The Wenlock family is just back from a visit to the Great Wen, to borrow Mr Cobbett's charming phrase (but then you should see what he has to say about the delightful spa town in which Wenlock currently has his abode). One of the principal purposes of the visit was to take part in a Valentine's Day debate at Upminster Library on the motion that men are as romantic as women.
Proposing the motion were, from left to right, Roger Sanderson (caught in the act of producing some red roses for our opponents), Michael Taylor and Wenlock. Despite (or perhaps because of) meeting in a nearby hostelry some ninety minutes beforehand in order to work out some tactics, I am not sure quite how coherent our line of attack was, although Julie Cohen makes a brave attempt to explain it.
My own argument was from the heroes of classic romantic novels: Heathcliffe, Max de Winter, Rhett Butler, Rochester and, of course, Darcy. They may not always be pleasant to have around, being frequently selfish, arrogant, rude and grim (and not always having Ten Thousand a year to make up for it), but despite these failings they are somewhat more stirring of the emotions than the assorted Janes, Lizzies and Cathys against whom they play out their parts. I would be tempted to exempt Scarlet O'Hara from such criticism were she not such a self-centered cow who really ought to have come in for more of a slapping than Bridget Jones. As for the second Mrs De Winter: as a heroine I reckon that she shows less personality than either her predecessor (who labours under the disadvantage of being more than somewhat dead), or indeed Manderley.
Our opponents were, from right to left, Julie Cohen, Katie Fforde and Elizabeth Lord. Julie's arguments tended to involve reading out smutty lyrics from current hit records, and noting that her husband had nobly sent her off to Upminster on Valentine's Night rather than staying in for champagne and chocolate (Mrs Wenlock chose to accompany to the debate, and it was she who took these photographs, but I would not want to use that fact to score any debating points. Katie brought the subject of cheesecutter thongs into the debate, while Elizabeth Lord accused Byron of writing for money (I am giving a somewhat partial account of things, in both senses of the word - Julie's account is probably more reliable).
After the audience had had their say there was a poll of the audience, which ended in a tie broken by the chairman's casting vote which went to our side. We then went back to the pub. All in all, a very enjoyable way to spend the evening of Valentine's Day.