Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Everyone is immensely bah humbug about Valentine's Day - it's just something invented by marketeers to flog product, it's for kids, the increase in the price of roses is usurious, isn't it ghastly how couples book 'romantic meals' in restaurants only to sit there in uncompanionable silence etc etc etc.

But much as it's fashionable to moan about it, it's hard to avoid, and if you're in a relationship it's even harder to ignore. Mr Trefusis pretends not to set great store by it, but woe betide me if I've not made the effort to even get some kind of fancy card.

However, I do think that great romantic gestures involving complicated combinations of mystery journeys and treasure hunts and boutique hotels and flowers and handwritten poetry and specially devised champagne cocktails are best reserved for the bigger occasions - I'm happy to make a big deal out of a birthday or of a particularly notable anniversary, but Valentine's Day? Well, I think it's enough to mark the occasion. Or perhaps that's just me, comfortably taking Mr Trefusis for granted after nearly seven years of marriage.

I'm not alone in not really having a clue what to buy - I think men are quite hard to buy for at the best of times. Anyway, here are a few things that answer the brief of those who have asked me for my opinion on the subject....The images should click through to the online retailers and all items should be available for delivery on 13th February (if you're quick).

For Foodies
A friend of mine knew he'd met the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with when she bought him a copy of Larousse Gastronomique for their first Valentine's together. It's the ultimate encyclopedia of gastronomy and one no enthusiastic amateur chef should be without. The 2009 edition is available from Amazon for £33 - not exactly a snip, but it is the foodies bible.
I thought this box of treats from Rockett St George has a heart shaped cheddar cheese and cheddar and rosemary crackers and vintage beetroot and apple chutney. It's unashamedly romantic but without being mimsy or twee. £30

I've written about Ormonde Jayne, the Bond Street perfumery before - their signature scent, Ormonde Woman is a thing of utter deliciousness, and uses rare and unusual ingredients to create a scent that's as compelling as it is individual. The partner scent, Ormonde Man, is every bit as good as its female counterpart - it has many of the same intriguing notes, but in a more masculine composition. I think it's undeniably sexy, whilst still being very subtle.
Ormonde Man Eau de Parfum 50 ml spray £68

Described by Luca Turin as ‘soft and rasping like stubble on a handsome cheek’, Guerlain’s Habit Rouge has, for me, all the potent appeal of a man who means business, in all the rugged senses of the word. It's an enduring fragrance classic: masculine, yet reserved – I think it smells exactly like the kind of man who would take you to J. Sheekey's for dinner.
Guerlain Habit Rouge. Available in most department stores. Priced around £39

Tokens and keepsakes
On Valentine's Day of all days it's perfectly acceptable to go with the whole heart thing - this keyring from Ettinger comes in a range of colours, including red, but I think even a very blokey bloke could get away with this (Mr Trefusis will no doubt contradict me). Heart key-fob, £30

And this tiny photograph frame is also rather sweet - again it comes in several covers including a more masculine tan or black. A little bit schmaltzy to give it with a photograph of the pair of you already in it, but hey, it is Valentine's Day. Double heart frame £45.
A Love of Luxury
Bill Amberg creates some of the most beautifully crafted bags and briefcases around - I've written about his fabulous medicine bag before, but this simple, elegant and practical laptop case strikes me as being a thoughtful gift. The picture doesn't really do it justice - I think it looks very much better without the shoulder strap.
According to the website, it's on sale too - usually priced at £445, it's available between £134 and £267 depending on the style.

This uber-cool skull pashmina from Alexander McQueen wouldn't do for Mr Trefusis at all, but it would definitely float my hipster brother in law's Valentine's Day boat. McQueen's skull signature has become something of a design icon, and whilst the pashmina isn't cheap at £220, it's not something that will be a one season wonder.

If your inamorato is bookish, one or other of these leather-bound Penguin Classics is sure to suit - The Great Gatsby or Brideshead Revisited would be my choice, but there are six to choose from, each priced £30. Love poetry is a Valentine's Day classic - you don't tend to find much Pablo Neruda in the anthologies of love poetry, but I think his lines are amongst some of the most beautiful written, even in translation. Isn't 'Twenty love poems and a song of despair' a wonderful title for a collection of poetry?

For intellectuals and classicists, Ovid still cuts it. It's also very quotable - 'Love will enter cloaked in friendship's name' and 'if you would marry suitably, marry your equal' still ring true today.

Unashamedly romantic
Don't eschew the hearts and flowers stuff - this print from Bianca Hall 'Life would be rubbish without you' looks pretty wonderful framed (also comes as a card, or as a ceramic tile). £40

And if you live in the kind of house that is made only more comfortable by the addition of more cushions, these from Graham and Green are rather nice. Jan Constantine cushions from £65


Helena Halme said...

Absolutely fabulous gifts, I particularly love the idea of updating our French-language 1983 version of The Gastronomique with a modern English one.

Helena xx

Anna Maria said...

How funny - the heart-shaped Godminster Cheddar that I bought as a Valentine's gift for my husband arrived today:-)
Useful tip - buy directly from Godminster's online shop, rather than Rockett St George and save on postage;-)

KatieGirlBlue said...

Oh dear, those cushions are haunting me. Every time I convince myself I don't need them, they pop up again, appealing to me in their sweet, quiet British-ness.

Funny, I have no desire to display anything "stars & stripes" related in my (American) home, but I'd gladly surround myself with Union Jacks given the chance.

Mr London Street said...

Bill Amberg's bags are just lovely, my medicine bag is one of my very favourite things. This just makes me want to go on a shopping spree, Valentine's Day or no.

magpie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
magpie said...

Sadly I think JFK wouldn't go for any of those things as much as I would. IN fact, that seems to be almost the perfect Valentines gifts list for me if you add in a little bit of Chanel and some nice jewelry.
JFK is getting brogues and a black silk bow tie and possibly also Ovid.
Also, completely coincidentally, I wrote a very similar pst to this one only yesterday...

Miss Whistle said...

I'm so glad you posted this Mrs T. I've been worrying silently for two days about Valentine's Day. We always vow not to get each other presents but lo and behold when the 14th comes around I find a small but exquisitely wrapped package sitting on my desk.

This is most useful. Thank you.

Miss W x

Miss Welcome said...

It's not sacrilege to order the Godminster Cheddar to be delivered in France, is it? In spite of the amazing cheeses, it is impossible to get a good cheddar.

lady jane grey said...

I don't care much about Valentine's day, so few years ago I found myself rather surprised by it, when on a lone London trip (for bussiness anyway - btw, I live in Vienna). In usual I have no problems to go for a dinner alone, but this time the staff (in a Michelin starred restaurant...) treated me like a pariah who couldn't even find anybody to go out with on that very "special" day. Was quite awful... I got work to do in London again and took the flight on Sunday, the 14th already. Booked afternoon tea at the Brown's hotel - and was suprised to find out that I'll will have a lone Valentine's day in London again... A better trained gorilla wouldn't have done the same mistake twice, I do...
Your presents look wonderful, and I'll treat myself for Valentine's day with a laptop bag recommended by you... THANKS ! (I'm a new reader, found you last Sunday and enjoy your writing immensely !)

Make Do Style said...

Fabulous selection puts my measly tie offering to shame! x

Welsh Girl said...

Delicious selection, I wonder if the Loyal Hound would like any of them as he is the only male who will consider spending valentine's day with me. Having been in London on Monday and Tuesday I definitely thought that there was less of a pr hype over the big day this year. So often the big smoke is transformed into a big, throbbing, pink heart for the 14th. This time, not so much. I was not feeling the love...

shayma said...

MrsT what a beautiful list- the Larousse, ah I wish my husband would buy a cookbook for my collection, but he has told me- no more books or stemware in this home till the books that are sitting there have been read and erm, as for stemware - no more- punto e basta. thank you for the wonderful suggestion for the Bill Amberg bag- i loved that shop so much. McQueen's pashmina also beautiful and funky; may he be at rest. lovely list, dearest MrsT. x shayma

neversarah said...

ooh, I've loved Neruda since Truly Madly Deeply - that scene when the dead Alan Rickman makes Juliet Richardson translate The Dead Woman:

No, forgive me.
If you no longer live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall in my breast,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but
I shall stay alive....

What wonderful choices, Mrs T. Those leatherbound Penguins have me hankering for my birthday...

Dawn/LittleGreenFingers said...

Oh no. Why did I read this? Now I'm worrying I haven't bought anything... Do you think any of these are on sale at the local Esso garage?

sanjeet said...

I particularly love the idea of updating our French-language 1983 version of The Gastronomique with a modern English one.
data entry work from home