New Year’s Day is never a good day to schedule a first date!
For a start, there’s the rather obvious hangover aspect.
And then there’s the January weather to contend with, which at present in England is ghastly.
So quite why I decided to organise a boat tour of London, in an open top boat, on the first day of 2014, I have no idea!
I spent New Year’s Eve at Dapper Gent’s lavish army mansion house, seeing in 2014 with Dapper, the Legal Eagle (yes, I know, #awkward!) and a new addition to the ED team – Lil Miss D … more about her coming soon.
I’m still on 6am shifts at work, and had been up at 4.30 on Tuesday, so by midnight, frankly I was shattered. I lasted til half twelve, then rather sensibly took myself to bed … something I was more than grateful for the next day when I found myself aboard a fast-moving boat on a choppy Thames!
My first date of 2014 was with the charming Mr Sackoff (!). But New Year is about fresh starts and clean slates, and with that mind, I’d given him a second chance, and agreed to a date after all.
And so, Mr Sackoff became Mr Second Chance.
To be fair it wasn’t just me who gave him a Second Chance. I have my blog to thank for the fact he changed his mind, and decided to overlook the fact I write about my dates for thousands of people to read!
Mr Second Chance drove all the way from Gloucestershire for our date, and I couldn’t help wondering if he was prepared to suffer the 5 hour return trip as penance for coming across so judgmental when he first learned about the blog!
We arranged to meet at Waterloo Station, and as per usual, I was running slightly late. In apprehension of a very wet boat ride, I was wearing wellies, and had stopped to buy a thick beanie at Paddington. Hardly my most glamorous date attire, and it was set to get even worse!
I walked through Waterloo in my wellies and bobble hat, still wearing my rather geeky glasses. Mr SC emerged from the Christmas tree in the centre of the station, and I couldn’t help but grin. Not only was he more attractive than his photos had suggested, but he was also wearing my ideal date outfit. Faded jeans, a collared shirt and jumper, and a thick tweed blazer.
He was also posher in real life than I had expected from our conversation on POF, but not to the hilarious degree of Guy Fawkes and his ‘roger that dodger’, ‘ching-chong’ expressions.
We walked over to the London Eye. London RIB Voyages is literally nestled at the foot of the observation wheel. We headed to the counter and I apologised for running late. ‘Are you on the 3pm boat tour?’ the lady at the reception desk asked, her face falling.
‘Yes’ we replied nervously, worried she was about to say it had just left.
‘Ah, you want RIB Voyages – they’re further down the pier!’
Phew. We raced around the back of the wheel and onto the jetty, where two crew members were handing out waterproof clothing.
It was at this point that I donned arguably the least attractive outfit I have ever worn on a date in my entire life!
We were given waterproof trousers so large they fitted straight over my welly boots and half of my long overcoat, and a thick waterproof fleece which I put on over my already thick coat. I tucked all my hair up into my beanie hat, and kept my glasses on in a vague hope my make-up would stay intact. Finally, the outfit was topped off with Minion-style science goggles.
Our host ‘Little Mike’ ushered us onto the RIB together with two American families. He joked from the off, reassuring us we could hold his hand as we entered the boat, and it ‘didn’t mean we had to marry him’.
The skipper Ian manoeuvred the RIB into position, and Mike began a hilarious stand-up- worthy tour of the London riverbank. Informative snippets were mixed with slapstick jokes as he showed us the Eye, London Aquarium, the Houses of Parliament, the Globe Theatre, the Golden Hind, and all the other gems the Southern bank has to offer.
Once we had passed Tower Bridge, the skipper hit the throttle, and we saw more of what the boat was capable of. Hiding behind our hilarious science goggles, we gripped hold of the boat as it yawed from side to side, banging up and down in the wake with the James Bond theme tune pumping out of the boat’s speakers. It was impossible to not be reminded of David Beckham’s entrance to the Olympic Ceremony two summers ago.
I thanked myself for not being hungover …. I was already unattractive enough in my Michelin man-like outfit, I didn’t need to make it worse by going green, or worse…!
The boat trip lasted just under an hour, and, even with the appallingly English weather, was great fun.
The waterproof clothes we were provided with kept us warm and dry, and the trip had just the right balance of information and adrenaline-pumping excitement.
I spent most of the trip giggling at Little Mike’s jokes, only for him to laugh at us when he realised we were on a first date and that I had dragged Mr SC out into the cold and wet on New Year’s Day.
As the boat pulled into the dock, Mike offered us the captain’s services to marry us, should we wish! First marriage offer I’ve received on this Challenge! (And not actually from my date, I should probably add!) We politely declined and headed off in search of a warm pub.
Mr SC took the lead and ordered us drinks and snacks, and we sat in the comfortable shelter of a quiet pub in the shadow of the OXO tower.
The only limitation of the boat trip was that it had been hard to chat to one another, and I regretted not meeting up beforehand to get to know Mr SC a bit before the boat ride, however we managed to catch up easily enough afterwards.
As we waited for our hands to warm back up, we chatted about work, and family and travel.
Interestingly, Mr SC is the first guy I’ve ever been on a date with who’s a Dad.
I’d known about it before we met, as he’d mentioned his daughter in his New Year’s plans, and to be honest, until that point I hadn’t even noticed that on his POF profile he’d mentioned that he had children.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned from the 30 Dates Challenge, and this blog, is just how irrelevant certain dating ideals have become for me.
Before 30 Dates I would never have gone on a date with someone overly religious (The Best Man, The Voice, Legal Eagle) or someone in the army (Queen’s Guard, Skype Date, The Superhero Alter Ego, Guy Fawkes, Legal Eagle). I would also have never chosen to go on a date with someone with kids.
Weirdly the children themselves aren’t the reason behind my pickiness.
I love kids, and absolutely loved working as a nanny when I was in Canada.
For me, the issue with dating a guy who has a child, is that normally that child comes with a mother. And in most circumstances that mother is someone who once meant a great deal to the guy. Relationships are complicated enough without factoring in an ex.
And whilst I realise that probably sounds really selfish, I’ve had enough issues with exes over the years, to know that they are best left firmly in the past.
As someone who has never really been in a long-term relationship, I really like the idea of FIRSTS. First time I properly fall in love with someone, first time I live with a guy, first time buying a house, first time I get married, first time I have a child … And one of the things about dating someone who has already been married or already has children, is that he’s already had those firsts with someone else.
I’m not saying that’s a deal-breaker, and to be honest, as I’ve got older, and learned more from this blog, it all certainly fazes me a lot less, but they are still very real considerations when opening yourself up to the idea of dating someone who’s already experienced more life ‘firsts’ than you.
Having said all that, when Mr SC first mentioned his daughter, I wasn’t particularly fazed. I’d heard enough snippets of his unorthodox past to realise it was just as crazy and convoluted as my own, so I was intrigued to find out more, provided he was happy and willing to tell me.
Mr Second Chance was open and honest. He talked candidly about how he had ended up a father at 22, and talked about his daughter and his relationship with his daughter’s mother. He’d never properly dated her mother, and remained friends with her.
To be honest, listening to the way he had dealt with the situation, and the way he spoke about his daughter and the rest of his family told me a lot about him. All positives.
He was genuine, open and admirable. At one point during the date he worried that he’d spoken too much about his daughter, something which I only found more endearing. And out of nowhere maybe three hours into the date, he asked rather nervously if what he had chosen to wear was ok! (Which I tried not to grin too much at!) As someone who has always worn her heart on her sleeve, and who will answer most questions as directly and honestly as I can, I appreciated how candid he was. Throughout the evening we talked about some pretty heavy subjects, and he dealt with them all both openly and open-mindedly.
The afternoon wasn’t all serious chats. Mr SC managed to break the fly on his jeans in the pub, something I didn’t even notice, but which clearly caused him immense concern and embarrassment until he finally got back to his car and a change of clothes!
After a few hours in the pub, I remembered how long his drive home was and asked what time he needed to be home. He suggested we walk back to Waterloo, and so we walked back along the South Bank, still chatting about everything and anything.
As we approached the station, realising how much I had enjoyed his company, I asked which way he was driving back to Gloucestershire …
Right past my house 🙂
We took a rather elongated route to his car, and then chatted constantly on the drive back to Reading.
His sister called while he was driving, and he put her on speaker phone, hastily trying to make it clear to her that I was in the car, before she inevitably asked him how the date had gone.
‘Erm, I’m in the car with …. My friend …. You’re on speakerphone’.
I grinned to myself and wondered what he’d have been telling her if I hadn’t been in the car.
Remembering my Twitter bet with Mister Mischief that at least one man needs to appreciate Norman the Normandt Spruce, and his rather camp Christmas decorations, this winter season, I told Mr SC about my runt of a Christmas tree, and asked if he wanted to come up for a drink and admire my decorations! (You can see why they now call me a Dating Expert! 😉 )
One drink turned into three, and before we knew it, we’d been chatting until midnight. Realising he still had an hour and a half’s journey home that night, I ushered him out, laughing that it was the first date he’d ever been on where he been given a goody bag, as I’ve given up chocolate for New Year, and so had given him a box of Lindt balls to take home with him!
I had joked on Twitter (because it was now 2014) that it was my best date of the year so far …
But in all honesty, it was one of the best dates I’ve had in a long time.
Whilst there are aspects of army life which I’ve spoken about before which don’t necessarily fit with my idea of an ideal partner, the reality is I’m a sporty, well-travelled, adventurous girl, and often guys with similar interests or experiences are attracted to army careers – it’s why so many of my close friends are in the army.
Mr SC is a really interesting, intelligent, well-travelled guy. He was funny, and honest, and I appreciated how candid and understanding he was when we talked about difficult subjects.
It’s amazing how wrong your first impressions of someone can be. When he’d first sent me that sack-off text a few days ago, I would never have expected to end up on a date with the mild-mannered, conscientious, funny guy I met yesterday.
It was a genuinely fun date, and I would highly recommend London RIB Voyages as a date destination. It may not have been Dapper and Blondie’s dream date (!!) but I genuinely couldn’t fault my Eighth Date of Christmas … 🙂
And it all ended with a rather fitting text, thanking me for the evening and for giving him a Second Chance!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx