16 Feb My Funny Valentine…
Last weekend marked 16 years that Hanan and I have been together. Every morning I wake up thanking my lucky stars that I share my life with her, but the planning for the anniversary somehow went awry.
It was my fault, you may not be entirely shocked to hear. Hanan had actually booked one of our favourite restaurants for lunch with the boys outside of London on the river but, in a fit of certainty that we would spend too much money on haute cuisine when our children wanted ketchup and fries, I convinced her that we should cancel it.
So as the day rolled around I’d asked my wife if I could at least take her out for dinner.
‘Nobu? Somewhere special?’ I suggested
‘Shall we just stay here and go to a movie?’
I have to confess, I was relieved. Our car had been stolen from right outside our house a couple of days earlier and we were generally exhausted after a long week of work on Enlightenment Business Solutions, and finishing the script for Despite the Falling Snow.
As I surfed around looking for a suitably romantic film, I found that the local arthouse cinema was playing ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Audrey Hepburn, the song Moon River, love and romance – it couldn’t get any better, I decided. Clearly, I hadn’t noticed that the movie was playing at noon, and that we were in the company of two boys whose idea of a great movie was anything with gunshots, a car chase and a speedboat, ideally all at the same time.
‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s?’ repeated Ethan dubiously. ‘What’s it about?’
I hesitated. How to convey the sensitive love story in a way that made it sound like an action movie without actually lying?
‘It’s set in New York,’ I began. Ethan acknowledged. New York was good. Urban, edgy.
‘What’s it about?’ he pursued.
‘A woman with a secret past,’ I hedged. He cut to the core of the issue.
‘Is there a car chase?’
‘She jumps out of a car at the end,’ I said, neglected to add ‘to find her little rain-soaked pet cat and kiss George Peppard while Moon River swells in the background’. But I did say ‘We’ll get popcorn.’
I regretted that inducement as our children (the only people there under 50) munched snacks loudly enough to drown the dialogue while snorting through the romantic bits. We finished the movie and hustled them home.
‘You made me cancel the flower order,’ Hanan said reproachfully as we entered a house that didn’t look like her usual anniversary zone.
Now I felt guilty. I had honestly felt our love needed no more long stemmed blooms to make it real, but now I missed them and missed having let Hanan enjoy the pleasure of getting them.
‘I’d like to get the flowers. Please.’ I said. I grabbed Luca and headed round the corner to the local florist to buy a dozen white roses, Hanan’s favourites.
‘Mummy, can I have this cacti?’ Luca asked. He rarely requests anything, so I tried to look enthused with the spindly and somewhat overpriced plant.
‘You want a cactus?’ I asked.
‘No, I want a cacti,’ he clarified. ‘I’ll water it every day.’
I decided to explain about the desert/water thing later and stick to the grammer for now.
‘You can have two cacti, or one cactus,’ I explained, trying to pay and keep an eye on how much random foliage was going into the rose bouquet.
‘But I just want one cacti, not two!’ he said, alarmed.
We bought the cacti.
Sunday lunch seemed like a good idea after all that, a way to really bring the celebrations to a crescendo. But now our favourite place was booked up. Determined to make things right, I told the boys I was looking for somewhere nice but not too far.
‘Nandos!’ said one.
‘Pizza Express!’ petitioned the other.
I had only myself to blame when we landed up in a rather upscale dining room with Luca examing the menu in dismay.
‘This all sounds disgusting! What’s chicken liver parfait?!’
‘All the bits they don’t use at Nandos mushed up into a creamy paste,’ Ethan suggested.
By the time we tried to make sure Ethan didn’t cut his potatoes by spearing and biting them, and scraped every vestige of sauce off Luca’s food, we were exhausted.
But more was to come. Hanan had arranged a special family outing on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day. I, for one, was not going to stand in the way of this new chance at a romantic, family moment. Whether it was a stroll by the river, a stunning lunch somewhere, or a candlelit concert – anything – I was in.
‘Where are we going?’ I asked, putting on my good sweater.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with London, but if one is thinking of a romantic tryst, even with the kids in tow, Wembley, home to a football stadium, light industry and some admittedly great Indian restaurants, isn’t the first place that springs to mind.
‘We’re going to see our DVDs being manufactured,’ Hanan advised us, proudly. ‘I arranged a factory visit.’
Well, it took a while to get there in our tiny temporary car, and I had to wear a neon yellow safety jacket over my nice top, but it was a lot of fun to see I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen start out as data on a glass disc and end up in beautifully packaged boxed sets.
‘Wasn’t that a wonderful romantic Valentine’s day?’ Hanan asked as we left.
‘It was pretty cool,’ admitted Ethan.
‘I loved it,’ echoed Luca.
Success at last, though this Valentine’s example can only bode ill for the boys’ future romantic partners. For me, it was a timely reminder that my wife is special enough to have created some productions for me to direct and has found a way to produce and distribute them all over the world. Red roses or a factory visit? I’ll take the assembly line every time…