VALENTINE'S DAY - AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN
By Jodi Bartle
This year, Valentine’s day falls on a non-erotic weekday but, just like every other year, it’s still a boiling fondue of Love vs Commercial Hogwash controversy.
Regardless of whether you are a Lover or a Love-Denier, even if you’ve got kids on half-term, you may as well make a day of it - it'll keep them off the screens and get you out of the house.
Frankly if your heart rate isn't going to rise any other way, you may as well get excited by a bit of London day trippin’.
There’s always time for an overpriced pink-themed spread at your local restaurant after. Who says romance is dead?
Start off at the Borough Market for mid-morning croissants, coffee, hot chocolates and stock up on cheese, parma ham and fancy breads for lunch. Anything leftover you can take home for an easy dinner later in the week and you won’t have to cook - which, in my opinion, is a very sexy idea.
Head for the Artisan Du Chocolate stall which usually has bags of cheapish, rejected but still delicious chocolates, so buy some for your beloved (and your self), pop them in a shiny repurposed box and consider the gifting part of Valentines Day well and truly covered.
There is always a lot to see Bankside - you can cover a bit of history, religious education and a side of gore by stopping at the Golden Hinde, ogling the scary skeleton trapped and hung up in a metal cage outside The Clink, and reading all about the ruins of the Winchester Palace which you can still see major parts of.
Walk from there following the river to the west, and pass a number of tunnels which could be quite romantic if you are in the mood to see architecture in that kind of way. Sometimes buskers play in them, creating a mood - and in one of them near The Clink is a little light installation, which feels a little bit fun and ‘special occasion’.
Keep going past Shakespeare’s Globe which might well bring to mind certain star crossed lovers (or a giant ass called Bottom) and round out the walk by stumbling into the Tate Modern. Bring the kids in to have a swing on Danish architects’ Superflex’s giant three-persons swings, showing in the Turbine Hall until April.
There are always loads of kids’ free activities to do in the Tate, but instead, in the spirit of a themed mission, make your way over the Millennium Bridge and see if you can spot any rogue love locks - padlocks inscribed with lovers’ names and attached to the bridge in a structurally questionable but public and quite sweet/naive affirmation of romantic love, with the keys lobbed into the Thames to seal the deal. The padlocks keep being removed because it damages the bridges, but you might spot one or two.
Make your way to the St Paul’s Cathedral side of the river and look for the stairs that lead down to the bank of the Thames. If the tide is out, you can wander down there and do a little bit of mudlarking - a very unromantic name for what is actually real-life treasure hunting.
You need a permit to dig deep, but you can comb the mud, rocks and sand for little bits of history, starting with bits of 400 year old clay pipes that people used to chuck into the Thames like cigarette butts. Some are fairly intact and some have decoration and they all feel quite magical. Apparently you have to be a bit careful of the potential anthrax hazards but just don’t dig too far down, and watch those tides.
Finish up making your way north of St Paul’ Cathedral to Postman’s Park for your Borough Market picnic lunch. It is a little hidden green space that is famous for its Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice, a wall filled with old, oddly-worded, beautiful tiled plaques charting various stories of ordinary people who died while trying to save the lives of others.
This is a love of a different kind, the kind you might want your kids to really think about, and will be the perfect end to your alternative Valentine’s Day.
What are your plans for February 14?