There is no quick fix for a broken heart, but with the help of family and friends I have managed to get through the last few months without having a complete and utter breakdown... which is good. When a friend suggested a blind date with a friend of hers, however, my gut reaction was to think it was all a bit too soon, but I changed my mind when I realised that wallowing in self pity wasn't going to get me anywhere, and decided there was no time like the present to get back on the proverbial dating horse. Maybe it would cheer me up if nothing else.
I should have gone with my gut. This particular horse had not only been in his stable a little too long but he wasn't totally broken in either.
My friend first described my date, in a text: "He's an apple farmer, 52, not a looker, a bit nerdy, but solvent." Wow. Then I got a second text: "And he has no baggage, bonus!" Gosh, she was really selling him! As the days went by, the sense of impending doom got stronger and stronger but I brushed it aside and tried to imagine the evening, not as a date per se, but as a pleasant interlude with a stranger... and my friend. Oh didn't I mention that? On my request, my friend was coming too. Just the three of us on our date. Not weird at all!
The pub where we had a arranged to meet was all the way across London, so I decided to drive. The only downside to this, I realised fairly soon, was that I couldn't anaesthetise the evening with alcohol. I got there 15 minutes early and chose to wait in my car opposite the pub, until my friend arrived. She was rarely early so there was no danger of me missing her. I put the radio on, reclined my seat and people watched, keeping a particularly beady eye out for a slightly apprehensive-looking 52 year old man. I waited and waited and saw neither my friend nor anyone resembling an apple farmer. Not that I would know what an apple farmer looks like exactly, but I suppose I was expecting a man in jeans and wellies, with slightly ruffled hair and twigs clinging to his jumper. 20 minutes later I spotted my friend going into the pub so I parked my car and went in.
The first thing to irritate me was a text message from my date to my friend. As we sat down and took off our coats, she looked at her phone and said: "Uh oh. He's going to be 40 minutes late." 40 minutes!! Grrrrr. For me, this is a massive pet peeve. There is nothing more annoying than someone being late... unless of course there is a damn good reason. His message didn't report a horrendous accident, nor a health-related episode, he had simply not worked out his journey properly which showed a blatant disregard for others. Rude! (Not to self: Ranting like this is not only counterproductive but I am beginning to sound like my Father.) If I had been on my own I definitely would have left, so it was a damn good job my friend was there, being the apex to my dating triangle. It meant I was able to have a relaxing glass of wine with her and find out a little more about my date, before he arrived.
I began by asking how she had met him. I was expecting a story about him being an old friend from Uni or meeting at a party or something, but it became very clear that I was on the end of a very long list of women that had been set up with him, my friend included. What? My friend had met him while he was on a date with another friend of hers. What? The date with the other girl hadn't worked out and so he asked my friend out. WHAT? But my friend, nor any of the other women had had a second date with him. Oh My God. Not only was I astounded that she hadn't imparted this fairly important bit of news to me before, but it seemed as if the likelihood of me "clicking" with this man, after so many had rejected him, was fairly remote. I asked her what was wrong with him... why had all these women decided he wasn't for them? My friend paused, ummed and ahhed for a minute or so, refused to make eye contact, and finally said: "Well, he's just not very sophisticated. He doesn't really like eating out, actually he doesn't really eat at all, and he's not very generous. Um, he's been on his own a lot so his social skills aren't brilliant either, but... he really wants a wife and lots of kids!" "Oh bloody hell," I said laughing, "I can't even have children, plus I live and breathe food, and am terribly sociable... how on earth could you set me up with someone soooo incompatible?" She grinned at me. "Well, you never know. You just might see something in him that we didn't!" My friend, the eternal optimist.
We decided to order some food while we waited for him, and I went to the loo while there was a hiatus in the proceedings. When I returned, there was a man sitting at our table. It took me a moment to realise this must be my date. It was as if a slightly mad looking professor had stepped off the pages of a 1950's medical journal... stiff burgundy cords, navy wool jumper, tweed jacket, a ring of brown curly hair below a shiny pate, and bi-foculs sitting on a face so pale, it was hard to imagine he had ever been outside, let alone surrounded by fresh air and apples. This man looked 72 not 52. Oh dear. But I am always willing to see past the exterior and find out what's on the inside, so I took a deep breath, shook his hand and sat down, grinning manically at both my friend, and him.
As well as being obviously mismatched, there were also a few external factors working against us... the first, was volume. As I began to speak, a band suddenly started playing at the end of the room. It was not a gentle accompaniment to our chitchat but rather a loud squawking, which entered the brain with such a hammering it was as if a large woodpecker was strapped to my head. I also seemed to be the only person in the room whose chair was faced away from the band. It quickly became apparent that the rest of the room consisted of the groups' friends and family, whooping and clapping their way through the set and seemingly looking straight at me as they directed their gaze towards the stage. It was very very off-putting. This noise also triggered the second and third problems. The second, was that we couldn't hear each other above the music, which resulted in my date leaning so far forward he was practically eye-level with my cleavage, whilst cupping both hands around his ears and screaming, "SORRY?" whenever I said anything. This is when the third problem arose. Each time my date shouted something back at me, it was accompanied by a tiny spray of spittle, which occasionally entered my mouth. I clamped my lips together, tried not to look too horrified, and sat as far back in my chair as possible. Of course, this just made matters worse. Compensating for my distance, my date scooted his chair closer, studied my breasts more intently, shouted louder and sprayed more. I frantically grabbed the waitress as she passed our table and said, "I'm so sorry, we really need to move out of this room". She must have seen the exasperation on my face, because she nodded kindly, patting my shoulder.
My friend then casually asked where I had parked my car. As she explained the residents parking, I realised, with horror, that I had parked in an illegal space which meant a parking ticket was imminent. I swore, jumped up, grabbed my bag and coat and ran out of the pub without so much as a 'goodbye'. Luckily there was no ticket when I reached my car, but it did take me a further 15 minutes to find another space. My friend and date must have thought I'd done a runner, after all, I had grabbed my coat and handbag when I left the pub, when all I really needed were my car keys... was I tempted in those 15 minutes to simply drive home and not go back? Noooo, don't be silly. It hadn't even entered my mind!
When I returned, my friend and my date were sitting at a new table in a quieter part of the pub. Phew. The only downside was that we still had no food, so we complained to our waitress. At this point, she was clearly a bit fed up with us but ever the professional, she put on her warmest fake smile, apologised and went off in search of our order. Moments later, another waitress arrived and plonked down a plate with a small pie on it. My friend and I looked at it with bewilderment because what we'd actually ordered, was a venison shepherds pie, supposedly big enough for three people to share. This pie was tiny... surely our waitress couldn't think this minuscule puff could feed us all? Ridiculous. My friend and I got the giggles because it was obviously a mistake, but what made it more hilarious was that my date was holding his knife, studying the pie very seriously, mentally dividing it into thirds. Once again, we beckoned our waitress over and pointed forlornly at the pie. "Oh God," she said, "That's not yours, I'm so sorry", and sighing heavily, took the plate away. Heated words were exchanged behind the bar and then the manager came over. He proffered huge apologies, explaining that our food would be with us shortly, and added that he would not be charging us for the meal. Well, that's good. As he disappeared in one direction, from the other, came our waitress. She repeated what the manager had said and asked if there was anything she could do? "Maybe some drinks, while we wait?" I asked, giving a cheeky sideways glance to my friend.
We finally got our food at 10:30pm... an unremarkable dish of lukewarm stodge (thank god it was free)!! Not only had we been starving up to this point, but the conversation had been heading off in all sorts of odd directions. To make matters worse, even when we found some things in common, the lack of chemistry made everything so awkward, and my lovely friend, hoping this still might be a match made in heaven, carried on making some fairly inappropriate comments. He mentioned he liked am-dram and my friend said: "Oh Jules loves acting, she's amazing, you should see her do something". He mentioned that he was writing a book and my friend gushed: "Ooooooh. Jules is writer too, she's soo talented, you should read some of her stuff.". He said he liked the theatre and my friend said: "Oh Jules adores the theatre, she goes all the time. You should go". It was so embarrassing and it didn't matter how many times I nudged her in the ribs or kicked her under the table, she kept going. To top it off, I started talking about the perfect place to write a book... saying that I would love to take 6 months off and go and write my novel on a beach, in the Caribbean. My friend let out an excited squeak and said, "Orrrr, you could find someone with a big farmhouse in the country, and go and write it there!". Ha ha ha ha haaaaaarrrrrr. I kicked her... again.
It's safe to say, I did not feel that this date was going to be the first of many. We concluded the evening with suggestions of seeing a play together... all three of us! I then stepped towards him, to do the obligatory two kisses with slight hand hug to the arm, and he was so unprepared for this intimacy that he stuck his nose in my ear as I air-kissed one side of his head, and head butted me as I attempted the other side. I honestly had to pretend to cough to smother my laugh, it was excruciating! Oh God, the thought of having to date so many toads again fills me with utter dread, but dear readers, if I can at least amuse you whilst I continue this journey, then it's worth it.