How to: Do V Day on a budget

* Skip the posh restaurants and get your own eatery under the stars – preparing a picnic or having a barbie by the beach ensures you avoid the crowds and get bonus points for preparing the food. * Avoid noisy (and expensive)[bars], cinemas and theatres, instead opt for a romantic moonlit walk, ending at a particularly scenic, and secluded, spot where you can get to know each other a little better (nudge, nudge). * Make a present/card. It may look like shit but it’s the thought that counts, yeah? * Something cheap is always better received when it’s a pleasant surprise, so meet that special someone at work/their place before whisking them off. * Borrow a surfboard and spend the day making fools of yourself as you try and teach yourselves how to surf (read – frolicking in the waves). * Check local listings guides to see if any bars have got free live music or if there are any events on at local parks/beaches. * Spice up a standard sight-seeing trip by playing truth or dare at every stop-off. It’s advisable to have a box of goon on hand for Dutch courage. * Comedy over quality – agree you can only buy each other presents from charity shops.

How to: Pull an Aussie bloke

A quick poll of some of TNT’s Aussie mates shows that when it comes to L.O.V.E. (or at least joining in with some team push-ups), the native male may be even less complicated than previously thought. An Aussie staff member who should probably remain nameless (because he’s the boss) said the way to win him over was a straight-forward: “‘esky’ full of coldies, mate!” Another said the key to his heart/bedroom was in this simple phrase: “Hello – I’m addicted to sex, my bi-sexual twin sister is just as hot as me and my dad owns a pub!” And some says romance is dead.

How to: Pull an Aussie sheila

Who knows? But we’ll keep trying (apparently we had the wrong type of six pack). Some advice from a nubile young lady at TNT Towers however is: “I like a man with ears…” – so, Prince Charles would get a flurry of frilly undies flung his way down here – and then something or other about men not listening. It seems Aussie Sheilas (don’t actually call them that, btw) are suckers for the old-fashioned approach. “Romance” is a deal clinched, we are told, because “most Aussie men are devoid of it.” Other attributes rating highly include: “sense of humour, being young at heart, the ability to dance and being a good kisser”.

How to: Pull a Swedish chick

(by our new Swedish workie) “Abba, IKEA, blonde hair and addicted to sex.” That’s the stereotype of the typical Swede. (And, yes, we were one of the very first countries to come up with a pornographic film.) But no, we do not only listen to Abba while running around naked and shopping for furniture. In fact, if this is what your vision is, you have never really dated a Swedish girl – and probably never will. But if you want to, here are some tips from me to you: * Tell us you like our accent. * Never confuse us with the Swiss. * Consider an alternative reaction than the ‘aaaahhh’ with raising eyebrows when we tell you where we are from. * Do not mention a threesome on the first date. * Do not mention a threesome on the second date (or in fact ever). * Let us go for a ride on your surfboard – the actual surfboard. * Feed us oysters. They are much more expensive in Sweden. * Invite us to a barbecue – that’s hot. * Good-to-know fact: Stockholm is the capital. * Show us you can dance – no such phenomenon exists among Swedish men.

How not to: Chat someone up

On V Day, avoid being the victim of one of these Aussie geographical groaners… When in Darwin: “Let’s practice Darwin’s theory of evolution. Naturally I select you.” When in Darwin: “I’d like to visit Katherine’s Gorge – but yours will do for now.” When in Townsville: “I’m heading south, I’d like to visit Yeppoon.” When on the Mainland: “You’re going to the Apple Isle. Want to see my map of Tassie?” When in Cairns: “Have you been out to see Yorkey’s Knob? Wanna see mine?” When in Perth: “You’re going to Dampier? Why not stay here, I’ll get you Dampier.” Other genuine Aussie places to avoid on Feb 14 are: Intercourse Islands, Fannie Bay, Tittybong, Dicky Beach and Mt Buggery.

TNT have been losers in love so that you don’t have to be. From two-timing to almost causing (wo)manslaughter, here are our lessons in love, learned the hard way…

Andy Westbrook, travel editor, One Valentine’s Day I took a girl to a tapas restaurant. I said she could order whatever she wanted. But there was to be no night of passion for me. She ate so much that she literally made herself sick, spending the entire night hugging a bin in bed, while I lay next to her enjoying the romantic sound effects. Lesson: Don’t give a girl everything she wants.

Stuart McDowell, art director I met this girl who worked near my office. We shared lunch breaks and emails. After a month or so of unusually grown-up (on my part) courting she appeared to go cold on the whole situation. Understandably upset, I wrote this fuming email to my friend detailing all my gripes, including some rather detailed assessments of her. Upon hitting send however I realised that the ‘auto-fill’ in the ‘send to’ box had instead selected the nearest name to my friend – hers. She was less than happy to receive my sparkling review. Lesson: Technology can be your friend and enemy.

Kieran Oakley, chief sub After a date with an Aussie girl, we went back to my place and got talking. She asked me to rate her appearance out of 10. I thought about it for a moment. I wanted to be realistic and there is always room for improvement. I decided to give her a seven.But she was offended and thought she deserved at least a nine. I never heard from her again. Lesson: Always tell a girl what she wants to hear.

Damian Hall, editor Back at university when I looked like Damon Albarn circa Britpop (yup, even the beads), I was out in a club for my birthday. I was seeing a girl, but she was a ‘Stop-gap Sally’ – fun, but not forever. She was there, but so was another girl I had fancied for yonks. The coolest girl in the world – she looked like she was in Elastica. Because it was my ‘big day’ she submitted to my cheeky suggestion of a birthday snog. We nipped outside, and it went on for quite a while. Inevitably Stop-gap Sally caught up with us and doused my Albarn-esque fringe in dirt-cheap student lager. Miss Elastica wasn’t impressed with me either. In a flash I’d gone from two-time winner to two-time loser. Lesson: One plus one equals none.

Colin Delaney, entertainment editor Chicks love a guy who can cook. So I invited this girl around for my signature dish, ‘Colo De Pollo’. This is a fine mix of chicken with simmered tomatoes, onions, chopped red pepper, garlic, ginger and a range of other spices with a splash of sweet chilli and soy sauce on a base of classy two-minute noodles, plus a dash of subtle yet seductive satay sauce – including peanuts. I only put in a few crushed peanuts but for a hypo allergenic person it was enough for a near-anaphylactic shock and she had spasms on my new rug. Yet 15 months on we are still going strong… Even after I saw her at her worst. I care. Lesson: Don’t feed your nuts to a girl on the first date.

While trying to drive across the Simpson Desert, LIZZIE JOYCE and her partner were forced to hitch a ride with some dodgy truckers.

Early one January morning my boyfriend Dan and I set off on our trip across three states, covering 3,000 miles on what would turn out to be the best trip I have ever done, not to mention the most dangerous. We were attempting to cross the Simpson Desert on our way to Alice Springs from Sydney. We were fully prepared and set off in our 4WD loaded with equipment, including 60 litres of water, a double swag, a laser beam,
and an Epirb signal.

After 10 hours of driving, watching the landscape turn from highways and tall buildings to red earth and eternal horizons we glided past an old mining town called Cobar, stopped for a wee and drove on through, thankful that this ‘Hicksville’ town was not our destination. But while driving at an average speed of 120km per hour, the trusty car (which I was assured had “just had a full service and was made for driving across such terrain”) was disintegrating and the entire wheel was about to fall off.

Ugly mothertruckers

Suddenly, the brakes started to fail and smoke started pouring out the front passenger tyre. We were 120km from the last town and with at least 100km to the next, Dan decided we should drive on (without brakes) and see if we could make it to our destination. Luckily it didn’t last long anyway as the car stopped in defiance and we were forced to pull off the road in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes two semi-trailers driving in convoy by brothers, pulled up to offer us help and I’ve never been so glad to see two spectacularly ugly truckers before in my life. Freaky Brother One then began to undress me, with his eyes, almost frothing at the mouth at coming in such close proximity to someone of the opposite sex, while Freaky Brother Two was pretending to be a mechanic and baffling Dan with his bullshit. It was turning into Wolf Creek.

Nothing could be done with the car, and we had no choice but to accept a lift from Freaky Brother One to the nearest roadhouse 13km up the road. But then he said there wouldn’t be enough room in the cab so Dan should travel with his brother and I should hop into his cab by myself. By this point I was close to hysteria and there was no way I would be getting in that lorry by myself.

So we both hopped in with Brother Number Two. Dan settled in the middle of the very spacious cab which had enough room to house a small Albanian family! Relieved to be on our way to a phone box and in relative safety, (even if we were in being driven by an axe wielding maniac I had enough faith that Dan could knock him out if it came to it) I thought it would be plain sailing from here. After a couple of minutes on the road Brother Number One starts becoming agitated – he thinks he has lost his keys as he can’t use the radio to contact his brother. He pulls into the side of the road and asks me to hop out to see if he had left them in the door lock. This forced me into ungraceful acrobatic maneuvers in order to hang myself out the door and reach round to grab the keys, with freaky brother one more than enjoying the view of my ass in the air. The keys were there, so off we set again in stilted silence.

Roadhouse blues

Finally we caught sight of the roadhouse and saw our escape was only minutes away and we made a sharp exit from the freaky brothers. Good riddance!

The roadhouse turned out to be a petrol pump and a shop that was about to close. They had a phone though and we arranged for a tow truck to pick us up and take us back to the nearest town… Cobar (the Hicksville town we drove through scorning) where we would have to wait for the next three days for the car to be repaired. How ironic that the town we were laughing at turned out to be our refuge.

So we skipped the Simpson Desert and took another route to Alice Springs where we arrived two weeks later with the biggest smiles and the best memories!

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