Blogs and Kisses

Earlier this week, I discovered a Valentine’s Day present which my wife had given me in February (that being the traditional month for such exchanges, of course).

Before you judge me, and assume I had cruelly discarded the gift, it’s not that I hadn’t appreciated it at the time, more that I had put it somewhere safe, where I wouldn’t forget about it.

Then I forgot about it.

Here is the gift in question:

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If you are unsure what it is, let me explain: it is a tin, filled with several mini packets of ‘Love Hearts’. If you’re still confused, as I expect some of my non-UK following may be, Love Hearts are small, heart-shaped sweets (or candy, for the Americans), with supposedly romantic phrases printed on them. Oh, and in case you were wondering why I had preserved the gift in white silk, that’s not my exact tin – I got that image from Google.

I say the phrases are ‘supposedly’ romantic, because it does of course depend on your own personal definition of romance. For example, some people may consider the phrase ‘all mine’ to be very endearing and cute, but I personally find it quite threatening. To me, telling someone they are all yours, is one step from sending them bits of your hair in the post, and then boiling their pet rabbit on the stove. ‘All mine’ is what Isaac shouts when there are Jaffa Cakes nearby.

I would also regard that particular message as a warning to all other potential love interests to back the fuck off. It’s the sort of Love Heart you want your partner to eat in public, so that everyone can see they are all yours. I can’t help thinking that Swizzels Matlow (the makers of Love Hearts), only went with ‘all mine’ as one of their chosen phrases, because ‘leave me, and I’ll cut your penis off and nail it to a wall’ didn’t fit (or the font would have been so tiny, it would have rendered the message utterly pointless).

This is by no means a criticism of my wife, because she cannot possibly have known what the individual messages inside the tin would say – other than having the general suspicion that some of them would be sickeningly cutesy. It was simply a romantic gesture, and the phrases printed onto the sweets entirely incidental. After all, it’s not like I am the kind of obsessive person who would read all the messages together, to try and discover any potential confectionery-based cypher she had planned:

“Erm, dear, are you trying to tell me something with these sweets? It’s just that the first five I have eaten so far had the messages ‘Oi You!’, ‘Why Not?’, ‘Get Me’, ‘A Drink?’ and ‘Cockwomble’ printed on them.”

Anyway, we are not the sort of couple who do romantic gestures very often, so I would never normally pay much attention to the messages on the sweets themselves, but as I was munching my way through a packet on Monday morning, something happened which caused me to take notice.

Basically, I decided it would be rude not to offer a packet to the two colleagues I share an office with, but only my male colleague accepted. Having given him a pack, I started to worry that some of the phrases might be inappropriate for our continued working relationship. After all, I haven’t eaten Love Hearts in years, and with this being a limited-edition Valentine’s Day tin, what if they had created a series of one-off sweets to mark the occasion? It would be rather difficult for us to move on professionally, if I had just handed him a sweet with ‘Ride Me Big Boy’ printed across it. I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea.

I frantically started checking my own half-eaten packet, to see what Swizzels Matlow deem romantic these days, and I was utterly shocked.

It’s not that they have gone all risqué and ‘50 Shades…’, as I had first feared, but they have nevertheless ‘updated’ the sweets for the modern market and, worse, made some of them regional.

Genuinely, the first few I encountered had the phrases ‘Wicked’, ‘Alreet Pet’ and ‘Totes Hilar’ printed on them. Who did they consult in their marketing campaign, Liam Gallagher, Sarah Millican and Joey Essex?

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Ok, ‘Wicked’ is quite endearing I suppose (so long as the recipient is old enough to be familiar with the early-1990’s interpretation of the word, and doesn’t assume you are calling them evil), but ‘Alreet Pet’ and ‘Totes Hilar’? Seriously? I haven’t got through all the packets yet, but it can only be a matter of time before I discover ‘Sorted, Our Kid’, ‘Ay Up Me Duck’, and ‘Safe Bruv, Safe’.

My outrage at these ridiculous sweets, was only surpassed by the anger that I had inadvertently eaten most of the evidence. However, having once again ventured into the dark underbelly of Google Images, I’ve found an example of some of the new phrases as proof:

Cavendish Press - Manchester

Let’s analyse these, shall we?

‘Cwtch Me’ – I had never encountered this phrase until a short while ago, and my first reaction was that it was supposed to say Catch Me (W and A are next to each other on a keyboard, after all). Anyway, having checked online, cwtch is apparently a Welsh word meaning ‘cuddle’ or ‘hug’ (because the Welsh are allergic to vowels).

‘Alreet Pet’ – Another example of a Love Heart being irrelevant to 95% of the population. Why are Swizzels Matlow directing their marketing solely towards the Welsh Valleys and North East? Why not aim some sweets towards people from Manchester (Nice One, Knobhead), Birmingham (Yom Bostin’) or London (You Fackin’ Muggin’ Me Off, Darlin’?). They’ve alienated the majority of Britain here.

‘Marry Me?’ – Ridiculously specific, and can only really be used once. Besides, the sort of person who uses a Love Heart to propose is, with all due respect, a complete tool you are better off avoiding.

‘Think Pink’ – I can’t decide whether this is aimed at expectant couples who really want a baby daughter (and think the power of positive-mental-attitude-via-candy will help), or whether it is intended to raise Breast Cancer awareness. I do hope it’s the latter, as this would at least render the sweets worthwhile (although it would somewhat detract from the supposedly light-hearted nature of the messages, in the same way that ‘Check Your Balls, Lads’ wouldn’t really be appropriate either).

‘60 Years of Love’ – Bloody hell. If we thought ‘Marry Me’ was specific, this has got to be some kind of joke. Not only does this sweet only work for a specific twelve-month period in any particular relationship, but they’re now manufacturing thousands of little sweets aimed solely at people in their seventies upwards. Which begs the question: which septuagenarians, octogenarians, and nonagenarians are buying cute little sweets for their partners? Not many, I should imagine.

‘Miracles Happen’ – Well, yes, if people who have been together for exactly sixty years (not fifty-nine, not sixty-one, but precisely sixty) are your target audience, and you hope to sell sufficient quantities of romantic sweets to make your company profitable, you’ll need a fucking miracle.

‘Hot Wheels’ – Give me strength. Unless this is a new-fangled way of telling someone that you find them attractive (‘Look at the pair of hot wheels on that!’), then this is completely ridiculous, and assumes people are only interested in potential partners for the car they drive. Which, unless you happen to live in Alderley Edge and are married to a footballer, you almost certainly are not.

‘Skype Me!’ – I’m not sure which part of this I dislike the most: the suggestion that Skype is now the favoured method of courtship among young couples (assuming they don’t live far apart, in which case I am prepared to retract that comment slightly), or the implied threat of the exclamation mark at the end. If you are that desperate for your loved one to contact you via Skype, how about you send them a text (or, better still, Skype them), rather than sending a packet of sweets, hoping this particular message will be inside?

‘Swipe Right’ – Look, it’s bad enough that your partner has an apparent toileting problem, which persistently leaves one of their bum cheeks partially-smeared following a drop off, but to broadcast it via confectionery? Get a grip (which, incidentally, is another sweet I have just encountered in my current packet).

‘YOLO’ – Not just a cringe-worthy acronym for ‘You Only Live Once’, created by the Y2K generation to irritate anyone born before 1999, but a timely reminder that we are all on a downward slope to our impending deaths, and every decision that we ever make is probably the wrong one. They might as well have labelled these sweets ‘Regret Everything, Then Die’.

‘Take a Selfie’ – I can only presume Swizzels Matlow settled on this phrase, because their lawyers advised against ‘WhatsApp Me A Picture of Your Boobs/Willy’. That Y2K shower have a lot to answer for, with their relentless sexting and whatnot.

‘Tweet Me’ – Back to the Skype argument again. Look, if you want someone to tweet you, would it not make more sense to, oh, I don’t know, stop being so fucking lazy and tweet them? Unless this is another modern phrase I am unaccustomed with, which refers to getting jiggy with it.

In conclusion, this latest confectionery abomination is yet another example of chocolatiers and sweet manufacturers failing to consult me – or at least someone of equal intelligence – before rushing headlong into a marketing catastrophe.

I understand that products need to be updated sometimes, but had Swizzels Matlow set me with the brief of modernising Love Hearts (whilst still maintaining a romantic theme), my suggestions would have been far more appropriate/accurate:

Early Night?

Quick, The Kids Are Asleep!

Not Tonight, I Have a Headache

And, my personal favourite:

You Have Three Minutes, Then I’m Going to Sleep.

I hope Swizzels Matlow are proud of themselves.

Cavendish Press - Manchester

(Oh, ok, the ‘hot wheels’ one makes more sense now: it’s clearly aimed at the disabled. Because that’s not inappropriate….)

 

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Blog Meets Girl

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Last Sunday – as I am sure you are aware – was Valentine’s Day, and I don’t like it.

This isn’t because I am not romantic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: I enjoy making grandiose romantic gestures to my good lady wife (although I have come to learn that she hates surprises with a passion, so any such displays of affection must be done with ample warning and full prior permission), but I want to be romantic on my terms, not when Clintons and Interflora tell me I should be.

I want to buy flowers and chocolates for the right reasons (like when I have done something wrong, or because they were on offer at the petrol station on the way home); not because every other poor bastard in the country is being forced to at the same time.

Sure, I understand that flowers can be pretty, and that some (perhaps most) women enjoy receiving them, but for one week of the year they become the most expensive and sought-after commodity on the planet, and this strikes me as slightly ridiculous when – regardless of your efforts – they will be dead within a week or so.

Let me explain what I mean, by way of an analogy. Parrots are also brightly-coloured and pretty, but if I bought my wife one, and then advised her that she must care for and nurture it every day – even though, no matter how loving she was, it wouldn’t survive more than a week – I suspect she wouldn’t be best pleased. Just imagine the accompanying card:

Roses are red

It’s you that I seek

Here’s a nice parrot

It’ll be dead in a week

If I also then revealed to her that I had deliberately made my purchase during the one week of the year when parrot prices quadruple because every other man in the country wants to buy one, I am in no doubt that I would end up returning said bird to the pet shop post-haste, in scenes not dissimilar to that famous Monty Python sketch (I’ll play myself, and the shopkeeper will be played by Michael Palin):

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Me: “I would like to return this parrot.”

Shopkeeper: “Why? What’s wrong with it?”

Me: “It’s dead.”

Shopkeeper: “No, no, it’s resting, look.”

Me: “Listen, I know a dead parrot when I see one.”

Shopkeeper: “When did you buy it?”

Me: “A week ago.”

Shopkeeper: “Ah, yes, well, parrots don’t live past a week.”

Me: “It was meant to be a Valentine’s Day gift.”

Shopkeeper: “Very popular Valentine’s gifts are parrots.”

Me: “Is that why you charged me four times as much?”

Shopkeeper: “Indeed. Everyone wants parrots this time of year.”

Me: “So you bump the prices up?”

Shopkeeper: “That Ferrari outside isn’t going to pay for itself.”

Me: “Well, it’s no good to me now. It ruined Valentine’s Day for my wife. Stupid bird.”

Shopkeeper: “That’s no way to speak about your wife.”

You get the idea.

In short, Valentine’s Day is a con, designed to make florists and card retailers enough money that they can purchase a small Mediterranean island to retire to at the age of 43. As an old-fashioned romantic, I resent this extortion.

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I have decided, therefore, to fight back, and have devised a plan to save Valentine’s Day – and romance in general – for everyone.

To the men:

Ladies, you don’t need to read this next bit. It’s just me and the fellas, ok?

INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES. BOOBS. THE OFFSIDE RULE.

Have they gone? Good.

Lads, romance should be about you as a couple (or small group if you happen to be a Mormon or a Premier League footballer) and should be spontaneous. It shouldn’t be a date fixed in the calendar by retailers, and certainly shouldn’t be an excuse for them to hike up the prices of what they deem to be romantic. Don’t let them get away with it. Let’s make a stand together.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

A message to Clintons:

We’re done, so fuck you.

Truth be told, my good lady wife would be just as happy with a Chinese take-away and a bag of Revels on Valentine’s Day, and so a dozen red roses and a naff card are likely to be met with disappointment – particularly when I could have purchased half of the Canton Kitchen’s menu for roughly the same price. Ok, a take-away would last even less time than the flowers, but we would both get far more enjoyment from it, and it would probably smell nicer.

Chances are, your other half is the same. I’m not suggesting you should forget Valentine’s Day altogether – that would be relationship suicide – you just don’t need to be so obvious and typical about it; and you certainly shouldn’t concentrate all your romance on that one day, while ignoring the other 364. Doing something unique, which shows you put some real thought into it, is likely to be far better received.

It’s actually quite sad to see dozens of men queuing up in supermarkets with red roses and pink champagne, thinking they’re being romantic. Maybe I’m being unnecessarily harsh, and perhaps this is exactly what your partner is hoping for, but if everyone else is buying more or less the same thing, is it really that romantic? To me it just smacks of unoriginality and laziness.

Think about your partner and what she likes. What would make her feel special, loved, and attractive? Then, when you’ve worked that out – and this is the important bit – don’t fucking wait until 14th February to buy it for her. In fact, while we’re at it, you can rule out the remainder of February too (she’ll see right through that, and assume you’ve only bought it for her because it was reduced after Valentine’s Day). Just pick a random non-February day, and be spontaneous. Or, better still, save the idea for the next time she has had a shitty week, or is feeling down, and then surprise her.

Look, the last thing I want to do is come across as some kind of relationship counsellor here, because I am by no means an expert, and have made plenty of mistakes myself over the years (especially when buying gifts), but my wife has stayed married to me for approaching twelve years now, and it’s not as if I’m good-looking, well-endowed or loaded*, so I must be doing something right.

*One of those is a lie.

To the women:

You can come back now ladies….

Hello? PROSECCO. GEORGE CLOONEY. GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF.

Welcome back. Me and the lads have had a chat, and we think we’ve figured Valentine’s Day out from our side of the deal, so now it’s your turn.

It’s quite simple, really. Society seems to dictate that you should surprise your man by wearing something sexy, and pouncing on him like a wild animal.

Society is usually right, so it’s probably best to go with that. Men don’t need presents. We don’t need spontaneity or to feel unique. Be obvious. Men are simple beings, and we’re quite happy with what every other man is hoping to receive on Valentine’s Day. The good loving.

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Sure, we might say that we’d love to just watch chick-flicks and eat all the cast-off chocolates that you’ve rejected (apart from coffee creams, we have to draw the line somewhere), but do you honestly think we showered two days in a row for no reason? Come on.

Roses are red

I don’t mean to be rude

But forget all the gifts

I just want you nude

Now, here’s the important bit (and I’ve already explained this to the lads) – don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to surprise your other half. The other 364 days of the year are just as important.

Everyone:

To recap: Don’t hold off until Valentine’s Day each year to show your partner that you love them. Spend each day, wherever possible, doing the things that will make them happy.

It’s not about gifts, or cheesy over-priced cards. It’s not about the biggest bunch of flowers or a massive heart-shaped box of chocolates. It’s not about booking a table at an over-crowded restaurant three months in advance, and then paying twice as much to eat there. And, it’s definitely not about flying to Paris (who decided Paris was the capital of romance anyway? We went once, and I’d say 95% of Parisians are total pricks).

It’s about you and your partner. Work out what makes them tick, why the two of you got together in the first place and, most importantly, why you’re still together. Celebrate that.

As a nation, we need to make a stand and let the retailers know that we’re not going to fall for this shit any more. Somewhere along the line we’ve let them dictate our behaviour, then charge us extortionate amounts for the privilege, and unless we fight back in large numbers they will keep getting away with it.

Right, that’s my rant against unnecessary retail commercialism over….

….until Mother’s Day.

Thanks for reading x

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