We do not tend to make plans on Valentine’s day. It is always so busy, there are too many people walking the streets, and every restaurant requires a reservation. If we were still in Bungay, a way away from the city, we would have stayed in. Valentine’s day is probably the one night in the year where the people of Bungay bother to leave their quaint and picaresque homes to go out for an evening meal. A night warm under covers, maybe watching a film or binge watching a TV series would have been enough for us. And we would have eaten too much for Valentine’s sake.
But now that we’ve moved to Norwich, with everything a short walk away, it felt wrong doing the same as we always did.
When I got home from work I asked Maddy to get ready. She was not keen initially, but I think a part of her hoped that I had planned something extraordinary so she changed her mind. A part of me also wished I had planned something extraordinary, something characteristically romantic, but today I had not planned anything at all.
In pursuit of a valentine miracle we left the house. We had a few restaurants in mind, ones dotted around the city centre, and thought we would pop in to each of them and see if there were tables. The air was cool, the breeze with a little nip, but altogether it was a clear and effervescent night out in Norwich.
Just stepping out gave us renewed vigour. Our mood emanated from our laughter, our sharing in the most recent workplace gossip and our unrealistic belief that atleast one place would take us in. First we tried Shiki, then Thai Lanna, then Soyokaze. We did not bother with a few because the attempt seemed too futile, and got prematurely turned away from a couple of places by waiters shaking their heads through windows. After the first few rejections the whole thing became a little like a game – not a particularly fun one, I must admit.
The hunger slowly abated as our walk started to make for deeper conversation, the kind that we realised we hadn’t had in a little while. We were walking aimlessly around Norwich as the evening progressed, seeing Norwich in a different way, charming spots we hadn’t really noticed before, contemplating our future, the plans we had put in place and the things we wanted to change.
It was the valentine’s atmosphere that kept us entranced, chatting, laughing and reminiscing; but the hunger returned soon enough and we finally turned to go home feeling not too worse for wear. We were crossing over the top of the market on our way home when Maddy thought about Brick – the undeniably best pizza place in Norwich, and we decided to drag ourselves there hope against hope.
At first, I shook my head and walked on when she suggested it. There was no way we were getting in on a night like this. Of all places Brick would be the fullest, and if they weren’t, it would be because they would be waiting for people who had been intelligent enough to make reservations on Valentine’s day. I told her that we should go home and that I would cook a romantic meal, and that the lack of food in our pantry and fridge had never stopped me before.
When we got to Brick they were packed. So packed I was preparing a full-bodied i-told-you-so and a cheeky rant about wasted time. But just as I was about to unfold the guy that makes the pizzas we liked best smiled at us waiting through the window and beckoned us to come in. He said he’d be happy to sort us a few boxes to takeaway and asked us what we wanted. We ask for the Matela pizza and the Porcini pizza, the one’s we liked best – until, of course, we discovered the Cheeky and the mushroomy one with the gorgonzola the following week.
We sat on the benches outside while we waited. Maddy then left to get the heating on at home a short walk away to make things comfy for when I returned with everything. I was happy to wait. I was feeling grateful and excited and it really was a nice night.
The pizzas came almost as soon as she left. Hot and sumptuous bleeding heat and joy into the evening air. I walked brusquely with them in hand and took a shortcut through the arcade and then the mall to get home as soon as possible.
When I got home I kicked my shoes off, threw my coat in the closet and walked with foggy spectacles into the living room. She had turned the heating on. I set the pizzas down before who I could barely discern as my girlfriend, and only once I cleared my glasses did I realise what she had done.
A little nest of pillows, cushions and blankets were artfully arranged on our sofa, a film waiting to be watched on my laptop, and a hungry smile from Maddy with eyes only for her pizza and garlic bread that came back quicker than she anticipated. We snuggled under the cosiness of some warm blankets, gorged on immaculately made sourdough pizza, and then watched some ridiculous animated film until we fell asleep.
The evening felt like something I read about some time ago. A feeling that that arises after the initial fireworks and vigour of love in early days, one that emerges in happy relationships where the original music of romance and desire settle into a comfortable and contented hum. It keeps you solid, reminds you that you are not alone; it tells you that you have everything you need and you share it with someone you love. It is also, in Maddy’s case, the hum that lulls her fast asleep on most nights, snug and gratified after a long day’s work, and there was no reason why Valentine’s day would be any different.