Anne Hailes: Valentine’s Magical Blend of Love, Mystery and Romance

DESPITE those former clerics claiming to be “the” Valentine, each being put to death in passing, today is yet another chance for the martyr Valentine to spread his wings and shower us all with loving thoughts.

Well, for some but not for others. I know a woman who sends herself a yellow rose every February 14 and all her friends are in awe of this romantic gesture from a fan.

She amuses herself by tricking her friends with little suggestions as to the identity of her ghostly lover, and no one has yet guessed that he doesn’t exist.

In the same vein is the teacher in a girls’ school. “One morning I was worried by the discouraged looks from three of the girls. I asked them what was wrong. It turned out that they were disappointed that they had not received Valentine’s Day cards – these 17-year-olds were really upset.

“I told them not to worry, I never had cards at their age but I said, later that day, I’m flying to Paris to meet my handsome Frenchman who was going to see me. take him to the George V Hotel for a glamorous dinner and dance and whatever else happens.

“Their eyes almost popped out of their heads, suddenly I was the coolest teacher in school. However, I had to have a good story the following week to satisfy their curiosity. At the end of the term, I admitted my fantasy.”

I’ve told this story before…

…But I think it bears repeating. I don’t remember exactly when it started, around 12 or 13 years old. I started getting very colorful Valentine’s Day cards in the mail.

No signature, only ‘Just Me’ or ‘Just Me Again’ or ‘Just Me to You’ or such message. I couldn’t guess who ‘Just Me’ was but I went to school with my head held high and my Valentine’s Day card in my school bag.

Over the years, the cards kept coming. My parents didn’t know who it was, my friends didn’t know who it was, my brothers denied any involvement.

Boyfriends entered the scene and left in the blue and the mystery remained. Even in my 22nd year the mystery card rolled out of the letterbox on February 14th and was put to work to show to the girls in Ulster Television’s production office – I was the envy of all when I told them the story of years being the apple of someone’s eye. Again, my self-esteem was sky high.

Thus came the day of my wedding and reception at the majestic Glenavna Hotel in Whiteabbey.

Imagine the scene. The end of a good meal, lots of fun and laughter, relief that the ceremony went well, time to relax and enjoy. The waitress arrived with the coffee pots on a silver tray but hit the middle tier of the wedding cake and it all started to fall apart – guests gasped, that a wedding cake collapsed during the reception was a sure sign the marriage too would fall apart, but the best man was thinking fast and he and the groom grabbed the top two tiers and avoided a marital breakdown for over 50 years.

So we came to read telegrams and cards. Beautiful messages, cheeky messages, two-way messages, laughs and blushes.

Hold your breath

And then we came to the last one. It was a Valentine’s Day card. Groomsman Tom turned to me and there was a pause, my heart was racing – what would the love of my life think of a Valentine’s Day card I suspected was from my loyal fan? As a boyfriend, he had been suspicious for a few years, so now clumsy or what…

“This will be the last Valentine I send. I’m passing you now to the man who will love you for the rest of your life. I wish you both all the best. Just me.”

I feel the tears tingle at the memory.

While people were obviously wondering what it was all about, I looked at my new hubby and he was smiling, had we winked at him? After a good few seconds, the spotlight landed on a handsome man who was getting up.

He stood up, blew a kiss and proclaimed, “It’s just me.”

It was my dear Uncle Jimmie, a neighbor, our two families were the closest friends. He had kept the self-esteem of a young girl elevated through school days and into adulthood. My parents were the only ones who knew the story.

Maybe it was this gesture that inspired me to send my mom a bouquet for Valentine’s Day when I realized she was feeling a little down. I wanted to cheer him up so I had a display of gladioli delivered that morning.

No message, just the flowers. There was great excitement and when my father came home at tea time she was full of thanks, hugs and kisses. But there was a terrible silence from my father, he told her that they weren’t his and made a deep sulk. He was jealous…

Maybe a little surprised as he hadn’t even sent a card so it was a very tense situation. I was the only one who knew the secret and I didn’t want to spoil my mother’s pleasure of having an anonymous admirer, but after a while I had to “confess” as they say. My father was relieved, my mother – well, I thought I detected a certain disappointment. My gesture backfired.

I discovered a new and new way to send flowers casually – delivered by postbox (as long as it’s wide enough), a long package of delicately wrapped fresh flowers, so convenient and easy to order online . More at

Happy Valentine’s Day dear reader, may the romance blossom and the fun and games begin.

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