Friday, 15 February 2008

The Valentine Hangover

Well, it's the day after the night before. What did you do for Valentine's Day?

I can't help thinking that this is yet another example of marketing hype over substance: a brilliant device of the greetings card industry to fill in the gap between Christmas and Mother's Day, which has been exploited to the full by the cut flower industry, chocolate manufacturers and card shops.

Now, I'm don't mean to be a kill-joy but, as with Christmas, things seem to have got out of hand. Go into a branch of Clinton Cards as I did the other day, and you are confronted with vast quantities of "teddy tat", cheap cuddly items for spur-of-the-moment purchases by pubescent teenagers. The price of cut flowers always doubles (or trebles) - although I saw that Sainsbury's was doing a nice line in conscience-salving by offering 12 Fairly-Traded Red Roses. Every restaurant around is packed full, and you just know that the quality of food and service in most of them is going to suffer as a result.

Even the mobile phone companies have got in on the act. I was sent a 'chain' text message, which asked me to forward a 'Valentine's Day Rose' to 12 people, "if you care about them". The 'rose' itself was quite clever " @>-%- " - but it just felt like I was being manipulated again. Needless to say, I didn't forward it.

That all said, my partner and I bought into the event to the extent of buying cards (although mine arrived in the evening, having been bought that day...), and we decided to eat out, but rather than a romantic little venue for two, we went after work to Masala Zone for a quick curry. This seemed to be full (very full) of everyone else escaping the Valentine's Day madness: some people there to do business, some families, tourists, work parties and just a few couples.

Masala Zone is clearly doing something right, as about a fifth of the customers were seemingly from South Asia. Our meals were fine, although my vegetarian kichdi was a little too heavy on the ghee (I've had it here before and it has been much nicer, so it was clearly something to do with being packed), but the service was fast and slick, and one thing I especially like is that everything is spotlessly clean - no greasy fingerprints on the plates and glasses.

After that, it was a case of going home and snuggling up with a glass (or two, or three) of wine, before going to bed early. That's surely what it's all about...

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