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Illustration: Bryan Mayes
Illustration: Bryan Mayes

The five types of lockdown Valentine’s Day dates (and how to drastically improve them)

Don’t let the god-damn pandemic destroy the power of romance

By
Rose Johnstone
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Maybe you’re one of those people who scorns Valentine’s Day. ‘I don’t buy into overpriced set menus in stuffy Park Lane restaurants, and I wouldn’t go near those Paperchase cards with stupid animal puns on them!’ you once scoffed to your colleague after he innocently enquired what you had planned. ‘You can keep your Bloom & Wild letterbox flowers, your sickly sweet Cutter & Squidge ‘biskies’ and your Oliver Bonas mugs with ‘LOVE’ on them, man.’ But this year, something’s changed. Special occasions like this one are basically all we have to look forward to right now. That, and the vaccine. You already went all in on Burns Night and now you’ve found yourself Googling ‘most romantic walks in London’ and picturing you and your partner looking into each other’s eyes as the sun sets over Parliament Hill. So the question remains: what the hell can you actually do to make this February 14 different to any other day in this blighted wintry lockdown? 

1 The digital death spiral 

If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day over Zoom, then it’s for one of two reasons: you’re doing long distance, or you’ve only been dating for a few weeks and you don’t feel ready to meet up. Either way, you’re in the danger zone. Fail to prepare and you’ll find yourself sitting in bed wearing the same grey jumper with the brown, cheesy stains from last night’s Patty & Bun. To make up for your dishevelled appearance, you’ll monologue about how you’ve recently gotten into playing online chess with strangers after binge-watching ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. She’ll laugh in a disinterested way. You’ll suggest a quiz, but she says she’s already done two this week. ‘Play you in computer chess?’ you’ll ask feebly… 
Make it not-awful: Distract from straight-down-the-camera chats and do an activity that’s actually fun. Sipsmith is doing virtual Valentine’s Day cocktail masterclasses; or go more adventurous with ‘The Mermaid’s Tongue’, an interactive theatre murder mystery. 

Illustration: Bryan Mayes
Illustration: Bryan Mayes

2 The premature pensioners 

You love your partner so much. You love the way they speak in high-pitched baby talk to the cat. You love the way they pick threads from the sofa while you watch ‘Married At First Sight Australia’. You love turning off the lights at 10pm. But recently, you’ve started feeling more like a sensible middle aged couple from Surrey than two go-getting Londoners. And as Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s clearer than ever. It seems insane that you used to queue for hours to slurp pasta at Padella. Why even look at Deliveroo when that M&S Dine In For Two deal is just such good value? And, this year’s V-Day menu is curated by none other than Fred ‘slightly creepy French guy from First Dates’ Sirieix! Together, you and your partner pick the options that look the best-value for money: a whole baked camembert, a near-intolerably rich beef bourguignon, heavy potato gratin and a slice of cheesecake the size of your cat. Good luck ever moving again, friend. 
Make it not-awful: Put in a little more effort and we promise it’ll pay off. Save M&S for another night  and pre-order a meal kit instead, like the Megabox Taco Kit from Club Mexicana (with margaritas, of course!). To spice things up even more, why not go the full ‘Ghost’ with an at-home clay kit from Kana

Illustration: Bryan Mayes
Illustration: Bryan Mayes

3 The unexpected Romeo

In the Before Times, you and your partner didn’t go in for grand romantic gestures. You marked V-Day last year with naught but an ironic heart emoji message. Be careful: this year, they might surprise you. Lockdown might have shown them what (gag) truly matters. You. As you’re reading this, they might be planning to whisk you off your feet to Richmond Park for a romantic walk, glass of Champagne in hand; or they might’ve already placed their order with Floom. And yet it’s all a bit cringe isn’t it? When the time actually comes, you’ll spot a bunch of teenagers laughing at you. By the time they’re sending you off on a treasure hunt through Primrose Hill you’re trying to find a place to hide behind the crepe stand.
Make it not-awful: Do ‘seriously special’ properly. Get all gooey with a fondue kit from Provisions, get your heart racing on one of these beautiful bike rides or if you want to go next-level romantic, order this ridiculously OTT angel cake from Lily Vanilli. 

Illustration: Bryan Mayes
Illustration: Bryan Mayes

4 The mushy marathon 

Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday this year, which can only mean one thing: WALKING. Is a stroll still romantic when it’s your only option outside of staying home? Well, you’re about to find out. You picture yourselves strolling hand-in-hand under swaying trees, stopping occasionally for a cheeky embrace under your Rains coats. The reality: squelching your way through Hackney Marshes in the pissing rain, breathing hot air desperately in your hands because you forgot gloves. You notice at least four couples doing the same. You look up for a moment, searching the horizon for merciful blue skies, but in a moment of distraction you step into a frozen puddle and submerge your entire foot. Your partner laughs at you. It’s unforgivable and you walk home in silence. 
Make it not-awful: First, it’s all about keeping warm: think hot chocolates (spiking optional, but recommended), thermals and those weird little hand-warmers you can get on Amazon. To inject some intrigue to your day, why not have a goal in mind, like spotting all seven noses of Soho or as many stink pipes as possible?

Illustration: Bryan Mayes
Illustration: Bryan Mayes

5 The luxury love-in

At some point in 2020, you and your partner decided that you deserve Nice Things. It’s a bloody global pandemic, after all. You quickly became Aesop people. Goodhood became your go-to for everything. You bought that £95 Tom Dixon air diffuser for your sanity. The other day you remembered buying a £6 bottle of Blossom Hill and cringed into your glass of natural wine from Shop Cuvee. You’re thinking of starting a small business together offering ‘curated gift experiences’. But herein lies the problem: how can you make Valentine’s Day special? You’ll probably start by silently queuing for breakfast pastries at Gail’s, obliviously poking the couple in front of you with your huge Hunter umbrella. Later, you’ll take a bite of your Blacklock lamb chop, look into your partner’s greasy, slightly forced smile, and try not to think of your ever-looming overdraft limit. 
Make it not-awful: The only way is up, friend. Treat yourselves to a three-course Valentine’s Day menu by multi-Michelin star chef Simon Rogan, or order a luxury jelly box (they contain edible gold leaves, of course) from Benham & Froud. For a little cultural boost, stream some theatre, preferably from the National Theatre at Home.

Want more V-Day inspiration? These top London restaurants are doing Valentine's Day meal kits
It's a fact: the most romantic course of any meal is dessert. Here's where to order sweet treats for Valentine's Day.

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