Happy Lupercalia!

“God bless those pagans.”

Homer Simpson

Ah, the Valentine’s Day post!

Brought to you one day late because I was feeling phenomenally awful yesterday. Not even news of Radiohead’s new album could lift my mood. But today is a new day.

A former work colleague recently informed me that Valentine’s Day coincides with another fascinating ancient celebration. To the Romans, February 13-15 was a pagan, pastoral festival, Lupercalia. A festival of cleansing that apparently culminated in priests disrobing, wearing the skins of sacrificed goats, running around the walls of the old Palatine city, and striking anyone who crossed their path with shaggy thongs (also cut from the skins of previously sacrificed animals). Many women deliberately sought to be struck, believing that their conception/child birthing experiences would somehow be helped by having received a lashing from a semi-nude freak (Luperci, as they were called).

Those Romans did ‘crazy’ better than the Tea Party-ers.

Had I remembered it was Lupercalia yesterday I would have prepared for the celebration in advance, by purchasing a goat for sacrifice and making a “shaggy thong” to whip myself with, to ensure my future fertility.  Alas, I marked 14th February 2011 with a violent movie marathon courtesy of Tarantino (thankyou… you sick, sick man). Given the short-lived/intense nature of my prior relationships, I have celebrated Valentine’s Day only once within one and, frankly, it was on par with this one passed in terms of general suckiness (a word? Probably not).

Nonetheless, I am no love cynic.

In fact I love love! When it’s real.

Not the glamourised, saccharine, Holywood/Bollywood/Telemundo version. Rather, the best love stories I’ve heard have come from people I know, or documentaries, or programs about real people – ordinary people.

One such story that comes to mind I recall seeing on the ABC program Australian Story many years ago – the story of a farming couple in their twenties. Not long into their marriage, whilst working side-by-side one day, the wife was involved in a horrific accident with a drilling machine. Her right arm and shoulder were ripped off. Luckily she survived, but, ironically, the nerves that lead into the missing arm were still working, whilst the nerves that supplied the left arm were destroyed. Leaving her, essentially, armless, and physically dependent on her husband for almost everything. What was most impressive is how wonderfully they supported each other and how well her husband adapted to their new reality – he became quite adept at putting on her makeup for her!

Many years ago I met a couple like this whilst in rehabilitation – hospital is strangely a great place to meet people from all different walks of life. This couple, however, were in their late sixties. I was fortunate enough to be invited to have dinner with them a few times. They were warm, unpretentious, and effortlessly funny. The couple owned and operated a fruit farm in rural Victoria, and it was on this farm that the man sustained the spinal injury that landed him in rehabilitation. Prior to this, in addition to overseeing the farm, he had been his wife’s carer – she suffered from very severe arthritis, but still managed to indulge her love of theatre.  I was so impressed with how cheery and lively they were. And they obviously loved each other, very much.

Still, a well-written and acted love storyline in a film, a TV program or a play can be glorious too. Case in point: the Dawn and Tim relationship on The Office (BBC). Now that I am writing for television & film, I have a new appreciation of a well-executed romantic storyline. And am now watching with fresh eyes a genre that I previously mostly despised: Romantic Comedy (RomCom).

Sure, there are many RomCom turkeys out there. And there are many romantic comedies I have watched that almost replicated my personal experience of chemotherapy (Jerry Maguire’s line “You complete me” … terrible). But there are some that still get me, every time I hear them. Mostly British penned.

My personal favourite line: what Mark Darcy says to Bridget Jones in the scene below, in Bridget Jones’s Diary (even though Bridget is a SPECTACULAR screw up). I appreciate the fact that the “bad”, hapless one in this scenario is the female – I enjoy what a dag she is. Our main protagonist is no princess – she’s a boozy, hapless lady with giant underpants whose life is a never ending parade of embarrassing incidences. And although there is no Cinderella-like transformation, after which the man she loves suddenly realises he wants her, there is a resolution… and a lovely one at that. (I also quite enjoyed her friend, Shazzer. Reminds me of a certain friend of mine, whose best relationship advice to me ever was “Get him drunk and see what happens. I have no morally acceptable options.”).


I like you, very much.


Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother… and the verbal diarrhoea…


No, I like you very much. Just as you are.


GREAT, simple line. Great, understated delivery.

Whether you’re female or male… what else could you ever want to hear?


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