There are many names I could have come up with for The Best Man, purely from the way I ‘met’ him. The Best Man is friends with a girl who has followed my blog from the start. She is friends with the Alleycat (who referred Date Number Two) and actually met The One with the Sign at the same time the Alleycat did. The Best Man then began following my blog and was one of the most involved followers on Twitter- commenting on stuff, and then offering himself forward as a potential date. Whilst I wouldn’t have originally met up with someone who didn’t come referred by a friend, as the challenge has developed, the rules on date selection have relaxed somewhat, as you saw with The Fresh Prince, who I met on Tinder. Ironically, it turned out I had a good mutual friend with The Fresh Prince, and as it happened, I also did with The Best Man.
He had seemed genuine enough over Twitter, and so initially I toyed with the idea of a date in Liverpool, as he was based up north. However as the Challenge progressed I was struggling to find a free weekend, and so when he mentioned he was coming down to London for the bank holiday weekend, we scheduled in a date for the Monday.
It was only the night beforehand when (after I realised the impact of the Fresh Prince’s connections with The Ex-Pro on our date) I thought I would check on Facebook to see if we had any friends in common. We had one mutual Facebook friend – a good friend of mine who I met through her brother at university. Her brother had also been a close friend during his first two years at Cambridge, but had moved university at the end of our second year, and we lost touch, partly because he doesn’t use Facebook. So it was only when I asked The Best Man how he knew my female friend, that I realised he had been my friend from university’s Best Man. If that wasn’t an endorsement for this complete stranger who I had met over Twitter, I don’t know what was!
We arranged to meet at Paddington Station at the Gromit (from Wallace & Gromit) statue in between the platforms. I ended up being half an hour late due to the Bank Holiday train schedule (though I did give the Best Man an hour’s notice of this). I found the Best Man loitering in the background of tourist photos of the statue, and he quickly explained that our first stop would be the Notting Hill Carnival.
It’s something I’d never been to before, and when I had been sitting on the train into London, a group of girls near me had been heading into the City for the event, and I’d actually thought what a great date it would make. The event is Europe’s biggest street festival, and is in its 49th year this year, with over 1 million people taking part in the two-day event.
We walked out of Paddington and towards Notting Hill. The closer we got, the thicker the crowds got, and I did find myself worrying slightly about pickpockets. I was carrying a Mulberry handbag with my iPad in, and had a Pandora bracelet on my wrist – all things I would probably have left at home if I’d realised we’d be heading to such a densely crowded event. However once we entered the initial parade area, the streets were spacious enough to accommodate the dancing crowds, the huge speaker systems and lines of food stalls, and I felt like I had enough personal space most of the time to not have to worry about getting pickpocketed (though we did see one guy getting arrested). The police presence was high and well-organised, with volunteer police cadets handing out maps, and safety suggestions.
The parade looped around the central area of the carnival, and so we watched some of the floats, and then wandered through the streets into the centre of Notting Hill, walking from one patch of ribcage-vibrating music, to the next. In each street the different speaker systems were barely fifteen metres away from one another, but as soon as you passed one set, all you could hear was the next. The streets were lined with revellers, with coloured whistles around their necks, and horns and beers in hand. Everywhere you looked there were people – dancing or swaying to the music, looking down on the events from their balconies, or sitting people-watching on the steps of their houses. Corner shops and restaurants were selling beers and food out of their windows, and every street had row upon row of Caribbean food stalls.
The parade was beautiful to watch. Ornately decorated floats, pumping out music, made their way slowly through the streets, surrounded by entourages of dancing women. The outfits were colourful and intricate – mostly decorated with jewels and hundreds of long, brightly colour feathers. We watched men on stilts, with crazy headdresses, and The Best Man even had his photo taken with one of the women from the parade.
We sampled food from the stalls, eating beef patties, jerk chicken, and rice and peas, and The Best Man sipped Red Stripe as we walked around Notting Hill.
The only thing that really spoiled the event for me was the sad fact that after the riots, all the shops now have to board up their windows during the Carnival, so everywhere you look there are graffitied boards, making a beautiful area of London look like we were partying in a disused wasteland.
Obviously the closed shops are nothing to do with the festival, and are only temporary, but I didn’t like how marred the picturesque area looked.
From Notting Hill we walked to Holland Park, for a spot of Geo Caching. Geo Caching is essentially a worldwide treasure hunt. Anyone can lay a geo cache, and all they need to do is log the coordinates of where the cache is hidden online, in order for other people to find. Clues are also left detailing the cache’s location, and then normally the cache itself will contain a log book, so that anyone who locates it can record when they found it. Some caches also contain trinkets, which those finding the geo cache can trade. The aim is to find the geo cache without drawing attention to the fact you are searching for it (because you’re not meant to let ‘Muggles’ know what you’re doing.) It’s interesting the geo cachers appear to be Harry Potter fans, as that’s where the phrase Muggle originates from, even though geo caching must predate the series of books.
I’ve come across geo caching once before, when I was walking through a park in Kuala Lumpur and met a guy digging holes in the middle of nowhere! However I’ve never tried it before. I think Stitch actually suggested it as a possible activity when we were in Bristol, but decided against it (which is interesting as Stitch and The Best Man actually looked and acted quite similarly in a number of ways … without the obvious tantrum!)
These days, with smart phones with GPS and specialist geo caching apps, it’s easy for anyone to try the activity. You can find geo caches in most places, though apparently when The Best Man was looking for geo caches in London, he was surprised to find there are comparatively few in the London area as compared to other towns and cities.
Geo caching obviously relies heavily on the ingenuity of the person who lays the caches. There were five caches hidden around Holland Park, all of which were graded 1/5 for difficulty (though one took us at least 20 minutes to find!). We could see from the log-books contained in the caches that three other groups of people had been looking for the Holland Park geo caches on that day alone, so that goes to show how popular the activity is, and according to The Best Man, there are over 2.5 million geo caches in the world these days.
The ease of the hunt will depend on how accurate the GPS on your phone is, as even a few metres can make a great difference. The clues for the five geocaches we were trying to find weren’t particularly complicated, and I definitely preferred the more cryptic clues.
It was a really fun, free activity, and something you can do almost anywhere, with very little more than your phone. There are various apps – some are free, others you have to pay for.
As far as a date activity goes – if it’s a nice day, like it was on Monday, it’s a really leisurely way to spend the afternoon and get to know someone. We chatted in between the various geo caches, and then had to work together to solve the clues (though it definitely got quite competitive towards the end – especially as there were an odd number of geo caches for us to find …. I beat the Best Man 3:2 at finding the caches …. not that I was counting! 😉 )
Tired from all the walking, we headed to the Tube, for the final part of the date. Originally The Best Man had planned to go to Kensington Roof Gardens, however they were closed for an event. His back up plan was the roof gardens at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, however they were also closed. I searched some bar options, and came up with an idea in Mayfair (which will be the venue for my date on Wednesday, as it was also closed), so in the end we ended up at a non-descript bar near Green Park for a well-deserved drink (or three!).
I had a really fun afternoon. Despite some interesting differences, I had a lot in common with The Best Man. He’s one of few people my age who has lived as disjointed and unorthodox life as I have, and we had some really interesting conversations about travelling and life. We had a bit of fun winding up the mutual friend who The Best Man had been best man for, as he didn’t know anything about the date, and it was really nice to meet someone who I had spoken to a fair bit over Twitter, and who had been following my Challenge almost from the beginning. I guess The Best Man was the closest I’ve met to a blog fan, which was cool, as we chatted about all the different dates I’ve been on, and the guys I’ve dated, and he asked me questions about some of the guys and the things I’ve written about. I also gave him some inside information on some of the dates (because all my friends always ask to see photos of the guys!), and we laughed about the times we’ve personally been blogged about in the past.
We met – by the statue of Gromit in Paddington Station
I wore – a black dress with white spots, flip-flops
He wore – a check shirt, denim shorts and flip-flops
We drank – Red Stripe, Diet Coke, Lager, Rose and Lemonade
We talked about – octopuses, travelling, blogs, my challenge, random sports, our mutual friends, geo caching, Christianity, ‘The Search for a Christian’, music festivals
The date lasted – 7 hours
The date ended – when he had to go to meet a friend to go to a gig, and our mutual friend’s sister came to meet me for dinner (off the back of my text to her to ask her how she knew The Best Man! … I love how this challenge is helping me reconnect with some of the friends I haven’t seen in some time!)
Marks out of ten – I think if the Roof Top Gardens had been open that really would have been the icing on the cake. The date was different and active, and yet basically free which is pretty cool if you’re looking for an economical first date. Obviously you can only go to Notting Hill Carnival two days of the year, but it is worth considering different festivals and events when you’re looking for something to do on a date, as an event like that, where you’re walking in, taking in the sights, is a great way to chat and get to know someone. If I’d had the opportunity, I would have really liked to go to the Holi Festival a couple of weeks ago at Battersea Power Station, which I think would make an awesome date. On the basis of what we did, I would probably say an 8.75 – which would have been a 9 if the bars had been open! So a really fun date, and a cool way to spend Bank Holiday Monday.
Next Date? Tomorrow (Wednesday) with someone I literally accosted on Tinder today (because someone else cancelled on me!) Could be an interesting one!!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx