Wednesday, 24 June 2015

An amorous disappointment

The film High Fidelity was on television the other night and it brought back memories of a rather disastrous date I had with the girl I took to the cinema with me to see it.

A bit of background first. I've never really been one for dates. My preferred way of meeting people has always been through contact in every day life, which for most of my single life meant the pub. However, from the conversations I have with my single friends now it seems that on-line dating has become hugely popular. Does it work? Well it didn't work for me on the one and only occasion I tried it - and that was way back in 1995. At that time internet users consisted primarily of Star Trek fans and people who didn't mind waiting roughly the same amount of time as a ZX Spectrum loading screen for a naughty picture to download on a 28.8k dial up modem.

It is very possible that I was the first ever person to go on an internet arranged date in Oxford. A friend based at the University had just set up a local online dating site and invited me to try it. Since there were only about four members (this wasn't exactly Tinder), my choice of potential dates was limited, but I emailed a promising sounding girl and amazingly, she agreed to meet. This was three days after Christmas and we met in the Turf Tavern. Although we hit it off quite well, it was quite clear early on that nothing more exciting than friendship was going to come of it. She was one of those many women in my youth who "didn't want to spoil the friendship" and we all know what that really means.

During the nineties and noughties, my life consisted of longish periods of being in relationships, sandwiching shorter periods of being single. As mentioned previously, arranged dating didn't really work for me. On the odd occasion I did find myself getting involved in the whole blind date thing, it was invariably a disaster. Nothing is more demoralising to the lonely soul than to meet someone on a blind date and see the disappointment in their face in the first two seconds of clapping eyes on you. No, it wasn't for me, if people wanted to judge me just on first appearances and find me lacking, that was their loss. I decided it was far better to be the life and soul of the party in the pub, get to know people the old fashioned way and let them appreciate my inner qualities. Whatever they were.

So we come to the summer of 2000 and the story of High Fidelity. I was slightly nervous about seeing this film in the first place, even without taking anyone along on a date. It was a movie that had been adapted from my undisputed all time favourite book by Nick Hornby. The book could have been written for me - everything in it from making compilation tapes to top 5 lists of all manner of trivia made me feel almost as if I was reading my own autobiography. Without a doubt, Hornby has had a huge influence on my writing. Maybe he is even a distant relative - my grandmother's maiden name was Hornby.

The book was set in London but the film was relocated to New York which set alarm bells ringing. English stories don't always translate well to the States, but in this case I had no need to worry. The film was every bit as faithful to the book as I had hoped, and Jack Black's casting was inspired - he truly stole the show.

It was perhaps fitting that a major part of the film's narrative was about the lead character's past love life and partners and dates that had gone badly. Because the date I was having was going extremely badly. It was probably even worse for her, because as far as she was concerned, she wasn't even out with the right bloke.

How had this happened? Well, I had been out the previous Saturday evening, and footloose and fancy free as I was at that time, I had spent a fair bit of the evening chatting to various girls I had met. One of these I seemed to be getting on pretty well with, so I asked her if I could have her number. She agreed so we tapped each other's into our clunky little Nokia's which we all had back then, and the evening progressed on, I went off with my friends somewhere else as did she.

The next day was Sunday and I was bit bored, so I decided to try my luck and text her. To my delight she replied straight back and was incredibly friendly. Planning to go and see High Fidelity on Monday night, I asked her if she wanted to come with me. I got a big fat yes in reply, full of enthusiasm, so went off to work on Monday feeling pretty pleased with myself. We arranged that she'd call round my house after work and I'd drive us both to Milton Keynes to see the film.

Dates can go wrong pretty quickly, but not as quickly as this one did. She knocked on the door and I opened up, expecting great things, but as soon as she saw me, her face fell. The first thing she said was "Oh - it's you".

To cut a long story short, it seemed that after we'd parted company on Saturday night, she had gone on to the Litten Tree and met another bloke also called Jason, whose number she had also put into her phone. Obviously this Jason must have been a great deal fitter and more attractive than I was, because if she was making any effort to conceal her disappointment at getting the wrong one, she wasn't making a very good job of it.

In the end I tried to laugh it off and suggested that since she was here, we should go anyway. Big mistake. She said it was the worse film she'd ever seen, citing the phrase "nothing happened" a few times. I've heard this levelled at films (Lost in Translation is one that springs to mind) and books before (including some of my own). Unfortunately it seems for a large percentage of the movie-going public, a film is not a film unless it contains some huge car chase, lots of "unexpected" twists and some huge over-arching plot. For them, a film about ordinary people leading ordinary lives just doesn't cut it, apparently.

So, my favourite book of all time had been made into a film which my date considered to be the worst film of all time. So was there any future in this relationship? Unsurprisingly not and I never saw her again after that night.

As for dating, I only went on one more after that. She turned out to be a teetotal vegan who didn't believe in sex before marriage. Clearly we had nothing in common, so I didn't see her again either. Now that I'm settled down with a family, thankfully I shall never have to put myself through the horror of dating ever again. Amen to all that.


 Jason Ayres is the author of six books, including his brand new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here:

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