As you go about your life as a single person, you tussle with the cliches of your gender, your age and your marital status, and – hopefully – leave them winded and redundant on the pavement behind you, with sand in their face.
It's kind of a sandy pavement.
And then, despite your most assiduous efforts, you find yourself inhabiting some chick-flick cliche. Today, Miss R and I inadvertently played out a scene from the Sex And The City movie, featuring Carrie and Miranda. The difference was that we did not have a row, and one of us did not have a thwarted storm-out.
So, there we were meeting up in Beckenham – it is equidistant from each of our homes – for our semi-regular Sunday arrangement of lunch and cinema. We had, however, overlooked the power of the calendar. Here is the scene inside the restaurant, featuring our fellow diners:
I have obscured their faces in case any of them were conducting an affair, having told their loving spouse that they were just popping out to the florist, and then the supermarket, and then the chemist, as they rushed between home and restaurant in a caper comparable to the exhilarating climax of Mrs Doubtfire.
And here is a picture of our romantic corner table. It is a terrible picture, but that is because the camera on my phone does not perform to its upmost in 'mood lighting'.
In the picture, you may – or more likely may not – be able to discern the following:
1) [Out of shot] The speaker above my seat, strenuously emitting 'sexy times' music, drawn from an opus of 80s soul. It was kind of nice really, as it's been ages since I heard Sweet Love by Anita Baker. The volume did become something of an issue though, forcing the amorous to crank their sweet nothings up to a seductive bellow: 'YOU LOOK REALLY, REALLY LOVELY TODAY.' 'THE LAST YEAR HAS BEEN THE BEST OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.' 'OH NO, I'VE LEFT THE PRICE ON THOSE CHOCOLATES, QUICK, GIVE THEM BACK A MINUTE.'
2) An enormous cushion taking up half of my already padded seat. I have no idea why it had to be there. I can only imagine it was in case we were completely overtaken by the carefully orchestrated ambience and had no choice but to make sweet, sweet love right there on the banquette, necessitating some extra comfort.
3) Balloons. It's not clear if these were complimentary, but we didn't take them with us, as it may have inconvenienced the people sitting behind us in the cinema. With their potential to deflate mournfully over time, or else explode suddenly – and disappointingly – without warning, I'm not sure balloons are such a brilliant symbol for the occasion.
4) The restaurant's regular decorative motifs, which contributed to the overall atmosphere of 'RED! RED! IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY! RED! VALENTINE'S DAY IS RED! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE WITH YOUR PLATONIC SAME-SEX FRIEND, YOU COLOSSAL CUCKOO IN THE LOVENEST?'
We carried on to the cinema to see the new Disney film, The Princess And The Frog. And I am aware that as unmarried, thirty-something women, this choice marks us out as being likely to have an enormous row of stuffed animals on our beds. (I mean cuddly toy animals. Not, like, taxidermy. As yet, we are nowhere near that kind of weird, although there is no eccentricity I would be foolish enough to rule out in both our futures.)
In any case, love struck for both of us in the cinema foyer, as the man behind the Ben & Jerry's concession was amazing. And by that, I mean he encouraged us to try as many of the flavours as possible, entirely for free. He was either extremely enthusiastic about his job, or else was trying to bring down the Odeon chain from within by giving away all its retail stock. For the record, he likes every flavour, except for the Cheesecake Brownie, which he just can't get on with. He thinks it might be because it has a strange after-taste. He also prefers the Low Fat Fro Yo Chocolate Fudge Brownie to the full-fat version. It's lighter and the brownie pieces taste better.
This over-enthusiastic approach to product promotion may, however, have contributed to what we saw on the way into the actual cinema. On the other hand, the sheer emotion of this most spontaneous and genuine of festival days may just have proved too much for one young cinema-goer.
My choice of song for the day would be Valentine, by Willie Nelson ('Candy heart… if anyone could, you could have a candy heart'), but, so far, there is no clip on YouTube that exactly fits what I'm looking for. And if that is not a metaphor…