Click here for Part III ! It turns out that one wears a casino royal velvet skirt & outlaw broderie blouse, feels somewhere in between 'nervous excitement' and 'nervous nerves,' and drinks two glasses of wine before leaving the house. Caroline and I trotted up to the designated bar at 7pm exactly, ready to be swept off our collective feet.
"I hope it's not full of nutters," I said.
"Don't be ridiculous," Caroline replied, "speed dating is now completely socially acceptable."
I frowned. I didn't feel socially acceptable, I felt weird. "I feel weird. Do I look weird? I look weird."
It was only after much coaxing from Caroline ("you don't look weird, you look nice, you're just being paranoid") that we walked into the bar, where I breathed a sigh of relief to see that, for the most part, it was full of other people who looked about the same age - and level of nervousness - as we were. There was one middle-aged, sweatily bald man in khaki shorts but it turned out he'd come to watch the cricket and was in the wrong pub.
For those who have never braved the social sushi train of speed dating, this is how it works: you start off with a little card numbered 1 - 10 down the side, and each number corresponds to a complete stranger that you spend 5 minutes chatting to. At the end of the 5 minutes if you fancy the pants off him you write YES opposite his number, and if you'd rather the pants stayed on at all costs you write NO. At the end of the night the cards are collected and, if you had a Mutual Yes, contact details are exchanged and you embark on the romance of your lives. Or something like that.
Caroline and I took separate tables and I sat, looking impatiently around the bar, tapping my fingers on the table and wishing that there was free wine. My first date was a perfectly nice truck driver who really should have been dating a truck, because he talked about nothing else. He seemed interested in me though! "I'm actually driving up to Hamilton tonight," he said, "if you want to come." Must have been my headlamps. I wrote down NO.
Next up was a chap who decided to tell me all about his recent ex, an extraordinarily patient woman who would "massage my legs every night, because walking home from work made them sore." He looked at me hopefully. I peeked under the table to where stubbies revealed a pair of large and hairy thighs. I wrote down NO.
He was followed in quick succession by an engineer with terrible breath, a charmless banker with a monobrow, and a man who did artificial insemination in cows and talked about this with far too much enthusiasm.
Seven minidates in, I was beginning to doubt the likelihood of a Mutual Yes ever emerging... until Number 8 walked up to the table. I was a little intimidated by Number 8 - he looked confident and casual and, on top of that, rather handsome in a long-haired, rock band kind of a way - but then he sat down opposite me, completely missed the chair and landed heavily on the floor with a shouted expletive. Everyone turned to stare. I attempted to stifle a giggle. "Sorry," he said, hoisting himself back into the chair, "I missed the- the thing. I'm terrible at this, I haven't been speed dating before and I came with a friend, I thought there might be free wine... sorry. I'm Harrison. Hello."
United by our dismay at the lack of free wine, we started chatting - I found out that he was three years older than me, worked in event management and was not, despite appearances, in a band. (I had no complaints about that - one too many musician ex-boyfriends had made me completely sick of going to a concert each weekend just to help pack up the drum kit.)
Five minutes later, when the bell rang to move on, I felt like we'd barely started talking.
Harrison stood up, pointed to Caroline's table, and said "Well, I think I have to go over there now."
"It was nice to meet you," I said, "I, um..."
"I'm totally putting Yes," said Harrison.
"Oh! Oh, good. So am I, but I wasn't sure if I should- OK then."
Next up I was confronted by an appalling bus driver who would not stop making filthy puns but I didn't care!
I had found my Mutual Yes.
At the end of the evening I met up with Caroline as we left the bar.
"How did it go?" she asked.
"Good! I really liked Harrison. The one with the long hair."
Caroline wrinkled her nose. "He looks like he should be wearing a leather jacket and holding a guitar," she said distastefully.
"I know! He's so cute. I think we're going to see each other again."
"You have weird taste."
"I know. I know. How did you go?"
"Actually," she said, staring dreamily into the distance, "I met the most lovely guy... he's a truck driver. He's taking me up to Hamilton tonight!"
(The Adventures of Audrey Sparrow are written by Ally Mullord, visit her blog- Today is my Birthday!) (Illustration by Sally Shand)