It’s funny how long it can take a man to learn a simple lesson. For example, for years I had assumed that women couldn’t really love flowers, that it was all some sort of conspiracy created by Big Florist in league with Big Greetings Card that everyone, apart from me, had fallen for. On Valentine’s Day I would look pityingly at the men on the Tube clutching a dozen red roses, or the girls in the office with big bouquets pretending to like them. I knew better. ‘She’d much prefer a nice bottle of dry sherry,’ I’d think to myself – and then wonder why my girlfriend looked so cross come 14 February.
My first encounter with the possible link between female satisfaction and flowers came in the 1990s. I was in my late teens, living in Barcelona and trying unsuccessfully to learn Spanish. So unsuccessful was I that I lost my job working in a bar called the Golden Rock Café, a rip-off of the Hard Rock Café, because I could not understand a word anyone was saying to me. The manager would say ‘Henry, tenedor! Mesa cuatro!’ and I would start mopping the floor or give him a cigarette rather than delivering the missing fork to table four. I was Manuel in an unfunny Spanish remake of Fawlty Towers.
I did, however, meet a young Danish lady whom I attempted to woo. When we were out drinking cava, I’d be approached by street vendors selling red roses for la rubia (the blonde). I’d shoo them away gracelessly and resume my clumsy attempts at seduction. The only time I bought her flowers was on Sant Jordi’s Day, the patron saint of Catalonia.