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Fromage-free Valentine ideas

I’m not saying I’m unromantic but I do hate romance by numbers. I once declared that if my other half ever gave me a teddy holding a heart for Valentine’s Day it would be an instant dumping offence. Originality wins the day in my book. (Or happy hour cocktails and getting out before the other couples descend for dinner… I’m a cheap date).

So, if you’d like to ring the changes yourself this year, check out my cheese-free ideas. Some of these are even good bets if you’re single, I promise.

 Gory, hilarious Shakespeare

There’s Shakespeare on for Valentine’s Day at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre. Romeo and Juliet? One of the romantic comedies? Well yes, and er no. In fact it’s every on-stage death in the Bard’s canon and it’s all very silly. I saw The Complete Deaths when it premiered at Brighton Fringe last year and it’s brilliant. The deaths – all 74 of them – are clocked up by a secretary with bell and  LCD display and they come in many forms. Desdemona’s demise in Othello in shadow puppets… Macbeth fight scenes with see-through kilts… the gruesome pie-making in Titus Andronicus with actors diving circus-style into a giant mincing machine. I studied Shakespeare to degree level and see performances fairly often, my husband hasn’t had much Bard action since school but we enjoyed the show equally. You don’t need to know all the plots and there are introductions to the less familiar plays. It’s on 14 – 18 Feb and tickets are from £22 – get on it quick for the 14th as it’s selling fast.


Stargazing party

Quit gazing into each others’ eyes and look skywards instead. Brighton’s Stanmer Park will be the setting for an evening’s guided stargazing party from 6.30pm on Valentine’s Day. Local astronomy experts will let you use their powerful telescopes and tell you more about the night sky. Sussex Bat Group will even be on hand to talk about helping those leathery winged critters. Just don’t say “I love you to the moon and back” for fear of collective retching. It’s free but you need to register in advance. If it sells out early, don’t worry, this is one of several events included in the Dark Skies Festival – celebrating the South Downs National Park’s new status as an International Dark Skies Reserve.


Dinner with a difference

Beat the crowds and go informal with a walk along the shore followed by a Saturday 11 Feb Valentine’s dinner at Billy’s on the Beach at Bracklesham Bay near the Witterings. The café will be adorned with fairy lights and you can down cocktails by candlelight. Starters will include fresh mussels and a mezze sharing platter with home-made flatbread. Asparagus and mushroom risotto, pork chop with mustard mash, or sea bass fillet with tarragon and mustard-sauce are on offer for the mains and home-made Pavlova among enticing afters. Meanwhile, in East Sussex, enjoy a fire-lit, three course meal in the cosy Oak Hall at the National Trust’s Sheffield Park, Uckfield. Get there early enough and you can stroll first through acres of historic parkland which includes four lakes. The dinner’s on Tues 14 Feb and the set menu’s £30 including a glass of sparkling rose.


Gender-bending classic film 

High on laughs and low on slush Some Like It Hot is considered one of the funniest films ever made and The Old Market in Hove is screening the classic romantic comedy on 14 Feb. After witnessing the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon masquerade as female musicians to avoid detection from the mafia. They hop on a train to Florida as part of an all-woman jazz band, where they meet and inevitably fall for the alluring Marilyn Monroe. Directed by Billy Wilder, it’s a gender-bending comedy of errors. Tickets are just £6.


A blind date with a book

A book never lets you down, right? So, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Much Ado Books in Alfriston has come up with a lucky dip of tomes for you to take a chance on. They come gift-wrapped with a little hint on a label and knowing the owners’ good taste none are likely to be Fifty Shades of Grey.


Rain check feasting

Take a rain check and wait for the weekend when you can feast on glorious seafood. Rye Scallop Week runs 18 -26 Feb. If you’re local, book a meal in one of the participating restaurants where scallops will be on the menu including Webbes, the Mermaid Inn and Old World Wines. From further afield, make a day, or mini break, of it – there will be tastings, cookery demos, live bands and more.  Aw shucks.


Candlelit museum browsing  

OK there’s candlelight but this is a bit different. It’s at the amazingly quirky Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, former home of the Georgian architect and collector, which opens for late visits on the first Tuesday of every month. This is an extra one on the 14th for You Know What. For £30 you get live music from performer Katy Carr and gin cocktails. There are micro-talks on subjects such as the biochemistry of lust by scientists from the nearby Wellcome Collection, and all in all, it sounds as far from a restaurant full of couples as you will get. OK you’ll have to jump on a train for this one but handy if one or both of you works in London.  There’s timed entry from 18.30 so best get booking for a slot at a reasonable hour. 


Find more ideas here

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