India tell you she was running away with Antonio?”

“What?”

“I know, shocking isn’t it? And I hear she’s a woman as well!”

“(Long sigh) well at least you’re both having fun.”

Mumma Bennett has got all too used to us being big kids when we’re together. If anything it’s got worse over recent years. When I went off to University we were separated and the result has since meant a higher concentration of sheer stupidity whenever we’re together. I’m sure mum has been hitting the internet for solutions but short of ‘feed them less additives’ or ‘sit them on the naughty step’ there’s probably not a lot out there for curing grown adults of whatever it is we have.

The final leg of the day saw us hit Boots, where I asked India (the representative for all things Welsh) what the hell this was:

WP_20150207_16_53_49_Pro

All she could come up with was “no idea, but it’s very freaky”.

Quickly deciding there was nothing of value in Boots other than a Madame Tussauds death mask we headed into Primark. Primark in Cardiff has four floors, four! I always get lost in there, and I always find that on the weekend it’s the closest thing to experiencing London without being in London. People everywhere, narrow isles, security patrolling around, but because it’s not London I’m somehow more accepting of it. I also learnt some Welsh while I was there.

WP_20150118_12_09_57_Pro

Plant must mean child in Welsh. If the pronunciation is the same in Welsh as English that makes it all the more amusing. I can’t decide though if calling a child a plant is either cute or weird. On a separate note, I’ve discovered I have a tendency to wind-up my sister and Welsh citizens up by randomly reading Welsh words out loud (very badly, I’m sure). I’ll walk along and, for example, see customer services in Welsh. I’ll then randomly say “g-wasnelkjsdkfjsla c-wmeris-aid!” (i.e. absolute rubbish) and watch my sister as her eyes rolls right to the back of her skull. I think it’s hilarious, even though in doing this in a crowded space I know I’m risking my life.

The clothes in Primark though were something else entirely. First there was this:

WP_20150207_16_24_48_Pro

The bikini was reasonable enough, but why anyone would spend £8 on the fish net wrap/shawl had the pair of us baffled. As India said, ‘it doesn’t keep you warm or dry you off, and it doesn’t exactly cover you up. People can’t wonder what sort of costume you’re wearing because there’s nothing for the imagination!”

“I know, and imagine the burn lines”

“Oooh, the burn lines!”

On the same floor we also discovered these PJ bottoms with a rather busy cake/biscuit pattern:

WP_20150207_16_22_13_Pro

I had stronger views on this than India “what if you go to bed a little bit hungry? You’re just going to want to eat your own legs!” India, though fits of laughter, said “not the reaction most people would have to hunger, but I get your point”. My point still stands. Primark: supporting cannibalism since 2015.

That said, I did end up purchasing this amazing fashion piece for a bargain £5

WP_20150207_16_36_53_Pro

Yes, that is indeed a kitten onesie. Right, so before your judge me over my fashion sense I’ll have you know this is only my second onesie. My polar bear one still lives at the family home and actually saved my live while at university, keeping the violent shivering down to a minimum in January. However, unlike my polar bear one, this onesie has pockets to do pockety things with!

WP_20150207_16_36_59_Pro

(“Oh my god Ali, are you actually posing in that?” “Yes I am, now take the photo!”)

And the hood!

WP_20150207_16_38_58_Pro

In short, this piece was my buy of the day (only £5! Why on earth has this been reduced down to £5?!). Before you ask, I am indeed wearing it right now as I type. The only issue with this outfit is that it also has a bell attached to the zip. This means that while I’m wearing this onesie everyone will be aware of my movements, and it’ll also stop me from stalking birds and mice (a favourite pastime of mine).

Overall, a fun day out with my fabulous little sister. I’ve learnt that Primark sells a mixture of clothing, both awesome and awful, that Hollister needs to invest in more lighting and that when I enter a relationship I’ll know exactly where to direct my other half. In fact, perhaps I should start noting down products now? That actually might not a be a bad idea, that way on the first date I can produce this list. It will certainly save the time wasting later on. How could such a plan ever go wrong? Right, where are my notepads and pens…