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Offbeat – 14 February 2014

I don’t particularly associate ‘Magnetic Fields with romance, but the combination of a purple light show at night, the violent rumbles and bangs of thunder and the smell of rain work for me every time.

It’s Valentine’s Day again. The rash of red and white hasn’t shown up this year. I suspect it’s something to do with tough times. Wallets are slender, on a financial equivalent of one of those rapid weight-loss diets. Perhaps marketers are feeling unromantic as well. The maxim in business is when times are tight, spend less. In the twisted realm of that world, marketing is always the first thing to go: getting consumers to spend more doesn’t enter the picture. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
In the absence of spending power, and the presence of dour people who believe that love is best expressed with the wave of a bank card or a cheque with nothing but a signature, all that seems to remain is actual love and the possibility of a slight uptick in the number of children born in November. Hope springs eternal, but don’t get it up too much. Joys, like expenses, should be planned.
The first moments of love, on the other hand, can be unplanned and random.
Puppy love is great. What seems like ages ago I found myself in adolescent love. As teenagers do, I wandered around in a moonspun daze with dizziness afflicting my head and that feeling in my stomach that I might have sucked down a tin of condensed milk. Condensed milk seems like a more apt metaphor, because on the face of it, butterflies look good but probably don’t taste good.
The one moment that I remember relates to the extreme sense of relaxation that it entails, something to do with everything ‘being right’, in spite of the pressures of exams. I can remember sitting on a step, and staggering as I stood up. That’s the delight of dizziness. What I best remember though is feeling of that deep sense of love in a thunder storm, with an incredible lightning show off to the east, and a Jean Michelle Jarre tape in the Walkman. I think it was ‘Magnetic Fields’.
The prompts and cues of moments form strong associations with emotions. I don’t particularly associate ‘Magnetic Fields with romance, but the combination of a purple light show at night, the violent rumbles and bangs of thunder and the smell of rain work for me every time.
I am no longer in love with her, as wonderful as she seemed at the time. The feeling lasted a couple of weeks only, and being the reserved and uncertain thing that I was, and still am, I could not find the courage to get within ten meters of her, no matter how hard my hormones pushed.
Decades have passed. What I felt towards her then doesn’t exist, no matter how hard I try. But the memory and evocation of thunderstorm stayed. Love comes and goes. The sense of joy can sink into a mire of dull indifference. It can be murdered in moments of anger and buried repeatedly by words designed to parade hatred. Thunderstorms return from different directions, and bring hopes of different loves and lovers.
Debating the concept of love with a personal friend a day or two ago, I realise that there are different ways for different people to feel it. To my mind, passion comes and goes. Love is the comfort of sharing a space without need or worry. Valentine’s Day should be far more than a brief cessation to discomfort and the contempt of familiarity.
The roses, doggerel rhymes, gaudy heart-shaped chocolates in red foil and standard red and white love tokens of Valentine’s Day feel superficial to me, bank card templates for romance for the masses,  without the appeal of my own personal feelings. I don’t want regard that is diarised and orchestrated by shopkeepers who scratch through the archetypes for the lowest common denominator and highest possible sales.
Poetry and those special greetings should be the shorthand of the individual feeling. Tokens or gifts should consider the person, not the commercial intent and template romance of the day.
The best thing I can hope for this Valentine’s Day is a late night thunderstorm to the east, a moment to feel and the hope of holding hands and contentment sometime, somewhere.  
If optimism turns into the hindsight of realism, I know there will always be another thunderstorm.

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