If my story 30 years ago made you spend on Valentine’s, I’m sorry

I once wrote 1,000 or so words about the romance of Valentine's Day

In Summary

• The gospel of St Valentine is only good news for retailers

A huge Valentine's card-flower at Whitesand's main entrance
A huge Valentine's card-flower at Whitesand's main entrance
Image: FILE

As well as being the month with the fewest days, February has long been branded the month of love. 

Valentine's Day is the year's first major retailing event, and to prepare, shopkeepers deck their stores in red and any excuse for big red love hearts. 

It wasn't always like this, at least not in Kenya. Back in the early 1990s, February 14 was no big deal for most people. 

While I would be lying if I said I single-handedly brought the madness to Kenya through a feature I wrote, I must confess I played a role in getting people excited about what was until then an event most Kenyans were familiar with through novels, television and film. 

For this, I am truly sorry to all those Kenyans who find themselves burdened with having to spend on frivolity in the middle of the month. All I can say in mitigation is that I was young and foolish and looking for a feature story for the now-defunct Sunday Times colour supplement, Focus magazine.

I was a "been to" who still had a cultural hangover from my years in England, where Valentine's was and still is a big deal. Though nowhere is Valentines as important an event as it is in the US.

Anyway, as a result of my wanting to spread the gospel of St Valentine, I decided to write 1,000 or so words about the romance of Valentine's Day. 

I still have the cutting of that story and it was a sincere, solid piece of journalism, with many "voices", even if I say so myself as I cringe at the memory.

Of course, my rather more cynical bosses thought the idea was crazy but allowed me to write it anyway, hoping I would get it out of my system and move on to more important stories. 

They were right and I did. However, by the next year, colleagues on the other newspapers were writing about Cupid and his arrows, and before too long, people were buying red shirts, skirts and dresses, not because they were "Kanu damu" but to wear on Valentine’s Day. Imagine.

Being mid-month, I know a lot of people who had to take out salary advances just so they could entertain their lovers on February 14.

Years later, when the Valentine's Day bug had well and truly caught on, I was lured by friends into a Valentine's night blind date event that turned out to be more fun than I had expected. 

At the beginning of the evening, we had to pick a random name from a hat and then go to the restaurant on the slip of paper, meet your blind date, have dinner and then rendezvous at Gipsy Bar, where there was a band or a DJ.

That was great fun, but also the end for me and Valentine's. 

The point I'm trying to get across in my long-winded way is: I would like to apologise from the bottom of my heart for any Valentine's Day madness that may have been as a result of my long-ago story. My bad.