To govern is to choose, it used to be said. Not any more. Theresa May’s government survives by deliberately not choosing what form of Brexit it desires. Yet some choices cannot be dodged. One of these falls today, when Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday coincide. Both are originally Christian festivals. Yet while the first, which lost its official status in 1969, is associated with the celebration of romance and the heavy consumption of chocolate hearts wrapped in pink foil, the other is irrevocably a day of self-denial and sobriety, marking the start of the Christian season of Lent.
The two states of mind are not easily reconciled. The Catholic church has duly made clear to believers savouring the prospect of a candlelit steak dinner with the beloved tonight that the Lenten bar on eating meat is already firmly in force. Happily for steak-and-eat-it postwar generations, today’s dilemma is the first time the two festivals have coincided since 1945. The bad news is that the cosmic clock decrees that today’s double whammy will be repeated in both 2024 and in 2029. Before that, there is also this year’s second calendrical coincidence to savour as, in 40 days’ time, Easter falls unusually on April Fools’ Day. But that’s an editorial opportunity for then, not now.