Thursday, 14 February 2008

A Blade of Grass, Hand-Knitted Hearts and Definitions of Love

I returned late last night from a couple of days in London with a friend. As usual my friend and I seemed to attract strange or at the very least unusual happenings. Incidents this trip included the tableclothe on the next table in the restaurant bursting into flames whilst an arguement between waiters broke out in Italian as to who should put the fire out. Much stamping and screaming ensued and we felt we ought to at least give them a round of applause at the end when all the flames were extinguished. There was also an incident involving a glove puppet in a lift but I need to recover from that one before I share that with you dear reader.

Today mooching round Tescos at lunch time looking for a birthday card for a friend I am enveloped in roses. I have an American Beauty moment, rose petals falling like a blizzard about me. There seem to be more male shoppers than usual; men in suits on their lunch break, van drivers, work men in muddy boots, spotty youths, even the odd hoody boy with heavy gold bling. I am confused and then realise it is Valentines Day. What a sad lone creature I am, not realising the day. The nation is consuming Kenyan grown blood red roses to celebrate love at the rate of over 10,000 bunches per hour ( a strange fact shared with me by a Tesco manager recently). They are buying padded hearts and small bears clutching messages for the sake of true love, or guilt, or the need to make sure they are not in the dog house. Is this the bitter and twisted spinster moment creeping up on me, the cynical dismissal of a national day of love? I examine my sensible lace up shoes and feel the pressure of thermal underwear against my skin,the hall mark of the person who puts sense and comfort before passion. Am I becoming too sceptical about love or merely about its commercial expression. How many may have worked at writing a love poem for their partner, gone to the time and trouble of placing a ‘Squeegee loves her Mr Bumble’ notice in the local paper even the Guardian? Perhaps there is a phalanx of hard up or eco lovers hand crafting gifts of untold sweetness and meaning created from biodegradable products or sourced from fair-trade projects. Can you love in a politically correct, eco friendly, non co-dependant, emotionally healthy way? I once gave someone a hand knitted heart for Valentines Day made from an old woollen jumper he loved me to wear but which had given up the ghost.It seemed non co-dependent unneedy and very recycled at the time.

Who knows how you can love and be loved, love hides a multitude of sins and glories, in fact it is probably the tension between the two that makes its pursuit so enticing. Amongst those who would say that love is not all its cracked up to be and that a nice cup of tea with good friends you love is a more than adequate substitute, there is often a back hint of longing for something other, something that could be called romantic love.

Perhaps we are hardwired to long for another, an evolutionary desire to ensure we keep the species ticking over. It may be pheromones, it may be the knowledge that two people can pay a mortgage more easily. I have no idea what romantic love is and why should I know, it has as many faces as people that experience it . I tend to agree with the American poet Carl Sandberg's Explanations of Love, that there is a place where love begins and a place where it ends and the touch of two hands can foil any dictionary. I also think the wonderful Brian Patten’s poem 'A Blade of Grass' hits some tender nail on the head, accepting something as simple as love can be the most complicated thing in the world.

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