I dread this time of year, I feel like a pariah,” says Tim Coxend, a forty year old Chelmsford bachelor. “Last year a mob of happy couples gathered outside my house shouting ‘You sad bastard, you’, before pelting the windows with those heart-shaped chocolates.” As for many other single men and women, the approach of St Valentine’s Day heralds the beginning of an annual ordeal for Coxend. “For at least a week beforehand you are bombarded with adverts telling you how great it is to be in love, all accompanied by images of happy couples gazing ecstatically into each other’s eyes. The sub-text is clear – if you are single, you are abnormal,” he explains. “Of course, it’s even worse on the day itself – not only is there the relentless, day long, emphasis on love and romance, but in the evening, as you trudge wearily home to your microwaved meal for one and lonely night in front of the TV, you have to run the gauntlet of all those couples sat in restaurants and the like, convinced that they’re all secretly laughing at you. Is it any wonder that suicide rates amongst the unattached soar during February every year?” But it isn’t just psychological trauma which singles have to face on St Valentine’s Day. According to Coxend – who has founded a help group for traumatised single people – they are also actively discriminated against during the Valentine’s Day period. “Last year on Valentine’s Day I tried booking a table at a restaurant – when I told them I would be dining alone, they threw me out! The manager told me ‘We don’t want your sort in here, you sicko’ as he bundled me out into the street,” claims Sue Driptray, a member of Coxend’s group. “It was no better when I went to the pub instead. When I refused the Valentine’s Day two-for-one cocktail special, pointing out I was on my own, the landlord called me a pervert and barred me!” Other singles even claim to have been physically assaulted in Valentine’s-related incidents. “The florist spat in my face when I told her the flowers I was buying were for my mother,” recalls another group member, Harry Flowerpott. “I couldn’t believe it – she was a harmless little old lady. When I tried to explain that my mother’s birthday happened to coincide with Valentine’s Day, she just wouldn’t listen. She went completely berserk, screaming a foul-mouthed tirade at me before trying to castrate me with a pair of secateurs!”

Most disturbing of all are the allegations that some singles have actually been hunted down by packs of loved-up couples on previous St Valentine’s days. “Last year in Basildon, a bloke minding his own business at a bus stop suddenly found himself confronted by a group of at east five couples – they were all dressed in pink and holding those heart-shaped balloons. Next thing he knew, they all pointed at him in unison before screaming ‘Siiingleee’ and lunging at him,” says Coxend. “They chased him for half a mile before cornering him in an alleyway and beating him mercilessly with their balloons. Luckily, he was rescued by a group of passing prostitutes – they’d decided to finish early due to the lack of trade, Valentine’s Day is always a quiet night for trade, apparently. He was damned lucky, the year before, in Colchester, a single guy was choked to death with rose petals by a similar pack of couples!” A leading anthropologist believes that the behaviour of these mobs is a form of natural selection, based on deeply ingrained instincts. “It seems clear that in primeval times breeding couples were of more value to the tribe than single adults,” explains Professor Walter Butt of the Solihull Institute of Horticulture. “Unattached individuals were not only a potential burden to the community, but they were also a threat to the stability of the existing couples. Worse, their inability to form stable relationships marked them out as socially maladjusted weirdos. Consequently, when large numbers of couples see a singleton, a herd instinct to purge the tribe of these sad misfits kicks in!” Coxend believes that the explanation is far simpler. “They just can’t stand what we represent – the fact that it is perfectly possible to lead a happy and fulfilling life without being in a relationship,” he contends. “It’s not our fault that they’ve been brainwashed by social stereotypes and media images into chaining themselves down to a single partner, forced to share every minute of their lives with somebody else.”

Coxend believes that is time for singles to strike back against the tyranny of conventional romance personified by St Valentine’s Day. “I really do think this annual bombardment of sickly ‘romantic’ schlock constitutes bullying. If any other demographic was subjected to such an assault upon their lifestyles it would be deemed ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’. But apparently it’s OK to harass single people and drive them to the brink of suicidal depression,” he says. “However, just because we’re secure enough in our own identities to exist as individuals, doesn’t mean we’re abnormal. I can honestly say that for me, being single is a lifestyle choice, and I’m damned if I’m going to be made to feel ashamed of it! To Hell with love!” Coxend’s singles support group is already lobbying for the law to be amended to make discrimination against singles illegal. Nevertheless, he concedes that, on their own, changes in the law will not be sufficient to change prevailing attitudes toward single people. “What we really need is a day devoted to the joys of singlehood to counter balance the horror of Valentine’s Day,” he declares. “There could be non-sentimental cards which we singles send ourselves to celebrate our singleness. And balloons. We could all carry them to show that we’re single and proud.” Previous attempts by the single community to establish its legitimacy haven’t been particularly successful. Indeed, a TV documentary broadcast on St Valentine’s Day three years ago, purporting to show how those not in relationships celebrated the day, only served to further alienate ‘normal’ society. “The whole thing was a travesty, focusing on a handful of whackos who were completely unrepresentative of our community,” says Coxend, dismissively. “They featured one sicko who spent a romantic evening in with his inflatable friends. But that was nothing compared to the bastard who admitted to setting up a candle lit table in his dining room, with a snatched photograph of the latest object of his unrequited love as the centrepiece of an elaborate heart-shaped arrangement of red roses, which he proceed to whack off over. Just to make it that little bit more romantic, he apparently tied a red ribbon in a bow around his cock!” Undeterred by such poor publicity, Coxend remains determined to achieve his dream of making the St Valentine’s Day streets safe for single people to walk. “People shouldn’t have to live in fear of their lives, just because they’ve chosen a different path,” he says. “Not even for one day a year.”