a small memoir chapter

I must be getting old and wise or more likely plain resigned because I had no expectations of hearts and flowers as VD loomed large on the horizon and the shops filled with gaudy merchandise and tacky cards in preparation for the love fest. I reckoned I had more chance of contracting VD than I did of getting cards, chocolates and flowers. 

My men folk are just not devotees of Saint Valentine. To them he is not the patron saint of lovers he is merely a commodity who along with Cupid is used to manipulate the emotions of a gullible populace for monetary gain. Valentine’s Day is a business and while they respect business they don’t see a need to invest in one that serves no purpose for them. 

I didn’t even drop hints this year, so imagine my surprise when I awoke on Monday morning, Valentine’s Day, to a champagne breakfast prepared by the fair hands of my loved ones. In addition I was presented with a bouquet of red roses, a box of heart shaped chocolates and a soft cuddly teddy bear holding a plush red velvet heart. 

They gave me Valentine’s cards citing that my existence enhanced their lives like a star enhances the night sky. (Lie detector rolls around the floor laughing until the tears run down its legs) 

Yeah okay (aims a kick at lie detector) that above was all fantasy bullshit. The actual day was pretty much the same as any other Monday morning. 

The alarm went off and I got up and headed downstairs to begin my duties, casting a glance at the doormat as I descended to the hall, a small irrational part of hoping to see a bright red envelope with my name on it lying there. In lieu of one from the Daddies I’d happily accept one from a secret admirer.  The mat was barren, a thing to merely wipe one’s feet on as opposed to a holder of love tokens.

I was determined not to let it bother me. It was no more than I’d expected and prepared for. I’d gotten wise at last, or had I? 

Wisdom is a strange thing, like beauty it can be merely skin deep. I’d accepted my Valentine’s lot with my conscious mind, but my emotions were another matter. 

Of course I know as well as anyone that real love is not comprised of commercial artefacts in the form of expensive cards, overpriced flowers and heart shaped chocolates, which bear no relation to the organ that beats within the chests of men and women. Let’s face it, if manufactures produced true facsimiles of the muscle that pumps blood around our bodies then chocolate sales would plummet along with obesity levels. Still, the eternal (and lovelorn) teenager in me mourned the lack of such trifles.

I made breakfast. Shane came down. I smiled, wishing him a good morning. An absurd part of me hoped the slushy VD salutations floating from the radio would raise a romantic response from him and he would at last present me with those longed for three little words. He did say three little words. Pointing irritably at the radio he said, “turn that off.”

I turned it off while thinking that I had more chance of raising the dead than I did of getting a romantic rise out of Shane. 

He barely spoke a word to me after that, preoccupied with thoughts of some contract he’s angling for. He left for work after giving me an absent little kiss on the lips, no tongues, no passion, just a Daddy to boy duty kiss.

Dick was also uncommunicative and inclined towards snappishness when he did speak. It’s tax and accounts season, which never sits well with him. He eventually followed in Shane’s footsteps going off to make money in business land leaving me to the housework. 

I turned the radio on for company, but quickly turned it off again. There’s only so much sentiment a soul can take and some of the love messages being relayed over the airwaves were sickly-sweet enough to induce nausea. I put on a CD instead, ‘Signs of Life’ by Poets of the Fall. They’re a Finnish rock band and I think they’re brilliant. I discovered them via a track they’d produced for a video game. I can’t get enough of them. 

I turned the volume on the player to ear damage mode, because as everyone knows loud music makes light of housework. Snatching up a washing up brush I utilised it as a microphone, adopted a god of rock stance and sang the opening track of the CD along with Marko, the Poets lead singer. Damn I was good. If ever Marko goes solo I reckon I can fill his space in the band. Once the song was finished and I’d taken the applause and adulation of my imaginary audience I got on with the washing up. 

I was swiffering the kitchen floor and feeling fine when a track called ‘Stay’ started to play. It’s a relatively short song, but one of my favourites on the album. I started to sing the lyrics and then stopped. I had one of those moments when for some reason there seemed personal portent in words I’d sung a hundred times or more without really thinking about them. My mood suddenly dipped. 

Turning off the music I continued dusting the kitchen and hall floors, only I couldn’t get some of the words of the song out of my mind. They were on a loop echoing round and round in my head…where will I be tomorrow, what do I have to show… it’s the little things, little things, little things that make the world.


Its true, little things do make the world, not the big universe kind of world, but the personal world of the individual, little things like Valentine’s fripperies, essentially meaningless and yet also imbued with meaning. So much for being wise and resigned! I was as ever, this boy never learns, hurt by Dick and Shane’s deficit in the romantic gesture department. 

It set me down the well-trodden path of wondering exactly what I meant to them. At the end of the day what would I have to show for my life with them. They could turn me out at any time and I would have no claim on them other than holiday pay and my P60.  

In an effort to cast off self centred gloom I went into town, opting to take the bus in favour of using shanks’ pony. I’ve got blisters on the back of my heels as a result of breaking in new running shoes. Fucking things cost a fortune and they nip my feet like an ungrateful cur. 

There was one other at the bus stop, a lady who was in talkative mode. She was pleasant and we exchanged chatter. A funeral procession drove slowly by on its way to Church and she commented, ‘a sad day for some.’ I nodded agreement. She said at least it was sunny and not raining, but I said it seemed wrong for the sun to shine when someone had passed out of the world. I felt rain was more properly fitting as it echoed the pouring of tears. I mentioned my mum and she recalled her dad and then we fell silent, lost in memories of our own sad days. 

The bus arrived and we got on. I’ll probably never see the woman again, but I’ll always remember the conversation, such is life, a series of fleeting moments some of which stick and some of which fall out of memory never to be recalled. 

Once in town I attended to some bank business and then trawled the shops. They were garbed in Cupid robes, full of hearts and flowers. I watched people browse the Valentine cards in Clinton’s card shop and wanted to join them, to feel part of the ‘event.’ So I did. 

I chose an elegant card with a simple message that read - Valentine, my heart is forever yours. I bought a huge bouquet of pink and white flowers from an expensive florists shop and wrote the gift card out to myself signing it from ‘an admirer.’ I purchased a large heart shaped box of posh truffles and headed home with my love goodies. 

Once home I sat down, looked at the card and considered signing it as I had signed the flower card, from an admirer, but didn’t. I stood it on the mantelpiece as it was. 

Stripped of their layers of lavish tissue, cellophane and ribbon the flowers looked jaded and had obviously been kept too long in cold storage. Some of the leaves and petals were crushed and bruised. I read the card I had written and felt my face flush with embarrassment at my foolishness. What the fuck had I been thinking? I didn’t bother arranging the flowers. I threw them in the outside bin along with the card I had written and all half arsed ideas of making Dick and Shane jealous with my secret admirer. 

They don’t do jealous, just like they don’t do Valentine’s Day. They’d suss me straight away. I dumped the unopened chocolates on top of the flowers and then shed a few tears over my silliness. 

The weather had a change of heart as the day crept on, swapping morning sunshine for afternoon rain. It suited my mood. I sat on the window ledge in the den and watched it fall over the garden until it was time to prepare dinner. 

Table talk centred on contracts, accountants and all things financial, another nail in the coffin of romance day as far as I was concerned. I let them get on with it. 

Once dinner was done the romanceless ones retired to the lounge. I made coffee and took it through. 

It was Dick who noticed the card I’d put on the mantelpiece. I was gathering up the used coffee cups and saucers when he suddenly clocked it. 

“Who is the card from, Gil? It’s nice.” he nodded towards it and then exchanged an amused look with Shane. 

Both the words and the look revived a sense of my own foolishness. I knew exactly what they were thinking, silly Gilli, he’s sent himself a card. 

Striding over to the mantelpiece I snatched up the unsigned card and held it open. “It’s from no one, see, isn’t that who usually sends me a Valentine’s card, no one.” Dropping it among the dirty crockery I picked up the tray and left the room. 

I binned the card, washed up the coffee things and then cleaned the cooker down. Usually, duties over, I’d head back to the lounge to keep company with the men folk, but I didn’t feel like it. I fished the fancy truffles out of the wheelie bin, opened them, poured myself a coke and settled down at the table in the breakfast nook to read and stuff my face with chocolates. 

After a while the kitchen door opened. I didn’t look up, but I knew it was Shane from the smell of his Yves Saint Laurent cologne. “Not keeping us company this evening, baby?” His fingers touched the nape of my neck, gently tickling.

  “I want to finish this book.” I reached for another chocolate from the box.

  “Been treating yourself?”

  “The household account treated me, actually, I charged them to it.” I popped the sweet in my mouth.

  “I’ve run a hot bath, want to join me?”

  “I’m fine.” I turned the page of my Ken Follett novel even though I hadn’t read it.

  “I’ll take the tap end.”

  “No thanks. I just want to sit in peace and read my book.” I didn’t look at his face, but I knew from the intake of breath he gave that his patience (more short lived than a Mayfly with a terminal condition) had resigned with immediate effect. 

  “Enough bloody sulking.” He plucked away the book and laid it on the table and then firmly put the lid on the truffle box. Grasping my hand he hauled me to my feet.  “Bath time for baby. Daddy has spoken.” 

And so baby was dragged off to bathe against his will…and enjoyed it. 

Shane had put cedar wood oil in the bath water. I lay back in his arms and closed my eyes, letting the woody fragrance and the steamy heat relax me. 

Afterwards we dried each other. We put on our bathrobes and went into the bedroom. Dick had turned the lamps to low and set up a DVD of the extended version of The Lord of the Rings, my favourite comfort film. 

Snuggled between them in bed I experienced contentment for the first time that day. The lyrics of the song I’d listened to earlier sounded a refrain in my head. It’s the little things that make the world. What we have to remember is that we don’t always have control over what those little things are. We have to learn to recognise and enjoy them when they happen. 

A shared bath and a re-run of a much watched film were not exactly the Valentine love tokens I had hoped for, but they were better by far than nothing. In many respects they were more honest than purpose made consumer goods because they were indicative of the men I love. I can’t change Dick and Shane. I can’t make them into romance paragons. They are who they are and what they give is more important than what they don’t give. 

In the fantasy film, never to be given an Oscar, of this boy’s life this inconsequential little chapter would play out to Poets Of The Fall singing ‘Stay.’ 


 Poets Of The Fall


Morning comes slow today 

Memories push through from yesterday 

Where will I be tomorrow 

What do I have to show 

From my life 


I need you here for a new day to break 


I want you near like a shadow in my wake 

Flow with life down the drain 

Memories and force of will sustain 

Where will I be tomorrow 

What will be left to show 

From my life 


I need you here for a new day to break 


I want you near like a shadow in my wake 

It's the little things 

Little things 

Little things 

That make the world 


I need you here for a new day to break 


I want you near like a shadow in my wake.

from their Signs of Life Album

Text Chapter copyright Gillibran Brown 2011. 


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