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The Beginning (Our First Date)

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I think it’s time to tell you about my first date.

Recently we celebrated our anniversary. I want to make a patchwork quilt of experiences that I can look back on when times aren’t as rose-tinted and to keep them fresh. You never know, I could by some freak chance (and I seem to have rather too many of them), end up like the girl in the film “50 first dates” and need reminding.

So, let me tell you about that night…

We had been messaging each other for two weeks and had found out the basics. He had two sisters, he was the oldest,  he was a Scout leader, he was an engineer.

I’d seen his photographs and his description: “tall, dark and handsome, well tall and dark, you can make your mind up about the rest”.

I’d told him he was tall and handsome, but not particularly dark-haired. We discovered that we shared some friends, having gone to neighbouring schools, that we lived in the same area and even went to the same weekend running event.

I carefully selected a knee-length blue wool dress with sleeves, which I wore with black tights. It was blue which brought out my eyes. I straightened my hair and applied subtle make-up. I cinched in my waist with a thin leather belt. I decided on flats – I can feel self-conscious in heels and I needed to feel comfortable. I took my small purple leather handbag which made any outfit feel classy.

I arrived at the venue with my heart in my mouth. We had arranged to meet at 8.15 on a Friday night. I scanned the room and couldn’t see him. I felt dazzled by the lights. I went straight to the bar. There was a bit of a wait, so I nervously checked my phone.

He had text to say he would be about 15 minutes late, he had been visiting a friend. So I asked what drink he would like, keen to reverse the stereotype that the man buys the woman a drink on the first date. He said “bottle of beer? surprise me”. What a wide choice, I had been hoping for something more specific, more foolproof for a girl whose only dabbling with alcohol involved Malibu and the occasional cocktail.

“Excuse-me”, I asked the bartender, “what’s your finest ale”? I’d heard ale was classier than beer and if I got the right one I thought I would definitely be a hit.

He looked at me sideways, frowning slightly. “Sorry?” he replied. I raised my voice a little and stood on my tip-toes so he could hear me better, “what is your finest ale?!”.

He still looked a bit puzzled so I explained in more hushed tones, “I’m on a first date and I asked him if he wanted a drink, and he said he wanted beer or something”.

He saved me the embarrassment of repeating myself. “Ohh” he said, grinning. Well…I wouldn’t recommend ale to be honest because there’s too much choice, you could quite easily pick the wrong one. But in terms of beer…Peroni’s probably the best one we sell here.”

“Ok, I smiled, relieved,”I’ll have that please”.

I found half a table in the corner that was free. There was a happy couple on the other side and they didn’t have a problem with me sitting there. I was still feeling rather anxious, and struggled to steady my breathing. So I looked around to distract myself. Damn. I’d chosen the wrong place. This was a middle-aged wine bar. Would he judge me on my choice?

It took me a while to get comfortable. Should I sit cross-legged? No, not good for the circulation and would make me look too unavailable. Or was that a good thing? Should I sit with my back to the room to look more mysterious? No that was a silly idea. I shifted about, fiddling with my silver bead necklace, checking my hair was still neat. By the time he arrived some 20 minutes later, I was feeling completely relaxed. I had drunk about half of my Malibu and coke, and had decided to sit facing the room with one arm on the table, laid back but not slouchy, attempting to project an air of sophistication.

Suddenly I saw him and life became cinematic. The clock seemed to stop and sound faded as I zoomed in. In a bar full of those near pension-age he stood out like a sore thumb. It seemed like there was a halo of fuzzy light around him. I blinked to refocus.

I decided to observe him and let him notice me. Then I’d have a little more time to check him out, seeing as this was the first time we had met in person.

The first thing I noticed was that he had lovely skin. He looked like he looked after himself. He had a nice neat haircut (he later admitted he’d had it cut that day) and a good figure.

Then I noticed his eyes – dark, bright, intelligent eyes darting about looking for me. But what a pity about his attire – he’d opted for a hoodie and jeans. He hadn’t put much thought into that. But at least he looked like the photographs.

He walked right past me and was about to look outside,  so I announced my presence. He visibly relaxed a little, flashed me a dazzling smile and settled down next to me, gratefully accepting the Peroni.

I asked him about his work. He clearly enjoyed talking about what he did and I was intrigued. We talked…and talked.

From there we went over the road into a square to a bar with a French name and red, dimmed lighting. He bought me a drink and another Peroni for himself. The choice was a good one then. We chatted about running and he showed me the impressive jog routes he’d done on his phone. We went on to a Cuban-themed bar, with salsa music and lovely cocktails. 

All too soon the night had come to an end. We didn’t want to miss the last bus home and we took that together, seeing as he lived nearby. As he left, he bent down and we nearly bumped heads as he clumsily kissed me on the cheek.

I was enjoying single life and I thought “if I don’t see him again I’ve had a great night and I’m pleased we met.” But a bigger part of me was drunk with excitement (the only drunk you should get on a date) and couldn’t wait to see when and where date two would be. Hopefully soon. But did he like me? Did I score enough points to make it through the first hurdle?

He text at midnight saying he’d had a good night, with kisses. Two. Things looked promising…

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Filed under Days out/nights out, Life of Lydia

The Power of Networking

Since I threw the stone advertising unemployment into the Facebook lake, there have been quite a few ripples, as old school friends got in touch saying they knew about something or could ask for me.  As the Japenese saying goes, a rolling stone gathers moss.

These positions were available through agencies that were not based in the city where the job was. So there would have been no chance of me knowing about them otherwise. In these intensely competitive times, it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s a case of contacts – from a course you attended, college or university.

At first I was too ashamed to broadcast my job seeking status. I thought it seemed like failure when many of my graduate friends were in nice impressive jobs. I’m rather envious of a guy from my year who is now a broker at Christies, constantly posting pictures of his champagne lifestyle. By their mid-20s it seems most graduates have found decent/steady employment.

I told one friend that no, I was not above doing warehouse packing – any job to release me from the state’s shackles.

Speaking of which, I waited 45 minutes for my Jobcentre appointment to make a new claim. Security staff hovered about occasionally as I sat there, steam coming out of my nostrils. I had paid 20p extra on a quicker bus and I had run to ensure I could not be sanctioned for being late. The worst thing about being unemployed is being at the beck and call of the all-powerful Jobcentre who control everything from what you have to do next on the endless run of job skills workshops, to whether you get to eat or not.

I had a job to apply for and I had to send in details before 5. This didn’t happen. I was expecting a call back about a legal matter (more on that story when it gets to court). This did not happen as I can only be contacted on my home telephone – my mobile is broken and I cannot afford a replacement. The charger on my old replacement mobile has broken so I need to buy another. There are always things to be bought.

I sat next to a guy who was being text by an angry girlfriend, unhappy about his financial situation, or maybe about his personal hygiene, judging by his overpowering natural cologne. He had been in the Jobcentre for two hours and he waited an extra 30 minutes to be seen, such was the backlog. His friend next to him had just got a delivery driver job. He had his tracksuit on, hood up and was bouncing about with suppressed joy. A girl on the other side of the room with bright red hair was sitting with her nose aloft, reading a novel the size of War and Peace, wearing a tracksuit but with walking boots instead of trainers. We almost quick marched out of the place and into each other.

I understood this display, having read The Week in an effort to show that I most certainly did not belong here thank you very much. I also didn’t like the way we seemed to be called “customers”. I wasn’t buying anything, I just needed temporary financial aid. The sooner I could escape from this two week cycle of despair the better.

Finally I was seen by a lovely girl who apologised for the delay and continuously apologised for Jobcentre policies. I had apparently been penalised because I hadn’t been in to sign on. Why? Because they’d referred me to a “Finding and Getting a Job” course and I was on that. When I pointed this out she tentatively said that had I contacted them to inform them of this within 5 days my benefits would have continued. When I asked why I wasn’t contacted for 27 days she apologised again for the policy.

I once again provided every payslip for my Saturday job, but still have to fill in a form telling them what they say. I have applied to get the money back for the past 26 days, but this depends on a God-like decision-maker, sitting in some cushy office upstairs with that all-important rubber stamp. (Update – I never got my money back).

But I won’t be messed around for long – things are looking up…

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Filed under Jobhunting

Sponge it up

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Yesterday I called my taxi driver Ahmed.

I got his mobile number because he was friendly and his service was cheaper. Now he comes whenever I call and refuses to take any other passengers until I arrive. He takes the shortest route and doesn’t go round the houses to increase his fare.

He gets a regular customer. I get a discount, great conversation and nuggets of wisdom.

On Friday night he took me to and from a night out. This meant he was up until 6.30am. He then picked me and my friend Natalie up the next day after a University reunion.

Ahmed: “You’re a sponge”

Lydia: “What??”

Ahmed: “A sponge soaks up lots of water, absorbs all the good things from others. Water washes over a stone. The stone does not soak up any of the goodness because they don’t listen. The goodness washed over the stone and they stay hard and unfeeling.”

Ok I’m paraphrasing but he made a good point. Many people don’t talk to their taxi driver, but perhaps you can learn something from them. Everyone has a story to tell.

To be continued…

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February 10, 2013 · 12:09 pm