Date 25: My friends sold me to a Finnish Superwoman

So, I'm getting close to the end of the adventure, and starting to confront the very real possibility that I'll be single at the end of it, barring some sort of incredibly convenient narrative twist (but more on that later). 

I'm also deep into making a quite difficult documentary film, and working on a number of big investigations and articles for newspapers, so my dating (and writing!) time is limited, despite the end being in sight. That said, when you start to get comments on your serious, proper articles like "I don't think it's too much to ask that you spend more time going on and writing about amusing dates and less time investigating large-scale wastage of public money. Priorities, man" ... you know you have to get back in the game.

So, like anyone flailing around in this sort of situation, I turned to my friends for help. Fortunately, there's a website set up for just that situation - My Single Friend (MSF).

The idea is, "we" (we all being all the smug married happy people in the world) all have that one friend who is single and you can't understand why. Or, more likely, you totally understand why this hapless goon is single, but are willing to lie to a stranger in order to make up the numbers at your exquisite dinner parties. 

The gimmick, and the difference between it and other sites is you don't write your profile, your mates do. This avoids the crushing humiliation of actually writing yet another dating profile, plus makes online dating less of a solitary activity, and more of a fun thing you do with friends.

I'd heard only good things about the site, so I was looking forward to trying it. It's popular among ladies - partly because it's a good way of bonding with and actually helping a single depressed mate over a bottle of Lambrini, but also partly because it's quite hard to get someone to fill out the profile unless you really are friends with them. Getting even a good friend to actually follow through on writing it is quite hard - it's surprisingly difficult to convince someone to write a 400 word essay about why you're great, no matter how many times you've held their hair back while they are sick by a Bristol Kebab van. 

The reason that makes it popular is the requirement to actually have some friends (and the fact it's a paid site) acts as a good sieve through which the neanderthal misogynist element that hangs around the periphery of most dating sites is filtered out. In case you're late to the blog, here's a good recent example of that sort of thing, via the excellent Ms. Holly Brockwell.  

Mind you, that might not always work. I think my favourite MSF anecdote came from a friend in telly, who found herself very drawn to a man on the site, after he was written up beautifully by a lovely female friend of his called Zelda. After about 5 dates, the friend asked the man, who she had by then fallen for quite heavily, "when am I going to meet Zelda?" The bloke rather shamefacedly admitted she'd already met Zelda - because he'd made Zelda up. However, the friend forgave him, and reader, she married him. Maybe I should just cut out the middle man and have "Zelda" write my profile too.

"She" could mention how I'm just like Ernest Hemingway, except with the body of a bronzed greek god. Or, you know, maybe be a little more honest. However, I (perhaps foolishly, as things turned out) decided not to cheat. 

Now, I have a wide group of friends who have been following the blog since the beginning, all of whom have been clamoring to help out. The question was to whom should I entrust the responsibility? This was, after all, the dating equivalent of giving away one of that pair of keys you use to fire nuclear weapons at Russia. As an aside, I've always imagined the British versions of those keys would be a bit shit - that the person handing them over would say "Oh, you have to wiggle them a bit to make them work. There's a knack to it. Try some Vaseline."

I sat down and tried to figure out who should I anoint as my herald. A male friend? A female friend? A gay friend or a straight friend? Someone I knew from work? From University? From School? An arch-leftie? A Swivel-eyed Tory? A relative?

No, scratch that. It should never be a relative. Firstly, if I wanted to go down that route there's The (where your Jewish mother writes your profile), and secondly, I'd spoken to one friend who told me her sister had written her a profile saying "Well, she likes tupperware". Hardly enticing.

A single person might know the dating scene better, but a happily married person might be better at actually knowing what people who settle down are looking for. Decisions, decisions. Egalitarian that I am, I let anyone who wanted to write me a profile do one. This is how I, (Sigh), ended up with 5 profiles on My Single Friend.

One thing I realised fairly early on was that some of your friends should definitely not be writing your profile, even if they aren't related to you. The key sign will be, that person is a dick. There was one profile, written by the male model chum I've mentioned before, which led with "Do you love to laugh? And fuck? Then Willard is the man for you!" 

I mean, yes, I was looking for a woman who enjoyed both laughter and sexual congress - that is to say, "a female human" - but I could see that this wasn't a profile that was going to work. Or was it? He's much more successful with women than I am. 

Once, a few years back, we were standing in a nightclub toilet, when in walks an attractive lady. He says "You realise this is the gent's toilet, right?" She replies "Yeah, I know". He says "So what are you doing in here then?" She says "Looking for a man like you". He smiles, gestures at a toilet cubicle. She smiles. They then depart into it to get naked. I was pretty astounded at the time; indeed, years later I'm still astounded. Then again, I think there's a reason he pulls in Nightclub toilets and I don't. I have different charms, lets say. Ones less obviously displayed in a muscle vest.

I suppose that's the nature of online dating in a way. It's best for people like me who are a good at being charming in print. A well-written dating profile is the closest I'm going to get to a push-up bra for a good sense of humour, or a tight pair of jeans for being well read and interesting. Handing over the rights to show that off to someone else felt odd, especially if they seemed to be screwing it up.

You are also relying on your friends to not say something unflattering about you. And lets face it, they know you well enough to know all the unflattering things about you. Some of them are honest enough to say those things, the damn fools. 

Another of my profiles, written by a smug married couple, included the line "He's lovely, brilliantly chaotic, always dropping everything to rush off on some sort of adventure...that means he's not the most reliable of people. He missed our wedding!" Thanks guys. Way to make me sound like a good bet. You might as well have written "AVOID AT ALL COSTS - DEADBEAT DAD IN THE MAKING". They did at least have a big section on what a good cook I am, so at least the kids will get well fed on the one weekend in four that I see them. Of course, I probably would have had to sell their beds to pay the rent that week or something. 

Of course, you're not completely at the mercy of your friends. You get a right to reply at the bottom of the friend's profile - where I could point out I'm not some sort of cataclysmically unreliable chancer (anymore). My excuse was pretty much that there was a different Willard, an evil Willard, but I killed him.

What you basically need is someone who knows what a single woman on a dating site is looking for. And someone who likes you enough they are willing to l̶i̶e̶  gloss over your flaws.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that came from a single female friend - in this case my long suffering chum Janine. Yes, the lass I was talking to on facebook chat at the start of this blog. Janine wrote a profile that was appealing enough I wrote my right to reply saying "Well, I pretty much agree with Janine, to be honest." Janine, by the way, is very much one of those people I haven't got the slightest idea why she's single. Well, to be fair, she *does* love country and western music. But, if you can see past that flaw, (or, god forbid, share it) and if you're an exceedingly handsome, charming man, preferably Irish, who is reading this, and fancies a date with her, drop me a line via the blog, and I'll see what I can do.

So, all of the profiles were running, and I sat back and waited. They all generated interest. The male model's profile did, to be fair, attract quite a few women with a serious amount of cleavage, very few of whom could spell. Janine's was by far the best. Within a week of turning it on, I'd spent the money to get a full account, and arranged a date with a stunning Scandinavian lady. Well, I *think* Finland counts as Scandinavia, anyway.

She - slightly bizarrely - invited me as her date to a dinner her company was holding on HMS Belfast, which is an old battleship (well, heavy cruiser) moored near Tower Bridge. Now, normally, I think dinner first dates are a bad idea, as it's much harder to escape quickly if things go wrong. However, she seemed nice enough, so I thought what the hell. When was I next going to get the chance to meet a beautiful woman on a battleship? It's not often you get to go on a date where the venue is festooned with 6" guns. I was a little worried this might have ended up another one of those super weird dates - battleship, foreigner, work do all rang alarm bells, but it was fine in the end.

It was quite fun - we ended up arriving early, sharing sparkling wine, and spent most of the evening chatting happily, with only occasional smalltalk with other guests about other things. We chatted about Finland - I surprised her by knowing quite a bit about the Finnish concept of Sisu, which is a basically untranslatable nordic concept, all about being tough and stoic while terrible things happen. I didn't know that it could come in good and bad varieties, and that a cowardly person could be described as having "Bad Sisu", which had a Finnish word which I can't recall and even if I could probably couldn't find all the accents required to type it.

Inevitably, the nature of My Single Friend means you end up talking about the person who recommended you. She'd been recommended by her smug married sister - but of course the conversation turned to why if Janine thought I was so great, isn't she dating me? Well, sometimes you can like a person, without there being any spark of romance.

Which sadly was also true of this date. She was very sporty - into snowboarding, hang-gliding, running marathons and rock climbing. It's fair to say, I'm not really into any of those things, as I'm not James Bond. 

She lamented the shortage of well-read, successful, interesting men who love all those things, and I sympathised, all though I suspect to be good at all of those things you'd need to not sleep very much, or possess a great deal of Sisu. 

She was certainly all of the above, so presumably there's some eugenically perfect chap (currently, no doubt climbing a mountain while reading Camus' L'Etrangere) out there for her. However, it certainly isn't me. 

So back to the wasteland, and once more on my own...

Next week, Willard tries Warcraft dating through LFGDating and Chat-roulette style random dating from Doing Something... and then the week after, the big finale!

Date 24: The Mix Tape Scientist

I've done some strange dates in my time. However, without doubt, this was the strangest evening thus far.

It all started quite promisingly. My friend Martin, who writes about science and things for the Guardian, invited me to this scientist dating thing.

The idea was it was a speed dating event, for scientists. As well as the dating, there were a series of quite fun sounding experiments in human relationships. You were going along to simultaneously meet people interested in science and do science at the same time.

So, for example, once they'd done all of the speed dating blindfolded so things were completely based on your conversation; another time they'd done a thing with motion capture suits and body language. It sounded like a fun, interesting night out, and maybe a good way to meet the kind of intimidatingly intelligent lady I'm attracted to. Ideally a doctor - I mean, what better way to make my Jewish mum proud?

It was being held in a Trade Union Working Men's hall in deepest darkest east London. I probably should have looked at the phrase "Trade Union Working Men's Hall" and realised this probably wasn't the event for me.

I got off the tube and started to wend my way through the narrow streets. The bustling markets gave way to deserted streets, which gave way to row after row of boarded up terraced houses. The neighborhood was like a demilitarised zone.Eventually, after about 15 minutes walk, I got to the working mens club. It was like a bunker - huge oak doors reinforced with steel, steel bars over all the windows. Inside it was a glum place, all peeling paint, tattered home-made flyers for discos in 2010 and fused sets of fairylights.

Downstairs, in the basement "Ballroom", there were a set of plastic chairs, a bar where a burly barmaid with a beehive was serving beer, and a gigantic heart, crudely fashioned out of tinsel. Not the most promising venue. It had the air of a Butlins holiday camp in a fallout shelter. And not a ritzy fallout shelter either.

Two cheery, exceptionally enthusiastic women greeted me, checked my ticket, and gave me a massive sticker with my name on it. Because nothing says cool like name labels! A few minutes of chatting to them revealed to me this wasn't just going to be fun, it was going to be SCHEDULED FUN! You can't have fun without a timetable, right? It was about this point that Martin, demonstrating the renowned reliability of Guardian journalists, texted me to cancel. I was on my own. Fucking lefty bastards.

People started drifting in. There were a bunch of pretty attractive women, and a bunch of male scientists. I'm not saying they lived up to a particular stereotype, but there was only one other bloke who looked like he, rather than his mum, bought his clothes.

Anyway, looking at the schedule, we had a half-hour lecture on the psychology of dating from an expert, then an experiment invoving looking at objects we'd brought with us that summed up our personality, then the speed dating. We took our seats and our man with the PhD got started into his lecture. Not only did he habitually clear his throat to such an extent I thought he might be trying to pronounce words in one of those Eastern European languages that Stalin banned, the material he delivered was a straight lift from the pages of the Game. 

It went a bit like this:

"Hruumphh. Ummmm Hi. I, ummm, I'm like, writing my PhD on the secrets of Ahhruumphhh....ruurummppphhharrhhhmmmmppph a group of fascinating geniuses. Men who describe themselves as Ahhrrruumpppphhhh pickup artists." 

<Pause, flip through dense Powerpoint slides, pause to visibly rub himself, continue>

His PhD was in looking at the bible of the Rape Jedi and seeing if it was true. He described women like fish in a Jack Cousteau movie - strange, mysterious, unknowable creatures of the deep -  and I could tell there hadn't been a lot of field research on his part.

It was so strange, for the first five minutes I thought it might be character comedy or performance art. There was no analysis of whether all the tricks to attract women were true or not, just verbatim repetition of the Rules of the Game, accompanied by a Powerpoint covered in spangles and glitter. The Powerpoint was incredible - the sort of thing an eleven year old girl might design after an afternoon of watching My Little Pony while overdosing on Skittles.

After that five minutes, it dawned on me that he was TOTALLY SERIOUS. He wasn't pretending to be a weird academic studying a self-help book as though it was Marx - he was the real deal. There was no diversion into what might work for women on men, despite the 50/50 male female ratio. Just half hour an hour of how to manipulate and deceive the ladies, delivered by a man who had "I want a Fritzl dungeon" written all over him. I was seriously worried that at any moment he might flip to a slide of the glittery suits he'd made from his victim's skins or something.

Despite the horrified looks from the organisers and most of the audience, he ignored signals to stop, and just plowed on with the full lecture. At the end, he got to the end of his presentation, and asked "Ahhrhahhhump...Any questions?"

There was a moment of silence, and I put up my hand. He pointed to me, and I asked "Isn't this - and the whole pickup artist scene - all just weird misogynist bullshit?" He didn't really get a chance to answer as there was a spontaneous round of applause from the ladies. We then broke for drinks, where everyone expressed shock and dismay at the guest speaker's performance, then we all launched into looking at the objects we'd all brought with us. The men looked at the women's objects, and vice versa. I'd brought my BBC issue flak jacket, which was misidentified loudly by someone as a "fishing vest". Wrong kind of rugged manly appeal.

This might have been interesting, but mid-way through this, a group of rowdy seventy year old working men insisted on pushing into the venue, and sat in the corner in a group, drinking bitter and heckling the nerds. One had his wife with him, who sat at separate table, playing patience. Maybe married life isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The one object that really caught my eye was an old school mix-tape. I hadn’t actually seen a cassette tape in ages; and for people of a certain age, mixtapes are the sweetest gift. I picked it up, and was pleased to see that the person who had brought it had superb taste in late 90’s Britpop. The game was afoot.

Finally, the speed dating kicked off, and we started to rotate around the tables. The women were all interesting, but seriously underwhelmed by the quality of the men. “It's like dating the characters, rather than the cast, of the Big bang theory”, said one woman.

After a bit of hunting, I found the mixtape lady. We sat down, got to chatting. She was impressed I'd guessed hers was the mixtape, and she'd pegged the flak jacket was mine right away. She was a teacher – observant, pretty, interesting, great taste in music, but regretting coming to the scientist dating thing immensely. I asked her why and she replied “The last bloke was picking his nose and his bum at the same time as he walked over.”

That’s not a bad epitaph to the night as a whole. As soon as the speed dating was over, everyone rushed for the door, despite the fact that a really good comedy duo, Robin and Partridge were booked to play. I think everyone was desperate to avoid being stranded in the mutant haunted wastes of East London before the last tube left. I stayed and watched the desultory spectacle of two great comedians performing to an audience of grumpy drunk heckling old men before I left.

As I sat slightly shellshocked on the train home, I totted it up. I’d gone to a science experiment in a bunker, where the MC was a misogynist obsessed with glitter, which had been gate crashed by rowdy pensioners. Still, I lived in hope that the mixtape lady would email me and we could go on a date for more than four minutes.

Sadly, she didn’t get in touch – but these days, I'm pretty relaxed about not being everyone's cup of tea. For all the strangeness, it wasn't a bad ego boost – I realised that compared to some men out there, I’m quite the catch…

Date 23: The Data-driven Dater

So, I've left some of the bigger dating sites, the ones advertised on the telly, to near the end. I actually quite like E-Harmony's TV ad (I'm quite a fan of quirky brunettes in floral dresses), and it had a reputation for being the one people use when they were in the market to settle down. Seeing as that's what I'm after, it should have seemed like a logical choice for near the start, right?

Well, confession time, I actually thought I'd have girlfriend by now - and E-Harmony had never really appealed to me, quirky brunettes or no. It seemed like the most mechanical version of online dating. People told me the profile took forever to complete - one of my mates described it as "E-Self-Harmony". It's all based on one of these bizarre pseudoscientific personality tests - you know, the kind of thing your school made you do when you were thirteen, to tell you what career you were suited to. 

The ones that never told you you'd be a "motorcycle daredevil" like you hoped, but instead gave you something you definitely didn't want to do, like "Mainline railway station bootblack", "Piscine Agronomist" or "Council environmental waste management officer". I've always wondered if there are some people who come out of those tests with results like "Crimelord" or "Feckless Layabout" or "Tragic Date Blogger".

As I say, I'd heard the stories of how bad the profile was to fill out, but nothing had quite prepared me for the full horror of it. It's charmless and takes ages. No word of a lie, there must be over 300,000 questions to answer. Well, really about 300, but it feels ENDLESS. Each page of 20-30 questions ticks the profile completion up about 2% at a time. It took me about an hour of box checking to get about half-way through, I foolishly went and made a coffee, only to return to my computer and find the whole thing had crashed.

It's akin to applying for a job at a major corporation, or being asked about your personality and dating desires by a particularly rude and brusque Dalek. 

I could help but read these warnings in my best HAL 5000 voice

Also, some of the questions are very odd. For example, at one point, I was asked to rate my rationality on a scale of 1-7, from "not rational at all" to "I am very rational'. Another asks you to rate "how often you suspect you are being plotted against" from "always" to "never".

I mean, who ticks one out of seven for both of those? Presumably, if you're sitting there with borderline personality disorder, hallucinating unicorns that are scheming against you, online dating is probably not your bag.

I returned to the computer, and started again. Every now and again, it will flash up little messages, encouraging you to keep going. "This process may seem long, but I believe it will be so worthwhile for you--just as it has been for so many others before". Yeah, right.

By now, it was not unlike those grueling interrogations you see in films. You know the ones, where the Gestapo have tied the hero to a chair, are shining a bright light in his eyes and demanding to know where the resistance are hiding. Of course, the Gestapo aren't asking you to rate where the resistance are on a bloody scale of 1-7 from "almost never in caves" to "In the caves right now!".

Finally, I got to the end of the questionnaire, but before I could rise from my knees and call out "THERE.ARE.FOUR.LIGHTS!", I realised that I still had to go through all the normal rigmarole of uploading pictures and being charming and so on. And then they presented me with the bill for being interrogated and my jaw dropped.

E-Harmony is by far the most expensive dating site I have used. It's a quite astonishing £34.95 for a month. You can make it cheaper per month by forking over more cash - you can pay £75 for three months, £90 for six months, or £120 for a year. Of course, yes you are getting it cheaper by buying in bulk, but you are also effectively betting on yourself to fail. It's only good value to take out a year's membership if you think you're too much of a loser to find love in six months.

Of course, looking at my own success, or lack thereof, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea. Equally part of the appeal of the site is that it's for people who are really serious about dating. No-one is spending hours doing a psychological profile and then spending £35 a month if all they want is casual sex, when OK Cupid will give them that for free, and even classier places like Guardian Soulmates and My Single Friend will do it to a classier audience for £10 a month. No, if you go on E-Harmony, you are seven out of seven SERIOUSLY WORRIED ABOUT DYING ALONE.

 Possibly somewhat cockily, I signed up for a month's membership, assuming I could find at least one person in my first month of trying. Of course, once again, E-harmony attempted to thwart me. As opposed to other sites, where you can browse the entire membership, E-harm only shows you your matches, and shows you them on a slow drip feed, maybe one or two a day. 

My first couple of weeks, I wasn't attracted to anyone. I started to wonder if maybe I should have shelled out more money on a longer subscription or maybe I had been overly liberal on clicking on boxes like "I don't care about the looks of my partner", which made me feel less like a Nazi while going through the interrogation, but presented me with a cavalcade of warty trouts to date.

I mean, we all sort of wish it wasn't true that we judge attractiveness at least partially on looks, but I was depressingly finding it to be quite true of myself. I mean, I'm not that picky, and I'm no oil painting myself, but Christ, some of these women all but had a calliope organ playing in the background while tophatted Victorian punters rolled up to leer at them. Even when you are offered a match who isn't some kind of ghastly curiosity, there's no way of telling if they're still on the site.

Finally, three weeks in, I got a date. Phew. We arranged to meet in a trendy bar in Camden; a place I rather like that does excellent craft beer (including the strongest beer in the world, which is served inside a taxidermied squirrel) and wonderful cheeseboards. The girl I was meeting worked locally, and she worked in "data analysis". We'd chatted a few times on the phone before I met her, which struck me as slightly odd.

She turned up, and was brilliantly geeky. Glasses, curly brown hair. A genuine quirky brunette, so it seems I can abandon that ASA complaint. She was really, really wonderfully quirky - it was like being on a date with a female Nate Silver. We chatted science, and numbers, and graphs. She explained the difference between an infographic and a diagram.  Normally, none of these topics are particularly exciting, but her obvious enthusiasm for the subject carried the conversation through.

Anyway, about twenty minutes into the date, she asks me about the blog, then asks me about my "system". I reply "I don't really have one, I just date people who seem cool". She looked at me like I'd said "I eat the hearts of my foes, to gain their delicious courage."

"YOU DON'T HAVE A SYSTEM?!" she replied, and bam, out comes her Macbook. She boots up a spreadsheet, and highlights my name on it. I realise I am looking at my entry in someone else's dating spreadsheet. There are multiple colours, multiple tabs. The data lass explains that she lists everyone who she has contacted; everyone who has contacted her; the progress of every conversation.

She responds to messages she likes, Googles you to find out what you do and if that accords with the profile you've written ("Photo analysis for height is quite hard; but doable"). Then, she calls a couple of times, to "have a real conversation, make sure you aren't weird". Then once you've been messaged, googled and called, she arranges a date with you. Apparently, she'd broken one of her rules by meeting me somewhere new, but "you seemed charming enough I felt you probably had good taste".

Only about one man in ten makes it through the "system" to get a date; oh, and of course, there's a tab for the men she's dating. Now, I suspect there are two camps on this sort of thing - the sort of person who says "OF COURSE YOU HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR DATING! By Crom, you'll be telling me you don't itemise your receipts, next!".

And then there are people like me, who find the whole mechanisation of the process faintly terrifying. While I enjoyed my data-driven date - which included glasses of the world's second strongest beer, "Sink the Bismark" (which sadly isn't served out of a model Nazi Battleship), and a long discussion about the worst genre of music known to man (I hadn't even heard of Viking metal before - apparently it's "the worst of hero metal, black metal and folk metal combined") - I was pretty glad to escape back into the pre-industrial world of Artisanal Organic dating.

Or, at least as artisanal and homemade as online dating can ever be...

Date 22: Dating with your Hedgehog

A close friend of mine (she of kinky sex boots fame) recently asked an interesting philosophical question: “Do you think if you’d gone on 21 totally normal dates, and not written the blog, you’d still be single now?” It’s an interesting question, but I suppose I’m a bit too far down the rabbit hole now to go back.

Indeed, it’s just starting to sink in that any date I go on in the future will probably find out about the blog, will probably read it. Hopefully they’ll like it. Maybe I should spend more time talking about how I have the sort of incredible sculpted body normally only observed on ancient Greek statuary, with perfect buns of pure Athenian marble. Of course, that would be, as we say in journalism, “a lie”. Maybe I should mention my incredibly cute pet?

Yes, I keep a pet hedgehog, and she is lovely. Most people’s attitude to the little beast are pretty much summed up by this exchange:

How, indeed, am I still single?

It often comes up on dates. The hedgehog, not the singleness. I mean, being single is normally the default for dating, right? Most people are, it must be said, charmed by the hedgehog. People are often surprised you can keep them as pets. They’re not spiky unless they get upset. On top, it’s not much different to touching a hairbrush, but they have lovely fluffy bellies that they enjoy having stroked. They say pets are like their owners, so draw your own conclusions about that, I suppose.

So, anyway, I recently went on a date with a very attractive lady. I was a little unsure of exactly how attractive she was, as she had one of those classic online profile pictures where a key part of her was obscured - the lower part of her face, by a wine glass, in this case. I’ve learned to become a little wary of obscured picture like this, but what the hell, I thought.

We were due to meet at a lovely middle-eastern place for breakfast. I was about half-way there when she texted me to say “I realise this is very weird, but I've woken up with a lost voice. So weird. Tea hasn't made any difference. I feel 100% well so if you're chatty I can come and listen and smile?” It was weird, but I, loving the sound of my own voice, thought, “Why not?”.

So, we met up, and she was not only just as attractive as the picture hinted, but also, fortunately, she was able to speak, albeit in a husky tone. We chatted over coffee and shakshuka (it’s a lovely North African breakfast of eggs, peppers and onions) and got along brilliantly. She was smart, beautiful and fascinating, super-successful, all the things I want in a woman.

I was really excited, all ready to ask for a second date, and then she asked me what I was doing for the rest of the Saturday. I answered honestly that my only plan was going to try to teach my hedgehog some tricks - nothing exciting, no blazing hoops to jump through, just how to run on a big wheel.

She gave me a look as though I’d said I was going to go home and tend to my shrine made entirely of human skulls. “You keep a hedgehog?! Why on EARTH would you want to do that? Why would you want to keep a nocturnal burrowing vicious little spiky monster like that?” I tried to explain that hedgehogs are lovely really, but she was having none of it.

She HATED animals. Hated them with an almost unbridled passion. Couldn’t understand why anyone would want a pet. She said that animals were only for eating; and then provided me with a recipe for cooking and eating my lovely little pet alive. It involved rolling the hog in clay, then baking it. Apparently, when you shatter the clay with a hammer, the spines come out and you can devour the juicy hedgehog meat inside. She’d got the recipe from gypsies, apparently.

It’s fair to say after that after “I hate your pet so much I’d kill it in a cruel way and the eat it in front of you”, a second date wasn’t on the cards. She hated animals, I love them. Irreconcilable. I guess it made me realise that I’d find it really hard to live with someone who didn’t like animals, which I’d never really realised about myself before.

Was I really enough of an animal lover to go on Pet Lover dating? While I like animals, I didn’t feel I could date the sort of person that would, for example, buy their dog a super-hero costume or humiliate their hedgehog on buzzfeed.

Within a week of dating the animal-loather, I got the opportunity to find out how a date with an animal lover would go. I went on a date with a woman who loved her Dachshund so much we’d have to go to a dog friendly pub, as the dog apparently couldn’t bear being left alone. We met in the pub, and in she came with her absolutely beautiful little Dachshund puppy, who was incredibly, incredibly cute.

The girl in question was incredibly glam and perfectly turned out, with incredible Hollywood award show hair. She worked in publicity, and fortunately, in the part of incredibly high end entertainment publicity where taking your dog with you everywhere was seen as a positive advantage. We got talking about work, the media, and of course, our pets, and dating them.

She too had encountered a date where she accidentally unmasked an animal-loather, and here's the really weird part: that bloke had offered her a recipe for cooking and eating her dachshund. It seems to be the go-to move for anyone who discovers their date has a pet they aren't keen on. It must be said, there is an acceptable middle ground of "I just don't like pets", before you break out the Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall recipes.

Anyway, the fabulous dog owner and I got on very well, and crucially, the dog liked me enough that he kept trying to shag my arm all through the date, which was a new experience.

So, there you go. Another date, another unfulfilling sexual adventure…:)

No blog is complete without at least one post apologising for the lateness of a post. In this case, there’s been lots of news this week, and I’m also writing a really difficult piece for the New Statesman’s mental health week. It’s hard to do “searing honesty about mental illness” and “quirky dating humour" in the same week. Hopefully I'll get to E-Harmony early next week.