Confession: My Best Worst Valentine’s Day

“Can I see some ID, please?” The cashier spoke so loudly that the supermarket fell silent. A gasp came from behind me, where an elderly couple shuffled back in horror, assuming – as the cashier did – that I was attempting to buy alcohol underage.

I’m thirty, I’m single, it’s Valentine’s Day and all I want is a bottle of red wine.

“Take it as a compliment,” the cashier added.

That I look like a criminal or have a baby-face? I regularly get IDed and although I know the check-out staff are only doing their job, it can be trying. It doesn’t matter whether I wear my glasses or slap on make-up, I always have to pull out my purse and flash my driver’s license. Thankfully, I updated the picture recently. The previous one was taken when I was barely seventeen and going through a ‘goth’ phase. Long, mismatched brown-ginger hair, black-rimmed eyes and a bored expression that made me look like the zombie-girl from The Ring. I once presented my former ID to a cashier in Edinburgh. He looked back and forth from the plastic card to my face several times, before he reached out and shook my hand.

The words ‘Neville Longbottom-ing’ were used.

Patrick van IJzendoorn

Highclere Castle, via Patrick van IJzendoorn

I was in a new relationship last Valentine’s Day and we went to Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed. Let’s call my date Greg. Anyone who follows me on Twitter might have seen my #DaretoShare dating stories for the Mills & Boon DARE launch. This one didn’t feature, although I have many other horrible tales waiting in the wings.

It was a lovely day – it even snowed, making the scene magical – before we ventured inside and were led around by the castle’s owner, Lady Carnarvon (“call me, Fiona”). At high tea, there were elaborate cakes and slim sandwiches and sparkling wine. There was even a naughty yellow Labrador who managed to squeeze himself into the dining room, tail thudding on our thighs, as he tried snaffle a pastry or two. It was then that I learned that my date, Greg, had never eaten a scone before.

I don’t know how this could have happened.

He lives in England. We are obsessed with scones. There is even a religious order dedicated to them. Well, there isn’t, but there should be. (And if you’re wondering, it’s jam first, then clotted cream. It’s the Cornish way!) Greg sawed his scone in half, slathered each side with all the spreads he could find, then slapped them together with an audible SPLAT that sprayed me – and those sitting on the table with us – with cream, butter, jam and crumbs. He then opened his jaw as wide as he could and tried to fit the entire lot into his mouth. He succeeded, barely.

Awkward and extremely English laughter broke out around the table.

Greg, at this point, slowly cottoned on to the idea that he might be eating a scone wrong. So he tried to talk, with his mouth still extremely full. This was a bad idea. A huge cream-crumb-splodge came soaring onto the pristine, white table-cloth. Silence. A very long, tense silence. Not that he noticed. No one spoke to us after that. I didn’t blame them. Still, once that ordeal was over, we had a cold walk around the grounds and I stored that particular memory in the section of my brain called: ‘funny stories we might tell our kids one day if he’s a half-decent guy who doesn’t frequently urinate in public and pick his face constantly’. That last run-on sentence might tell you why we broke up (hello, #DaretoShare, I’m fine, I don’t need therapy, I have wine – even if I do get constantly IDed when I buy it).

Today, wine in hand, I came home to begin freelance work. And there, sitting on the mat, was a beautiful book from Elisabeth Hobbes, called The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge. Once again, I am relieved to have romantic fiction in my life; it gives me hope that one day I will find that half-decent guy. For now, fictional ones will do.

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