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Friday, 14 February 2014

Saint Valentine's Day ...

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!



My Mum used to tell me when I was a child that St. Valentine's was the day on which the little song birds in our garden chose their partners. We always had a bird-table, and we always took good care to leave them well-provided for in cold weather. As a result, we had hundreds of feathered friends: robins, blue tits, chaffinches, great tits, wagtails, black birds. You name them, and they'd be there in our garden. We'd watch them carefully through the window, and sure enough there were usually signs of nest-building not long after the magic day. And then, before very much longer, we'd spot a noisy brood of swallow chicks in the garage, and my father would start to get bent of shape about all the bird poo that was landing on his car.



When I was grown-up and single I used to enjoy the Valentine's Day suspense: would anyone think to send me roses? And it always felt like a not insignificant personal triumph when they did!




My husband is a lovely, eccentric man who comes from Barcelona. In his neck of the woods they don't do the whole hearts and flowers thing for the Feast of Saint Valentine.  February, 14th is just another day over there. Instead, they celebrate their amor on the Feast of Saint George, who is also their patron saint in CataluƱa. And, what with rescuing damsels from fire-breathing dragons and
everything, maybe old Saint Geordie is a better, more swashbuckling patron saint for lovers anyway.



On his feast day (23rd April) it is traditional for a Catalan lover to bestow a single rose and a book on the object of his affections.

How lovely is that?

Giving someone the present of a book that they will enjoy is surely one of the most intimate gifts that any lover can give. It takes a real understanding of what makes the other person tick to choose correctly.

When someone gives me a book I'm always intrigued by the reverse psychology of why they've chosen that particular one for me. What does it say about how they view me? Eek! Maybe better not go there, on second thoughts... .

If you were to give your other half a book this Saint Valentine's Day, which one would you give?

The 'Don'ts for Wives' handbook from 1913 would probably not be a great choice for the chaps - unless they had their sights set on sleeping in the guest bedroom for the foreseeable future. CJ, one of my cousins, gave me this copy after I got married. I think she was being ironic.



Or how about this lovely book? R.D. Blackmore's 'Lorna Doone' 1913 Dulverton edition, beautifully bound with engraved end boards and coloured illustrations.


 'Lorna Doone' is such a classic, and I love, love, love  my copy. I bought it in a place called the Bookbarn, down in Somerset. They say that it's the the largest second hand book shop in the country, and I believe them. I've spent days of my life in there browsing happily. Anyway this dedication appears on the first page of my copy:



I think it's just grand how Misses Grimwood and Burgess were busy with the Brighton and Hove Rifle Club way back in the autumn of 1913. Good for them! But I also wonder what happened to them in the following years. Did they get involved in the war effort? Did they lose sweethearts/ husbands/ fathers/ sons on the front? Did they have any not insignificant personal triumphs on 14th February, 1914?

 Anyway, whatever you're doing, have a good one!



Bonny x

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