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.

29 November 2011

Mr #25 - King of the Swingers

The preamble:
I'd not been messaging Mr #25 that long actually, but the emails were lenghty and grammatically correct enough to pass my strict muster. Plus he happened to live and work just down the road, and it seemed only logical to arrange to meet. 

We were originally due to meet on a Saturday, which is rather controversial for me in first date terms, sacrificing a weekend night, but since I was planning on a relatively quiet one anyway and it was closer than a tube ride away, I agreed to the date. However, all came rather unstuck when I awoke that morning to a head like the inside of a burns victim's bandage with the cold from hell. I normally tell myself not to cancel first dates unless I have a damn good reason, and the idea of waging potentially lethal germ warfare on someone who could turn out to be the man of my dreams struck me as good enough reason to reschedule. So reschedule we did.

The man:
Age: 37
Profession: Bar owner
Random factoid: The band Hot Chip are regulars in his establishment.

The date:
What I really liked about Mr #25 was his choice of venue, a delightful little pub just off Brick Lane where the locals were friendly, the music was not imposing, and the array of Japanese whiskey behind the bar was impressive to say the least, if that's your sort of thing.

Mr #25 was pretty much as I expected him to be visually, although what I didn't expect was for him to bear an unnerving resemblance to the Evil Antipodean, a gentleman of my past whose memories are not exactly fond ones. But he was very smart even if his choice of Mulberry-coloured shirt was slightly questionable, and ever-the-gentleman, he scurried off to the bar to commandeer me a wine. 

He was exceptionally eloquent and unfeasibly relaxed, although his uber-laid-backness could have been construed as cockiness. His hair was a rough attempt at a fifties quiff, and he had a peculiar crease across the bridge of his nose that gave him a somewhat angry brow. He also seemed to prefer speaking out of one side of his mouth, which I didn't attribute to anything medical, but only added to his slight arrogance. 

Conversation was healthily varied: work, play, star-spotting around Bethnal Green (the little Italian cafe on Bethnal Green Road is the current celeb haunt, FYI), the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the etiquette of wearing football shirts on Christmas Day. 

He had also done a brief spell working in film, and he did try and sound like he knew what he was talking about when it came to the industry in which I work but it was a little cringe-worthy to be fair, so I politely steered him onto conversational pastures new. 

One thing that had really appealed to me about Mr #25 before meeting him was the fact he had a passion. And that passion? Swing dancing. Now that to me sounded awesome, I've always wanted to have a go. And to begin with, getting him onto his topic of choice proved an excellent and interesting plan. However after managing to crowbar the conversation back to swing dancing on no less than four occasions after the subject had reached the end of its natural life, the tedium began to set in a little. I mean, how do you get from the life and works of Andy Serkis to the Charleston? Oh you can, believe me. And he did. 

Two drinks down and last orders was approaching. Ordinarily I would have stayed for a third drink, but I was feeling a little on the knackered side, and faced with a ballacher of a day at work, I suggested an early night going our separate ways, just as rather awkwardly he was trying for a third. I donned my cape and furry muff, and bid him farewell, but not before he tried for the third time to recruit me to his local swing dancing club. I see...on commission are we? I should have guessed.

Memorable Quotes:
'Tom Cruise is definitely on a contract marriage'
'John Travolta is definitely gay'
'Brad Pitt. Lovely guy. I definitely would'
Legal note: All of the above quotes came from Mr #25 and are his own personal opinion. They are in no way reflections of the views of the author. Does that cover it? Good.

Events of note:
The hot barman giving me the wrong change. And me being honest enough to bring it to his attention. Sadly he wasn't generous enough to give me his phone number as compensation. The bar steward.

The verdict:
Mr #25 was on the whole a nice guy. Perhaps it was his age or his line of work, but he seemed a little too over-confident for my liking. I did feel a little bit that I had to match up to his exacting standards a little more than usual, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that I did. But it was a pleasant enough evening, but I don't think I shall be hunting him down for a second date. I could, however, be tempted if he proposed a second date where there was lots of fun dancing, as long as I didn't have to listen to him talk about it.

23 November 2011

Mr #24 - Nigel Blandsell

The preamble:
I'd been messaging Mr #24 on an off for a month or so. His emails were good, we shared common ground in our love of Garth Marenghi's Dark Place and Nathan Barley, he owned a cat, and he had excellent command of grammar. He was also a former racing driver, and his multitudinous photos in his blue racing onesie did catch my eye a little. He wasn't exactly a model, but he looked nice and smiley, and he was so polite in asking for a date I thought why the devil not!

The man:
Age: 36
Profession: Media wrangler slash part time racing instructor
Random factoid: Recently won a poker competition. Albeit a crap little local one where the prize was a little plastic trophy.

The date:
I felt a little sorry for Mr #24 before I met him, as I had been in full on shambolic mode all day. Since being up since 5am, I'd had a bonkers day at work, a tactical 4 hour mid-afternoon snooze, the unwise idea of cooking sausages in my dating ensemble, an embarrassing episode at the doctors whereby I got stuck in my dress then tearing it trying to present my arm to a hot doctor for the taking of blood pressure. Plus I was 15 minutes late and honking of chipolatas. But he was very sweet about it, so I thought I'd managed to get away with it. Just. 

We met at Oxford Circus, a cunning venue I thought as everyone has some idea of their favourite pub in the locale. But not Mr #24. Once again I was in charge of choosing the venue, so we pottered off to a quiet little pub that I knew served Sailor Jerry's, we found a little pew and set to with the date

He wasn't an unattractive man, but he'd certainly been cleverly selective with his choice of photos. He was paler, more petite, and his hair was somewhat greyer than I'd expected. But he had a nice friendly face, that is, when he wasn't eyeballing my cleavage or pulling odd faces like a 1920s schoolboy. 

Conversation was on the whole very safe: school life, university, public transport (literally the dullest but most universal of safe topics), Made In Chelsea, various injuries sustained over our lives (mine was a soup-related scalded leg, his was a broken cheekbone thanks to a run in with a fist in Portsmouth) and cats. 

He showed slightly uncomfortable over-interest in my tattoo, a little too much sympathy for my anecdotes, and literally agreed with everything I said all night. He was on the whole a very sweet guy, but I just found him blander than an average vanilla cheesecake on a white porcelain plate in a dining room recently painted floor to ceiling in magnolia. 

I wasn't entirely sure of his grasp of acceptable first date conversation either, especially as mid-evening he inquired as to the nature of my doctor's appointment. The temptation to tell him it was to sort out some fictional intimate infliction was almost too much, but I resisted. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't, because I reckon he'd have had to dug deep into his personality reserves for some sort of reaction had I mentioned the words 'syphilis', 'thrush' or 'haemarroids'. 

After two drinks, I was really flagging, and his persistent agreement was sapping the life out of me, so I had to turn down the offer of a third beverage and leg it to the bus. But, being the gentleman he was, he insisted on waiting for the bus with me which, as it turned out, took twenty awkward minutes to arrive. Thanks 25, thanks a bleeding lot. He didn't strike me as the face-burgling sort, so I thought I'd be able to escape snog-free, but I'd used up all my good small talk, so the best I could do was suggest how many routes he could take to get the train so he didn't have to wait for me. But wait he did. Two rather insipid air kisses and the arrival of a double-decker later, and I was away and dreaming of my beddy byes.

Memorable Quotes:
'I've watched all of the Lord of the Rings in one day before. On a number of occasions'

'I have eleven different types of tea at home.' And then, he listed them. All. He lives alone, just in case you were wondering...

'I got you a straw for your drink so we could tell which one was yours and which one was mine. And you're drinking with it. That's good'

'Did you know the right way for a ying and yang is for the white bit to be on the top. But Bruce Lee put the black on the top, and that's wrong.'

Events of note:
The couple sat in the corner of the pub virtually having sex. It was off-putting to say the least, and I hoped my date wouldn't notice and take it as an idea.

The verdict:
All in all it was a disappointing evening. I'm sure there are lot of ladies out there who'd love an agreeable chap to kowtow to their every word, but I like someone with a bit more balls to them. Come on love, have an opinion! Disagree with me about something for god's sake, challenge me! And don't spend the entire time agreeing with my chest, it's not going to be any more forgiving than my face you know...

14 November 2011

Mr #23 - Spittle Italy

The preamble:
The dialogue between Mr #23 and I had been relatively short-lived, but he'd mentioned enough to pique my interest and I agreed to meet him within about 4 days of initial contact. All I new about his was he was Italian, he worked in digital marketing and he lived south of the river. Seemed fair enough, bring it on.

The man:
Age: 32
Profession: Digital marketing manager for the music and graphic industry
Random factoid: He said he was once chatted up by the boss-eyed lead Singer of Sigur Ros. Or so he thought. It was hard to tell, what with both eyes facing in opposite directions and all...

The date:
To be honest, I really didn't fancy a date tonight. It was a Monday, it was my first day back at an old job, and the only thing I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa and watch pap on television. But no, not tonight. When I started out on 52 First Dates I told myself I would never cancel a date unless there was bloody good reason, and being a lazy ass bastard wasn't one, so I begrudgingly met Mr #23 just outside Oxford Circus. 

My date wasn't the tallest nor the most attractive of chaps, but he was suitably jolly, and instantly I realised it would be an entertaining evening. 

We pottered off to a pub of my choosing, commandeered some cheeky vinos and took up pews. Sadly since all of the seats inside were occupied, we had to perch outside under a heater. As he was a smoker with hot Mediterranean blood, he was adamant this was not a problem. But this was a chill to properly test his Italian mettle. And for the next couple of hours he shivered uncontrollably and insisted this was just his passion for the conversation making him shudder like some sort of malfunctioning Flymo. Bullshit sunshine, you're freezing. But you're also polite, so we stuck it out a little more. 

His Italian accent was pretty thick, so I had to strap on my finest focus ears work out the key points of the conversation, but on the whole it was very entertaining and he had an impressive grasp of the common vernacular: we covered the state of kids in London today, what 5 albums you'd take to the moon (we did argue over some and work out that given we were both on the moon at the same time that it would make sense to share some...), his Sardinian heritage (sans Mafia connections), Mike Skinner, the art of making balsamic vinegar, Macs vs PCs, the merits of Pret A Manger and their artisan breads, online piracy, shoes as art and that time his grandma made him over-sized ravioli. 

Two glasses of wine down I was pretty sure I should head off home, but we were having a pleasant enough evening so I persuaded to had a third. We were both getting a bit squiffy, and after the third had been demolished, I was determined to head off to the bus. But not without an Italian escort skipping along beside me. Once waiting for the bus, he took the moment to slip me a rather grotesque Sambucca-flavoured chewing gum before then slipping me the tongue. What can I say, I was tipsy, and it wasn't horrific. At first. And then the bus came, and I tried to free my mouth enough to say my swift goodbyes. But he was rather more limpet-like than I expected and I missed the bloody bus. So then I was resigned to huddling up against John Lewis out of the bitterly cold with a man with an over-enthused tongue until the next bus came along. And ten minutes later, after having my mouth suitable routed,the bus arrived and I was blissfully able cut short his oral excavations and escape.

Memorable Quotes:
'I have grown to rather like the English Piccalilli. It is Kryptonite-like in colour'

'Last year I was jogging in Stockwell and ten youths stopped me. I knew I was going to be mugged. They asked what I was listening to on my iPod. I said NWA. They just nodded and let me go.'

Him to me: 'I think you may have hands bigger than mine. Yes, you have!' Reader, I did.

Events of note:
The admission that this fully grown man collected Playmobile. But not jut any Playmobile. Oh no. That would be silly. Only cops and robbers Playmobile. He is so empassioned by this particular genre of Playmobile that he even travelled to Malta, the country of its origin, to pick some up.

The verdict:
Considering how much I was dreading this evening for selfish reasons, I had a surprisingly enjoyable time. He was bright, he was funny, he had loads of interests. But despite all thee things, I just didn't really fancy him. And I'm not really sure why not. 

He wasn't unattractive, he had plenty to say for himself, but there just wasn't that funny little something there that would make me want to stare at my phone willing it to vibrate. And perhaps that he still collected little plastic figurines with interchangeable hairdos from my youth had something to do with it. Or the fact that yet again he had hands smaller than mine (what is it with me and my giant man hands? Who'd have thought this would be such a frequent deal-breaker?). 

Whatever it is, but I'm left massively unsure about the whole thing. He has asked to meet again, and I think under most other circumstances I would have said yes. But I think the fact that I would almost definitely be held tongue-hostage for most of the evening has made me less confident in agreeing. Oh balls.

10 November 2011

Mr #22 - Show Me The Funny

The preamble:
Mr #22 and I were originally due to meet a few weeks back. But the bugger stood me up. Normally this would irritate the hell out of me, but as he was a stand up comedian, I appreciated the irony and didn't let it deter me. The main off-putting factor about this lad, however, was the fact that he texted in the style a 14 year old scrote, but I'm learning more and more during the course of this challenge that I need to put my silly pretensions behind me once in a while, so I've done my best to ignore the wots, urs and flagrant disregard for basic grammar. Challenging my pretensions in this way so far, however, has done absolutely nothing to convince me other than I have my silly pretensions cemented for relatively valid reasons...

The man:
Profession: By day, an IT monkey at the MOD. By night, a stand up comedian.
Random factoid: Lives with ten other people. Ten. And apparently it's not a commune. Whatever...

The date:
I'd finally managed to pin Mr #22 down to a date, and we'd arranged to meet at Liverpool Street station. An easy plan I thought...

*ring ring*
Mr #22: Hi, where are you?
Me: I'm outside Boots.
Mr #22: I'll be there in 5 minutes.
7 minute later...
*ring ring*
Mr #22: I'm outside Boots, where are you?
Me: I'm outside Boots. In the station...
Mr #22: Ah, I'm outside the Boots outside the station
Me: Okay, I'll be there in 5 minutes
5 minutes later
*ring ring*
Me: I'm at Boots outside the station, where are you?
Mr #22: I'm outside Boots.
Me: What can you see?
Mr #22: I can see buses
Me: That's not very helpful.
Mr #22: Oh, there' a pub called Dirty Dicks...
So it turns out there re not one, not two, but 3 branches of Boots at Liverpool Street station. Good start...but that was a funny as it got.

So, I met Mr #22 at the delightfully named Dirty Dicks. He was stood in a flat cap and navy quilted jacket, and I was wondering whether he'd left his tractor or the rest of the cast of TOWIE at home.

I dragged him off to one of my favourite local haunts (one that didn't sell tampons and laxatives), we sourced some beverages and got to the chat.

My first thought was, and probably a bit unfairly of me, that for a stand up comedian, he wasn't very funny. Part of me was tempted to be an absolute nightmare date, so at least he could have got some sort of decent material out of the night but I bottled it. Under the cold lights of the bar I guessed that he had definitely lied about his age, perhaps by as much as 10 years, and that he may have borrowed his nose from the late, great Pete Postlethwaite. 

He was a nice enough guy, quite quiet, a little shy to start with, and a little on the flat side. That said, the conversation was right up my street: a healthy in depth analysis of kids theme tunes from the eighties, what films you'd take to the moon, my parrots, classical music, lactose intolerance, comedians and shit Christmas presents. 

I have to say I was a little astonished at how long he seemed to nurture his pint for, and was a little more unnerved when he tried pushing his luck by asking for the most expensive drink behind the bar once I'd offered to buy a round. 

Two drinks down, it was chucking out time, so we wandered off back to the station together. En route back, he decided to unleash some of his self-proclaimed comedy gold one liners on me. I won't lie, he could've nicked them all from Penguin wrappers and I wouldn't have sussed the difference. They were pants. And I think despite me wanting to be as polite as I could, I was a tough crowd.

Memorable Quotes:
'My mum once threw a wine glass and called me a c***  after I refused to tidy my room. The bitch'. I would jut like to clarify, he said that, not me. 

Events of note:
Singing a charming little duet of the theme tune to the Littlest Hobo together, before having to consult Google when our lyrics went in different directions...

The verdict:
We had a very chilled out evening, but it couldn't have felt less like a date had my parents been there with me. I didn't fancy him physically, and although I didn't expect a performing monkey for a date, even our idle banter raised little chuckles from my side of things. It's not because I was on a date with someone who said they were funny for a living that I expected an entire evening of pant-wetting hilarity (wetting oneself is never a good idea on a first date) but I do like to have a laugh with someone, and tonight was drier than your average sandy bum crack. He was a nice guy, there was just absolutely nothing there. Nothing whatsoever. Oh, and even if he had been a hottie and I'd have wanted to cart him off home, the idea of shouting the name of one of my parrots in the the throes of passion is more than a deal-breaker. Yup, he's named after one of my pets... 

06 November 2011

Mr 21 - ***Warning! No Freak Zone!***

The preamble:
I've been messaging Mr #21 for a good 6 weeks or so. He works offshore, and for the first month whilst he was on 12 hour night shifts, I knew every day with delightful predictability I would have a message from him. My first thoughts were 'what's wrong with him - he's really hot, and he's messaging me'. And it's true, on both counts. Hot men don't message me. 

Okay, he can't really spell, and for a self-proclaimed grammatical fascist like me that's a bigger deal than maybe it should be. But he was consistant and pretty, and I can be pretty shallow. 

As he works away a lot, I wasn't really sure if and when we'd be able to arrange a meet, but to my surprise, he was able to nip away for a sneaky Sunday, so we arranged a date. There's only one minor catch...he lives all the way in Portsmouth, and the poor bugger had to brave the Sunday trains to come all the way into London. So no pressure then...he's fit, he's coming 2 hours to meet me, and to add triple jeopardy to the situation, he wanted to eat. Real food. Eek! But since he was going to such lengths to come and see me, breaking my lifelong ban against eating on first dates was the least I could do really. But that said, I did have to google the menu of my chosen venue first to ensure there was a. definitely something I would eat without picking bits out and b. something I stood a good chance of eating without wearing. All things considered, I managed to revert back to my pre-52 First Dates pre-date nervousness, but as it turned out, it was to be entirely unfounded.

The man:
Age: 35
Profession: Works with remote operated vehicles on an offshore wind farm
Random factoid: I have been wracking my brainbox for the last 10 minutes now and I can't think of one...maybe herein lies a problem...

The date:
As Mr #21 was a tourist, I met him at the tube and escorted him to the venue of choice, a cute but not-too-Londony venue. My first thoughts on clapping eyeballs on him were 'my my, he really IS handsome! And tall', which in 52 First Dates terms is really rather unusual. He was also very casual and relaxed, and the pre-date nerves rapidly evaporated. 

I dragged him off to the pub, he seemed suitably impressed, we got in a bottle of red and set to with the dating. I have to say he's a proper Hampshire country lad...very chilled out, very impressed by the big smoke, and really nice company. But I soon started to feel I was maybe a bit too much of a city kook, and I realised very early I couldn't quite unleash my usual hell-for-leather surrealism. 

Conversation was unfeasibly normal. We covered jobs, food, travel, transport and television. We got stuck in to a super tasty roast dinner, and as a small personal victory, I managed to eat a full meal in front of an attractive man without making some sort of embarrassing scene. 

After dinner, he was determined to be an absolute gentleman and pay for everything, so by means of a minor recourse I carted him off to my favourite pub with taxidermy in Fitzrovia for a couple more drinks. We sat talking about more food on a big squishy sofa for a further couple of hours, and maybe it was the red wine talking, but I was super tempted just to curl up under his great big manly armpit and have a cheeky snooze, I was getting that comfy. 

Soon enough, consciences prevailed: I was wary he had a train to catch and he was wary I had work in the morning, so we scampered off towards the tube to go our separate ways. At the station as we said our goodbyes, there was that awkward moment where neither of us was sure what was going to happen, so I plunged straight for the cheek kiss and skipped off to the bus.

Memorable Quotes:
Again, I can't remember anything. This is most unusual. And it's nothing to do with the booze, I've sobered right up. I think maybe it was because I wasn't nipping to the loo to make frequent notes on my BlackBerry. And he wasn't leaving the table either so it was a note-making stalemate.

Events of note:
The barman in the pub managing to convince both of us to have a completely different drink to that which we wanted. And both of them were pretty minging. Bison grass vodka and apple juice? Er, no thanks!

The verdict:
This has been a most bizarre date in 52 First Dates terms, not because of who I was with, but because it was just so goddamn normal on every level. The guy himself was gorgeous, a total gentleman, and really lovely company. And he was totally impressed with pretty much everything. But perhaps maybe this is the problem. I felt like London was just a little bit too exciting for him, and as a result I felt like I could only fire on half kook-cylinders with him. And being brutally honest, I just don't know why this could be considered a problem, because I had a lovely day and I stayed with him all afternoon. 

Before meeting him, I have to confess to having a little private wobble - what if he was amazing, what if I wanted to be with him, and what if I had to give up 52 First Dates? And there was a very strange dawning on me that maybe falling in love with 52 First Dates, rather than anyone in it. I think it'll be pretty easy for me to keep dating the freaks, and although it may not seem this way now, that's not actually what I want to do. But then faced with your textbook Mr Normal I've found myself hankering for someone to give me a bit more of a run for my money. And no, I don't want the BFG, the Snaggletooth or Good Will Munting back by any means, but I suppose perhaps I'm looking for someone in between? Who knows. I sure don't. I'm baffled. 

So if the worst I can say about this guy is that he's just really goddamn nice but not quite eccentric enough, then that can't be too bad can it? But yet it's not quite enough. But what I do know is when at the station he asked if I'd like to meet up again, I did say yes. He works away for months on end and he won't be back on shore leave for a wee while, so I know there won't be any pressure there to make any big decisions anytime soon. I just wouldn't want to bugger him around, that wouldn't be fair. So I guess I just need to keep up the quest in the interim to find Mr Mildly-Mutant-But-Nicely-Normal. He must be out there somewhere. The benchmark for my ideal man moves once again...and it seems it's my own silly fault for moving it so much!