G, Grimble and romance were uneasy bedfellows. They had convinced themselves that it was the sheer commercialism of St Valentine’s Day that perturbed them when really it was the sheer slushy, gushy, gooey nature of this event that offput them. They’d hoped to escape this revelry in Calpe, but the streets lit with bright red love hearts, indicated that this was not to be.
In the Costas, where Brits abroad were predominant, there were always street hawkers attempting to offload some tat on an unsuspecting, or inebriated, tourist. One night, as they sat quietly dining, one man had produced a mini plastic disco light contraption from his supermarket carrier bag. He seemed much more impressed than they were by the bright blue lights swirling round their tapas. A firm, “Non” from Grimble indicated that there was no chance of any purchase: not even if he danced wildly for them. The other frequent visitor to the supper tables was the Rose Man: a bloke with a fake smile permanently etched onto his face, trying to sell less than fresh red roses to loved up couples. He did not seem to have much luck, usually, but G suggested to Grimble that this chap’s big night was fast drawing close and San Valentin was his major money day.
In fact, Grimble had obtained a card for G. She got it excessively reduced from the outlet place in Gloucester. It was a half decent one too. She had mentioned this spontaneous act of love to G to ensure he was aware, but knew that his systematic nodding in response meant he hadn’t listened to a word she’d spoken. On February 13th, when the shops in Spain were closed, she mentioned to G, again, the card. Suddenly, with no chance to rectify the single Valentine’s card situation, the penny dropped, the realisation sunk in and G grew a tad grumpy blaming Grimble for changing the rules. She patiently explained that her act of love had been well documented and discussed. Finally, they settled on a compromise. They’d share the bloody card. He could write some romantic tosh in after he’d read hers. Clearly, romance was not something they did well.
February 14th arrived. Grimble had forgotten to write the card herself. Hastily, she scrawled something. She made a quick acrostic complete with a made up word for E, but knew that all her efforts amounted to more than G’s. He read it and returned unimpressed to the hotel’s king size bed. Grimble decided to take a wander and happened upon a small shop where they cleverly mimicked posh perfumes with significantly cheaper oils. She got herself one and something that smelt like the ridiculously overpriced Creed for G. She was communicating in noddy Spanish to the nice lady who asked if was for her marido. She confirmed that it was, as trying to explain he was her partner seemed to always go same sex and confusing when Grimble ventured this information in Spanish and calling him a novio made them seem about eighteen years old. The lady immediately outburst: San Valentin! She grabbed G boxed perfume and proceeded to wrap it in shiny red paper, with bows and heart stickers. It looked unfittingly romantic.
Back at the hotel, Grimble presented this package to G who was even more churlish at the thought that Grimble was trying to trick him into some romantic gesture of his own. Grimble denied this but discretely looked at the now joint card where only her jottings remained written.
They took a brisk walk to the other side of Calpe where big apartment blocks and hotels dominated. This promenade was much more out of season than theirs so restaurants were limited. They selected one that had the most clientele, a cheap menu del dia and whose name was bordering on romantic: Tango. That was a pretty hot and spicy Latino dance if Strictly was anything to go by. After ordering, it soon became evident why it was so busy. No one had actually moved, been served or got a bill for several hours. There was a surfeit of wait staff, all particularly inept. One brought drinks to a nearby table, spilt the hot drink across the table and, as he attempted to wipe it up, dropped another drink from a tray which smashed across the terrace.
To some extent, G and Grimble got away lightly. They ordered shandy, a very clear clara…they got beer. They managed to prevent the waiter serving their salads to another hungry table by shouting a lot. When they wanted to leave, along with several others, Grimble almost yelled la cuenta across five tables. This was definitely the last Tango in Calpe for them.
In something resembling romance, they decided to indulge in a lovely drink in the Suitopia’s twenty ninth floor rooftop bar and watch the sunset. G indulgently and, possibly insanely, offered Grimble a bottle of Dom Perignon at 170€. He had banked, accurately, on Grimble’s lack of joy where champers was concerned, preferring a cava or prosecco. So, he saved his bank balance and gave a grand gesture of romance to his Grimble. They settled on a cava, served with sweeties and a lovely sunset despite the welcoming of children to the bar, who sobbed, shouted and screeched with no consideration of love.
The final stage of the San Valentin proceedings was dinner. Grimble had been eying up offers all week. It seemed that most places were offering a special of around 60€ for several courses, all of which involved some type of sorbet and a steak and a bottle of wine printed on a heart encrusted menu. What distinguished them was the extra alcohol treats ranging from a welcome glass of cava to pink gin. Uniquely, these dinners were being served until Sunday suggesting that either: romance never died in Spain or the owners were determined to sell the additional produce bought in for this event. G and Grimble hadn’t reserved anywhere as they weren’t sure what to anticipate. They wandered the streets of restaurants and it varied from places rammed very unromantically to places so quiet it would have been the equivalent of a private dining experience but with more tables. They pondered on what to do; there was an option of a tapas fusion place, which from past experience could signify a deeply troubled and culinary confused chef. Finally, they had a joining of minds as they both exclaimed, “Chinese?”. Well, Grimble said, “Chinese” being all PC whilst G stated, “Ping Pong” but the effect was the same. It was as if their minds worked in romantic harmony.
They knew that the food would be plentiful and scrumptious and the excuse for decorative love hearts ignored. It did have people in there but tables to spare. They were seated speedily and the even settled on the most expensive set dinner on the menu. After all it was a special night and deserved the six courses which included dim sum and shredded duck as well as a bottle of decent wine for a desultory 35€ for two. As they chowed down, they observed another bonus, the Rose Man had already visited if the table nearby was anything to go by. Two limp roses were in a glass. It was a table of six: four oldies, the Calpe indigenous population to be honest, a younger woman and a decidedly sulky teenager who had an expression like a slapped arse. She clearly was disgruntled at spending the holidays at her grandparents when Benidorm with all its vices lay so close. It was hard to decipher for whom the roses were meant or which woman had been exempted. Perhaps the cost, which possibly exceeded the price of one dinner there, was too much. As they left, it was clear as to their uncertainty of ownership, as the sweet lady waitress had to pursue them down the street, roses in hand. She presented them to the elder of the ladies, attired in a Bet Lynch imitation leopard fur coat, complete with peroxide blonde hair dye the colour of straw and a terrifyingly sun ravaged skin. The rose presentation was the nearest thing to romance G and Grimble had seen.
They returned to their suite. Grimble noted the card, still on its side as neither could work out how to make it stand, possibly explaining the discount, and still bereft of G’s musings on love. As she turned, she was greeted by G, small box in hand, which he presented with a cheery, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Grimble”. She lovingly accepted the box of two free truffles supplied by the hotel. A perfect end…