I’m not overly superstitious, but if I were to have an unlucky number, it would probably be twenty-seven. Both my parents died on the twenty-seventh day of the month, and at least twice I’ve been dumped on the 27th. And so, if I were ever I worried that a date might not go to plan, it was Date Twenty-Seven.
The Superhero Alter Ego came recommended by a university friend who I served on the Ospreys Committee with. ‘The Ospreys’ is the University Sportswomen’s Social Society, open to any girl with Blue or Half Blue, and The Osprey had earned her blue playing Lacrosse for Cambridge. In a similar way to the Siren’s recommendation of The Enigma, The Osprey’s boyfriend works with the Superhero Alter-Ego, and so that was how he first heard of the challenge.
I had found out about BUG at the BFI (British Film Institute) thanks to the list of Must Do dates on the website DoingSomething. I had seen Adam Buxton’s live comedy show ‘Kernal Panic’ during his Edinburgh Festival warm-up, back on Date Five with The One with the GSOH, and really enjoyed the show, particularly the sections involving hilarious (real) YouTube comments. And so when I saw the dates for BUG 39, and realised they fell within the Challenge, I decided it might be time to make some 30 Dates Challenge history, and have one man appear at two different Challenge Dates. (Even if he wasn’t my date either time!)
The amusing thing about ‘BUG at the BFI’ is that a lot of people …
- Have never heard of BUG, and
- Don’t know what the BFI is! To be honest I’d never heard of it until I met The One with The Sign under the bridge outside it on Date Number Two.
So often, when I mentioned it to friends, it would be met with blank faces.
As I get closer to my flights to America, and the final chapter of the 30 Dates by 30 Challenge, the logistics have actually become a little trickier, as I tried to ensure I still had two dates remaining for New York and Los Angeles.
As a result, I actually had to condense my dating week down, and amend my original plans with the Superhero Alter-Ego, which had been to meet him after work, down near Middle Wallop in Hampshire, where he is currently serving with the Army. Rather than meet him earlier in the week, and schedule another date on the Friday at BUG, I decided to combine the two and ask if the Hero wanted to join me at the BFI.
Adam Buxton returns with a new session of BUG every few months, and we had tickets for the third of three performances of BUG 39. The show didn’t start until 8.45, however as I fly out to the States on Sunday, I had to stay on pretty late at work handing over stuff before my holiday, so the timings worked well, and we met in Waterloo Station just after eight. Later the Hero told me that he had arrived early and been playing a game, trying to guess which of the girls walking around the station on her own was me. Turns out The Osprey hadn’t shown him a picture of me (though some of his friends had tried to search me out on Facebook), and all he knew about was the Challenge, and not the accompanying blog.
We walked down to the Southbank, and I told him about the blog. He looked slightly scared by the concept, but generally reacted well to the news (unlike Stitch!), and as we waited to go into the theatre, I showed him some of the recent blog developments on my phone, including the feature in the Guardian Soulmates newsletter this week.
The Superhero Alter-Ego gets his blog name, in part, because of his real name.
He has an epic name which makes him sound like the everyday version of a superhero! Add that to the way he was extremely modest about all the things he’d achieved in life, and the fact he flies Apache helicopters for a living (so essentially goes into the middle of warzones saving injured soldiers) and I think the Superhero Alter-Ego is a pretty fitting nickname! (Also, when he tried on my oversized geeky glasses, he was the spitting image of Clark Kent!)
Like most of my friends, The Hero had never heard of BUG until I mentioned it, however was up for attending with me, provided he took care of the second part of the evening. As the show started so late, this rather limited his choice of dinner options, and so I suggested La Bodega Negra (a Mexican-themed restaurant set through a sex shop near Covent Garden ) which some of my friends have raved about.
We settled into our front-row seats at the BFI (Tickets which had cost less than £12 each), and spent two hours watching a series of weird and wonderful music videos. We watched one made entirely out of Mills & Boon covers, another which told the story of an old lady’s fabric shopping trolley bag, and a Vaccines video focussed on a boy trying to phone a girl. We listened to a really rather odd MGMT song, and then laughed over the hilariously ‘profound’ comments about it made by fans on YouTube.
My favourite videos were one made by a twelve year-old, which was incredible compared to a lot of the awful videos we saw, and a really clever video for Placebo’s ‘Too Many Friends’, which focussed on a world where Social Media had gone so crazy, it had prompted pre-emptive violence.
These days I very rarely watch music videos, so it was really interesting to focus on their content, and Adam Buxton chose some really random and artistic videos.
As with Kernal Panic, my favourite part of the show was Buxton’s selection of YouTube comments from the videos. He reads them in hilariously fitting voices, often dwelling on spelling and grammatical errors, and attaching personalities to the essentially anonymous comments. It’s a very simple concept, and yet pulled off amazingly well when you realise the hilarious rubbish some people write on the internet (if that’s not an ironic thing to write on the internet?? 🙂 )
The Superhero Alter-Ego seemed to enjoy the show, even though he’d neither heard of Adam Buxton, nor BUG, before. The auditorium was pretty chilly, and at one point both of us had sat huddled beneath our coats, however the show was entertaining, and well worth the bargain-priced tickets.
After the show, the Hero led me over Waterloo Bridge, and through Covent Garden, occasionally checking his phone to make sure he was going the right way. I realised we weren’t going to La Bodega Negra when he admitted he had ‘decided to stay traditional’ with the dinner choice. As we wound our way deeper into Covent Garden, I began to grin to myself.
Somehow, without even reading my blog, for the second time on this Challenge, a date had read me like a book. There are three places I’ve always wanted to eat in London – Dans Le Noir, The OXO Tower and The Ivy. In fact just this week I had been trying to reserve a table at The Ivy for a birthday lunch on my return from America, to no avail.
The Enigma had made me grin from ear-to-ear when he ordered a taxi to Dans Le Noir after HintHunt on Date Twelve, and then I’d eaten with The Enigma at The OXO Tower on our covert second date. Now the Hero had played the trump card – we were to dine at The Ivy, though God only knows how he managed to get a table at such late notice on a Friday night!
We sat in the bar with drinks, and I marvelled at the beautiful painted walls, and the simple yet elegant coasters – each one franked with a single green ivy leaf. The staff were beyond helpful, and we were quickly led through to a wide booth, where the Hero was quick to remark on the fact that we had dramatically reduced the average age of the room on entry! He was right, most of those dining around us were considerably older, and though I didn’t do a full celeb-spotting recce of the room, I didn’t see anyone famous eating there. Though after hearing I’d seen Madonna on Date Eight, The Hero was quick to suggest that he’d seen Jude Law eating behind me, but hadn’t wanted to point it out! (I’m pretty sure that part wasn’t true!)
The kitchen was about to close and so we rushed our orders – he went for duck followed by pork belly, and I had a squid and chorizo salad followed by crab linguine. We chatted easily about our gap years (his was possibly the most abnormal one I have ever heard about!) and our families, and travel, and about his time studying in America – his parents are American, however he was brought up in England. I mocked him rather incessantly about his warped vowel sounds, a rather adorable mix of public school English with choice Americanised vowels, and he suggested various blognames for himself, including the rather amusing ‘Perfect Physical Specimen’ – on account of the in-depth medical examinations he had gone through before becoming an Apache pilot.
Yet again I was astonished by how interesting the guys I’m meeting on this challenge are. On Wednesday I met the Jet-Setter – a seasoned yacht racer who had spent his adult life sailing yachts for multimillionaires, and now I was sitting at dinner with a guy who flew helicopters for a living, lived in Mongolia and had studied at Dartmouth. The difference between these dates, and my original Plenty of Fish Date with ‘The Normal Fish’ couldn’t have been more dramatic. Recently, I’ve come away from dates genuinely feeling like I’ve learnt something, and realised that I’m not simply asking questions on the dates because I’m being polite – I’m asking them because I am really interested in hearing the answers.
We were the last diners to leave the restaurant, and then went for a short walk while we waited for my taxi to arrive – a trip which caused much amusement, when The Hero (famed for his navigational skills) managed to get us rather lost.
As I’ve said before, what makes a date is a shared sense of humour, and an ability to take the mickey out of one another, and I spent probably the last hour of my date with The Superhero Alter-Ego giggling and teasing him about his American-English and brilliant navigation (ahem!).
He was a complete gent, and when the wrong taxi collected me, and then decided to drop me back at the Ivy ten minutes later, he returned to the restaurant to wait with me for another half an hour.
I wore – a black lace top, black vest top and black jeans, black and gold ballet pumps
He wore – a blue striped shirt, cords, a colourful African belt (which I mistook for a polo belt), and a mariner’s Barbour jacket
We drank – Gin & Tonic, Rose and Lemonade, Prosecco
We talked about – helicopters, travel, China, Chinese, Mongolia, America, the Challenge, the blog, dogs, powerful women, family, trekking
The date lasted – 6 and a half hours (including a good hour waiting for a taxi!)
The date ended – twice – once when I got in the wrong taxi, and then again when the taxi insisted on dropping me back and I had to wait for another one to come and collect me.
Marks out of ten – 9/10. A really good date (so for once 27 was pretty lucky!). BUG was really funny, though I would have preferred the show to have included more comedy sections, and a few less music videos, or shorter clips. The teenage girl in me was pretty excited to be taken to the Ivy, and I had a really enjoyable meal, though given a bit more time with the menu I might have been a bit more adventurous and not gone for my standard menu choices of seafood and pasta. And my date was really entertaining and someone I would more than happily go on a second date with, so all in all a really fun date.
My next date? A brunch date the next morning (bearing in mind I got back to my friend’s flat in Old Street at 3am!)
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx