The Exhibitionist was introduced to me by Agent L, my former writing agent. She no longer works as a literary agent, however we got on well while she was representing me, and have stayed friends ever since. Agent L was one of the first readers of the blog, and volunteered herself up as a referee early on, searching out her single male friends, and eventually putting me in touch with The Exhibitionist, her former flatmate.
The Exhibitionist gets his name for his enthusiasm to take part in the blog. When Agent L first asked if he wanted to go on a blind date, he refused. However, when she mentioned I would be blogging about it, he changed his mind pretty quickly. He was also particularly keen to have his photo taken on our date, when I mentioned I would include it in the blog.
(The photo has since been removed at The Exhibitionist’s request, two and a half years after our date!)
Add in his enthusiasm for his new hobby – fitness modelling – and you have Date Twenty-Four’s nickname … The Exhibitionist!
The Exhibitionist and I scheduled in a couple of dates, having to cancel and change them for various reasons. Finally we arranged to meet on the 16th, and the plan was to go and watch the original Ghostbuster movie at an outdoor theatre by St Paul’s Cathedral, dressed in Ghostbusters outfits (his idea, not mine!). However I could only arrange tickets for Date Twenty-Five for that evening, so after shuffling around some plans, and thanks to the No Show not turning up for last Sunday’s treasure hunt date, we created a new plan.
The One with the Sign had told me back on Date Two about a website called ‘In the Hidden City‘ where you sign up online to a treasure hunt, and they send you a series of texts containing clues. The website contains various treasure hunts in a number of British cities, so you can not only select which city, but also which area of that city, to explore. Every time you solve a clue, you send a text back to the computerised number, and receive the next clue in response.
The Exhibitionist and I opted for the ‘Discover Southwark’ tour, which begins at Dilston Grove on the corner of Southwark Park. We met on the platform of South Bermondsey station, with the sky threatening to rain. I had been warned in advance that The Exhibitionist was (rather confusingly) quite shy, however that he might come across as arrogant as a result. He definitely took some time to warm up. He’d been unable to sign up to the Treasure Hunt on his phone, and so as we walked towards the start of the hunt, I had to rather awkwardly type and talk at the same time, paying the (rather pricey) £16 entry fee online as we introduced ourselves.
The Exhibitionist is originally from Canada, and one thing I noticed in my two years living over there is how different the sense of humour is. It was clear he didn’t always get my quite dry, sarcastic sense of humour, and in the first hour or so there were definitely some very awkward moments where I made a joke only to have it greeted by complete silence!
After a very awkward start, where we couldn’t really find the start of the hunt, he didn’t quite seem to grasp what was going on, and it began spitting with rain, we finally got ourselves set up and started. We solved the first clue quickly, but then began searching for the second clue in completely the wrong place! At this point he disappeared off to find a loo (where was the Toilet Tour lady when we needed her?! 😉 ) and I decided to retrace our steps. I texted him to let him know I’d left the memorial garden we’d been searching for the clue in, and he texted back ‘Thought you did a runner’. I replied ‘Haha, thought you’d done the same!!’ and when I returned to the Gardens (still without having found the next clue) at least the ice was broken a bit.
The tour was 21 clues long, and as we got further through the clues, The Exhibitionist became more competitive and began to get more involved. The clues were cryptic, and some were very clever, and really got you thinking. Other answers were really obvious. We were directed to parks, graveyards, and various old buildings and landmarks. Some clues really tested our brains, others simply required us to keep our eyes open to the things around us. Often each clue involved several layers of decoding, first to establish where you needed to go, and then to work out what you had to do when you found the correct spot.
We were shown some of Southwark’s hidden gems, and taken right past Banksy’s ‘Man and Dog’.
On a few occasions, the clues really confused us, and we realised we were in the right place, but had made a wrong selection before solving the clue. Every time we texted back a wrong answer, we would incur a 10 minute time penalty. We would also incur penalties if we requested extra clues, or if we opted to skip a clue.
A slightly frustrating part of the treasure hunt was the company’s obvious coalition with random pubs and cafes in the area. The pubs didn’t appear to have been chosen for any reason other than business motives, as some of them were very unimpressive, and simply a venue where the hunt forced you to spend a 30-minute break before you would be sent the next clue. After our first enforced stop, we realised it was possible to skip the break, and continued on after that at a faster pace.
During a particularly complicated clue, where we were asked to count the number of sides on these shapes (genuinely way more difficult than it looks!), a random man came over to talk to me. The Exhibitionist had disappeared off to the loo again, leaving me on my own trying to count polyhedron faces, and a Lithuanian man approached me with a can of beer in hand. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked. ‘I’m doing a treasure hunt’, I replied. The guy looked like a backpacker, and I wondered if perhaps he was doing the same hunt as us. His response was something like ‘I’m doing a treasure hunt too ….’ however he then went on to explain he was on the hunt for beers. The reason he likes England is because you can drink beer any time (??!!) And then he tried to get me to give him money for his beer, It was all really quite weird, and when the Exhibitionist returned, it got even stranger, with the man, who appeared to be a well-dressed tramp asking the Exhibitionist rather nonsensically if we were ‘woman and bus-man’??? He tried to get money off The Exhibitionist, and for a worried second I genuinely thought he was going to square up to fight The Exhibitionist. We still hadn’t counted the faces on the complicated stone shapes, and all I wanted to do was get as far away as possible from the strange, aggressively forward beggar, however he eventually wandered off, leaving us to solve the clue and continue on with our challenge.
The Hunt led us down to the Thames-side and under the bridges of Shad Thames. We wove through the narrow streets of Southwark, following clever clues down alleyways and past beautiful pieces of art. After just over 2 and a half hours (and 40 minutes of time penalties!) the clues ended in a random bar. Rather than stay there for food, we walked to London Bridge station, and opted for paella at Cafe Brood, a cafe I’ve passed several times during this challenge. The Cafe cooks enormous pans of paella, serving it with chicken, king prawns or chorizo. We grabbed heaped bowls, and sat down to chat over late lunch.
It had taken some time, but The Exhibitionist had finally warmed up, and we talked about his sports modelling, my challenge, the blog, and Agent L. During the course of the conversation, in a very similar way to The Oxford Blue last Thursday night, The Exhibitionist dropped the phrase ‘the girl I’m seeing at the moment’ into conversation.
Seriously, what is it with guys coming on Challenge dates when they’re seeing people?!
He did have a vague excuse, in that he has only very recently started seeing the girl, and had obviously been chatting to me about the date for several weeks. But yet again, he didn’t really see the challenge date as a ‘real date’ – which I guess is an attitude which has been a bit of an unfortunate bi-product of the 30 Dates Challenge.
I’m still single! And just because I’m going on 30 Dates, and I’ve agreed to be a bit less picky when choosing those dates than I normally would be, doesn’t mean I want to go on a bunch of dates with people nothing will definitely never happen with! Otherwise I may as well be going on dates with married guys, or women! It’s the same logic I applied when after my date with The Best Man (who is actually a very devout Christian) several religious guys got in contact with me over Twitter to offer themselves forward as dates. Whilst I’ve obviously offered myself up to ‘Date a Christian‘ for the blog Threads (a Date which will be happening next Saturday), I have quite important, sensible reasons for never having dated someone very religious before, and one of those reasons is that I can never see it progressing anywhere, so why would I want to go on a series of dates that I definitely know would ever go anywhere? By the same token, why would I want to set myself up on a series of dates with guys who were already seeing people?!
This Challenge is a numbers game. But it’s not just a numbers game!
I guess it goes back to the lesson I probably should have learned from the Enigma experience …. Guys in London have a LOT of options when it comes to single girls. And they are happy to play the field and test all the options that become available to them.
Maybe it’s just a case of if you can’t beat them, join them?! Maybe rather than berate the fact that all these guys seem to have very complicated, not-at-all monogamous relationships, I just need to start dating the same way, and continue this blog on after my 30th?! It could definitely make for some entertaining reading at least!
At times I’ve thought the purpose of this challenge might be to find another guy who has a ‘Henley Boy-effect’ over me. But maybe the real lesson is that to be a successful London singleton, I need to start acting a bit more like Henley Boy. Rather than simply be the girl mooning after him? (Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I’m never going to speak to anyone again! But it does give me some food for dating thought!)
I wore – a blue sailor-style long sleeved lacey top, black jeans, navy TOMS, and the brand new winter coat I was forced to buy last week when I was stood up by the No Show!
He wore – a grey Hollister hoodie and jeans
We met – on the platform of South Bermonsey station
We drank – diet coke, orange juice, water
We chatted about – Vegas, travelling, different areas of London, the blog, my writing, Canada, fitness modelling competitions, Tinder, speed dating
The date lasted – 4 and a half hours
The date ended – because he had to go see his personal trainer, and I had to go meet Date Twenty-Five at Euston Station!
Marks out of Ten? – A 7/10. The treasure hunt is a really clever idea, but not that well-executed. Whilst the texting system was efficient, some of the clues were really obscure and clearly just designed to take you to businesses linked to the treasure hunt. Whilst the Exhibitionist took some time to warm up, what didn’t help was that it was hard to strike up conversation, because the clues required you to be constantly thinking or discussing either the directions or the eventual clue, so it was only really once we’d finished the hunt that we had proper, comfortable, normal conversations. The Treasure Hunt is also really dependent on the weather, which in England means you’re basically limited to a few short months. We got rained on several times during the hunt – luckily only light showers up until we sat down for lunch, but the grey clouds also put a bit of a damper on the date. I also think £16 is a really over-inflated price for a very simple activity, and interestingly, one of the shopkeepers, who had a clue in his window, actually started moaning to us when we went inside to work it out, saying In the Hidden City hadn’t even spoken to him about using the contents of his shop window for their treasure hunt, and he was really rather upset by the constant traffic of treasure hunters only visiting his shop to look at one item! He was very vocal about what a rip off he thought it all was, and how he wanted them to remove the clue about his shop from the treasure hunt!
I also think you should end the treasure hunt with some actual treasure! Whenever I suggested a treasure hunt to guys as a date idea, their first question would be ‘What’s the treasure?’. So if the whole hunt is timed and orchestrated so you spend time in pubs aligned with the Treasure Hunt, it would make sense to have the final stop somewhere where they give you a certificate or something to show you completed the hunt (rather than just the simple ‘celebratory’ text message.
My next date? Fifteen minutes later – for the first time on this Challenge, I did two dates in one day!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx