Clive 'winked' at me through Match.com, one of the larger, but infinitely more expensive dating sites. The photo accompanying his profile showed a jovial-looking, ruddy, bald, chubby chappy wearing a smart bow tie and DJ. There was no attraction for me at all, and thus, he was instantly forgettable.
But, he wrote to me some weeks later, and out of courtesy, and the fact that I had pretty much forgotten who he was, I responded, answering his questions politely and asking him some in return. When he invited me to chat with him on MSN messenger, I agreed, as one of my pet hates is to ‘break the ice’ over the telephone.
I am a bit of a stickler for good punctuation, grammar and spellings and I was rather impressed to discover that he could manage all of these things. I commented accordingly – not in a patronizing manner – and remarked that it made a refreshing change to chat with someone who used correct English and didn’t resort to text-speak in messages and mail.
My comment about his standards of English seemed to rouse him somewhat and he immediately started demanding that he got my phone number to speak with me. As it was about 10.30pm and I was shattered, I refused point blank and said I was hitting the sack. Bizarrely, he continued to press the matter home, until I just wrote, Goodnight, and signed out. For a while after that, I avoided signing in to Messenger whenever I could see he was online.
After about a week, though, my attitude softened and I thought, Ah, what the heck, I’ll have another chat with him. As soon as I signed in, his yellow message popped up: Hello there!
We volleyed back and forth with small talk, until, again, he started to make demands that I gave him my phone number. Now, the more I get pressured to do things, the less likely I am to do them, so again, I refused. Instead, he changed tack and invited me to meet him for a drink. Well, I didn’t have much on ahead of me that week, Jonny Depp being tied up with filming, and so I accepted. I knew he was coming from Manchester, and that he didn’t know my neck of the woods very well, so I arranged to meet with him at a pub I know, literally on the roundabout of J10, M56, called The Stretton Fox. I gave him directions, and we organised to meet on the Wednesday evening.
But, oh dear, oh dear. As chance would have it, I had to cancel my date with him. My mother had, rather selfishly, I thought, managed to contract pericarditis, which had led to fluid surrounding her heart and filling her left lung. She was rushed into Intensive Care, and I had a pile of ironing which she needed to get done for me.
Thankfully, he was online and I was able to message him instantly, explaining the reason for my non-attendance that night. He was understanding and I started to warm to his empathy and thus agreed to divulge my mobile number to him so he could text me. (Note. I have two mobile phones now. My primary number I have only given out to people who mean something to me: friends and family etc. The secondary number is given out to psychopaths, schizophrenics, paranoids, alcoholics, sociopaths and loan companies).
Clive was given the second number.
He texted me instantly to verify it which I thought was a little OTT, so I messaged him to say I had his text and had logged his number. We rescheduled our date for the following Wednesday instead, same time, same place: Stretton Fox, J10, M56. This in itself seemed to cause Clive some concern. Was it really a pub? Was it really on the M56 junction? Would it be full of thugs? Yes, Yes, No. What’s the big deal? It’s only a pub date. Candid Camera isn’t going to be lurking in the gents.
An apologetic text was sent to Clive and I turned the phone off in readiness for visiting hours and in case I met a dishy, single registrar who wouldn’t appreciate our intimate chat about my ailing mother and my availability next week being interrupted by my phone tinkling away at us.
Daughterly hospital duties over with, I returned home and resolved to take the plunge and call Clive to update him on the situation.
I really, really hate talking to someone for the first time on the phone. I am not a reserved person in the slightest and will talk to any tramp, alcoholic, local loony and child who makes eye contact with me...but I hate phones (and especially mobiles) with a passion. So, I was rather formal at first, when I got hold of Clive.
He asked after my mother's health and told me he quite understood my commitments at the moment. Then he revealed that he was rather relieved I had finally spoken to him because he was starting to suspect that I didn't actually live in the UK. That was such an odd statement to make. Why on earth would I be overseas and what on earth made him think that? I asked him. Well, it was the small matter of my comment regarding his standard of written English and how he had noticed that some immigrants to the UK also try extra hard with their command of our glorious language. I roared laughing and asked him if he thought I was some Russian prostitute after a visa. I was perturbed by the long pause. This admission seemed to open the confessional floodgates and he told me he had been analysing my messages for any slip-ups, didn't like the way I skirted over personal subject matter (what? nosey sod!) and my infrequent visits to the MSN chatrooms.
I guess my stunned silence caused him to change tack and he asked me 'what was I looking for'. I guess he meant in men, not the fiver I had put away for my fags and seemed to have misplaced.
I replied genuinely that I was looking for a normal chap: intelligent, witty, solvent (i.e. not about to sponge off me), considerate and, if it wasn’t too much to ask, somebody who I could probably kiss without cringing. (I didn’t really stipulate that last bit, but it was in my head). He replied that he ticked all those boxes, so I thought, OK, we’ll meet for a date and so we did.
The next week, I walked into the pub, as arranged, and there was this bright red, shiny beach ball perched on a corner bench, almost glowing with high blood pressure. (He reckoned that he had put on weight because he only ever sits in front of the PC, working 16 hours per day...he injured his Achilles tendon, so he can no longer work-out...he's vegetarian...what? Is he eating 16lb of cheese each day? And why can't he swim? Walk? Get away from his PCs?)
After the compulsory air kiss (I hate those with a vengeance and try to avoid them as much as possible) we seated ourselves. It was a bitterly cold night and I had omitted to put on my thermals underneath my chiffon dress, which just was not suitable for the time of year (My mother would have made me wear a tank-top, long johns and a balaclava had she seen me walking out the door) so I ordered a frothy coffee, which was simply divine. So I had another, and another. Then I went outside for a cigarette (bloody no-smoking bans!). He came with me, which I wasn’t overly pleased about – I like a contemplative fag on my own – and continued to waffle on about all sorts of psychobabble.
We got back inside and he informed me that it was the oddest date he had ever been on. Why? I asked…Because you order coffee and go outside to smoke. How bizarre, I thought – I’ll order tea and blow smoke all over you if you want…
As I was still rather cold, I had my legs crossed and my arms across my body. Clive then started to analyse my body language, informing me that I had a ‘hostile, protective pose’. My eyebrow started to go up again, and the accent became more and more crystal-cut, which is a very bad sign from me; this means I am getting chippy and am likely to start using unusual words to confuse people greatly.
He criticised me for most of the night thereonin...Well! You can rest assured I did not take that with a smile on my face...at least, not a genuine one...more of a rictus or a snarl...Ooooh yeeees, Cliiiiive? He should have realised instantly not to go any further, but he did...My accent got posher and posher...my vocabulary increased from three syllables to five and he started to look bewildered...I told him he was paranoid; possibly on the autism spectrum disorder; said he talked way too much and I couldn't get a word in edge-ways (unusual for me, that) insinuated that he was a lard-a*se with no life; and pulled him up short on his so-called clever analysis of an old Irish proverb - "May the roof above never fall down; and may our friends below never fall out."
He started trying to educate me about the potato famine in Ireland and how they broke corpses' legs to bury them, but some weren't dead, so they would 'fall out' of the shallow graves...Er, are you on some strange pills, Clive? It's quite simple to me: the roof is the heavens and we are below on the earth. We don't want to lose our friends through arguments. QED? When I explained MY theory to him, he looked vague and muttered, Oh yes, I guess that is one way of looking at it...the subject was changed abruptly.
He then criticised me for my taste in men (yes, I admit they are dubious, but I will criticise my taste, not my first date!) until, in the end, I decided I had had enough and sweetly told him I was on my way. He asked if he could see me again as he had had such a wonderful time. Like a coward, I said, Maybe, zoomed home and deleted him from MSN, blocked him on my phone, locked all the doors and obliterated him from my life…until now that is.
It would be a shame to waste such a night by ignoring it, wouldn’t it?