East End Boys and West End Girls

I’ve never read too much into postcodes.

Growing up in Reading, the only postcode that was ever important was ‘RG1’ – a tacky nightclub in the centre of town which closed down before I was legally old enough to go in!  Other than that, I don’t think I even knew that I grew up in West Reading until I learned to drive and finally began to understand how the different parts of the town I knew fitted together!

I was too young to worry about postcode lotteries, and the only link I’d ever made between postcodes and relationships was that line from the film Road Trip about it not being cheating if you’re in a different postal area!

One of the many unexpected effects of this Challenge, has been how much more time I’ve been spending in London.  A city where postcodes mean a whole lot more.

My dates have taken me all over the Capital – from the rejuvenated East – Olympic Park, and Hackney, to the O2 Arena in Greenwich, OXO tower in Southwark, the Book Club in Shoreditch, various points along London’s South Bank, Chelsea and the Notting Hill Carnival in the West.  I’ve stayed with friends in North London, and house sat in Clapham Junction, and this week alone will be visiting Watford, doing a treasure hunt around Southwark, and dining in Brick Lane.

London is more than just a city.

Reading has come close to ‘city status’ tens of times over the years, and yet the town centre would fit in London a hundred times over, and there would still be space!  London is a collection of towns and villages, each one unique, and offering something different.  It’s why it’s such an exciting place to be a singleton, because every date can be different, with very little effort or travel.

And the more time I spend in the capital, the more I begin to understand the draw of London life.

Last week at the Wine Tasting singles event at Vinopolis, Miss32 and I began discussing my potential move to the City.  Miss32 is more than just a ‘seasoned singleton’ as I think I once called her!  She knows London, and Londoners.  After a number of years living in various different parts of the Capital, she knows where she belongs, and has definite ideas about where I might belong too.

The conversation about postcodes began because she was looking for a new flat, and I began telling her about The Enigma’s beautiful flat on the North side of the river.  As soon as I mentioned the direction ‘North’ Miss32 screwed up her nose.  ‘I could never go North of the river again … and do you know what, I don’t think you’d enjoy it either …. !’ she grinned.  ‘Too industrial!’  ‘East …. Too Cool!’  ‘South West … that’s where it’s at.  Leafy suburbia … you and your posh accent will fit in!’ she had remarked.  (It wasn’t an insult … she lives in South West London, and has an equally posh accent!)

But it was interesting, because I’d never really thought about London like that.  I have friends who live all over the Capital … and I love all their flats and houses.  But because I’ve only ever been visiting them, I’ve never really focussed too much on the areas surrounding their homes.

Since Miss32’s suggestion that I’m a fellow ‘South West’ girl, I’ve started paying more attention to the parts of London in between my date destinations.

Where might I fit in?  Is Miss32 right?  Am I a South West girl?  Or would I be equally happy north of the river?

This weekend I was flat-sitting in Clapham Junction, and my views on the area were probably massively biased by the fact that the flat I was looking after is completely gorgeous!  However the surrounding areas were pretty cool too!  Add in the fact I could get fresh sushi delivered to my door within fifteen minutes of ordering it on my phone app, and I was in my element!

I have a lot of friends in the Clapham area.  And if I apply the same logic I’ve been told to apply to internet dating sites, then a lot of guys I know who are similar to the kind of guys I tend to date also live in that area.  But then the same could probably be said for other areas of the Capital? (Though I’m definitely nowhere near cool enough to live in East London!)

I’ve spoken about Tinder quite a lot recently, partly because of the surprising success I’ve had with what I had assumed would be a seedy sex-games app!

So far all three of the guys I’ve ‘met up’ (that has inverted commas, because one of them was the Skype Date!) with from Tinder have been really nice, eligible guys, and I have another Tinder date tomorrow, and one next week.

One of the cool settings on Tinder (slash Big Brother-esque aspects of Smart phone apps!) is that it uses GPS to work out where you are, and calculate exactly how far away your matches are.  In fact, you can set your search criteria so specifically, that you can detail how close your match is to the nearest mile.  And so, out of interest, whilst I was flat-sitting in Clapham, I decided to see how many matches I could make setting the app search as close as a one mile-radius.

Now, obviously I’m yet to try this experiment in any other parts of London, so can’t really calibrate my findings (!), but what I will say is … there are a lot of hot guys using Tinder in the Clapham area!

And generally, there are a LOT of single guys in London.  I’m pretty sure if I set Tinder to a mile-radius search around me right now, in the small village I live in, I would exhaust my dating options pretty quickly!  But in Clapham they seemed never ending.

And whilst I would never move to London because of the dating opportunities, there is a lot to be said for casting your net in a wider ocean!

I’ve never really seen myself settling down with someone from Reading.  As I explained in Goldilocks and The Fairytale Couple, my Dad travelled the world to meet my Mum, so why would I ever think to look on my doorstep for love?

And yet, for someone who is so quick to describe herself as driven and active, I’ve actually been pretty damn lazy the past few years!  Moving home after I returned from Canada was the easy option, and I guess I’ve just settled.  A large part of me has known that I ought to be moving to London.  But the lemming who fell off the grad scheme conveyor belt all those years ago, is pretty reluctant to climb back on!

As this challenge has grown and developed, I’ve wondered in what ways it might change my life.

In the short term, it’s probably made me gain a dress-size in three-course meals and skipped gym trips! (I’m joking … the stress of trying to juggle thirty dates at once has helped stopped me piling on the pounds! 😉 )

But seriously, in the short term, I can already tell it’s made me far more relaxed and au fait about dating and guys.  I’m more confident about approaching guys with crazy, random date suggestions, and because I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket, and obsessing over one ‘ideal’ guy, I’m less worried about things going wrong.

This summer has genuinely been one of the most fun of my life.  And I say that as someone who has done a fair bit of travelling, and had some really amazing life experiences.

I’ve still got almost a third of the way to go, and yet already I know this summer will be the source of many tales and anecdotes for years to come.  From the good old ‘Merkin’ story – which has entertained most of my dates since Date Three – to the tale of The Henley Boy, and its rather surprising recent twist.

I’ve been on dates I couldn’t have dreamed up – like my ones with The Fake Pimpernel and The Fresh Prince – and ones which felt like they’d been plucked right out of my own head! – The Enigma and The Best Man.

But aside from an awesome summer, and hopefully a host of new friends, what else will I gain from this experience?

I’ve talked before about whether I would prefer to end up with a boyfriend or a bookdeal from this experience.  And after my experiences with HB and Enigma, I have a feeling the latter is probably more likely!

But there are other less obvious side-effects of the challenge.

In the past two months I’ve reconnected with literally hundreds of friends.  People I haven’t seen since primary or secondary school are reading my blog.  My sixth-form English teacher ‘liked’ my Henley Boy Part Two post on Facebook (yes, I saw that Ms Forster!), which from what I remember was some serious praise! 😉  Friends have got in contact to join me at singles nights, offer their Henley Boy conspiracy ideas, provide date suggestions, ask for dating tips, or just give me feedback on the blog.  Old acquaintances and work colleagues have started using me as an oracle of dating, sending me links to related articles, and details of weird and wonderful single events.  Lets not forget my friend’s Mum, telling me about her sex life, and comparing it to my experiences with Henley Boy!  I can’t count the number of people who’ve messaged to tell me that they’re reading the blog, only for us ending up arranging to meet up once the challenge has finished.  And in fact the whole reason I’m flat sitting at the moment, is following my date with the Best Man, when I realised we had a mutual friend, and ended up meeting her for dinner after our date at Notting Hill Carnival!

I won’t necessarily know for some time just how much this challenge has changed my life.  Maybe it will simply become ‘that summer when I went on all those dates’, and nothing more will come of it.

But maybe, just maybe, this will be the summer where I fell in love.

Not with a guy.  But with a city.

Maybe this challenge was about giving me the kick up the arse I needed, to leave my home town once again.  Not to jet off around the world.  But to get back on the post-university conveyor belt which I so conveniently swan dived off after my Masters.

I guess we’ll all just have to watch this space to find out!

(And I promise I won’t entirely base my decision on Tinder results!!)

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

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