Here's the deal. I've been single since time immemorial. So, in an attempt to remedy my eternal singledom, and to get over my nauseatingly pathological fear of dates, I've decided to challenge myself. The challenge? To go on one first date a week for a year! So in 52 weeks time, I will have either found my Mr Right, or I'll stay forever Miss Write. This is what happens...

The Rules

Here are the rules to the 52 First Dates challenge...

1. A first date must be had once a week, EVERY week, for a year, that's 52 dates in 52 weeks.

2. Taking someone home after a drunken night on the cider does NOT count.

3. Second and third dates are allowed, I must continue first dates unless there are exceptional mitigating circumstances. For example, God forbid, the start of a relationship.

4. Each date must be blogged.

30 September 2011

Mr #15 - What's that coming over the hill, is it a whitehead?

The preamble:
Mr #15 came about through the usual online dating route. I rather liked the sound of Mr #15...he was remarkably eloquent-slash-literate, had a penchant for unusual clothing fabrics including the incredibly-underrated corduroy, and his profile photo looked like one of those seventies photos of a boy smiling, having completed his last exam in a school gym weathering nothing but a mustard-coloured vest. However the preamble was rather too lengthy, and it did have to get to the point where I emailed and said 'are you going to ask me out for a bloody drink, or what?'. As it turns out, that was just the virtual kick up the arse necessary to secure date #15. So we arranged to meet.
The man:
Age: 27
Profession: Freelance journalist
Random factoid: He was the inspiration behind a legendary Only Fools And Horses Quote. His mum, a teacher, used to bump into John Sullivan whilst doing the school run. One day, whilst asking what this lady did for a living, a three-year-old Mr #15 informed John Sullivan she was a teacher. When then asked what she taught, Master 15 replied 'children, mostly'. And so was born the immortal punchline to Del and Raquel's first meeting.

The date:
I met Mr #15 not too far away from work, with the premise that we were to go for a drink and then a 'stroll' down to the Embankment to take in the rather uncharacteristically tropical clime of London in late September. As it turns out, 'stroll' was one of Mr #15's favourite words ever, as he used it on no less than 11 occasions during the evening. I know. I counted. 

The first thing that struck me was the fact that he had claimed, on a number of occasions, to be a toyboyly 27 years old. However with the realisation of a rather prominent greying of a barnet that was well beyond the acceptable recession point for any man younger than 35, I suspected he had been more than creative about his date of birth. Especially since he threw 1984 into conversation with frighteningly-rehearsed ease. So we headed off to a certain blues-orientated bar, a bar I'm not entirely unfamiliar with, from date #13 to be precise, although fortunately tonight there was no live band, so at least we could hear things. Conversation kicked off with gusto. 

We covered all sorts: A levels, the fact that he lives with his parents rent-free (and hasn't offered financial compensation? Tut tut!), doing a Monopoly-themed pub crawl and Sheffield. Soon his obsession with strolling overcame him, so we headed off on a polite perambulation through Soho to get to his favourite wine bar near Embankment, a jauntily little joint with caves, a stinky cheese buffet and yes, you've guessed it, shit loads of wine. Bereft of somewhere to perch, we ended up stood outside in the virtual pitch black where conversation kicked up a gear: dropping the c-bomb, the EDL, Alzheimers, corruption within FIFA, Croydon, cricket, his favourite anti-fascist German football team, his paisley shirt, dubious hot tub incidents and Facebook analytics. 

Don't get me wrong, this guy gave good chat, nay escellent chat; he was exceptionally bright, and I found myself hearing my own cavalier use of the English language in his speech which oddly enough didn't really endear me to him, but rather put me off. As was the acknowledgement of unconsciously touching my own bum and realised that I had the gluteus muscle tone of a 60-year-old woman. Note to self, go to the gym, you don't want someone you fancy one day having to cup what feel like a bag of porridge. 

Self-realisation aside, and the overwhelmingly interchangeable odours of honky Camembert and sweet Branston pickle wafting over from the table we were sharing, soon enough it was time to call it a night. We wandered down to the tube together, and some rather awkwardly long yet desirably noncommittal words later, we went our separate ways.

Memorable Quotes:
'My area of historical expertise is actually the reformation of manors'
'Yesterday I wrote an article about a roundabout'
Something to do with 'jingoism'. I can't remember what the exact sentence was, but the fact he said the word 'jingoism' warrants note.

Events of note:
From the darkness of our outside position, watching the theatre of a man who, once sat cross-legged, foolishly attempted to walk across cobbles with no feeling in his lower extremities, and doing what can only be described as the 'dead leg limp' which would've won him a full time position in the Ministry of Silly Walks. That, and the six foot odd buff rugby lad who was wandering around on his own in what looked like a stolen schoolgirl's uniform.

The verdict:
Mr #15 was a really nice guy. His banter was brilliant, we reached new conversational ground, his choice of venue was good, and he was clearly a really bright guy. But I don't think I could get over the fact that he sounded irritatingly like a male version of myself and the fact he had flagrantly lied about his age. That, and the cheeky whitehead in the cleavage of his left nostril that I just could not take my eyes off, hoping that maybe my imaginary telekinetic powers might've popped. Whether he wants to see me again remains to be seen. 

All in all, I had a lovely and delightfully challenging evening...I for one didn't know I knew so much about the corruption within the various sporting industries...but the bottom line is I just didn't fancy him. Ah well.

25 September 2011

Mr #14 - Ode To Lithuania

The preamble:
Mr #14 and I first got chatting online through a dating site a month or so ago, and over the last few days due to him suffering some sort of fat-thumbs syndrome affecting texting on his touchphone, we started chatting over Facebook. 

This was a bit of an online dating first for me, as normally I tend to avoid the sharing of any sort of social networking sites, mainly for the barrage of embarrassing personal information on them, but also because my ridiculous blogging exploits are shamelessly splattered all over them.

 However on revealing that in some swift social networking searches he'd already found my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn profile AND this illustrious blog, I had pretty much nothing to hide. 

He was well aware of the ongoing emotional embuggerance of Mr Third Party who had been occupying a lot of my mind time over the last week, and even though he knew he'd be written up in true 52 First Dates style, he agreed to meet up anyway, which to be honest was just what I needed to take my mind off the other emotional turbulance. 

But since he lived out in deepest darkest Dagenham, we agreed to meet somewhere halfway. But sadly for both of us, that halfway was Barking. Dear, sweet, phenomenally dump-worthy Barking.  

The man:
Age: 23
Profession: Financial analyst sort
Random factoid: Hails from Lithuania. That's right, a real life Lithuanian.

The date:
I think we've established already we were going to meet in Barking. I can't stress that enough.  Fucking Barking. 

I'd managed to notch up some significant pre-date nerves on this one, mainly because Mr #14, who from hereon in will be known as the Lithuanian Ninja for reasons I won't be able to properly explain, had suggested that as a challenge, when we were to meet at the tube, we were to stand there for 1 to 3 minutes in silence and stare at each other. At which point he would most probably kiss me. Hmm. Cue a massive swoosh of typical British pre-date prudishness. But when in Rome, or more aptly, when in Barking with a random Lithuanian, you go along with it. 

Anyway, I turned up at the station, and as promised, the Lithuanian Ninja just stood and stared at me. I giggled awkwardly. Fortunately for me, he decided to break the stare-stalemate and let me escape snog-free. He'd been prudent enough to google a local park so we could go for a little walk and a chat. Barking Park to be precise. So wandered, and we chatted, largely about how he thought I could improve my blog, which was some rather fabulous constructive criticism. We ended up grabbing a seat in the park in a description that I can only describe as halfway between a travelling funfair and a rubble dump. I took the time to photograph the location in detail, just to create the full mis-en-scene. So here we go. Brace yourself...

The view to the left:

The view to the right:

The view behind:

And finally...the piece de resistance...the view straight ahead:

So here we were, perched in Essex's least finest green land, and conversation kicked off. We covered poverty, academia, job-hunting, Eastern European languages and the paragon of British culture that was modern day Essex. 

The wind picked up and we started to get chilly, so as sad as we were to leave the glorious vista of rubble, we wandered off in search of some sort of coffee. It soon emerged, contrary to his previous claims of being a ninja, that the Lithuanian Ninja had left his ninjic tendencies at home, as I had to save him from being flattened by oncoming traffic at least twice.  

It also soon emerged that Barking lacked any sort of commercial coffee house so we traipsed around the town centre for ages, and not even a sniff of a Starbucks, the faintest clue of a Costa and zero Cafe Nero. The one place claiming to vend hot caffeinated beverages was closing its doors, so we had to resort to a location possibly even more spectacular than Barking Park. Yes, you've guessed it: Barking Shopping Centre. What more romantic a setting for a date, than being sat in the middle of the worst shopping centre known to man, opposite an Asda, supping gritty milkshakes. Well, we did it. And you know what? It was fucking hilarious. 

I was soon realising that the Lithuanian Ninja was a funny funny guy. He had a great sense of humour about the actual dating blog, the English-Lithuanian divide and the cultural hellhole that was Barking. He was also incredibly keen, and was not shy in letting me know, either by trying to sneak in a cheeky hug or by repeatedly saying 'I like you'. 

Since the whole snog-orientated preamble, I had sensed there may be a kiss in the offing, and whilst perched on the faux-leather sofa of Cafe Aroma and basking in the flattering neon lighting of Holland and Barratt, I did concede a cheeky kiss or two. What can I say, the romantic ambiance of Barking Shopping Centre must've caught me unawares! That and the intoxicatingly high sugar content of my mango smoothie. 

At this point, the Lithuanian Ninja made it clear he thought he was a genuine contender to thwart the future of 52 First Dates, a bar I fear is almost impossibly high these days. Soon the tannoy clamoured the closing of the shopping centre, and we moseyed our way back to the station to say our goodbyes.

Memorable Quotes (of which there were many):
'My dissertation was meant to be 72 pages long, but I cut it down to 69 as it's my favourite number'
'When I got to England I realised how good-looking I was'
'I hope no-one notices that I've got a hard on'
'I like to wear suits. For work? Smart suit. For home? Sports suit. For swimming? Swimsuit. For when I'm hot? Birthday suit.'

Events of note:
The Lithuanian Ninja's awesome demonstration of the difference between the various Eastern European and Russian accents. Turns out, nothing like Borat.

The verdict:
Mr #14 has gone and baffled me a bit. He's very sweet, incredibly funny, and is unfeasibly bright. And although on paper it was one of the worst dating locations ever, it was a genuinely brilliant date for lots of right and lots of wrong reasons. And it was really lovely to feel fancied, something that hasn't really happened a lot over my 52 First Dates quest thus far. And although we shared a lovely kiss in the romantic setting of the Barking Shopping Centre, I'm just not sure that the chemistry was really all there for me. Which is a real shame, as I'd have loved nothing more than to cite a Lithuanian Ninja as the reason for abandoning 52 First Dates. But sadly I fear that it's still game on for the next 38 dates, and I can only thank the Eastern European with a name a lot like a Bond villain for giving me a totally random yet totally awesome dating experience.

20 September 2011

To Catch A Catfish

I thought I'd give you a little update regarding the whole Catfish saga of Mr #2, or the fictitious 'Seb'. For various reasons I can't go into on here now, I can't give you the full update, but I can tell you about one aspect of the ongoing drama which has gone even further to reinforce my disbelief and amazement at the power of social networking. For those who have just tuned in, yes, this is essentially a blog about a girl going on dates with boys. But very early on, a situation presented itself which showed the darkest underbelly of the world of internet dating, which you can read here:

So, we've established I was being groomed by someone who had stolen an innocent man's photos to pose as a single man online. We'd then, through the awesome power of friends and Facebook, found the poor sod whose photos had been stolen, and whose life was largely being used to entice unsuspecting singletons such as myself, a feat which too this day I still find unbelievable. And that, I thought, was that...

...That is, until a month or so ago when I received a message through Twitter that made me go cold. It quite simply said 'please can you message me. I am the latest idiot'. What the fuck?!?!? Since Seb-gate was still very much in the forefront of my mind, I messaged the girl back, known on here as Miss D. What immediately transpired was that she had messaged me the very morning that her mother, suspicious that her latest online beau might not have been all he cracked up to be, had googled his full name, the rather unusual name of Sebastian Pritchard-Jones. What she found, however, was not reinforcement he was who he said he was, but my previous blog entry naming and shaming him as a total fraudster, and told her daughter to read what I had written. I can't imagine how she will have felt just then, but I don't think it will have been nice. 

Devastated at this discovery, Miss D had rung him up immediately, called him a c***, and then tweeted me. They had been planning a trip away together, and until then, she had had had absolutely no idea he was leading her a merrily miserable dance. And why would she? He was a clever, manipulative creature, who had finely honed his act of making people believe what he wanted them to believe. This character is every online dater's nightmare. Once the realisation had settled in, I spoke to Miss D more. She sent me an extensive email of everything he had told her: names, places, anecdotes, habits, likes, dislikes, and the most frightening thing was every single detail was one I knew inside out. This was the finest rehearsed routine I have ever heard in my life. A monologue. A character. And Miss D had had exactly the same thing. It later transpired that the day I had told him to leave me alone, the day after THAT perfume bottle picture, he'd smoothly moved straight on to his next victim. The fact that I had maybe, possibly, potentially saved Miss D from a bigger hurt through my blog is reason enough that I started writing it in the first place. But the fact her mum found it on Google and that Miss D was able to get in touch by Twitter even more reinforces my sheer amazement at the power of the web. For every moment of fear and trepidation the internet gives me, the joy, surprise and warmth that comes back is threefold.

I have absolutely no doubt we are not the only two women he has done this to, and, judging from CT's experience (the guy whose photos were stolen), I'm sure there are other men too. This seems to me the well-versed patter of someone who wants their own relationship for a foreseeable shelf-life before, for whatever reason, the other party gets bored, suspicious or hurt. And I have no doubt that this is still going on now, although I would assume they've been savvy enough to change names, photos and dating sites. Who knows? The fact that online dating sites have no way of guaranteeing that their users are who they say they are will always concern me, but it is nothing you can ever really know for sure until it's potentially too late.  I take some solace that in all my internet dating experiences to date, this has been beyond exception, and the chances of encountering something as remotely as fucked up as this again is incredibly rare. But there is always a chance. After all, he knows who I am, because I am as genuine on these sites as I am to my friend and family, what's to say he couldn't find me again and spin me a whole new enticing yarn. As for everyone else? Well, it's the internet...I need say not one word more. On with Mr #14!

14 September 2011

Mr #13 - Pint-Sized and Doe-Eyed

The preamble:
I'd been messaging Mr #13 for quite some time, and much like Mr #5, (remember, the one with the snow globe) I, had a good feeling about him and for some random reason knew we'd get on. I don't know why, but I'm starting to realise that my instinct on these things mostly isn't too bad, Catfish notwithstanding, as you'll find out. Anyway, after a couple of failed reschedulings for various actual work reasons, we were both still keen to meet. So met we did.

The man:
Age: 29
Profession:Trainee teacher
Random factoid: Changes his sheets once a month. Yes, I know...! He did redeem himself otherwise...

The date:
The first thing that struck me about Mr #13 was he was hot. Properly gorgeous. I've not seen eyes and the surrounding lashes like that in yonks. He was so cute, in fact, that I instantly put aside my heightist snobbery (he was only a couple of inches taller than me, which if you're familiar with my previous blog entries, you'll know I'm not terribly forgiving on the vertical front). 

This was one of the rare occasions that my date chose the venue, a rather quaintly cool jazz bar off the beaten track. We arrived, we perched, and then discovered we were sat about 6 inches in front of the live band and couldn't hear a bloody thing. Nice idea, but after him thinking I was talking about syphilis rather than my sister, we had to relocate somewhere quieter. Once re-perched and sat within audible earshot, I discovered he was funny, pleasant, and very easy going. Conversation covered all the essentials: favourite kids TV shows, pork scratchings, eighties films, urinal etiquette (what is it with dates and talking about pee-time politics?), taxidermy, pizza toppings, Valentine's Day, and that eternal dilemma - if you had to give up one meat forever, what would it be? Beef, if you were wondering...and pork would be the one I'd choose if I was left with only one. Of course.

Anyway the evening drew on, we were getting on swimmingly but both of us were stifling yawns, so we decided it was time to go our separate ways. Or so I thought. After a farewell hug outside the pub, slightly awkward and lingering, I said I was off north as he was southbound. But then, in an unprecedentedly unpredictable move, he changed his mind and decided he'd walk north to the tube with me, which made things even more awkward as we'd already said our goodbyes. 

And even more awkwardly, we had to say goodbye at the tube again, and then even worse, we had to sit on opposite sides of the platform and just style it out. I found myself trying to summon every vapour of my non-existent telekinetic power to make those trains come sooner. Seven minutes we were sat there. But it felt a lot lot longer. But retrospectively funny nonetheless.

Memorable Quotes:
'You just mentioned Gomez, they're my favourite band ever!!!'
'I know, you said about 10 minutes ago'

Events of note:
For the first time in my life ignoring my irrational elitist heightism in favour of a pretty face and a lovely personality. It seems I can still learn!

The verdict:
I had a thoroughly lovely evening with Mr #13 - he was hot, funny, bright, entertaining and we had a lot in common. Although we exchange a couple of messages once we got home, he wasn't immediately pressing for a second date, which left me feeling a little bit more keen. 

However, over the last few weeks behind the scenes of #52firstdates, there has been unexpected turmoil. A character I went on a date with way before the #52firstdates challenge started has surfaced again in rather significant style, and I'm afraid his resurgence has had an effect on how I feel about my current dates, especially Mr #13. If this new contender didn't exist, I would without doubt be hankering for date #2 with Mr #13. But as it is, he's gone and thrown me into temporary emotional turbulence, so I'm now not as sure about things as I ordinarily would be. 

So for now, the fasten seatbelt signs are on, I'm holding tight to my emotional sick bag to ride things out for rest of this short flight, and hopefully I'll be back with an update very soon.