Despite being single for far too long, I’ve never yet been speed dating, where I take my turn moving from table to table to speak for a couple of minutes with as many people as can be fitted into four minutes. So when the great guys over at Date in a Dash dropped me a line and offered me the chance to join them to see what it was like I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s what happened.
100 Wardour Street. That’s where I’m heading on an unexpectedly cold and wet Tuesday evening. Rob from Date in a Dash has sent me the info to come along to try out their speed dating evening, so I’ve decided to take him up on the offer and try it out for the first time. In two years of dating I’ve never been before, this could be fun. Or terrible. Only one way to find out.
The place is swanky and cool in a truly cool way, not the sort of cool you get when people try sticking quirky posters on the wall and calling all of their staff “creatives”. I wander over to the person at the entrance and ask them where to go; I’m pointed downstairs into the basement. I drop my bag and coat into the cloakroom and head downstairs to the bar.
I’m not the first of us there, far from it. I’m always told “there are ALWAYS more women at dating events than men”. This is my fifth random dating event, and so far every single one of them has had things totally the other way around. As he is sat sticking names to scorecards I’m told by Tom, the guy running tonight’s proceedings, that there are 14 women and 18 men. These are not the greatest of odds, but most of the guys look a little nervous and self conscious despite the fact all of them are in groups together so perhaps it’s not totally hopeless for me.
Old fashioned cocktail in hand, I notice that two girls are at the bar next to me looking over at the assembled guys and already checking them out. With no-one else to talk to I decide to get chatting with them, so open my mouth with no idea what will come out of it. Before long we are talking away freely and easily as if we’d been friends for years, with them telling me all about their history at these things and what they’re looking for. They’re relaxed, friendly and funny, and really help to put me at ease, just in time for me to notice that most of the other people have wandered over to the area set aside for us to get going.
I join them, walking past an effortlessly cool band playing chilled out versions of garage classics from the late 90’s and early 00’s; heavenly. A quick chat with a couple of the other guys (who are veterans of between three and seven other speed dating events) Before Tom jumps into action, setting out the female participants on seats around the edges of the room and setting the scene for us all; a few minutes with each person, make sure you note down their name and whether or not you want to see them again and move on as soon as the whistle is blown.
And then the whistle is blown.
I’m one of a handful who have to wait until the whistle has gone once or twice before we can sit down for the first time (too many men there), which gives me the chance to look around the room. There are a real range of people there by the looks of them, but my eye keeps getting drawn to one corner. It’s a little dark, admittedly, but in that corner is someone who looks jaw-droppingly stunning. Beautiful in a way that it’s sort of difficult to describe. I do look around at others, but realise that my eyes are sliding back one way. If nothing else, the format of the event means I at least get to speak with her for a couple of minutes even if nothing more.
And then it’s time for me to forget about her for a second and to sit down for the first time. I take my place opposite a very attractive woman who shakes my hand and soon tells me she’s a doctor. She’s relaxed, smiling and talkative, and I’m sure only a little of that is down to the two glasses of wine in front of her. Conversation flows easily, and I make sure I not only note down her name before moving on but also pop a tick next to it under the “yes” column. And then it’s already too late to find out more – the whistle blows and I move on.
Next up is another medical person; she’s a friend of the doctor and they came together. Conversation is just as easy, though I’m not sure the spark is there in the same way. Before I can work out why not the whistle blows again. I’m talking to number three, but realise very quickly that I’m not focusing on what she’s saying, partly down to just a lack of chemistry, but partly down to the fact I’m aware that I’m only one person away from the girl in the corner.
By the time I finally sit down in front of her I know she’ll be a yes already. The way she moves, the smile on her face, the sparkle in her eyes. I can’t stop looking at her. We talk, both smiling and laughing and saying loads without saying anything. After what feels like ten seconds the whistle blows. There is no way that was four minutes! Part of me feels that if we had been sitting there for an hour it would’ve felt equally short which can only be a good sign, right? She says almost exactly the same as I stand to leave. I tell her that I hope to see her afterwards at the bar, which she agrees with whilst looking at me with those glittering eyes. Is she saying that to all the guys?
No matter, it’s time to move on. Stop thinking about her. Next up is someone who is great, though who suffers from the fatal flaw of having the same name as my ex. Can I manage that? Could I date someone whose mere name alone has so much history for me? I decide not to tick either yes or no just yet, but if she had a different name I know it’d be a yes. On to the next; maddeningly she has exactly the same name. They’ve come together. Same thing. No more ticks.
I move around the room, smiling and telling different short stories and comments based on the person in front of me. It becomes very clear that I know almost instantly the no’s and most of the time the yes’s too, so I can relax and trust my instincts. Talking to new people is literally my job after all, the difference being that I’m selling me rather than a product.
Eventually I come along to the two I’d met at the bar; it was clear that we all got on brilliantly as friends so we drop the flirting elements and just chat about how it’s going. I mention the girl in the corner; they both approve. I ask how they were getting on and hear about the guy that one of them has met at a different event; I’m able to share a little insight into him as we were chatting earlier. Hopefully it’ll help.
And then it’s done. Our cards get collected in and we’re left to our own devices, so I wander to the bar and grab another drink. As most people have come in groups they are all busy debriefing; I briefly consider calling it a night and heading home, but the music is too good, the barman knows my drink order before I open my mouth and I don’t get to these things often so I decide to stick it out. I approach and chat to random people to see how they got on, noting that the girl in the corner is always surrounded by three or four guys. Did she just glance over at me? No. Don’t be stupid. Just chat with other people and enjoy it.
The guy I’m chatting with is having a great night. He’s funny and intelligent and conversation flows. The girl from the corner comes over to stand with us – turns out they work together and she came with him. Before I know it the two of us are talking. And talking. And talking. We’re talking as quickly as when we first met, as if we’re both scared that a whistle will blow before we say something important. I mention the Dating Show Live and she says she’d be interested in going with me, so we swap numbers.
Eventually it’s time to go as we both need to catch trains. Outside the first girl is propped up by one of the guys as she is more drunk than I’ve seen anyone in quite some time. The girl in the corner and I find ourselves on our own walking to the tube. We don’t stop talking, other than when we hit the platform and it comes time to say goodbye. Neither of us knows how to end the evening. We jokingly shake hands, only to find that neither of us lets go. Eyes lock. Everything is said without a thing being said. We kiss, and I curse the fact that the last trains home will wait for neither of us.
The smile on my face won’t stop. I message her before I get home – screw the games that you’re supposed to play about leaving it a while; if I like someone then I’m going to tell them. She messages back. Looks like this could get fun.
The next day I hear back from Rob, who emails me to tell me matches have been uploaded to their website so I need to log in to review them – turns out I’ve got four matches, though strangely not the girl in the corner, who messages me to insist she really did tick me. Whatever the reason for the lack of match, I’m more glad than ever that we swapped numbers ourselves.
Looking back, the evening was a wonderful blur of faces, conversation, energy and adrenaline. The venue was outstanding, somewhere I’d definitely revisit even if only to listen to the band there and enjoy a cocktail or two. The host, Tom, made everyone feel relaxed and at home, and did his best to manage the timings despite people turning up late, and made sure a speed dating virgin like me felt happy taking part. Yes, their website and emails look a little dated and in need of a brand refresh, but it’s at least all functional.
Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. The fellow guys there were great, there were women there that I’d love to see again and I may have made a couple of good friends too. Would I do it with Date in a Dash? Also yes; I can’t imagine how they could make an evening like that better, other than giving us slightly longer with each person. Still, within what they had control of I would be more than happy to pay the price and book on again.
Now, I’m off to work out why the girl in the corner stopped returning my messages later that week. One day I’ll catch a break, I’m sure.
A Dating Dad will be going along to the Dating Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham on 29/30 June. The show promises to be the biggest and best dating show in the country ever, and is a must-attend for anyone serious about finding love or serious about having a great time. If you want to join him and 10,000 other people you can use his affiliate link to book your tickets, which will mean A Dating Dad gets a couple of quid to put towards maintaining this blog.