I HAVE difficulties with Valentine's Day – in the way that some people are Scrooges at Christmas.
It is mired in the sleeting rain and gloom of wintry February and, over the years, it has mutated beyond all recognition.
It has gone from being a sweet, secret celebration of unspoken love to an all-out romantic bombardment, as well as a yearly reminder to unwilling singletons that they do not have that special someone.
And I have good reason to be dubious.
Just a few scant weeks after a disastrous break up, I worked in a card and stationers in Mold selling goo-goo eyed people beautiful, high-quality cards and chocolates.
On another February 14, in a flurry of excitement, I tore open a Valentine's card I received as a teen, breathlessly read the hand-written poem:
‘Roses are red, this is a sign: To put your lips next to mine.’
And then, after a bit of forensic investigation, realised that the handwriting was suspiciously similar to the scrawl used by a well-meaning mother, with the give-away left-handed writing.
And my first legitimate Valentine's Day present from my first proper boyfriend, when I was 13, was a ghastly resin statue of two cartoon camels in the act of getting married.
I had spent hours selecting a subtle card that wouldn’t offend my strongly-held, tomboyish anti-pink sensibilities, selecting a photo of us together, putting it in a frame and then posting it off anonymously.
The camel statue, sent in return by my awkward young suitor, was a piece of kitsch.
The happy, dromedary couple, clad in a veil and top hat respectively, wore gaping grins and had wide, glazed eyes.
I hated it on sight. It was consigned to a car boot sale shortly afterwards and he went the same way shortly after.
But the balloons, Champagne and red candles of Valentine's Day are going nowhere.
So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I want to be converted.
The media has not been helpful.
Over the last few days, I’ve heard that Reading is the UK’s most loved-up place (according to MoonPig), that most men don’t know their partner’s bra size (www.myfavouritevoucher codes.co.uk) and that there is now a special Valentine’s ‘pawfume’ for that special dog in your life (Eau de Dog at www.butchandbess.com).
What any of this has to do with confessing your true love anonymously, I don’t know.
More promising was a report by Cats Protection, which has branches in Wrexham and Deeside.
Their survey found: “That women think cat-loving men possess many qualities they find attractive when looking for love.”
The research, which was carried out for Valentine’s Day, found that six in 10 women across the UK think men with cats are more caring, making them more appealing as a partner.
“And far from being seen as wimpy, cat ownership appears to be a manly quality as just 27 per cent of women think cat-owning men are soppy.”
As a cat-lover, I can get on board with that.
One of the most ridiculous assertions came from Lovoo.net, which surveyed 2,000 men in the UK and created a profile of the ‘Ideal Woman’ according to their users’ specifications.
Among other things, she is either a nurse or teacher, is five-foot-five, weighs nine-and-a-half stone, has an Irish accent, eats meat, dislikes tattoos and is a Man United fan. That’s me out of the running then.
So I asked Wrexham, Chester and Flintshire residents what their ideal partner was.
Happily, our readers are a practical lot, which restored some of my faith in Valentine’s Day.
Andrew Spraggon, 38, of Wrexham, said: “Human, female, sense of humour, enjoys computer. Likes games and eats polos on Tuesdays.
“PS, must not like rock-climbing. I met my third wife rock-climbing.”
Geraint Lloyd, 74, of Buckley, said there was no such thing as an ideal woman or man.
He said: “We all have different tastes. Some like fat people and some like thin.
Some like sporting and some like musicians. Then there is colour and creed.”
Mike Carr, 28, of Connah's Quay, drily said his ideal woman was “fictional”.
Sharon Lloyd of Greenfield near Holywell said: “I’d say you will never find your ‘ideal’ woman if you have such expectations.
“It happens with time, love and patience. I too have my ideal man, we met at work.
Too many people don’t socialise and depend on ‘apps’ to do it for them."
Emma Barson, 23, of Chester, said: “Someone easy to talk to who can make me laugh until it hurts, dark quirky hairstyle, passionate about music, romantic but with a dark side, enjoys a drunk night out on the town as much as a cuddly night in with a bottle of wine, likes good food and nice restaurants and will happily listen to me ramble on and on about recipes.
“Also someone who loves animals and will put up with my constant singing and three-hour bubble baths! Can you tell I'm fussy?”
John Caslin of Chester, wasn’t so fussy: “A pulse and I'm happy,” he said.
Maybe I’m teetering on the edge of a Valentine’s Day conversion – but I need that last push.
Again, I turn to the public for help, and ask them for any sweet and romantic Valentine’s stories.
Claudia Glazzard, 31, of Chester, said: “My parents got married on Valentine’s Day – only because the church was free, though.”
That’s not terribly romantic.
Wrexham and Chester busker Rae Lewis-Alying, 21, said: “I like Valentine’s Day because I’m an old-school romantic and I like the excuse to make a fuss.
“There are a fair few crazy things I’ve done for love. I pride myself on doing things wholeheartedly or not all.
“I think the one which takes the biscuit was walking 100 miles on a whim to see someone to say I love you in person as I hadn’t seen them for ages.
“If you're asking about strange ways of meeting a loved one, well, I got involved with a girl I met at a riot once.”
That's more like it.
Jenn Kinnear, 28, of Mold, met her partner while on holiday in Paris, the supposed City of Love.
She said: “We fell for each other over our mutual love of all things Disney, survived a long distance relationship to end up together.
“We don't usually celebrate Valentine’s Day, but this year he’s surprised me with a sewing machine. I’m overjoyed!”
Rebecca Warren, 42, of Llangollen, said: “Bah, Humbug to everyone who says ‘I don't need a special day to do something romantic for someone, I can do it at any time in the year’ – and doesn’t.
“Any excuse to remind anyone, including a lover, how much they mean to you is not a bad thing.”
Ok, ok. So maybe, in the sleeting rain and gloom of Febuary, maybe a bit of pink fluff or a vibrant red rose is just what we need.
But please stick to the nice meals and flowers – and leave the resin camels on the shelf.