Roses are dead, Violets are through…

The significance of February 14th has completely permeated our national subconscious and, whether you like it or not, opting out of Valentine’s Day is no longer an option. In 2013, the siren call of the corporate holiday was louder than ever, as struggling businesses vied for the attention of couples and singletons alike. Nevertheless, you would be making a mistake if you assume the sheer volume of advertising is indicative of its potency; the pull of a clichéd Valentine’s is far less irresistible than you would first expect.

So, how did you spend last Thursday? Did you see it out with tears, Valium and a total sense of inadequacy, or an evening strained with high expectations and poor gift choices that you had to share with the rest of the dismayed couples in the chain restaurant? Regardless of whether it was the former or the latter, the original sentiment behind Valentine’s Day – the one beneath the veneer of the complimentary gift wrap – can still be celebrated. This isn’t a guide to surviving V-Day as it were, nor is it a bitter retrospective, it is simply an alternative Valentine’s Day, where its meaning is not lost under a dozen roses or is softened by a stuffed animal.

However, the ability to express those significant feelings does not require a total absence of gifts, so long as you ensure your gifts enhance the sentiment behind them, as opposed to being a replacement for them. How would a mass-produced item make you feel? As though you were in a mass-produced relationship? Before you break out in a cold sweat induced by the prospect of a gift assessment, I’ve devised a gift guide that is guaranteed to impress even the toughest cynic. It might be useful for next year, or even now if you maybe have some making up to do…

For Her - Razz

For Him - Razz

Music is one of the most personal things couples can share, so an ingenious way to lessen that arduous trek towards the Forum is to create a bespoke playlist. Draft a list of songs important to you and your significant other and upload it onto their iPod for a simple and, dare I say, cheap way to demonstrate just how well you know each other. I would say this is a foolproof gift but you ought to watch your musical taste; the last time I checked just because Nicki Minaj was playing when you first locked eyes in Timepiece does not mean a rendition of Superbass will be in any way romantic! That being said, even if you make a dire mistake on the playlist, it will go unnoticed if you’re playing it through these charming Marc by Marc Jacobs acetate headphones or this Philips wireless speaker; perfect gifts for your budding technocrat. The Philips Soundshooter comes in turquoise and olive green, the latter helps it resemble a frag grenade with a carabiner clip to boot; toss this into any party for guaranteed fireworks… but don’t clip the carabiner through the belt loops on your jeans, otherwise you won’t be invited at all!

Every girl loves Chanel and to give the gift of Chanel on a student income is still attainable if you opt for this ‘Peridot’ nail varnish. It can only be described as liquid gold which I find handy if you want to avoid the cliché of jewellery on Valentine’s day without leaving your partner underwhelmed. However, if she’s already seen it, done it and got the Chanel t-shirt, you can still melt her heart with this perpetual postcard calendar from the Tate online shop. Now, bear with me, I haven’t gone mad, for the girl who has everything, this calendar can be easily customised. Print out memorable photos and she can mix her favourite art postcards from the included set with your favourite snaps for a calendar that changes daily… Although I’m told most do!

Conversely, for the boy who has everything this Smythson notebook can be filled with his ideas, thoughts or, at a push, lecture notes. The ‘genius‘ engraving plays to his ego whilst the option to leave him a note on the first page may be too tempting to ignore. Similarly, if you want to treat your man to a touch of opulence without infringing upon his masculinity, this classic fragrance from Yves Saint Laurent is a personal favourite. L’Homme balances fresh notes of ginger and basil blossom with an undercurrent of vetiver and violet, which results in a sophisticated scent tailored towards a sophisticated gent!

If the guy or girl in your life is known for their artistic streak, then this Opening Ceremony coffee table book or this whimsical print from husband and wife team Hooper & Shaw will be both fitting and enduring gifts. Famed for their downtown vibe and urban aesthetic, Opening Ceremony is a watchword for high-end, designer staples and this tome documents its stratospheric climb onto the pages of notorious fashion magazines and infamous blogs, just like ours! Based in the idyllic fishing village of Port Isaac, Hooper & Shaw have made art affordable but more importantly, instantly covetable: this piece is one of my favourites and, judging by the hype in Port Isaac, an investment piece, for sure.

Finally though, if you are really looking to impress, experiences are the most memorable gifts of all and a dinner at Exeter’s latest eatery – Ruby – or a spa treatment at the über- cool Magdalen Chapter Hotel on Magdalen Road will never be forgotten. Tess Shennan, a second year English student described her REN massage at the boutique hotel as, ‘incredibly luxurious, I had never had a massage before but it was instantly relaxing, so much so, I had to stop myself falling asleep!’ The REN product range is championed by beauty editors the world over thanks to its synthetic colour and fragrance free ethos, for bonus points too, the company started out here, in Devon. Another Westcountry start up making a big impression is the Ruby Modern Diner on Queen Street, which is literally bringing a slice of the Home of the Brave to Exeter. The diner credits the quality of their burgers to the Ruby beef sourced solely from Devon farmers and, having sampled a strawberry milkshake or two there purely for research purposes, I heartily concur.

More D-day than V-day? Let me know if this does this trick!

Razz love, Toby x

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