My father was rather a stylish man. Not in a way we’d understand these days. His clothes were not fashionable, his wardrobe was not bulging with options and he never knowingly wore a comfortable shoe. He was a Savile Row chap. His shirts were exquisitely handmade, his ties were silk and when he died he still had a wonderful tweed jacket, made for him in 1956, that my husband quickly pinched and now wears on a weekendly basis.
So you can imagine his view of Father’s Day. A trite occasion, he’d opine, invented by Hallmark to shift a little more volume. In fact, I think he viewed it with the same suspicion that he did water: not something to be drunk, but merely the place where fish fornicate. Anyway as a result it was extremely difficult to buy him a present. Not that I ever had any money as a child. So for the first ten years or so of my life, my father received anything suggested by Blue Peter.
I remember the look of ‘delight’ on his face when being presented with a box file for his ‘important papers’:- a Corn Flakes packet, placed on its side, with lid cut in the top, painted green with a brass paper fastener handle. Next was the large matchbox decorated with navy plastic buttons to put his ‘important things’ in. But the ‘desktop set’ was unsurpassed. Three Fairy liquid bottles cut in half, covered in virulently flowered sticky backed plastic and mounted on some card with double-sided sticky tape ‘for speed.’ I am not sure quite why I was in such a hurry. Why speed was of the essence. But there must have been much to do in the wilds of Warwickshire in 1976.
Needless to say each of these lovingly prepared items would slowly but surely find themselves in the rubbish bin within a gentle two to three week period. Although the desktop set did managed a full three months before it slipped off his desk and into the trash.
But truth be told I have always found Father’s Day gifts, or indeed gifts for men in general, extremely difficult. What on earth do they ACTUALLY want? As I grew a little older I branched out down the socks, pants and handkerchief route, and, eventually, when I began to earn a little more money I ended up at shirts. But Christ, how tedious! Not only for me to buy but also for him to receive.
And then I had a breakthrough. Sadly my father had died by this point so he was never the recipient of these wise words. But I was discussing presents for my husband with a girlfriend of mine who just so happens to be a Princess (I know! Aren’t I so God damn chic!) and when a Princess proffers up a pearl it is one’s duty to listen and take notes.
“Well,” she said, with a delicate nod of her tiara-ed head. (I made that bit up, although she does have a couple of diamante headpieces from Accessorize). “There is this fabulous perfumier, Patricia de Nicolai, from the Guerlain family, and her aftershaves are the most delicious things you have ever smelt. Nicolai is the name and they’re ALL fabulous. But personally I recommend the New York. It really is, if I am being honest, a present to oneself.”
So off I trotted to a teeny tiny hidden outlet in South Kensington and shelled out on a bottle of New York and promptly gave it to my Less Attractive Half. Now, unlike my father who was strictly an Imperial Leather Man, my husband likes a splish and a splash in the morning. He is OBSESSED with Sisleyum for men and knows his Clinique from his Clearasil (strictly for emergencies only!). He eyed the bottle suspiciously. He was a Creed Green Tweed man; he rather likes Neville by Cowshed, but this? What the hell was this? He dabbed it on. And as waft, after delicious waft emanated from the bathroom and sensuously filled my nostrils, all I could think as I lay back in bed, my head against the soft pillows, was, “Yes! I am worth it! This is the nicest present I’ve ever had!”