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.

25 May 2012

Mr #49 - The Mole

The preamble:
Okay confession time again folks. Mr #49 was yet another last minute booking on account of the fact that I’m moving home in less than two weeks, and the fact that I a. Don’t have anywhere to go to and b. Don’t seem to have thrown out a single thing in the last 6 years has meant I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with my living situation and my forthcoming dates have slipped down my priorities list a little. Something more important than 52 First Dates I hear you cry? Well exactly! To be honest, it’s all bloody inconvenient and I’m irked at best that this bloody move is bloody thwarting the twilight weeks of my dating experiment, but such is life. 

So bearing these excuses in mind, you won’t be surprised to hear that Mr #49 was yet again rather a last minute panic booking since all my time at the moment is spent filling cardboard boxes with crap rather than sifting through eligible bachelors online, and I won’t lie to you, I’m not exactly being inundated with offers at the moment, so you know the phrase, beggars can’t be choosers. 

We’d been emailing on and off a couple of weeks though, he sounded and looked sweet enough to share a cheeky vino with (from his limited profile and distant holiday photos), and since we both had other plans for the evening (his were to jet off to Lithuania, mine were to look at...packing materials!), it made sense to meet for a quick drink early and to see if it was worth it for a second date.

The man:
Age: 32
Profession: Hostel manager
Random factoid: He was the first date I’ve ever been on where I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce his name, which made for a rather odd first introduction.

The date:
I met Mr #49 at Waterloo station, and it was rather embarrassing having to call him and say with my usual blustering eloquence ‘, I don’t know how to say your name, but it’s Claire from t’interwebs, who are you, where are you and what the hell do you look like?’. Fortunately he identified himself as ‘the guy in the black leather jacket and jeans’ (which is helpful amidst hundreds of tourists mostly matching that description), but a random wave across the road and I’d spotted him in the exact perspective I’d seen him in his profile photos. And as he came closer, I soon realised why there were no close ups. No, it wasn’t his rather curiously dyed black hair as compensation for his receding hairline. No, it wasn’t the fact that he looked like a shorter, stockier Chico Slimani. It was the massive blue mole (yes, blue) the size of a garden pea slap bang in the middle of his nose. And it had stubble, yes, the mole was partially unshaven. It was hypnotic! And all I could hear in the back of my mind was Mike Myers saying ‘moley moley moley’. 

Anyway he was chirpy enough, so we popped along to a nearby bar, procured some beverages and got to chatting. Immediately I became aware that this guy didn’t have any appreciation of personal space, and insisted on standing uncomfortably close at all times, so close in fact I could feel his moley moley moley breath on me, and it wasn’t pleasant. I have to say, this guy’s small talk wasn’t great, but he made up for his lack of moley moley moley banter by smiling relentlessly and laughing at everything I said, regardless of whether it was joke or not. 

Conversation was generic at best: the weather, public transport, where we both lived London and moley moley moley festivals. One very random and straw-clutching area of common ground we stumbled upon was the fact we both listen to Metallica, and he really came alive when describing to me a moley moley moley Metallicaed tribute band he’d been to see. It was so good in fact, that he said it was better than seeing the real band live, and he’d taken the time to film their set on his moley moley moley mobile phone which he delighted in showing me. Bless him (moley moley moley). 

Fortunately as the wine and moley moley moley small talk dried up, it was time for us to head off to our respective plans, so we decided to call it a day. Mr #49 kindly insisted on waiting around at the bus stop for me, squeezing an extra 15 more moley moley moley minutes of awkward small talk out of me (thanks TFL) before my bus arrived and I had to bid Mr #49 and his illustrious mole farewell.

Memorable Quotes:
Mr #49: ‘I live in the hostel where I work. It’s really good, I can have free pizza any time I want’
Me: ‘wow, you’re really living the dream aren’t you?’
Mr #49: ‘Yes!’

Events of note:
Midway through our date, I noticed what appeared to be a coach-load of American pensioners filing in through the front door and wending their way round the corner. What was particularly memorable about this crocodile of old folk was that it as never-ending! Literally, ten minutes and they were still going! Mr #49 and I even stopped our conversation to watch what must have been in excess of over 150 greying Americans with baseball caps and bum bags (or, if we’re being geographically appropriate, ‘fanny packs’) plodding in through the front door and into a mysterious back room where I was convinced they were being rounded up and held hostage.

The Verdict:

Bless him, Mr #39 was a sweet boy, but other than Metallica as common ground, there was literally nothing there, no chemistry, no chat, no nothing. He dressed like Tom Cruise in the eighties and looked like Chico from X Factor. Oh, and that mole. Call me superficial, but seriously, THAT MOLE! When recounting the events of this date to my mother, she rather brilliantly remarked ‘well if you got together with him sweetheart, you could always ask for him to have it topped off’? Thanks mum, but no.

20 May 2012

Mr #48 - Ricey Missiles

The preamble:
There hadn't been a tremendous amoung of preamble between Mr #48 and I before we'd arranged a date. The reason was I'd had such a lovely evening with The Bulgarian Sherlock last week, we'd arrranged to meet again for a second date this Wednesday (which was delightful by the way, thank you for asking, but that's as much as you're going to get on here on account of the fact it's 52 First Dates...not 52 First, Second, maybe Third Dates depending on how CTS gets on), and I felt uncomfortable meeting someone else in the interim. 

But I was aware that I needed to cram a date in during the week, and since all of my evenings were booked up with other things, I had a bit of a panic, and took up the offer of a coffee with Mr #48 from an online dating site on Saturday afternoon. Two things struck me about Mr #48 after we'd exchanged numbers...a. he was really grumpy by text, and managed to make me feel that a quick message to confirm the date was interrupting his incredibly busy working schedule and b. he was absolutely rubbish with predictive text, and never made any attempts to remedy it eg. I can come to White japes. Er, did you mean Whitechapel? Weird.

The man:
Age: 37
Profession: Freelance lettings agent. Mmm, estate agents. My favourite...
Random factoid: He knew more about the  history of the Rotherhithe Tunnel than anyone I'd ever met. This is nothing to be proud of...
The date:
Saturday afternoon galloped around with frightening aplomb, and before I knew it I was heading off to Brick Lane to meet Mr #48. As per usual, I texted him to let him know where I'd be, what I looked like and to warn him I'd had a fringe cut since I'd updating my profile pictures. His response? 'I'll be in a black jacket'. At this point I hoped that no-one else on the busy bustling Brick Lane would be wearing a black jacket too (hmm...) or even more worryingly that he was wearing more than just a black jacket (although that would have definitely added a certain je ne sais quoi to the date. 

Fortunately, when I arrived, he was the only one matching that description, and yes, he did have his trousers on. Phew. Unusually for my dates, he was tall, very rough around the edges, not particularly attractive (well, nowhere near as nice as he'd looked in his pictures), and was a prop'ah geez'ah! 

Before we set off, he made it perfectly clear to me that he needed to eat and that he had to leave in enough time that he could go and watch the football, one man, two missions. We marched up the lane to grab a coffee, and I noticed he didn't have much appreciation for personal space, and as we kept walking I found myself veering closer and closer to the wall on the right hand side. Fortunately before I grazed the skin clean off my right arm, we found a quaint little mezze place, so we commandeered a table, I ordered a peppermint tea, and to my surprise he went for the same, as well as ordering a mammoth bowl of brown rice and meatballs. 

As we waited for his food to arrive (I wasn't eating as it was mid-afternoon, I'd already had lunch, and we all know I'm not the biggest fan of eating on first dates unless there are mitigating circumstances), he cracked on with the small talk, with him taking particular notice to my dress and necklace, both of which he was not content to just look at but was determined to paw. Easy now. 

Being the football-heathen I am, I foolishly asked what the big match was (I knew there was a big match, that's enough surely????) and was then subjected to a rather painful pop quiz of my knowledge of the Europa League. After ten excruciating minutes, Mr #48 conceded that it was okay that I didn't know that much about football, because I am a girl after all. 

As the subject changed, the teas and meatballs arrived, and the rest of the date ensued in between giant mouthfuls and munchings. The date was relatively brief on account of Mr #48's pressing engagement with the big game, and the subject matter was varied. He covered Thailand (well, he did mainly on account of his just arriving back from 5 months away there and all of the accompanying anecdotes, and my contribution that I'd never been to Thailand, but their cuisine is ace), lettings prices in London (don't get me started!), birds, the weather (pleeeeeeeease!), car and van hire (his instigation, not mine thank you very much), the fact he has no idea what a fringe is, quinoa and the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Soon enough, the meatballs had evaporated, and his internal body clock was telling him it was beer with the lads time. He went off to pay for the food and teas, and then spent the following 10 minutes arguing loudly with the guy behind the bar about the bill, as he was adamant that he had been overcharged. It turned out he hadn't, and rather sheepishly he returned to collect his jacket and we headed off. He frog-marched me back down the lane again and offered me a lift home, which I gracefully declined on account of not wanting to get in a car with someone I didn't really trust to keep himself to himself. 

We arrived at a stunning Rolls Royce and he offered up his goodbyes. And as I walked away, I noticed in my peripheral vision the lights on a battered old Fiesta on the opposite side of the road go, and Mr #48 stealthily scampered over to climb into the vehicle. I pretended I hadn't noticed.

Memorable Quotes:
'So where exactly do you live, what road? Don't worry, I won't stalk you or sit outside your house or anything...' Sorry love, not taking any chances...
'I do like brown rice. Makes me feel all healthy and stuff.'
'Look at you and yer Brick Lane shoes!'

Events of note:
Over the course of the date, I'd successfully managed to dodge no less than ten brown rice missiles as Mr #48 chattered away through mouthfuls of food, all of which I had to quickly pick off my dress when he went to the bar.

The Verdict:
As we said goodbye at his imaginary car, Mr #48 suggested he'd give me a ring and we could go out for 'prop'ah booze!'. Sadly, I fear that's a bullet I'm still going to have to dodge. He wasn't very attractive, was too much of a wide boy and we just didn't have anything in common. I was retrospectively grateful he had something else to do afterwards so I didn't have to call the date short myself, but to be honest I was rather pleased to escape.

09 May 2012

Mr #47 - the Bulgarian Sherlock

The preamble: Mr #47 and I hadn’t emailed for long. He had contacted me after reading my blog and decided to offer himself up for a date. I didn’t hesitate to say because his email was probably the best introduction I’ve ever read, he was polite, courteous, his English was brilliant, and my curiosity was instantly piqued. This is just a snippet taken from his message:

‘I am rather terrified of vacuum cleaners, auto-mobiles, women and traffic wardens. I quite like cats, cake, pipe tobacco, red meat, Glenmorangie, thrash metal, blues, jazz, rockabilly, Wagner, Fridays, tweed and fine suits, hiking, motorcycles (both vintage and racing) and the smell of old books.’
He had also attached a picture of himself, smoking one of his favourite pipes, with a most impressive mutton chop-moustache combo, and he mentioned that often he was greeted with shouts of ‘Oi Sherlock’ in the street. I had to meet this man. Mr #47 suggested that we met in an area of London that neither of us knew, and we’d go for a wander and see what we could find. So that’s exactly what we did. Well, planned to...
The man:
Age: 26
Profession: Freelance IT developer and consultant
Random factoid: He’s Bulgarian. I’d never met a real life Bulgarian before.
The date:
Mr #47 and I arranged to meet outside Westminster station. I knew to follow the smoke signals and to keep my eyes peeled for the vintage looking chap. Sure enough, propped up on the bridge, looking like someone from an Orson Welles novel was Mr #47. I will describe him for you, as he was quite possibly the smartest man I have ever seen in my life. As well as the evidential furry facial adornments, Mr #47 wore a sharp brown fedora, crisp shirt and tie combo, knitted vest with fob watch, tailored trousers and brown brogues. He was very handsome indeed. Sod Sherlock, think more Jude Law as Dr Watson. 

We greeted, he lit up his pipe, and he offered me his arm as we strolled along the Thames in search of somewhere for our date. He admitted early on he was a shy man, and had only been on one other date in the past 4 years as he wasn’t a fan of modern British women with their laddish ways. 

Pretty swiftly our plans of going somewhere neither of us knew were scuppered when he mentioned a wine bar he was fond of, and I mentioned an old pub my parents used to frequent in the sixties, so with a nod to Robert Burns and his best laid plans, we headed to my choice of venue first for a glass of wine.

Once inside, I soon realised it wasn’t quite the nice, cosy vintage haunt I remembered it to be, but Mr #47 was very gracious in saying he liked it, even though they only had house whiskey, and not the Glenmorangie he usually favoured. We briefly covered land law, postmodernism and the sound of regional accents before our drinks had mysteriously evaporated and it was time to move on. 

Mr #47 led me to a quaint old-fashioned wine bar and decided to order some port. Not being a port-connoisseur, I decided to also partake in the red stuff, and let Mr #47 choose our poison. His first suggestion was to share an entire bottle, but since I wasn’t a seasoned port-drinker and had work in the morning, I graciously declined, especially since his weapon of choice was a fine £75 bottle. Instead we opted for a large glass each, and on Mr #47’s recommendation ordered chocolate cake to accompany the beverage. Let me tell you, the port and chocolate fondant cake combination was exquisite. I never saw myself as a fortified wine fan, but I could definitely be persuaded now. 

The conversation continued: a lot more philosophy, the toxic effects of Absinthe or Creme de Menthe, thrash metal, eastern European drinking habits, unidentified drinking injuries, the merits of a finely-tailored suit, male facial grooming (thanks to cut throat razors, a tash comb and Geo F Trumper), the Cro Bar, Dylan Moran, the joys of British meats, Nazism, the laws of robotics, pipe etiquette, prejudice and the Tweed Run. 

Mr #47 brilliantly referred to every man as a ‘chap’, which in a Bulgarian accent was particularly endearing, and his love of philosophy exercised my brain muscles more than I’d done since studying at university. 

Two glasses of port down, it was time to call it a night, and Mr #47 offered to take me for a further stroll so I could get the bus. So off we went again, arm-in-arm past St Pauls. And then I got a glimpse of the sort of reaction that Mr #47 must get on a daily basis. On walking past a very boozy crowd outside a pub, some delightful wanker yelled ‘bloody ‘ell, it’s Sherlock!’. Mr #47 didn’t bat an eyelid, but inside I was fuming. Mr #47 was a chap with his own standards, his own delightful eccentricities, his own style and his own philosophies. It infuriates me that there are so many vile, narrow-minded drunken idiots out there that feel the need to behave in such an awful and hurtful manner. Of course, Mr #47’s appearance is entirely of his own decision. But live and let live. Anyway, pretty swiftly we reached the bus stop, Mr #47 politely enquired about the possibility of a second date, gave me a kiss on the hand, and saw me onto the bus. And that was that, truly a night to remember.

Memorable Quotes:
‘You’ve obviously never tried a Mediterranean cucumber’
‘I like the Nazis, they looked so cool’ I might point out that his liking of the Nazis did stop short of the murder of 3 million innocent individuals, just to be clear.
‘I once woke up wearing the barman’s shirt with a broken ear after a drunken night’
‘You’re the most intelligent person I’ve met since I’ve been in the UK, because when I talk about philosophy, you actually think about it, and not just argue.’
‘In the summer I tend to wear a striped blazer, straw boater and linen fishtail trousers with braces.’
‘I missed lunch the other day so I popped into McDonalds and had what they call a Big Tasty. What I didn’t anticipate was having to spend the next 20 minutes picking the cheese sauce out of my moustache.’

Events of note:
Before entering the first establishment, Mr #47 paused to empty the ash from his pipe. At this point, a man entering the building opposite stopped, and stared, giving us the right old stink-eye. When I enquired if he was alright, the truculent so-and-so went off on one about how that particular part of the pavement was his land, and that what Mr #47 was doing was against the law. What then ensued was a very awkward back and forth, with Mr #47 being as polite as he possibly could, whilst the resident was as belligerent as he could. Finally, Mr #47 conceded gracious defeat and we headed inside. But I know where that man lives now. And I’m willing with all my telekinetic powers that all the dogs in that area of London decide to shit on his doorstep.

The Verdict:
So, Mr #47 would like to take me out again. And you know what? I’d love to spend another evening with him. Yes, he’s a little old-fashioned, yes, he’s a tad eccentric, yes he takes pride in all things tonsorial. But he was quite possibly one of the nicest, brightest, most polite gentleman I have ever met. He was both gracious and intelligent, but still loves to get hammered, head bang and watch British comedy. But his gentlemanly values, polite manner and humble demeanour genuinely made me feel like a proper lady, which is something I found rather enlightening. Men of Britain, take note...

03 May 2012

Mr #46 - Napoleon Cokeparte

The preamble:
Mr #46 had exchanged a few emails over the course of a couple of weeks, and I was not only impressed by his sense of humour, but also his enthusiasm for fancy dress (namely a Transformers costume). He also wrote and texted in full Queen’s English, with not a sniff of a LOL in sight, and even though he spoke a bit too much about the weather over text than I’d usually tolerate, I thought it only appropriate to meet the chap for a drink. Did I also mention he was handsome? Well, he was. That helped, what can I say, a girl's not made of stone!

The man:
Age: 34
Profession: Runs his own software company
Random factoid: He once crashed into Wolf from Gladiators whilst snowboarding.

 The date:
In a rare occurrence in my experience of going on dates, Mr #46 had a firm idea of where he wanted to go on our date, a certain underground bar in Covent Garden. So my new fringe and I pottered along to see what Mr #46 had in store, and as expected, he was propped up at the bar with a beer in hand. 

My first thought was how he was much more handsome in real life than in his pictures, which was a welcome surprise. But as with all things, there was a catch. His height. Yup, same size as me, a sniff off five four. That was definitely not mentioned on his profile. But instantly his compensatory confidence spoke volumes, and I knew straight away I was on a date with textbook Short Man Complex. 

He leant over the bar to summon service from the staff in a over-exaggerated, slightly embarrassing wavy-and-shout fashion, and it turned out he always went to that particular bar because he provided them with their software. They all knew him. ALL OF THEM. They must also have all known we were there on a date. I suspected he probably did this a lot, as it was a very slick routine, "the usual, barkeep", the banter with the staff. 

Once he’d finally sorted me out with a drink, we went over to perch on some stools in the corner where it was quieter. I mounted the high stool in one go. Mr #46, however, struggled to get his low-slung bum on his, and three laboured attempts later, he was finally fully-installed. What then happened was quite possibly one of the most bizarre dates I have ever been on, and I want to share with you as many details as I can possibly remember. 

Pretty swiftly I realised this guy’s confidence was chemically-assisted. All the telltale signs were there: the nose tweaking, the sniffing, the chewing off his own pretty face and the frequent trips to the toilet. He was drinking shorts (pun delightfully intended). No-one’s bladder is that small, not even Napoleon’s. And as a result, I hardly got a word in edgewise all night. There was no way on God’s earth I was going to be allowed to show him even a little bit of my personality, as the room was so full of his over-inflated ego, mine was being kept outside behind a velvet rope by the metaphorical bouncer. 

In terms of conversation, well, the one half anyway, he covered a broad range of subjects: how he’s started up his own IT company which was going to be massive next year, how he underpays his staff, and how he won’t take on anyone new as ‘each new member of staff is £20k less in my pocket’. Right.

I was briefly allowed to tell him about my housing situation, which he promptly hijacked by number-crunching the inflation levels on my rent, potential mortgage prices and by offering me a fraudulent work contract to help me get a mortgage. Charming. 

Staying on his favourite subject of money, he pointed out he would move closer to London, but £700k was ‘a little too much for him to pay to live where he wanted to’ (after I’d mentioned my seemingly measily dreams of getting on a shared ownership scheme for less than a tenth of that), and told me about an ExCel spreadsheet he’d made of his wishlist for what he’d spend his money on with certain targets, ranging from £500k to £100 million. FYI when he gets to £100 million, he’ll buy his own private mountain so he can ski down it. And maybe a helicopter to drop him off. Perish the thought he’d break his own neck whilst ski-ing on his own private berg! 

Financial ambitions aside, he then went back to his other favourite subject – himself. He told me that he was a break-dancer, before demonstrating some basic popping and locking moves from his stool (presumably too scared to dismount in case he couldn’t get back up again). Despite my egging him on to do the Worm in the middle of the floor, he was adamant a shoulder injury and ‘the wrong shirt’ would restrict him, so he declined. 

He bragged about his auditions for a number of game shows because he wanted to go on for the ‘free money’ (none of which he was selected for, I might add), regaled me with his Heath Ledger as The Joker and Yoda impressions, his knowledge of the entire Marvel comic franchise, showed me pictures of him drinking an entire bottle of Jaegermeister through a straw and a ‘hilarious’ anecdote of how he once woke up drunk and topless in the back of a Transit van. 

Soon it was my round, so I popped off to the bar to ask for his usual ‘special’, for which the staff refused to let me pay. It turned out, we’d been getting drinks on the house all night. When I took his drink back to him, a very expensive rare rum, diet Coke and ice in a 12oz glass (it HAD to be a 12oz glass. Just because...!) he sat and counted the cubes, and was put out that they’d ‘fucked up’ his order and given him 7 ice cubes and not 6. When I queried it and offered to remove a cube for him, he hurrumphed and said it just made the mix all wrong. 

Mr #46 then decided to go and get us some crisps, so he scampered off to the bar and shortly returned with...a glass full of foam bananas and flying saucers, which he then proceeded to gum his way through. As if Class As weren’t enough to make him talk, he now had half a pound of Haribo in his system. Good-o!

He then moved on to bragging about the time he ate seven and a half racks of ribs, an impressive feat, but not as impressive as the detail he then went into as he described trying go for a shit the day after. He even used the phrase ‘it started off as a one trouser leg off affair, but then it became a brace yourself against the stall walls kind of thing. Childbirth could never be as painful as that, at least women are designed to accommodate something that size’. Er, what the holy fuck??? 

Whilst this was all going on, a drunken birthday party were dancing around near us, and I could tell Mr #46 was itching to get on the dance floor to demonstrate his breaking prowess, and I started to feel bad for restricting him despite giving him full permission to shake his tail feather. 

We carried on chatting, but his dialogue was interrupted first by Mike and the Mechanics coming on the jukebox and him insisting on pausing the conversation so he could whistle along for the solo, and then, my favourite, pausing the conversation again to sing along to Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl. He knew ALL the words (including the rap). Then suddenly, as if he body was suddenly sapped of sugar and narcotics, he slumped over on his stool, sat there in silence for a minute, announced ‘right, I’m over this’ and apparently that was it for the night. 

We headed off to the station, he rattled off all of his available train times like some sort of savant, and at the station he literally said a half-arsed bye, didn’t even look me in the eye, and ran off to get his train.

 Memorable Quotes:
‘There’s this toilet in Marbella...’ The beginning of a cracking anecdote if ever there was one...
‘I’m like Rainman’
‘My mate was given an island for his 21st birthday’
‘What was the music like when you went to the toilet?’

Events of note:
Everything. Just everything. I just wished he’d got on the dance floor and properly busted a groove. Although I did particularly like the look on his face when I highlighted that everyone looked like they’d come straight from work, and he looked a little crestfallen as he insisted he’d gone home to change and put on a shirt and shoes especially. Face it mate, you still look like an office worker.

The Verdict:
Once again, this is a bit of a no-brainer. No. But to be honest, I can’t imagine him wanting to see me again either considering I was hardly allowed to breathe a word, and he probably thought I was the most boring date in the world. But if I have to turn into a Lil Miss Cokey-Blownose to win his affections, I think I’ll stick to my rum and ginger beer, thanks. And the moral of the story? Drugs are bad kids, m'kay?