The last twelve months has stretched even the hardiest of us but suddenly, through the gloom there is a small beam of light, encouraging some to peek above the fence and plan dates to look forward to.

In a rush to quell our low mood three dates are looming on the horizon which traditionally involve love, family, friendship and my favourite – chocolate!

The first, Valentine’s Day, is a date that people either love or loathe.

Reactions always intrigued me, but this year when the date of love has arisen, I have been surprised by a few answers. The usual curmudgeonly sorts have been cajoled into a lighter take on things and one friend in particular, who is known for his ‘dislike’ of all things, naff (his words, not mine) has confided in me that he plans to not only cook a meal for his other half, but also to light a candle or two.

Obviously, he has ordered one of my heart shaped brownies too.

So, how did it all begin?

Well, the first Valentine’s day was in 496 and although there are lots of theories and stories, the most popular appears to be that the day gets its name from a famous Saint who lived in Terni, Rome in the third century AD.