Worst Dates 2: or The Importance of Avoiding Mumbo Jumbo

It’s the worst case scenario: five minutes before you are due to meet someone for a first date you realise you have lost your cashpoint card, and only have £2.50 in your purse. But in this case it saved my bacon.

I texted my profuse apologies to my date, explaining that I would just have a juice (even though I was secretly in the mood for a gallon of wine and huge plate of steak and chips), and dashed round the corner to our rendevous point.

My date was recognisable, though he looked shorter, fatter and iller than his picture. I knew it wouldn’t be brilliant, but I thought I’d give him a chance to talk, and at least we could sit on the terrace and watch the riverside world go by.

After a minute or two I realised he only had one topic of conversation, and was incapable of, or uninterested in asking anything about me. I lost track after a while but his monologue included: chakras, tapping (?), healing, QiJong, masters, channelling your higher being, auras, being clinically dead through meditation, and going off to live in a cave for 50 years.

He didn’t pause for breath, or sip his drink, and I was getting desperate. But I must have been good in a previous life because the divine Shanti was helping me out tonight. ‘I have go home and phone the bank to cancel my card’. Dash.

When I got home, I measured up my sitting room for new carpets because I was so desperate to do something normal.




When Was the Last Time You Were Absolutely Bloody Terrified?

Recalling the Alpine road incident reminded me of another time I got quite a fright.
In the mid 90s I was working as an all-round dogsbody in a B&B and riding holiday centre in France, and as well as cooking and cleaning I was sometimes allowed to help with the horses.
One day I was tasked with taking out a new horse, Shaun, to get him use to trekking out in the local woods.
Leading the way was my rather unpleasant Canadian colleague, Pauline, on one of the old implacable hacks, who had seen it all before.
Shaun, on the other hand, was a 16.3hh chestnut Thoroughbred, about 4 years old, completely skittish and ungainly, with hooves the size of dinner plates.
Out on the ride I discovered that Shaun had a phobia of mud, and as we got to another patch of damp ground he stopped dead and refused to move forward.
For some reason I was in a rather bad mood that day (the company? hormones?), and I jumped off and started to lead, or rather drag Shaun by the reins through the mud. Any horsey people will have their heads in their hands by now as they will be aware that horses do not have good vision directly in front of them, and standing in front of a young, nervous animal is never a good idea.
Suddenly I felt a ‘whumph!’ against my back as Shaun jumped the mud patch and I was under his hooves curling myself into a little ball. Then ‘wham!’ one of those enormous hooves slammed into my thigh, and I remember thinking that’s my leg smashed to pieces, and I’m going to die.
The next thing I remember I was standing up again, with the ever unsympathetic Pauline saying hurry up, you’d better get back on again as we need to get home.
Somehow we did, and I had a feeling my leg wasn’t actually broken. In the end I was just left with a severe haematoma, as a clinician would call it, and shock that lasted a few days.
I certainly learnt a lot from that experience. And yes I was wearing a hard hat, but I am happy to say it proved to be redundant on that occasion.
Next instalment: The Brixton Nailbomber.

Men vs Women, or Why The SatNav is Not Always Right

Dear Chaps,

OK, this is probably going to to be one of my most personal and longest posts (and probably the last for a while), so if you are more interested in the weather, or Liverpool FC I suggest that you do not read on.

A few years ago, me and an ex of Italian extraction (let’s call him Alberto) set off in a hire car from Lyon to head to the fairly inaccessible ski resort of St Sorlin D’Arves, 1600m up in the Haute Savoie. I must point out that this was in a fairly early stage of our relationship (three months) and I feel that we still did not know each other particularly well.

…Anyway, we were speeding along a beautiful straight stretch of empty autoroute, when a car approaching from the other way, out of the Frejus tunnel, flashed us. A. didn’t appear to notice, but I said to him that driver is trying to tell us something, perhaps there’s been an accident, maybe we’d better slow down – but he seemed not to hear me.

As we exited the tunnel, predictably enough we spotted the gendarmes in their little layby, and yes, they pulled us over, and that’s where the nightmare began. A. seemed pretty carefree, and stayed in the front seat while I pulled down my top a bit, and prepared to ‘charm’ the grizzled old officer and his teenage assistant. But they looked most unimpressed as I struggled to ascertain in my rusty schoolgirl French that we had to pay 90 Euros in cash immediately, and sign something to declare we had committed the crime of driving at 155kph in a 120 zone.

Well, guess who hadn’t bothered getting any currency out in advance, and guess who coughed up 90 of my 100 Euros cash, and was trying to suppress tears of anger and frustration while A. mocked me in his sunny way; ‘Are you crying?..Are you crying?…’ I should have known that this was something of a warning sign.

I somehow managed to put the incident behind me, and we left the motorway and hit the local roads into the mountains. This is where I had to discard my internet directions printout as the instructions were given in road numbers eg E72, but the roads were only ever marked in names, eg Rue de la Fourchette etc.

It was getting towards evening as we arrived at the grimmest ski resort I have ever set eyes on. No trees, no people, no snow – just concrete tower blocks. Welcome to Corbiere. We weren’t supposed to go through here, according to my printout, but by now A. was following theSatNav that kept ominously saying ‘recalculating route’ and was sending us in an ever decreasing spiral that ended up on a steep icy side road, leading to a piste, which the SatNav insisted we drive up.

At this point I cracked.

I managed to ask a guy who said we had to drive back several kilometres, and get back on the E72 or whatever it was called, and I had a feeling he was right. The were no roads out of Corbiere except back, so we must have missed a turning somewhere. Oh yes, and at one point during this disastrous bit of the journey A. was distracted by my shuffling papers and had to slam on the brakes as we nearly plunged over a cliff. I still shudder about that moment even now.

So we turned round and set off to retrace our steps about 20 kilometres, and hopefully never go anywhere near Corbiere again. At this point it was starting to get dark, and there was no way we were going to get to our concierge by 8pm to pick up the keys to our apartment. This is where A. really started to lose the plot. He insisted on stopping the car, opening the laptop, and trying to find an email address to contact the travel company to let them know we would be late. But of course we were high in the Alps where WiFi and Satellite connections are unreliable to say the least. I had to practically shake him out of it, and persude him to just drive…Eventually we did arrive at the pleasant village of St Sorlin, found our block, and I did what anyone with half a brain would do: marched into the nearest cafebar, where a smiling lady sat us down, got us beers, and looked up a number in a battered old notebook. Ten minutes later, another smiling friendly local arrived with a key, and although we were both still shaking, I knew the worst was over, for the moment.


We did have a very enjoyable holiday, though everyone we spoke to laughed heartily when we told them about the journey, and they all said of course SatNav doesnt work in the mountains – everyone is always late getting here! We even returned to that resort on another occasion – not missing the turning this time, but experiencing a whole new set of adventures involving snow chains…We had a few more good months together before things started to go seriously wrong, and well, warning signs are usually accurate, and maybe shouldn’t be taken as a sign of imminent doom, but perhaps should just be borne in mind rather than shut away forcefully under lock and key…but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Now it’s your turn…

Laughing Too Hard, or Getting the Giggles in a Public Place

There are some advantages to living in a crime hotspot, with Met Police helicopters buzzing and droning overhead. As sleep is impossible, this has given me time to think. And around 4.30 am I was thinking about the last time I cried with laughter (see previous entry).

A few years ago I was in Edinburgh during the Festival, with my friend Heather, and we found a house given over to a exhibition curated by the comedian Arthur Smith. It was brilliant.

In a upstairs room he had obviously transplanted pretty much all his personal and business correspondence, papers, bills and writing – there were letters, postcards, photographs and pages of typescript everywhere, on the floor, walls and in cabinets. A complete mess.

You could sit at a desk and read pages of his unfinished autobiography, including the most recent page, still in an ancient manual typewriter. It actually felt a bit intrusive looking at some of this stuff, but the snippets of the autobiography I read were bloody funny.

At that time, Arthur Smith was notorious for inviting his gig audiences back to his Balham flat, and pinned to the wall were letters from angry estate managers and residents, that he obviously continued to ignore. I remember one which stated that the flower bed was not a urinal, and also that it was inappropriate to brandish an air rifle in the locality.

Well that started us off, and we were completely astonished to encounter in the top room, about 40 barbie dolls suspended in line on nylon thread, and some of them even appearing to fly out of the window.

Near the first Barbie, on the wall, was an innocuous looking wallchart, like one of those football team posters with pictures of grinning players’ faces, and their names and positions. But when you looked closer the faces were all distorted and caricatured using using other bits of faces and bodies, and their names had been meticulously cut and pasted and extended, and oh, I can’t explain it, but we started to laugh so hard, then one of us would point out another bulging eye or ridiculous name, and we would set each other off again.

Even though it was supposed to be a comedy exhibition, other visitors were looking at us strangely, but when you try and suppress your laughter it has a way of getting out, and we ended up doubled up by the window, with the flying Barbies, gasping for air.

And as for the collage, it was something that the comedian, Stuart Lee did as a student, over 20 years ago. Of course my camera had broken, and this was before smartphones, so if anyone knows what I am talking about, and perhaps have a picture they could share with me, I will be forever in your debt.

Great memories.

PS I apologise for this ‘drivel’ but a) I enjoyed writing it, and b) You don’t have to read it.

Just Don’t Call Me ‘Bubbly’!

A correspondent wrote in his diary entry today that if we like going out and staying in, are caring and funny and love our families and nature, how come we are all still single?

And immediately I had to think, no, we are all very different, maybe that is why we are all single, bur we don’t know how to make ourselves sound more individual.

So I would guess include things in you profile that make you really you ie what you are really good at, what you are really bad at. What you really love and what you really can’t stand. What have you always wanted to learn? Who do you really admire and why? What is your favourite film and book (if applicable) and why? What makes you cry with laughter?

Looking back on it, I have had good dates based on a shared love of skiingboarding, love of a particular type of music, and a particular attitude to travel and living abroad. No mention of going out and staying in…

There are a couple of excellent articles on the BBC, one about online dating home truths, and another about the most hated cliches. And one of the latter is that men can’t stand women calling themselves ‘bubbly’. I quite agree. We can all be bubbly, sparkling, charming and the life and soul sometimes – but all the time? on a Monday morning, or trudging round the supermarket…God, I hate that term! On the other hand I once read a profile of a guy who wanted a girl who ‘laughed and joked all the time’. Who does that? It’s back to emotions again – these are what makes us human. I’m not sure this person wanted a human companion. Perhaps some sort of computer generated avatar would be more appropriate.

So I guess I have just revealed something that makes me, me. Also, as previously mentioned, a lack of attention to written English to me is a complete turn off. Yesterday I read a four line profile that did not contain one comma, and definitely wasn’t a sentence. But hopefully this guy will find a like-minded girl who isn’t hung up on these things.

Oh, and the second BBC article is also really worth a look, as it is based on statistical research (there you go, I have revealed something else about myself: I am a bit of a nerd). One thing that struck me is that the older men get, the younger the age bracket of the women they are seeking get. And not only that, they put on their profiles that they are looking for, say age 30-40, but in reality do searches for women even younger….Maybe that is why some of us are still single. Just saying.

Sweet dreams all x

Shopping Around, or: The Importance of a Plan B

A couple of guys have mentioned to me that they been on dates with women who then cherry pick, after trying the selection on display in the shop window.

Well I have come to the conclusion that this is inevitable with online dating, and it is actually quite useful to have a Plan B.

One chap has said to me he didn’t want to date more than one woman at a time, and I was not offended when he said he would get back in touch with me if his forthcoming date didn’t go so well. I still would have been happy to meet him, but at least he was honest that he had a date lined up. It is almost as if there is too much choice, but at the same time you have to be extremely on the ball because, to continue the retail analogy, the quality merchandise gets snapped up pretty much instantly.

Now this competitive shopping analogy is is pretty bloody grim really; where is the romance and spontenaiety in having to plan your search for love like a military operation or some kind of endurance race?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, when you do finally get a date, it is best to approach it a specific way ie to go in with almost zero expectations. I remember once I was so nervous that the whole encounter became an extremely stressful experience. I realised that I had let my imagination run away with me, as I hopefully envisaged me and Mr X skipping off into the sunset and a blissful old age hand in hand.. No. Stop!

You are going to spend a pleasant hour or two in good, and possibly attractive company, enjoying a glass of something refreshing and getting to know each other in a relaxed enjoyable way.
Now some of you may be scoffing at these anxieties, thinking perhaps what’s the big deal? But if you are basically a fairly shy, reserved person as I am, you may find going off to meet a complete stranger quite daunting – and combining that with the hope that they will be The One, or at least slightly interested, as well as not being a complete jerk – can sometimes result in nerves and stress.

So for your own health and happiness I recommend approaching your date with the minimum expectations, and not looking beyond the next few hours. But on the other hand try not to think ‘Oh no, why am I about to waste two precious hours of my life with a complete idiot?’. Negative thoughts may be an antidote to the unrealistically hopeful ones, but they are also unhelpful.

Remember, the first date is really just an introduction, not necessarily the start of a relationship, which is why I think having a Plan B is acceptable.

And I can guarantee that whatever you imagine before your date, your expectations will be confounded – and possibly in a good way. You may not meet Ms Right immediately, but you may well make some good friends, and have some great laughs (and compile a library of anecdotes) along the way.

Worst Date, or: The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

[This and subsequent posts  first appeared in my diary section on an online dating site.]

Dear Fellow Lookers for LoveA lot of the men on here seem to use the diary facility as a means of asking a Mum equivalent for life advice eg – do I wear a tie for an interview, Mum?. For God’s sake!! So I thought I would share a more relevant story of one of my most memorable dates ever…

Last summer I got chatting to a guy, lets call him Dave. He seemed reasonably intelligent and OK looking so we arranged to meet, and I gave him detailed instructions where to be….Well of course he failed that first test!

I had explained I didn’t want to have to look for him in a crowded pub, but would meet him by a bridge next to the pub….When he hadn’t shown ten minutes after our rendevous time, I phoned…and the first thing he said to me was ‘Are you in the pub?’…

I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere after that, but it was a beautiful summer’s evening at a pleasant riverside location so I thought I am not going to pass up the chance of a nice glass of rose and a hopefully nice chat…and well, I identified my date, and yes he was a few inches shorter than he had stated in his profile, but you know, that doesn’t really bother me, because (apparently) women lie about their age all the time, so men can have the height issue, fair enough. Anyway Dave was OK looking, but appeared to have some kind of rash (perhaps just eczma or other skin condition brought on by stress) but on first impressions was a pleasant enough bloke, bought me a drink, but as soon we sat down he started twitching and patting himself down.

Then I realised he was looking for his cigarettes and lighter in a fairly desperate fashion, but appeared to be too shy to ask if I minded him smoking…Anyway to put him out of his misery I said please go ahead, and at the same time I realised that when he smiled he didn’t smile properly, didn’t show his teeth, and I recalled in his profile picture he was doing the same…and then I understood why…As he smoked, laughed and finally relaxed I couldn’t take my eyes of the horrors of his mouth area – black gums, gaps where teeth should have been, teeth that were literally black, and where they weren’t black they were yellow…and oh god it was disgusting, but I was able to distract myself by looking past him to where ex cabinet minister Peter Hain MP happened to be sitting, enjoying a quiet pint.

Also my date smoked like his life depended on it – frantically sucking every last milligram of nicotine out of that roly, while constructing another one…Anyway I finished my drink, made my excuses and left. I had to be honest when Dave got in touch saying he felt our date was quite short, and perhaps we could meet again. I thought I was being blunt but kind by telling him his teeth and gums needed some attention, and even recommended a really good dentist/ orthodontic practice who I have spent a lot of money with, but who did a great job fixing my wonky teeth and subsequently improved my confidence and general peace of mind. Anyway the next thing I knew I had a message from the site saying Dave had blocked my profile! I just hope he has managed to find a soul mate to share his rolys with.


Please note I have also had some very good dates…these are for another day…