For the unromantic among you, Saturday was St Valentine’s Day and Friday was the day on which the average bloke hurried round the shops looking for a card and some tired red roses from the nearest garage.
There are a few among us (your correspondent included), however, who gave things a little more thought. Before boarding a southbound First Capital Connect train from St Pancras on Friday afternoon, it was good therefore to be able to devote a full 14 minutes to the matter. And following a hurried card purchase made in Foyles bookshop, chosen by dint its being the biggest, and indeed the only, one on display, the crucial question of a St Valentine’s day gift had to be addressed.
Across the concourse, dodging the many romantics who were heading off to Paris for an ooh-la-la weekend, was Neuhaus. Neuhaus is a fancy continental chocolate brand, probably one up from Godiva, and therefore the kind of place you go to because you know the recipient of your largesse will be both impressed and (hopefully) grateful.
Strangely, however, the pint-sized St Pancras outlet was empty, in spite of it having one of the most beautiful windows in the mini-mall that has opened up alongside the new Eurostar terminal.
The reason was soon apparent. Stepping through the door and having a quick look around, it was hard to disguise a gulp at the prices of the merchandise. Fortunately, for a tenner, you could get about four chocs, wrapped in two heart-shaped boxes: who says romance is dead? Well, judging by the number of (other) customers in this store (none) it must be on life support as miserly Brits turn their noses up at bigger heart-shaped boxes – a snip at£42.
We live in cash-strapped times and romance would seem to have a ceiling as far as the price that people are prepared to pay is concerned. This also perhaps bears out the findings of a soon-to-be-published survey by Shoppercentric in which it is revealed that 63 per cent of those questioned would rather a shop reduced its prices than that it presented merchandise in a more aesthetically appealing manner.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the same applies to buying tokens of esteem. A shame to think that maybe the only occasion in the year when a loved/desired one is treated as he/she might wish is subject to the same kind of pecuniary scrutiny that every other purchase we make involves. But it’s almost certainly a fact. Still time to make amends though. Go on, splash out, Easter’s just around the corner.