VALENTINE’S DAY poses the question of what to buy as an appropriate romantic gesture that does not seem last-minute.
A man might delight in receiving the latest gadget, but buying the equivalent for women is sure to dampen romantic hopes.
So nothing with a plug attached that even hints of cooking, cleaning and domestic drudgery, please, gentlemen, unless, of course, it’s the latest smartphone.
So, what do you buy when you’ve so obviously left it until the last minute, and the convenience of buying online will have to be replaced by traditional leg-work and a mad dash to the shops?
Enlisting the help of a good friend of the recipient, who knows her taste intimately, can steer you in the direction of a much-wanted gift.
Of course, you could always ask your loved one if there is anything she would like, rather than risk disappointment, especially if funds and treats have been scarce of late. Some of us aren’t crazy about surprises, either, especially if previous attempts have fallen wide of the desired mark.
I received a food processor, some years ago, and, although I can barely remember the man’s name, the sinking feeling of disappointment, at the sight of a plastic-and-metal assemblage, is as fresh today as it was then.
So, for the lady who has little time for self-indulgence, when busy with a job and children, try a pampering session.
Buying a voucher for a hair-cut and colouring at her favourite salon, will not only help her de-stress but, as any woman will tell you, a new ‘do’ is one of the biggest mood boosters, and can revitalise her appearance more than any new outfit or change of make-up.
Or, try something more extravagant, with a day or half-day at a luxury spa, where she can gently exercise in the pool, detox in a sauna, and enjoy the indulgence of a facial or massage. Better still if you can stretch to a voucher for two, so she can take a friend along. In fact, it’s not too late to enlist the co-operation of her best friend’s beau and have both of you chip in for a package for two.
Not only will they receive a gift that will be appreciated, but the thought that went into it may well see your Valentine’s night romantic aspirations fulfilled.
The more up-market hotels will have a variety of spa days and half-days, and with special deals for St Valentine’s Day, the whole exercise could be less stressful on the wallet.
But expect a minimum spend, per person, of €100, which generally will cover a beauty treatment and access to pool, sauna and steam room.
The tradition of flowers and chocolates is lasting, and you can’t go wrong if that’s your gift on the day, unless, of course, the flowers are from the local petrol station and the chocolates a brand you normally take when visiting hospitals.
A single rose, perfectly formed and beautifully wrapped in cellophane with a ribbon, shows you braved the gales and floods to wade your way to the florist. You’ll get this arrangement for as little as €1.50, and if it’s accompanied by good quality chocolates, which can be picked up at any supermarket, you’ll have a very acceptable and affordable gift for €10.
Butler’s has a truffle selection in a themed, heart-shaped tin (€6.50) which can be used for dressing table trinkets or spare buttons, when the chocolates are long-scoffed. M&S’s heart-shaped Love Letter box is a more substantial offering for the lady who knows her chocolate (approx. €13.50).
Equally, a bottle of bubbly, with either flowers or chocolates, or both, can be shared. Expect to pay less than €25 for a bottle of genuine Champagne in a supermarket brand, but if you’re still suffering the strain of the Christmas spend, fizzy wine can be just as enjoyable.
Spanish Cava label, Freixenet costs €12.99 and is filled with tiny and delicious bubbles. It’s easy to find in off-licences and supermarkets and will bring back memories of a romantic sunshine holiday, or hint at the intention of surprising her with a long weekend in Madrid or Barcelona.
When buying for a man, try a voucher for a round of golf, or a trial run at the local gym, for as little as €50. Then, there’s the other variety of sporting enthusiast, who prefers to spectate from a cosy armchair and would enjoy Lions Raw, a behind the scenes DVD about the Irish and British Lions during 2013.
An option for soccer fans is Class of ‘92, a documentary about Manchester United players, including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers, who influenced soccer for a generation of fans (both DVDs from Golden Discs €13.99).
For anyone still flushed with the enthusiasm of their post-Christmas keep-fit campaign, consider a sports watch to monitor heart rates and general progress. Garmin models start at €125, and go up to €350 for the serious keep fit enthusiast (from Maher Sports).
If you don’t want annual gym membership, or lack time to go out to exercise, install an exercise bench at home (from €150 at Elverys).
Sartorially-aware gentlemen whose immaculately ironed shirts bear razor-sharp folds, are candidates for Robert O’Byrne’s new book, The Perfectly Dressed Gentlemen. In our ever-more casual world, it might also provide some subtle direction for men in a quandary about how to put themselves together beyond jeans and a jumper (€13.95 at Easons).
You could accompany this little tome with the springtime, must-have accessory for men with style aspirations, the trilby hat (€85 from Shevlin Millinery).
Another come-back accessory for the boys is the hip flask (Stag flask from Ted Baker at Debehams €20), designed for chilly days at sporting events, where a nip of his favourite tipple will keep his vocal chords warm and limber for shouting at the referee, or soft and pliable for whispering sweet nothings on a long, romantic, woodland stroll for two this weekend.