So despite a few minor hiccups along the way, and against the odds, my first date with Alice was a success and she wanted to see me again. The argument we had about whether or not she wanted to date me again was consigned to our list of “hilarious” early-days anecdotes to tell people at our wedding. Never let it be said I think too far ahead.

She had originally wanted to meet up the very next day but I had some important work to do around the house, namely taking down my Dirty Dancing and Flashdance posters and replacing them with some classy framed prints. The feedback I had received from my summer fling Claire on my bedroom had been damning, and the posters had been a key part of this along with my cuddly toys, South Park figures, Union Jack duvet cover, shoeboxes of loose change and my Eurovision DVDs. This criticism was fresh in my mind as I resumed dating, especially since Claire had been kind enough to record and present a video tour of my bedroom for posterity, as a constant reminder that things had to change if I was ever to get laid in my own bed again.

Me and Alice rescheduled for the following Friday. She was meeting a friend after work in South Kensington, and I had an invite-only work party to go to for a couple of hours, so I’d head over to meet her after both our engagements.

But there was a problem with the work party, my ticket had unexpectedly ended up in France.

That is, I wasn’t actually invited to this invite-only party. My plan had been to leech along with a colleague of authority, you know walk in beside him holding his briefcase or something, and I’d be in. Problem was he had gone to France on business unexpectedly. But hey, what did the party matter, I had a date with an actual woman, who had decided of her own free will to meet me. I texted Alice, told her I wasn’t in the mood for the party, was so keen to see her again, etc, and was it OK if I joined her early.

The Sampler in South Kensington, downstairs wine "bar".

The Sampler in South Kensington, downstairs wine “bar”.

It was and I headed to a place called The Sampler in South Kensington. From my internet research this was a wine shop which had a small seating area downstairs. Alice was still with her friend, Jill, but I was unfazed.

Meeting friends of people I’m dating is always a plus for me. As a general rule, they always like me. For women, it’s the smooching, going home with me, and being publically associated with me that they always have a problem with so when that’s off the cards, and the friend is secure in the knowledge that I am someone else’s problem, they always think I’m great.

I get this a lot; “Oh Alan, I don’t understand why you’re single, you’re so amazing, you will meet a great girl one day and she’ll be the luckiest girl in the world.”

“Oh, thanks. Well… you’re single aren’t you, how about you? I mean you’re not really my type but beggars can’t be choosers eh?”

“Um, well, I, um, well I can’t, because you know, um…”

“But I thought you said I was great and the girl who gets me would be so lucky? If I’m such a catch, how about you?”

“Um, that’s not really what I meant, I mean you can probably do better than me you know.”

“Nah I don’t think so, trust me I’ve tried. We should definitely go on a date then, given all the stuff you’ve said about how amazing I am, I mean why wouldn’t you want to?”

“Um, you see, I don’t date people from work, it’s sort of a rule.”

“Oh how very conven… I mean unfortunate. Such a shame for young love to be nipped in the bud like that eh?” And then I leave it, worried that if I press her her excuses will become more and more extreme, like she has a secret husband or is riddled with sexually transmitted diseases.

It’s the same as it is with other people’s kids. Out loud you say “Oh my god what little darlings, aw they’re so cute, you have the best kids in the world, and so clever and amazing, I’m so jealous,” but internally you’re thinking “Fuck me, if I had to put up with those little bastards I’d stick my face in a blender.”

So yeah, was very comfortable with the idea of meeting Alice’s friend Jill, and confident I would make a decent impression. And then I could use this as leverage to entice Alice to meet my friends somewhere down the line, a prospect she found daunting based on some stories I unwisely told her.

Even though I don’t drink anymore, I am fine with being in pubs and was not daunted by the idea of a wine shop, but oh my I had never seen so much alcohol in my life, there was barely room to move for bottles. I navigated my way to the room downstairs taking special care not to trash the place with my rucksack. I sat down with Alice and Jill at their table and made my introductions. Now, I had not seen any bar of any description to get myself a drink, so I just waited for the topic to come up. Alice and Jill finished their drinks and Alice went to get a round from upstairs or wherever this “bar” was. I gave her a list of options of non-alcoholic things I’d be happy with and “or just anything they have” as a back-up.

She returned with … a glass of tap water. It was all they had. Not just any glass of tap water. A wine glass. It was all they had.

I suddenly felt slightly uncomfortable, like a non-drinker was not supposed to be here. I felt like I’d turned up to a Nazi rally dressed as Groucho Marx. I checked with Alice that they’d given her nothing to accompany the glass of water, like a folded up piece of paper with “go home, scum” written on it.

It’s one of the few things about not drinking that makes me uncomfortable, and that’s when I’m in a place that has nothing for the non-drinker, it makes you feel a bit like you’re not welcome. But I was on a date, and getting along well with Alice and Jill so I decided to not let it get to me and power on.

So Alice decided to tell her friend the story about the Photoshopped profile picture I mentioned in my previous post; this would be interesting, and followed through from an argument we had regarding my eye colour over e-mail.

“What colour would you say Alan’s eyes are?” Alice asked.

Jill looked into my eyes, and possibly soul, and replied, “Kind of like a dull grey?”

Grey! WHAT THE FUCK! That’s not even a colour! I was pissed off enough that people tell me my eyes are green, now it’s grey! “Oh there’s nothing wrong with that” they both said. Yes there is. No-one says “oh it’s a lovely grey day outside shall we go to the beach?” Grey – the colour of John Major and Schindler’s List. And not just grey but “dull grey”. Who’s heard the story of Joseph And His Amazing Dull Grey Dreamcoat? Jill was adamant that she thought I have nice eyes and that’s it’s OK that they were grey, but although I really shouldn’t complain on the rare occasion a compliment is paid to me by a member of the opposite sex, I refused to accept my eyes are anything but blue … if you look close enough. Even the profile photo I had to alter was merely to correct bad photography and possible jaundice, and I’m sticking to that story. I even offered up my own explanation for this, simply that they were both colour blind, and expected that to end matters.

Yeah, like whines about what colour my eyes are...

Yeah, like whines about what colour my eyes are…

The debate raged for what seemed like hours, I’d almost finished my tap water. Then Jill thought of a way to settle the argument. She got up and approached the two young ladies sat at the table behind us. My heart sank. But not because I thought these girls would agree with Alice and Jill, rather because I could see from the look in their own eyes what they thought was about to happen.

When Jill said “excuse me”, they looked at her, looked at me, grimaced, and looked at each other awkwardly. I knew exactly what they were thinking, so I immediately reassured them before she even had a chance to say another word, “No no no no, don’t worry, she’s not going to try to set one of you up with me!”.

The sheer relief washed over their faces like, well like a wine glass of tap water. Jill simply asked them to settle an argument, and tell us what colour they thought my eyes were. They both said blue. YES! I did consider moving onto their table at this point as they seemed a very sensible pair compared to the whimsical duo I was drinking with, but instead I simply took out my pen, recorded the incident in my Book of Victories (for later reference), and got up to go for a cigarette.

Standing outside was particularly refreshing after the heated conversation and the overwhelming sense that the proprieters of the wine shop were secretly plotting that the tee-totaller shall never leave these premises… alive. A few puffs in, as I was still smiling to myself over my total and overwhelming victory in the eye colour debacle, a stocky bald ‘geezer’ approached me from outside the pub across the street.

“Excuse me mate, you got a light?” Interesting thing to ask, I thought, from a man who was holding an already lit cigarette by his side. Nice icebreaker.

“Sure,” I said, and he turned away and ‘lit’ his cigarette, just as his phone rang.

He barked into the phone “Yeah yeah, I’m outside, too many people in the pub. Too busy, know what I mean. I’ve got 3. Yeah I’m parked round the corner,” and then hung up. What was this that he had ‘3’ of? Was he collecting lighters? He turned to me again: “Whereabouts are you from mate?”

He clearly took this photo and was counting potential punters for later on.

He clearly took this photo and was counting potential punters for later on.

I wondered what he was up to, it’s not like I’d said “Ah’ll skelp you aboot the coupon ya wee bastard” and he was curious where my accent was from. All I’d said was “Sure.” I was suspicious of this man from the moment he asked me for fire that he did not need. I probably should have lied but I said “Glasgow.” Actually I’m not from Glasgow specifically so I guess that does technically count as a lie.

“Ahhhh yeah Glasgow, I’ve got some mates from up there yeah!” Interesting. Jock and Hamish by any chance? “What do you do for a living?”

Fuck’s sake what was the deal with this guy. “I work in the entertainment industry.” That’s my stock answer, because games is not seen as a cool business to be in, and because entertainment industry has that subtle suggestion that I might be a porn star.

His phone rang again. “Yeah, I’m still outside. Yeah I’ve got 4 now.”

Hang on, that thing he had 3 of before he started chatting to me, why does he now have 4? Am I number four? All I said was I was Scottish and in the entertainment industry.

Just as the penny dropped he asked me, “So I guess you’ll be looking for something to keep you going this evening?”

“Nah, not really. I’m actually on a date, so have to be on my best behaviour.” I told him this as I thought it was a polite way to get him to see I wasn’t in the market for the talcum powder or mashed up paracetamols he was no doubt peddling.

He leant a bit closer and in the seediest voice imaginable said “A date eh? Do you want a little something to help loosen her up later on?”


I got back inside and decided to use this experience to my advantage since Alice had said Tooting was a little rough. So we enjoyed the rest of the evening, and Jill left after one more drink and me and Alice went on somewhere, thankfully evading the drug dealer when we left the wine shop. It was all very nice and we ……. oh hang on what? You’re annoyed that the title of this post implied Alice was a drug dealer? And you feel cheated because I hinted at the end of the last story that you could find out more about Alice’s line of work in my next post The Date With The Drug Dealer?

Hmmm, now that I think about it that could be construed as being misleading. No, Alice is no drug dealer. But… I admit I thought I hit the jackpot when I saw on her profile that she is a reproductive biologist. That, in my ignorance, basically meant she was part of team of scientists creating genetically perfect vaginas. My friends and colleagues asked me about Alice and this misunderstanding sort of morphed into some kind of gynaecologist. All of which backfired on me when I was forced to reveal what I’d been telling people about her line of work.

But that was nothing compared to when she added me on Facebook, and discovered the adorable nickname I had given her on my various status updates about our meet-ups. A nickname which I naively thought was both factual and affectionate.

The nickname was … Dr Ladyflaps.

1 Comment

  • Nice description of that unnerving moment when a stranger in London is being over friendly but you don’t yet know they are merely trying to make a sale

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