Looking back is not something I do very often - primarily because I have a shite memory .
But this time of year is splattered with some of the best and most vivid memories of my working career/life and funnily enough they are all inextricably linked.
The first two weeks of February mean several things to me:-
New York, it is a city that Owen Barry know extremely well. Since 1990 we have visited NY, always Ken, but very often joined by Chas or I. We visit NY, at least 4 times every year, with the first of those trips being in early February, and I can picture it now, as you drive into Manhattan, it seems swathed in Red - strong Bright Red.
Dependent upon your origins - every shop is trying to catch your eye, from Hallmark & Duane Reade, thru to Barneys and Bergdorfs - they are all festooned in red (coincidentally the proven most effective "Buy me" colour) - either Red and gold for Chinese New Year and of course Red and bows for Valentines.
Valentines Day (whilst a great principle) - is a bit lost on me, as my ever suffering friends and family will testify I don't do cards (or gifts) very often. Even for landmark events, any card I give will have been nicked from the shop - with the vague instruction to put it on my tab !
So old St V doesn't get a lot of action in our house, but it has to be said the New Yorkers love a "holiday", a reason to shop , to give gifts & cards, so the celebration of St Valentine and his strange need for cuddly soft toys, heart shaped balloons and boxes of chocs is a priority in that city.
The only time that I could be in the least bit persuaded to actually purchase a card (for any event) would be if it carried an image from the portfolio of Norman Rockwell.
February 3rd is the birthday of my all time favourite artist, (using paint and canvas) Norman Rockwell.
Yes, I know Norman Rockwell isn't British, in fact in someways he is the quintessential American artist. But here's the exciting bit, and I can tell you, I was nearly dancing on the tables, when I learnt this fact:-
Norman Rockwell's family originate from Somerset, England - yes not just the UK but SOMERSET - whoop whoop, how perfect is that? - my all time very favourite artist originates from Somerset -YES - get in there.
When you look into a Rockwell picture, you can easily see his rural origins. It is beautiful to see his observations on love with it's sweet and sour sides.
Rockwell is the master at portraying the funny small town interactions between people. The honest take on life - his search for answers to some of life's most concerning and political questions, that when asked in the big city have so many layers but then in the country side somehow seem frankly, unimportant.
I absolutely adore Rockwell, whom I am embarrassed to admit I only became aware of on reduced calendars at Barnes and Noble back in 1990's!!
Early February in NY sees the prices of calendars slashed to $3 and I buy loads!!
Well as long as they depict one of my preferred themes, lighthouses, outhouses (yes I've had some great calendars featuring rural privies), bridges and most importantly Norman Rockwell. Ken will relay stories of us marching up and down 5th, 6th, 7th Aves and Boardway, in the bitter cold (and snow drifts) stopping at every possible vendor, checking their reduced calendar stock for Norman !!
Additionally, I have books and prints and will fight any man to the death who try's to say Rockwell is not an artist - he is purely an illustrator - rubbish he paints the finest reflection of human emotions that you will ever find - every single one of his pictures will move me to tears if I am left alone to look into them.
So there you have it - if you want to buy me the most perfect valentines gift or card - make sure it is a Rockwell and I will "love you forever big time" as some of the ladies say , on the street in Chinatown!
OB Valentine Gift Ideas