As of this moment I'm officially single and not even bothering anymore to try and change that. Friday night has broken me. This might be the worse one yet. I am a wreck, a broken woman, a date hater and I am never, ever, ever going to one of those parties again. You want to hear all the details? Of course you do. Brace Yourselves. If I had to go through it, then so do you.
So. First I'll confess. I failed to acquire a push up bra. I did do all the hair washing, the primping, the make up, the scent. I was a goddess, prepared to do battle. I was even on time, well I was, until my mother insisted that I needed to come by and change a spotlight bulb for her, at that point I was fashionably late.
The deal was you turned up at the pub at 7.30. All of you would gather in the bar and introduce yourselves before being sat down to dinner at eight. I turned up at 7.45 having failed to bring directions and the pub being in the middle of nowhere in a sprawling village with no lights or sense of anyone actually living there. It took a while to find the place. Heart beating slightly fast at the prospect of real single people being inside I pushed open the door.
Stepping into the warmth of the bar I was greeted by the 'hostess'. Clipboard in hand she ticked me off (the list, not verbally) and reminded me that I needed to buy my own drinks apart from the wine at dinner. Darn. Forgot to bring cash.
I headed to the bar and decided to really go fo it and order water (I know - dashing isn't it?). There are two men at the bar talking to each other. They pay me no attention so I assume they are locals, not willing victims for the slaughter to follow. I head for the 'lounge bar' where I can hear some subdued conversation. I wondered if I had the wrong room. Where were the thirtysomethings? The room had a mixed bag of terrified and or / bored looking men, over made up women and some more relaxed looking 'retirement age' bachelors. Giving myself a stern warning not to judge, I went in.
Nobody spoke to me. I introduced myself (bold hussy behaviour). They stood around in small groups, not really talking to each other at all and clutching their drinks. Some of the men were busy bonding but in classic British male behaviour they were pretending the girls weren't there at all. This was not good. Despite the average age being around the late forties none of them seeemed to have acquired the art of conversation. This might be why they were all single? I chickened out and headed back for the bar. I was going to need more water to get through this.
The two men were still there chatting. They turned out to be friends who had come together to the date night hell but they didn't seem that bothered by actually getting involved in it. We spent a quarter of an hour or so chatting. Well. I asked them questions and they regaled me with stories, tales of derring do and made each other laugh a lot. They were neighbouring farmers. One of them has fifteen dogs, the other looked as if he had had too much botox (very strange over stretched skin on his face) which is an odd look for a hill farmer. They never even asked me my name during all this. Perhaps I should have worn that push up bra?
Noticing silence from the lounge next door we suddenly realised that possibly everyone had gone through to dinner without us and leapt to our feet, galvanised by a British anxiety of being late / rude. Sure enough, like cattle herded into the abbatoir, they were all in the dining room. There were several tables, all with seating arrangements. The boys were to move with each course so that everyone would get to meet everyone else. What a hideous prospect.
Seeing my place name near the door, I sat down at a table laid for eight, at which there were only six place names. Apparently, there were people who looked through the window at the company and ran away rather than coming in. Why didn't I do that?
To my left was a round faced, ruddy cheeked boy / man who was bringing the average age down by about twenty years. To my right an older man. Opposite were two more girls and another man. I sat down and introduced myself to Boy/Man. I soon found out that he was only there because his girl friend (not girlfriend) wanted to come and didn't want to come on her own. He was a farm manager and when I asked what he liked about the job, he answered (with a little too much enthusiasm) 'I like tractors'. Right. My tractor conversation is limited. I persevered. It turned out he also liked combine harvesters, and ploughs, and basically all machinery. He was a boy with a dream job where he played all day with large machinery. He didn't need or want a girlfriend. He wanted the new Massey Ferguson.
Throughout our conversation I was constantly aware of the opposite side of the table. The girl opposite boy/man wasn't saying a thing and the man opposite me, and next to her, was making her look overly chatty. They sat and avoided looking at each other and the silence between them really was deafening. I should defend the girl. She had really lucked out with her 'starter man'. I think he deserves his own paragraph actually. Here goes:
I'll sketch him out for you. Probably the shortest man in the room, he was permanently stoop shouldered. This was good as it showed off his pattered, knitted cardigan which was buttoned up to the top. All the way to the neck sort of top. He didn't seem to like to look up that much, which was also good as it gave me a perfect view of his combed forward hair with its coating of brylcream (or maybe engine grease). Most disconcerting of all though was the fact that he was to spend his entire time unconsciously trying to touch his nose with his tongue. Honestly. I'm not making this up. You couldn't make it up. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone whilst opposite you there is a man trying to touch his nose with his tongue. You can't. It's disgustingly mesmerising. You want to ask him to stop but it feels rude. Taking pity on the poor girl next to him, who he had failed to talk to and who hadn't (sensibly) tried to talk to him, I asked her what she did.
She turned out to be an ex occupational therapist who was currently writing three books. The 'most literary one' (and I quote directly) was set in the 1970's and was about a farmers wife who becomes a porn star. Really? Truly? This girl is who you would see if you looked up the word 'meek' in the dictionary and there was a picture illustration. She wasn't going to say boo to a puppy, let alone a wolf and she was writing the great literary novel of our times about Farmer Giles's porn star wife? Tongue to Nose man speeded up his tongue to nose action. Eeerugh.
Feeling faintly queasy, and having got the author to talk to the boy/man tractor driver, I turned to my right as the starters arrived. Chicken Liver Pate with one lone piece of bread. Why do they do that in pubs? Give you a great block of pate and a tiny piece of bread so that you can't actually eat any of it? Actually it turned out to be a good thing as the first bite revealed that it was possibly pureed pedigree chum, not chicken liver pate. Toying with the artfully arranged raw onion and red pepper garnish I studied my companion.
Salt and peppered dark hair, tallish, normalish - very 'ishy' in all. Sadly more wishy than dishy though. On the plus side: no cardigan. Phew. Having introduced ourselves, I asked him what he did. 'I'm a leading expert in agronomy' he replied. I know roughly what that is - something do do with crop production and outputs. He dropped in that he had just been in canada and New Zealand. I expressed awed amazement at his cosmopolitan life. He pulled out his phone to show me photos of New Zealand, and of his ex girlfriend in New Zealand. I looked gripped and wondered what the hell I was doing there.
Further lecturing from my new best friend revealed that he had the solutions for the agricultural slump at his fingertips, if only the world would listen to him. It also revealed that he was essentially a travelling fertiliser salesman who spent his time persecuting farmers into buying stuff they didn't want. I avoided thinking to myself 'hmm, he sells crap for a living'. He carried on telling me all about his exciting life. Other than my name, he still knew nothing about me, nor seemed interested in finding out anything. I heard all about the ex girlfriend, the special needs of maize crops, and how tenant farmers are the future and farm owners are spawn of the devil. I started wondering whether I could force down more of the Pedigree Chum pate in order to induce a vomiting attack and a perfect excuse to leave.
I was saved from the pate and the agronomist by clipboard girl, who announced in a falsely cheery voice that 'it was time to move please gentlemen'. Thank god.
My new companions sat down. To my right was a sprightly, grey haired man with an interesting taste in Mrs Merton style glasses (you know the ones - really pointy corners). To my left was a duplicate of salt and pepper man from course one. I blinked. Had he just swapped sides? No - this one had on a different coloured pair of corduroys and it turned out, had a really exciting job. We began with the 'so how far have you had to come tonight' opening bid. Not too far which boded well, in theory. A single man who lived within twenty miles. I didn't know there were any. He then told me that he commuted four hours a day to get to his job. I put on my awed and amazed face and asked if his job was worth it. Fool. I am a fool.
'Ohhhh yesss.' he replied. 'I'm really lucky. I mean, I have my ideal job. How many people can say that?' I agreed. He was lucky. Intrigued by such enthusiasm I asked for more details.
'I work for East Cheshire council. I'm in charge of'... Wait for it.... 'ROAD WIDTHS'. OH MY GOD.
I didn't have to put on a stunned expression. It was there already. Pleased with the effect his announcement had had on me, he carried on. It turned out that he did all the research back through 'historical council documentation' into what widths roads should be. It also emerged that he had a 'real passion' which was for (sound the drum roll) bridlepaths. Bridlepaths it seemed, were more of a hobby for him. An amusing past time. Of course they were. So many of us aspire to amusing hobbies and he had snagged the best one. Damn him.
Gripped as I was by his conversation, I hadn't noticed the main course arriving. It was steak and there was good reason for the steak knives. You needed a chainsaw to get into them. The side dish was 'mixed vegetables'. I don't actually know what they were as they were topped off with red cabbage which had dyed them all to the same shade of purple as the cabbage.
I'll confess that by now I was panicking. Was this what I had paid forty hard earned english pounds for? I couldn't drown my sorrows in my one free glass of red wine because A) it had burnt the inside of my mouth with the first sip and B) I was driving. I started to feel like a hunted animal and looked longingly out of the window at my car.
I realised I couldn't do this. Bridlepath man was telling me with great enthusiasm about a knotty right of way problem that he had solved to the detriment of all parties. Over the table, the porn writer was trailing her scarf through the vegetables as she leaned in to give a glimpse of her push up bra. Opposite me, botox farmer had joined us and was roaring with laughter at his own joke. In desperation, I turned to Mr Merton on my right. He turned out to be a very nice widower who disliked 'all the brassicas' and had seen porn writer in her dressing gown earlier on (they were staying at the same place) which might explain why he spent most of our conversation gazing longingly over my congealed steak at her.
I'd love to tell you more about my pudding companions but I will admit right now that I panicked, and ran for it. The prospect of two more dinner companions and black forest cheesecake was too much to bear. I used Chutney Mary's imminent arrival at my house as an excuse and I fled the scene.
No more internet arranged dating for me, ever again. I officially give up.
Now, does anyone have a failing maize crop or a bridlepath dispute? I know just the men to help you out.
The price of health
1 day ago