“It’s raining” is the first thing out of his mouth.
He hops from one foot to the other as if avoiding drops of lava from the sky. He seems stressed. “Well, what should we do?” he asks. “It’s raining!”
“Let’s go into the gallery,” I reply, wishing I had brought an umbrella – not to keep me dry, but to shove in my date’s mouth. I try to shake the last time I went to a gallery with a date from my mind. This will be different.
Afternoon dates are always a risk. Daylight can be unforgiving, of course, and going for a drink in the afternoon always seems a little seedy when you’re with a stranger.
But here I am, in the absence of anything to do on a grey Saturday afternoon other than count the spatters of tea next to the bin (I’m quite athletic when it comes to chucking tea bags away). I didn’t factor in the rain, but here it is, like a gooseberry. A wet, miserable chaperone to match my date’s mood.
I know exactly why he’s upset: he has a ‘hairstyle’.
It’s a huge quiff, which wasn’t in his photos, so either it’s a new thing he’s trying out (with limited success today), or his dating profile pictures are aeons old. I watch the rain trickle down the lines by his eyes. The quiff, like his profile photo, is not new.
We duck into the National Portrait Gallery, usually one of my favourites. Obviously, lots of other people have had the same idea – the lobby is filled with pissed-off looking people who wouldn’t normally be in here, shaking off sodden cuffs and looking bewildered. The air is heavy and humid. It smells of wet hair and halitosis and museum and doom.
“Do you want to start at the top and work our way down, or look around the bottom floor?” I ask, cursing myself as I do, and praying he won’t come back with a double-entendre.
“Well,” he whispers, narrowing his eyes in a way I imagine he thinks is sexy. Oh dear. “I was hoping to get to know you a bit better first, but I always like to start at the top.”
There is no God.
I laugh a laugh so fake I should either be arrested or given an Oscar, and we make our way up the long escalator to the top floor.
We talk, mainly about the pictures of various Tudors in front of us. I’m not particularly highbrow, but his exclamations about how difficult it must’ve been to have sex in the outfits they wore and musing whether Henry VIII was well-endowed make me feel like a schoolteacher taking a wang-obsessed pupil on a day out. I have to get him away from these paintings.
Down a floor, then. He finally stops ruminating on the sex lives of all the subjects in the portraits and casts his dirty little mind to me instead.
“I hope you don’t mind my wee joke about tops earlier,” he says.
Ah, so he’s kind of read me already. That’s good, I suppose. I’m not a prude or anything, but it was a bit awkward. But, really, I should lighten up. It was just a joke. Anyone else would’ve answered similarly, I’m sure.
“No, of course not.” I smile. Too widely.
“Good,” he says, and our eyes exchange a look that means something and it feels nice. “But out of interest,” he carries on. “Which are you? Give or take? I’ll do you either way; I’m not that fussy.”
I am back out in the rain ten minutes later and it has never felt so good to be wet and alone.
Stats: 38, 5’10”, brown/brown, Inverness
Where: Central London
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: 1/10
Date in one word: Versatile.