Having your very own Day sounds great, but it isn’t.
St Stephen, the Martyr, got stoned on his, and not in a college-student type of way. St Swithin spends his Day sitting in the rain. On St Patrick’s Day Patrick drinks green beer, sings nonsense about how his eyes are smiling, and chases away snakes. There aren’t any snakes in Ireland, but it’s amazing what you imagine you can see after drinking green beer.
And on his own Day St Valentine has to work.
In fact he works all year round. Just as Santa spends the other 364 days supervising as the elves build next year’s stock of Barbies, Power Rangers and toys with which batteries are not included, St Valentine has planning meetings. He meets with St Hallmark, designing the following year’s cards, and trying to think of fresh endings to the verse that begins “roses are red, violets are blue”. He and St Cadbury decide exactly where in the box of chocolates to place the one containing the luridly pink goo. He and Pan decide which saccharine love-songs will be pan-piped onto the kind of CD which is not available in shops.
But the day on which he has to work hardest is his own Day.
Every year he and his assistant Cupid, a cherubic-looking cherub with a bow-and-arrow, go from overpriced restaurant to overpriced restaurant, looking for couples in the early stages of a relationship (say about the fourth date, just around the time when he is admitting to her that his family has a history of schizophrenia, and she is admitting to him that she is not, in fact, 29) and smiting them with love. St Valentine nods curtly at them, Cupid aims his bow, and true love strikes, usually between the shoulder-blades.
The song says that Love Hurts. This is why.
And when it’s all over Cupid heads back to Mrs Cupid (for some Angel Delight), and St Valentine goes home. Alone.
It’s like having your own birthday party, and being the only one not invited.
It isn’t easy for him to meet girls. His frankly silly name, the fact that he has to work on the most romantic day of all and the whole celibacy thing puts many of them off.
The celibacy thing is, in fact, a myth, otherwise where do the next generation of saints come from, but he never gets as far as explaining that.
The tale now arrives at this very evening. Just a couple of hours ago he was patrolling a restaurant that had oysters on the menu and My Heart Will Go On on the sound system, looking for couples to bond until death, when he saw her.
She had the face of an angel, the figure of Jessica Rabbit and the heart of a saint.
This is because she was a saint – St Maria, Patron Saint of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Their eyes met. She walked toward him with the misty-eyed look of romance, he walked toward her with the determined look of a man who hasn’t had it for a very long time.
Cupid looked at his boss, and smiled and raised the bow towards his back (well actually towards his left buttock, Cupid wasn’t very tall), but St Valentine pushed it away.
“I’ve got this covered,” he said. “After all, I’m the expert around here.”
Valentine and Maria met in the centre of the room, and smiled at each other. His first words weren’t the greatest chat-up line of all time, but they were apt.
“Go ahead,” he said, “make My Day.”