My least favourite day of the year is Valentine’s Day. And no, not because of some tired notion that I’m single, and have no-one to share it with.
I’ve never felt the compulsion to frantically audition dates for the Clintons Card day, nor have I ever celebrated it with partners I’ve had at the time.
It’s the opposite of what I want my relationship to be: one with spontaneity, consideration, thoughtfulness.
For me, it simply conjures visions of a stale relationship, and impersonal, contrived sentiments.
It’s accepted and perpetuated so mindlessly by many, single and non-single alike.
The gender stereotypes don’t exactly float my boat either.
And don’t get me started on the saccharine teddy bears holding hearts…
Below are interesting things to do throughout the year with people you love, whether that’s your partner, friend, or self.
They’re all very romantic, unlike the Pizza Express menu or shiny red underwear on the 14th of Feb.
Let’s start with something that would be a memorable first date.
Puzzle-solving days are becoming ubiquitous. Generally known as ‘Exit Games’, this isn’t like a Jack the Ripper walk/tour, this is a day where you run around the city finding and following clues.
You might be given a map and something to hunt down, or be in a zombie apocalypse and you need to escape.
One version involves being trapped in a room. You only have one hour to use your noggin to make it out alive and there’s often a flesh-eating something in a cage waiting to be released upon failure.
There’s never a dull moment or lull in conversation when you’re working towards a shared goal, bonding and getting to know how each other ticks.
Whether you think it’s genuinely thrilling or scary, or just a laugh, you’ll have fun.
Isn’t facing zombie death together the most romantic thing you can think of?
Get ideas and tickets here.
Enjoy beautiful views
You know in films where people stay up all night til dawn (mostly booze-facilitated) and talk about their hopes, fears, childhood, future, death, love, everything?
Although that never happens in real life a condensed and real version can be voluntarily trapping yourself on the London Eye.
Yes, this might sound a bit crazy, but the views, the sky (go on a pretty day), there’s nowhere to run or hide…
You can point out your primary school, or reminisce on the first time you went to Trocadero, or that time you stole the bouncer’s hat at that club with the sticky carpets.
Even if you’ve been a couple or chums for years, you’ll learn something new.
Distant yet familiar buildings retain and evoke memories that make us, us.
Explore the city
A simple walk or drive around London is always a winner, day or night.
Go somewhere you normally pass through on your commute, yet never see.
You’ll uncover a great new indie clothing brand, or cuisine you’ve never tried, or a little park where you can recline on a bench and maybe even picnic (when it’s warm that one week in summer).
Under no circumstances do this on February the 14th.
However, I recently sampled a Japanese BBQ restaurant in Holborn which really should be experienced.
The novel thing here is the heated grill on your table.
Order a selection of things to be cooked – I went for pork strips, Padron peppers, Wagyu beef and Ribeye steak – and char to your own level of perfection.
You can fight about how well done you like your meat.
Great fun with new beau or old one alike.
Discover quirky museums
Visiting the John Soane’s Museum is a London must.
A Victorian house in Bloomsbury which once belonged to the eponymous architect and collector of, well, everything.
It’s filled with wonderful details, nick-nacks and structures, and to amp up the romance factor, every first Tuesday of the month the entire house is lit up solely by candlelight – gorgeous, fascinating, endless talking points.
Also, you can deduce whether or not their taste in décor complements your own. Important stuff.
Sample fine wines
Wine tasting or spirit-making is always awesome.
This can be done relatively cheaply as a day or evening event, or even a weekly course if you really take to it.
I enjoyed (the now closed) Vinopolis in London Bridge with a group for a birthday for roughly £30 a head, and there’s plenty of booze to get absolutely hammered.
Informative too if you really want to know how to properly sip and sniff, though people tend to somehow forget these acquired skills the morning after…
There’s lots on offer other than wine too for those who aren’t a fan.
Even better though was when I got to personalise and infuse my own gin at The Ginstitute on Portobello Road. Why eat when you can drink?
Take a break (from each other)
Finally, I urge you to spend less time with your partner.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and chances are you don’t both enjoy all the same things, like museum trips.
See family and friends or enjoy a solo-day!
Really, all I’m asking for is for you to try a little tenderness.