As I sauntered out of my flat, dripping with Issey Miyake, I felt ready to take on the world. I was on my way to do a feature on speed dating, the latest craze where you get a chance to woo 10 women in a single evening. It was the launch of south London's new Speed Dater, and they had picked a bar in Blackheath as the venue. With council meetings and press conferences there are not many opportunities to pull in my working life, but tonight was to be my night.
So there I was looking fashionably casual in a Diesel shirt and Diesel jeans. I would have done the treble but my trainers were dirty so I had to make do with an old pair of Timberlands. But, even so, I had a secret weapon. A female colleague had told me to "just be yourself". Now I've heard of some pretty cynical, devious ploys to lure women into bed, but that's got to take the biscuit. Still I figured it was worth a shot.
With speed dating you get to chat to someone for three minutes before moving around to the next person. Then at the end of the evening, everybody fills in a form, putting a yes or no by all the names. If two people say yes to each other; they are both given the other's contact details and romance can blossom.
I don't normally get nervous talking to girls, but as I approached the bar my heart was beating faster than normal because I was stepping into the unknown. There were two competing voices in my head. "Don't put anyone's name down", said the shy, vulnerable me. "That way you can't get hurt when you don't get any replies".
"Don't listen to him," the wannabe Casanova replied. "Stick 'em all down. Then you stand the best possible chance of getting lucky."
It took a while for the event to get started, and two other guys and I stood by the bar, exchanging nervous small talk. Every so often, one of us would glance at our watches. I spared a thought for the other people there, some of whom looked even more nervous than me. After all they could not hide behind the mask of being a journalist and shrug their shoulders and say they were only doing it for an article.
And then the compere told us to take our seats next to our first dates. Two-seater chairs were set out around the bar and I approached my first date with more than a little trepidation. She seemed as nervous as I was and we exchanged embarrassed smiles for the first half-minute before embarking on something that could loosely be termed a conversation.
After the first one, I calmed down a bit and started to get into the swing of things. The only fly in the ointment was that all my dates seemed to recoil when they found out I was a journalist. "What, an
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