Dogs, Deer and Drinks

“What’s that round your ankle? Is it an electronic tag? Are you on day release from prison for murdering your last boyfriend?” Phil says.
“Ah, that,” I say, detaching the mosquito band from my ankle. “It’s a mosquito-repelling device. Sorry – forgot I was wearing it and…”
“How does it work? Does it emit an electronic signal or…”
“It’s just a pellet in it, they don’t like the scent,” I say. “You can smell it if you want.”
He takes the band from me, lifts it to his nose. “It’s like a citronella candle,” he says. “Does it work?”
“Seems to,” I say.
“What would you like to drink?” He says. We’re at my local pub in the garden. This is my first Tinder date since returning from the Drinking Writing Retreat.
“Gin and slimline tonic please,” I say. “Plymouth gin, if they have it.”
“Right, see you in a minute,” he says, loping off to the bar with long strides. He bends down to pat a spaniel on the head as he passes him.
“One gin and tonic,” he says on his return. “They didn’t have slimline, sorry.”
“Oh that’s OK,” I say, although it isn’t really. Don’t want to make a fuss though. Smiling at him, I take a closer look. He’s about 6 foot 2, tanned, green eyes, a shock of brown hair. He’s nice-looking, this chap, obviously likes dogs too which is a good sign. Unless of course he just patted that spaniel on the head to impress me, I think.
“You like dogs then?” I say, as he sits down.
He smiles. “Yes. Although I prefer cats. Do I get to meet your cat?”
“Ah,” I say. “The thing is – he lodges with my parents at the moment.”
His smile fades. “What a shame. How come? I thought you might turn up carrying him or…”
“They’ve got more space and they’re both retired. More company for him. My Mum thinks the flat isn’t suitable accommodation for her precious grandson, although it’s OK for me.”
He smiles again.
“So, what do you do when you’re not working?” I say.
“Sport, usually,” he says. “Although I’m injured at the moment. Football, cricket, running. Last week I learned how to play the ukulele with a friend.”
“That’s nice,” I say.
“Oh, and I like cooking – did a cookery course last week, but I’m rubbish at it,” he says, smiling.
He’s nice, I think, smiling at him. For the first time in a while I’m on a date with someone who seems to be a genuine, kind person. He seems to be interested in me, and not up himself and quite self-deprecating.
“Do you want to go and see the animals in the park?” I say. “Whilst it’s still light and…”
“Yes, I love animals,” he says.

Arriving at the deer enclosure, I see that they are sitting down.
“Ah, fallow deer,” Phil says. “And there’s a white one. What’s that bird though?”
“That’s a rhea,” I say. “Do the deer sleep sitting down or are they telling us that it’s going to rain?”
“They look really cute. I just want to get in and cuddle them. Look at them flicking their ears,” Phil says. They are flicking their ears to get rid of midges. “I’m having such a good time,” he says.
“Me too,” I say, as we watch the deer.
There are some people who are nice, I think. Even if I don’t see him again, even if nothing happens, I’m enjoying his company now…

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