Chianti, Criticism and Clean Sheets

Fired up by a recent Tindering lull, and a consequent dearth – both of dates and, to be brutally honest, of anything to write about – I settle down with my omelette, and a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, and open my Tinder. Whichever one of the chaps said that this stuff is better than Plymouth Gin is wrong, I think, but it slides down easily enough. By the time I switch my phone off for my afternoon sleep, three gin and slimline tonics later, I have sixteen new matches. Sixteen! That’s a whole rugby team and a spare chap.

Waking up with a start, I see that it’s 6pm and I’m meeting my friend at 7pm. Dragging myself through to the kitchen, I pour a Red Bull Zero into a glass, turn my phone on to check my Tinder messages and…oh no…somehow I’ve spilt my whole drink all over the floor and the glass table.
The flat has only just been cleaned this morning, I think as I try to clean up the sticky mess with a sponge: all the cleaning cloths are in the washing machine which is in the middle of a cycle. Wiping up what I can from the floor, I hunt for the glass cleaning spray – my beautiful little glass table is covered in Red Bull – and can’t find it. Maybe it is finished. Argh.
Sponging down the table, smearing the glass, I decide to give up and go to run my bath. There isn’t really time for a bath, but I haven’t washed since the gym earlier and it’s 30 degrees or so out there.

“Hi Lucy, You look all blond and summery,” I tell her, hugging her. We haven’t seen each other since before my operation, before Christmas in fact, seven months ago.
We order some wine: half a bottle of Chianti (for me) and half a bottle of Frascati (for her) and get down to business – talking about this blog.
“So, you know I love the blog,” Lucy says, and of course I can hear the “but” about to burst in.
“But?” I say, sipping my Chianti. Mmmm that slips down a treat – the velvety smoothness bringing back nights in Florence. It feels quite “summer night in Florence” here actually in the blazing heat in a conservatory in an Italian restaurant.
“Well I feel it’s lost a bit of focus,” Lucy says. “At the start there was all that stuff, examining what Tinder is, and episodes on your dates and now…well…what was that one about your personal trainer? I don’t get the point of that one? And those two about Seb?”
“Ah,” I said. “Well I’ve cut down the number of dates I’m going on. I guess since meeting the Iceman, and since seeing Seb again, I’ve sort of lost my lust for more first dates. All that effort to flirt on Tinder and over What’s App and then to arrange the date and then the date, and then nothing and…”
“I agree,” Lucy nods, slipping into big-sister-mode. She was my colleague at work for years and showed me the ropes and looked after me. She still does.
“I mean, I’m not even ill, and I find first dates emotionally exhausting, it must be even worse for you,” she says. “You need to make sure that you don’t lose focus with the blog though. You need to keep in sight what you’re writing it for. What is that stuff about the personal trainer or…”
“Well the blog isn’t just about dating I guess,” I say, “it also chronicles my attempt to build up my physical health again after chemo, radiotherapy, Engelbert, surgery. And feeling better about how I look after such major surgery and weight gain. The personal training is about that. Things are tough, getting back to normal, even normal for me, is going to take a while and…”
“Fair enough,” Lucy says, “but it’s not very interesting. What the readers want is the dating, not to know how many different stomach exercises you did last week.”
“I’ve been having a bit of a rest from dating all the time, since I met the Iceman, who hasn’t been in touch since Wednesday by the way, and…”
“What is the blog for though?” Lucy says, sipping her wine.
“I think it’s going to be a book,” I say. “I’d like it to be, and…”
“Right, so in that context the Seb stuff is interesting, plot wise: are you going to get back together with him or…”
“I wish,” I sigh. “He still wants to be celibate and…”
“What’s he doing now then?” Lucy says. She’s been there since the very start of the Seb saga: the day after my first date with him, 9 years ago, I remember coming into the office and telling her I’d met this amazing chap.
“He’s going to do an access course in Brighton in September. At the moment he’s still at his Mum’s, putting up marquees for money full time and…”
“And the spelling in the blog,” Lucy says. “There are loads of typos and that’s not like you and…”
“Ah,” I say, “the thing is you see, I write the blog on my phone. There isn’t a spellcheck or anything.”
“Really?” Lucy stops eating the grilled courgettes and looks up, surprised. “You don’t write it on a computer?”
“My computer is on his last legs. Suzy says she’s known better, faster computers in the developing world,” I say, feeling sad for my trusty old laptop.
“Ah, I see,” Lucy says. “That explains it. I thought you wrote it in the evening and checked it and…”
“No, I dash it off in the morning when I wake up, read through it quickly and press send” I say.

My phone pings, the sweet sound of a Tinder message.
“Sorry, I have to check: Tinder message,” I say, opening it. It is from a devastatingly hot chap. Smiling, I hand my phone to Lucy: “look,” I say.
“Wow,” she says.
“He must be an actor or model,” I say. Those are professional photos, as we know from working with actors.
“Ask him,” Lucy says.
“Actor? Model?” I message him.
“Yes,” he writes back. “I was. Now I’m a doctor.”
“Ooohhhh he was a model or actor but now he’s a doctor,” I say.
“Probably a dentist,” Lucy says. “Look at those teeth.”
His teeth are very white and even. Not the teeth of an English person, I think.
“What sort of doctor are you?” I message him.
“Forensic psychiatrist,” he messages back.
“He’s a forensic psychiatrist,” I tell Lucy. “How exciting.”
“Great,” she says. “Go on a date with him.”
“He might realise that I’m fucking mental,” I say. “Ah well, at least I’m not criminally insane. Yet.”

Walking home in the Mediterranean heat with a spring in my step, I feel excited about Mr Model-turned-Forensic-Psychiatrist. Maybe he’ll be amazing, I think. And that’s the attraction of first dates, the reason I keep going with them: maybe this one will be amazing, this time I won’t screw up. Each first date is a clean page which I can fill with whatever I want, a new chance to begin again.


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