Valentine’s Day passed untroubled by grand romantic gestures: he regrouted the shower, I picked my cuticles. Dinner was leftovers in front of sitcom reruns with the kids.
Some aspects of Covid life are fascinating, like a deeply unethical mass psychology experiment. The impact on romantic relationships is one of them: have partners ever experienced so much unsolicited togetherness? What effect will it have? Pandemic years are dog years, with new couples feeling the seven-year itch and old lags plumbing fresh depths of taking each other for granted.
The heady rush of love is understandably elusive when you’re sharing a small space and a grab bag of anxieties, grievances and neuroses 24/7. I’m enraged by noise, dress like Steptoe and, after 11 months of committed self-neglect, I am basically human jerky. If I stroked my beloved’s cheek, dried skin flakes would whirl around us as in a gross snow dome. He wouldn’t notice anyway, because he would be looking at diving flippers on his phone or checking the thermostat, his free hand inexplicably encased in a yellow sheepskin mitten. He wears mittens indoors now, a quirk I cannot criticise since I have not removed my woolly hat since October.
Romance may be in deeper hibernation than our tortoises, but I have felt a heightened sense recently that, as the eminent philosopher Reg Presley of the Troggs put it, “love is all around”. It was in the heart-shaped doughnuts spotted on Sunday in the sanitised baskets of fellow shoppers, but more in acts of quiet kindnesses, such as my husband starting the car for me when I had to go out on icy nights last week.
People are boosting friends’ spirits with care packages, looking after neighbours and drawing on their reserves of patience and creativity to amuse bored kids. Answering the door for my poorly bubble mate, I am overwhelmed by homemade soup, flowers and offers of shopping; the local baker presented me with treats for her in a bag decorated with a hand-drawn heart.
Perhaps, unlike my wintry epidermis, I’m going soft, but it feels like there’s a lot of love: now, still, always.