THE only way you could avoid realising it’s almost Valentine’s Day would be to walk round Salisbury with a bin over your head. Just six days left in which to buy those cards and chocolates, order those flowers or book an intimate table for two in a restaurant full of other couples quaffing pink champagne and eating heart shaped desserts, while gazing into each other’s eyes. The origins of the feast of St Valentine may remain rather obscure; its modern commercial expression anything but!

A friend of mine worked for a charity marketing agency. She came up with the idea (and the rhyming couplets) to send Valentine’s greetings from a charity’s canine beneficiaries to their human benefactors.

“You make me feel like a pup again… …you’re the nicest friend a dog could gain”

It was a phenomenal success; loads of people wrote back. One of the most poignant replies, accompanied by a donation handsome enough to keep a hapless hound in luxury for the rest of its life, was from an 80-year-old woman who said that the canine card was the first Valentine she’d ever received.

Valentine’s Day may give happy couples a warm glow and restaurants, card manufacturers, underwear retailers and florists a welcome February respite from the cold winds of austerity, but for others it will be a further painful reminder that they are alone.

Some choose to live alone, but for many, singleness is thrust upon them bringing with it the pain of loneliness. Nine million adults in Britain are often or always lonely; nearly half of young people aged 17 to 25 experience problems with loneliness, while more than one in three people aged 75 and over say that their feelings of loneliness are ‘out of control’. For 3.6 million older people, television is their main source of company.

On the basis of these figures (compiled by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness) the Valentine exhortation to spend money to show someone that they’re special is likely to do as much harm as good. For every person for whom a pink shop window acts as a reminder to buy something for their loved one, for someone else, it will remind them of just how lonely they are; that they never receive anything from anyone that makes them feel loved and special.

Send a card, crack open a bottle of bubbly, buy him or her something special on Wednesday – most of us probably don’t tell our loved ones often enough that we love them. But maybe use it as a day to think what you could do for those around who won’t be getting anything special and for whom February 14 is just another lonely day. Shouldn’t be hard. There are nine million to choose from.