We find ourselves living in a time, when like no other we need to embrace LOVE. We need to LOVE each other, our friends, our neighbours, our loved ones, everyone. Come on show the LOVE. So whilst Valentine’s Day might be a man-made invention, love isn’t. Love is beautiful and creative and thoughtful. Love is passionate and Love is real. And in today’s world, with a nation full of flat-lined feelings, we need as much of it as we can get. With this in mind our friends at notonthehighstreet.com are reminding us, encouraging us, prompting us to remember, with Valentine’s Day just over a week away #LoveIsReal and as part of this loving campaign they want you to celebrate LOVE in all its guises, with meaningful unique gifts co-created with people who care. Because, remember when a gift is made thoughtfully, it’s loved completely.

With all this talk of amore and that #LoveIsReal it brought me to thinking about how myself and the wonderful and long suffering Mrs Mc met. Well let me set the scene of our own Mills & Boon-esque saga. Love was well and truly in the air, my friends loved her, her friends loved me, naturally and pretty soon after we met we’d started looking at rings. I know I’m a bit of an old romantic so I’d started dreaming up scenarios to pop the question. Over the Summer we found ourselves on holiday taking in the delights of the Emerald Isle and came across the beautiful Belleek Castle in County Mayo, so I thought, OMG what a perfect moment. “Should we stay here overnight?” I found myself saying. The place was incredible, as beautiful on the inside as out and as luck would have it, they had one room free for the night, strangely enough, the honeymoon suite, I kid you not, promise.

Amanda, as she was known back then, was enthralled and took herself off exploring, to which at this point somebody asked me, “Will ye be staying for dinner tonight? I hope so.” I span around to see a chef asking me this question and I blurted out rather confusingly, “I think I’m going to ask her to marry me tonight”. “Oh Jesus”, was his response. We sat down and between myself and the chef came up with a cunning plan. He decided he would build a box of Choux pastry in which the box containing the engagement ring would seat and he would construct the desert around this.

So dinner time arrived, “You OK? You look a little pale”. “Yeah, course, what’d be wrong.” I nervously laughed. In all honesty I have no idea what I had for dinner that night, all I can remember is eating and each member of the hotel staff that visited our table or caught my eye either gave me a big thumbs up, smiled radiating positivity or mouthed to me “you OK?” In an exaggerated manner. This resulted in the whole meal uncannily resembling a sketch from a hybrid sitcom somewhere between Faulty Towers and Father Ted.

The moment had come. Desert was served, I was sweating, the staff were buzzing around and Amanda cracked open the Choux pastry box……. “What’s this?” Was her question and what did I do. Well simply, nothing, I opened my mouth, for no words to come out. I tried to get out of my chair to get down onto one knee and assume the traditional position, but no, my mind and my body had decided to render me incapable. If only I’d have had an Artisan Chocolate Heart With Hidden Valentine’s Message of Will you marry me? To help fullfil this life altering event and complete the whole moment.

Yes #LoveIsReal. And just in case you were wondering, she said yes, and we are celebrating 10 years of marriage later this year. As you can see from the image below we are blessed, or is that cursed, no blessed with two amazingly crazy children. Ohh and we loved Belleek Castle so much we booked it that night for our wedding reception and were married exactly one year later, happily ever after.
That’s why this Valentine’s Day I’ve chosen one of notonthehighstreet.com‘s thoughtful gifts from their Love is real collection to express my love to Amanda and remind her of the amazing night we had together when I asked her to marry me.

Now if you feel all warm after reading this true life love story, share with us what love means to you. Go to Twitter and tell us your story tagged with @notonthehighst and the campaign hashtag – #LoveIsReal for your chance to win £150 to spend on thoughtful, unique gifts this Valentine’s Day at nothonthehighstreet.com

I do believe it was W.B Yeats that said, “Wine comes in at the mouth. And love comes in at the eye; That’s all we shall know for truth. Before we grow old and die. I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and I sigh.”

Now some of you ole syncs out there might take a bit of a hum bug stance to Valentine’s day, and there’s a part of me that very much agrees with you and sees it somewhat, like New Year’s Eve as amateurs night. But nonetheless we should treat our better halves and if we need a little prompting in the right direction every once in a while then so be it, it could be worse.

So as ever Clothes Make the Man is on hand to offer you indispensable advice on what to maybe purchase come 14th February.

imageCapture every single special moment with this sensational limited edition Leica X2 specially designed by Fashion Legend Sir Paul Smith. This exclusive special edition combines British style with German design, one could say the best of both worlds.



imageWho doesn’t love a G & T, hands up ? Well those of you visiting the London, Birmingham and Manchester Selfridges stores in the run up to Valentine’s Day will have the opportunity to add a special personal message to their bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, through an exclusive hand-engraving service. Our engravers will be available on 11th and 12th February in London, 12th in Birmingham, and 13th in the Manchester Selfridges stores to customise the iconic blue bottles with names, initials or unique messages, for a truly one of a kind Valentine’s Day keepsake.

imageWhisk the one you love off for a romantic little jaunt and of course, no jaunt of a loving nature would be complete without the correct accompanying luggage. Globe-Trotter has launched an updated Candy Limited Edition case, featuring ‘Queue for the Zoo’ lining – a fun and quirky Liberty print.

imageAlong with the essential luggage one mustn’t forget one’s Passport when planning a romantic weekend away and who could miss it ?  When it’s protected in this rather apt Passionate Pink Passport cover by Mulberry.
imageThe National Gallery and acclaimed florist Wild at Heart have launched a series of artistic flowers inspired by paintings in the National Gallery. The artistic experience of the National Gallery makes the perfect luxurious Valentines bouquet. Every bouquet is individually arranged using high quality seasonal blooms, making every bouquet unique and special. Orders placed before 2pm will be delivered anywhere in the UK within 48 hours.
imageIts always good to feel your doing something worthy, particularly when buying a present and for one month only, two of Aspinal’s classic leather accessories (a key ring and coin purse) with the Royal Brompton Hospital campaign slogan of #HEART YOU embossed on the front. 50% from products sold will go directly to the Charity’s ongoing initiative to raise £4.5m to build a state of the art hybrid operating theatre which will combine complex imaging and surgery in a way that has never been done before.
imageThis limited edition Gelsomino Nobile by Acqua di Parma is designed to celebrate a radiant end elegant fragrance, as well as a unique flower – Jasmine. A perfect gift dedicated to a woman characterized by a gentle and elegant style and a bright femininity. An amazing bottle that remains as a collector items, and is offered for the first time in a refillable version.