My funny Valentine

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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you were thinking of buying your loved-one flowers and chocolates on Valentine's Day, you haven't been paying attention. The strange array of stylish gifts on offer this year includes edible bras and customised 3-D love-collages

It's next Saturday, (just in case you hadn't noticed), and like every other saints day or religious holiday Valentine's Day has become another excuse for the PR machine to go into overdrive. Example: "Hi, we've got these marvellous red Valentine's razors for the man in your life." Or how about: "Are you doing a Valentine's feature? We have these fun condom holders covered in hearts," yeah... right. Is this the kind of pap companies expect to sell in the name of love?

It seems so. So if you do want a pair of red fluffy hand-cuffs, (pounds 2.99) or Drop Dead Gorgeous body spray, (pounds 1.29 for 75ml), Superdrug have done the honours. Fancy a heart shaped lollipop? Only 55p from M&S. What about edible bras and knickers (both pounds 4.99) in strawberry, lager or creme de menthe flavour, or a Parrot posing pouch (pounds 4.99)? Try Ann Summers. Other lovey-dovey stuff like heart earrings (from pounds 50), and pendants (from pounds 40-pounds 150) are good from Van Peterson.

Thankfully, there are better things to do for love. My current favourite is the create your own compilation CD that is currently on offer from London's first Internet Cafe, Cyberia. Set up in association with Cerberus, Internet users, or visitors to the cafe, can go to the web page www.cdj.co.uk and look through their music list, which comprises around 80,000 tracks. Once downloaded, 20- 30 second excerpts from each track can be heard and then selected. For only pounds 10 it can be made into 10-track personalised CD.

For those with a bit more cash and a creative streak, Kathryn Jackson, a commercial artist who works three dimensionally, creating collages, cards, and framed prints, can be commissioned to do something extra special for Valentine's - if you call today.

"Will you marry me? On top of the Empire State Building," (above right) was made by Jackson for a Saatchi executive who gave it his wife on their first wedding anniversay to commemorate the events surrounding his proposal on - you guessed it - the top of the Empire State Building. Jackson sells from studios at Oxo Tower Wharf, which is definitely worth a stop-over during a riverside walk. She shares the building with several other design studios, including the D'Argent Gallery whose rings are worth looking at, and Louise de Caires who customises Wonderbras (left) to order with sequins, ribbons, and natural dyes.

Further along the South Bank at Gabriels Wharf check out the Skylark Gallery and the work of 24-year-old Bosnian artist Ana Vukic. Her Valentine's heart images, ranging in price from pounds 25 to pounds 250, are selling like hot- cakes. Another item worth noting is the specially produced book of classical love poems by Asprey (above right). It is leather bound, gold tooled, and will prove to be an everlasting heirloom of love.

Just as an extra, far and away the most popular Valentine's gift I have ever come across is the "Guess How Much I Love You" childrens book and toy which has sold more than 3 million copies since it was published in 1987. The story is so simple and gorgeous that to summarise it would spoil the fun.

Cyberia Cafe (0171-209 0982); Van Peterson (0171-584 1101); Superdrug (0181-684 7000); Ann Summers (0181-645 8320); D'Argent Gallery (0171-401 8454); Kathryn Jackson (0171-401 8118); Louise de Caires (0171-928 1887/3610); Skylark Gallery (0171 928 4005)

Below left: solid heart key-ring, pounds 135, by Asprey, 165-169 New Bond St, London W1 (0171-493 6767)

Above: leather, handbound gold-tooled book of love poems, pounds 120, by Asprey

Far left: hand-customised Wonderbra, pounds 30, by Louise de Caires. Enquiries on 0171-928 1887

Love it!

Red roses, to order from Jane Packer in association with Intopia who can provide an Italian glass vase, (pounds 88 or pounds 140). Prices subject to alteration due to Valentine's Day mark-ups. Jane Packer 0171-935 2673 Intopia 07000 593 378

Specially-commissioned love collage 5" square mounted in a 12" sqaure frame from pounds 230, by 3-D artist Kathryn Jackson, at Oxo Tower Wharf, London SE1. (0171-401 8118)

Eploding love bathcubes, pounds 1.85, by Lush handmade cosmetics. Enquiries on 0171-240 4570

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