Friday, 14 March 2008

Angie the Internet Dating Nutter

So, single again, my mind went back to internet dating.  This time I gave Friends Reunited Dating a go.

I soon came across Angie from Liverpool.  I have friends in Liverpool, so the I know the name of the station is Lime Street and that it isn't Crime Street.  I've been to the Grand National several times as well and I do appreciate Scouse cunning.

As an aside, a group of friends and I were at Aintree for the Grand National and the IRA decided it was good sport to tell everyone that there was a bomb there.  It ruined my day.  We were evacuated from the Champagne guzzling members area to the centre of the course.  After an hour or so it became apparent that nothing was going to happen that day, so we headed back across the fields in to Liverpool.  A couple of 8 or 9 year old scallies, as I believe they are referred to, approached us and said 'ay, ay mister, give us your badge'.  They already had a handful of badges which they could hardly hold, there must have been hundreds of them.  Without thinking, we gave up our badges for the cute kids.  The following Monday I heard the following radio announcement 'Aintree Racecourse have confirmed that anyone with a badge for Saturday's Grand National can send it in for a full refund'.  I actually found it very amusing, those kids must have bagged thousands, if not tens of thousands of pounds!  I wouldn't say that this tainted my experience of people hailing from Liverpool, on the contrary, I rather admired their entrepreneurship.  

So, back to Angie.  We met for the first time and went to a restaurant near Newton le Willows.  It was a very nice evening.  Then we had a pleasant enough evening in Manchester, which lead to a kiss.  She was very good at kissing.  She then started to unravel what she had told me and started to put things in to two camps.  Fiction and non-fiction.  She was blonde with blue eyes.  She wasn't 39 (any more) she was 42.  She wasn't a beautician, she was on a course learning about painting nails.  She hadn't been single for a long time, she'd been single for about two months after her boyfriend, who used to beat her up and anyone who looked at her too, finally went too far, leaving her with a mountain of debt.

I was starting to get cold feet.  We had another lunchtime date in Liverpool, where we happened to bump in to cousins of hers.  I did wonder if the meeting was manufactured, but didn't ask.

A couple of days later I was in a pub with a couple of friends.  I had just taken a mouthful of drink, when I received a text.  It was a short text, all it said was 'I love you'.  Unfortunately for my friends, I couldn't keep my drink in my mouth and it ended up all over them!

This was still early days for me, so naively I suggested we meet up again.  We met at the Albert Dock in Liverpool.  I explained to her that things were moving way too fast for me.  I kissed her on the cheek and left.

Nothing happened for a couple of hours.  Then I received a text.  It said 'Are you sure you've made the right decision'.  I didn't reply.  Then a couple of hours later I received the shocker 'You f***ing c***, you f***ing got me interested then just f***ing dumped me, I want to kill you, you c***' (I've given her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to grammar).  Now, that scared the s*** out of me.  Thankfully, she didn't know where I lived!

Panicking like mad, I didn't know what to do.  Thankfully she came to her senses and sent me a really re-assuring text 'Sorry about that, I have some anger management issues, but they're getting sorted out, sorry again'.  Phew, I thought, that's the last of that!

No!  Then a few minutes later, a repeat of the 'are you sure text, followed by another 'f***ing c***' text, followed by another apology.  After five days I counted over 500 texts from Angie.  Then all of a sudden it stopped.

That scared me off internet dating for a while...

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Internet Dating - a Marital Interlude

All the time I had been separated I tried to see my daughter as much as I possibly could.  Invariably this involved seeing my ex as well.  Since I had moved from France to the Isle of Man these visits were pretty much every other weekend or sometimes every weekend.  I had stopped internet dating for a while and seen a couple of women in the real world.  

I kept thinking 'what if we could make it work' with my ex and eventually I popped the question.  My ex didn't exactly jump at the chance, but she didn't dismiss it either.  To cut a short story shorter, we got back together for a year.  It was great being so close to my daughter as she was growing up so fast.  My ex and I had made a pact that we'd do more things together.  This worked well for a couple of months and then there always seemed to be a reason for not doing things together and the inevitable happened again.

I remember standing at the back door having a smoke one evening.  We were discussing our future and she said the immortal words 'this isn't working; what you're looking for is a girlfriend and what I'm looking for is a husband'.  Various people I have told this to have taken it different ways, but the way I took it was that in her mind, upon marriage, roles changed and her perception of what happened was that the fun disappeared and the work began (I had a different view, strangely enough).  Anyway, all of a sudden it felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  We agreed to separate there and then, although I stayed in the house for a further three months.  This final separation was in September 2007.

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Internet Date 2 - Alma from Lincoln

After meeting Olga in Moscow, I thought I might try and be a bit more geographically selective, so that, at least, if anything did happen, I could see her more than once and fairly regularly.

Alma and I started chatting on and we seemed to get on very well.  I was still based in Toulouse at the time.  We arranged a date in my local town in the UK for the next time I was back, which was the coming weekend.  At least with Alma, there would be no language barriers and the cultural differences should be minimal.  I sent Alma my number, just in case anything happened on the night that meant she was held up.

Within a few minutes, I had a telephone call from her.  She was wanting to check out how I sounded and we chatted for about twenty minutes.  I wan't quite prepared for the phone call like that.  I had been lying low for a couple of months after Olga and this was a bit of a wake up call.

We met near the train station in Huddersfield and went to a few bars.  We did seem to continue to get on and the more I drank the more I thought she was attractive.  She'd warned me she was a big girl and that she had been a size 10 and gone up to size 20 before now.  I'm guessing she was about a 16 when we met.  We ended up having a kiss or two and they were very good kisses.  At the end of the evening, she drove me back to my house.  We texted a lot over that weekend.  I was due to fly back to Toulouse from Gatwick, with a stopover at a friends house in south London, so we managed to sneak another date in, before I travelled south on the following Monday.  Things got pretty heated in the car and her hands roamed to places that I was uncomfortable with, given there were a couple in the car park a few cars away, blatantly watching us have a good time.  Some quite raunchy texts ensued!

The next time I had the chance to see was a couple of weeks later when I was back in the UK.  She picked me up from Lincoln train station and we went back to her house.  We went out around Lincoln and she started telling me some of her intimate stories, like the time her and her boyfriend had picked up another guy and taken him back to hers.  They did what they did and then a couple of weeks later, she got a postcard from the guest with three little piggies on it, which seemed to have spooked her out a bit.  She spent quite a lot of time talking about her ex that night, which by rights, I should have become bored with, but she said it in an amusing, self deprecating way, that made it quite amusing.  I stayed over and in the morning we talked about when to next get together.

My friend was getting married in the Alps, he'd had a 10 year relationship with his girlfriend and they were finally tying the knot.  I drove across from Toulouse to Provence and up to Haute Alpes - what a beautiful part of the world!  After the wedding I drove to Geneva and picked Alma up from the Airport.  We drove in to the City and went to the Crowne Plaza, which I had booked.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel room.  In the evening we went in to town, by now I was getting quite a few texts from my friends at the wedding, wanting an update, so I sneaked off to the bathroom to oblige them.  We had a great dinner and then went to the Casino.  Another great internet date.

This was followed by another date in Lincoln a couple of weeks later, she was very tactile and I think she was more in to me than I was in to her, the net result was I felt a bit uncomfortable with all the groping that was going on.  Anyway, on the way back to Alma's, it started raining so we sheltered in a shop doorway and kissed, quite passionately for a few minutes.  We didn't sleep much that night!

The distance proved too much for this particular relationship and we couldn't get to see each other as much as either as would have wanted.  After I hadn't heard from Alma for a few weeks, she got in touch to ask if I minded if she saw other people as we didn't seem to be going anywhere.  Of course, I said no problem.

Alma and I recently made contact again on Facebook and she is happily married with a son.

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

My First Internet Date - Conclusions

That was quite an introduction to internet dating, so what did I learn, what would I do differently next time, would I have gone on the date if I knew what I know now?

Let's take a look at these questions, firstly, what did I learn?  Shockingly, for me at least, not everyone tells the truth!  I'm a battle hardened internet dater now and I can spot a discrepancy on a profile from ten yards, but back then I was gullible.  Different cultures view different things differently and I should have been more alert to the separated/divorce status issue than I was.

Would I do it differently next time?  I'm not sure, it was my first time and I was learning.

Would I have gone on the date if I knew what I know now?  Yes, definitely, it was a great experience!

Friday, 8 April 2005

My first Internet Date - Olga in Moscow - Part 3

With my first couple of days out of the way, I wanted to see if there was any potential with Olga.  We'd arranged to meet on Monday evening for dinner and I was going to ask some probing questions...

It was the third time we had met up and I was more than a little peeved that she had made minimal effort and probably told me a pack of lies about herself and her situation.  So I asked her to book a nice restaurant for Monday evening.  We'd had another stab at eating Russian food the night before, but I'd drawn a line under that one.  'Which type of meat is this?' to which I got the reply 'meat, you like meat, you want morrrre?'.  I have no idea what it was we ate on Sunday night but it was as tough as old boots.  Olga seemed to enjoy it though.

On Monday evening we met at the hotel again and we flagged down a passing motorist who took us to the restaurant for a few rubels.  The restaurant, was more to my liking, tablecloths, napkins, waitresses without beards and edible food.  Olga warned me this was going to be expensive.  It was about the same as you'd pay for a meal in a good restaurant in central London.  She told me she had been here once before with work when they celebrated getting a big contract.

I asked about ex-boyfriends and she went to some lengths to tell me about how mean Russian men were and how badly they treated their women and yes, she'd had a few boyfriends, but nothing for a while and nothing long term (this worried my, if a woman hasn't had a long term relationship by her mid-thirties, is she ever going to have one?).  She asked more about me and for the first time we had a fairly relaxed two way dialogue which we both seemed to enjoy.

Next day, I did more sightseeing and bought tickets for the Bolshoi.  It was ballet rather than opera and I had misunderstood my orders for buying tickets at the front of the box, I thought she had said the best views were from the back of the box.  At the second interval I suggested we left and went for a drink.

Boshio Theatre on my first internet date
Bolshoi at night
We did and she took me to a really swanky place (I paid, of course).

A pleasant enough evening we had, although I was thinking that it might be better to look for someone a little closer to home as I couldn't imagine a long distance relationship (Paris would have been alright, if it had been the truth).

I think I had guilt tripped her in to taking my final day off work and we went sightseeing around Moscow, she showed me the monument to Yuri Gagarin and then we walked around Gorky Park for a bit.  I went back to the hotel, checked out and we went to the airport together.  She kissed me quite intensely for a while, which was more than I was expecting and it was if to say 'maybe there is something there'.  Then just before I went to the gate she said, if we are going to see each other again, it will need to be after you divorce.

Okey dokey, I thought, there's not time to have this conversation now.   I kissed her again and said goodbye for now.  Whilst I didn't really see a future for Olga and I, I did enjoy my trip to Moscow, I probably would have never gone otherwise.

We kept in touch for a while and it became clear to me that divorce was a big thing for her, separated was not enough.  Oddly, a couple of years later I was driving between Glasgow and Edinbugh and I received a call from her, she was now living in the US (or was she?) and wanted to tap in to my Private Equity connections.  I said I'd get back to her, but never did.

Anyway here are some more photos from Moscow and my first internet date:

Tomb of the Unknow Warrier - I had a lot of time to kill on my first internet date
Tomb of the Unknown Warrier

One of the main roads in Moscow
Moscow roads are BIG!

I didn't expect snow when I went internet dating!
There's still snow on the ground in April...

MacDonalds in Moscow
They even have these things in Moscow and no, I didn't take Olga, my internet date to MacDonalds!

Shopping near Red Square
A very swanky shopping mall, just off Red Square

London Bus in Moscow
I didn't expect to see a London Bus in Moscow!

Notice on the wall of the Convent, below...

The Novodevichy convent - closed!
Olga and I visited this Convent.  It was closed.  Perfect!

Moscow Metro Station
Moscow metro station - just like the Northern Line!

The Kremlin
The Kermlin

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

My first Internet Date - Olga in Moscow - Part 2

All my travel documents were ready, my visa was glued in to my passport and I was at Toulouse Blagnac Airport ready for my transfer flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle - business class!  As I boarded the plane I thought 'I wonder if she's been telling me the whole truth, after all you do hear stories?'.

The transfer went smoothly at Roissy (hint: if you want to impress a French person, don't call it Charles de Gaulle Airport, call it Roissy).  I sat at the front of the plane and I was the only one in business class, after everyone had boarded I took what I thought was the best seat, at the front in the middle, by the door - loads of leg room.  Just as they closed the door to the aircraft I had a call from Olga, the flight attendant was lightning fast and ordered me to turn off my phone.  I sneaked a quick text to say 'sorry just leaving Paris, flight about to take off, I have to turn my phone off, see you at Shermetyevo x'.  Olga had kindly offered to meet me at Shermetyevo Airport and take me to my hotel.

The flight went well, so comfortable was my seat that I promptly fell asleep.  I awoke to the sound of rattling trays as the lunch was cleared away - damn it, I was going to have to wait until Moscow to get food.  Never mind.

As we went further east the landscape changed and ground turned to white.  I had done a little research in to the weather in Moscow in April and that research had told me that the days would be cold and probably dry, what I hadn't figured on was the amount of snow that remained.

On landing I filled in a plethora of forms, which took me a good 30 minutes.  These were then promptly ignored as I went through border control and customs.  I rang Olga to find out where I should meet her at the airport.  She told me that the reason she had called me earlier was that she was ill and wasn't able to make it to the airport, but she'd meet me at the hotel at 6pm, we could then go for dinner.  I was a seasoned traveller by this point in my life, having spent a six month period, fairly recently being in a different country every week, so how difficult could it be to get a taxi in to the centre of Moscow?

Quite difficult actually!  I had currency (in Europe or the US I never bother getting currency before I travel, I just get it at the airport when I arrive, but I did get some Rubles and some US Dollars before I arrived in Moscow, having done a little research), I had the address of the hotel, what more could I possibly need?  After queuing for 15 minutes at minus 20, I eventually reached the head of the queue.  I was told I needed a voucher from inside the terminal building.  Back I went to the terminal building and got myself a pre-paid voucher (about £50 from memory).  The queue had dissipated, thankfully and I jumped in to the next cab.

As we drove in to Moscow I looked at row after row of social housing flats, lining the massive road.  It was a grey day and I'm sure it all looked a lot worse without sunlight, but it was pretty depressing.  Moscovites drive like absolute maniacs (not quite as bad as when I was in Shanghai, the year before, but pretty close).

Arriving at the hotel was actually very pleasant and the room I had was massive, with a great view of the city.  I could just make out the Kremlin from my room.  I called Olga and she said she'd come to the hotel at 6.  I put my suit on and went down to reception at 5.50 to wait for her.  I was pretty nervous by this stage, the first date I'd been on in 10 years and it was about to happen!  I kept looking at my watch in anticipation.  At a minute to six my hands went clammy (my hands never go clammy) and I was inspecting every single woman that came in to the busy reception area to see if it was Olga.

Six pm came and went.  At twenty past six I rang Olga to see where she was, no answer.  She eventually arrived at 7.00pm.  We kissed on the cheek and I asked her if there were traffic problems.  She replied that there weren't and that it was alright because I had had to wait inside, it wasn't as if I had to wait in the cold outside.  I put that down to cultural differences and decided to keep quiet about her being one hour late and not doing what she had said at the airport.  We had a bit of idle chit chat and the she told me off for not answering the phone whilst I was on the ground at Toulouse - 'if I call you, it is because it is important, you should take my call, I wanted to tell you I couldn't come to the Airport as I was ill'.  I explained about the thoroughly efficient flight attendant.  She tutted, shrugged her shoulders and shook her head, at the same time looking thoroughly disappointed in me.  I should mention that her photos were somewhat more flattering than the reality of what stood before me.

At his point, these days, I would probably say 'do you know what, I don't think this is going to work', but given I was a few thousand miles from home and had nothing else to do for the next few days, I thought better of that.  A few 'never minds' later and we headed off in to the centre of Moscow.  We caught the underground from near the hotel to somewhere near Red Square.  Growing up during the cold war, this was pretty exciting for me to see Red Square and the Kremlin.  She asked my what type of food I wanted to eat and I said something typically Russian.  We went to a restaurant, which was more like a theme park than a restaurant with Gypsies prancing around.  The food was foul.  We had a few shots of vodka and that seemed to make the whole thing a lot more acceptable.

We talked about her time in Paris in London and I got the distinct impression, from the fact she couldn't remember where she had lived in Paris that she may not have been telling the complete truth about that part of her story.  Anyway, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  At the end of the evening we took a taxi.  In the taxi, her hand touched mine and she said, did I know what the large building was we were passing.  It was dark, it was a new city, I didn't have a clue.  She leant over and whispered in my ear 'It's the FSB, what used to be the KGB'.  Now, you may be thinking 'so what'?  You have to remember at this point in time that I hadn't had any degree of intimacy with a woman for months, if not years, so that actually made me quite excited.

We arrived at the hotel.  I paid (as I had done for the meal) and she said she would get a cab.  I said 'what's wrong with the one we were just in?'.  Apparently the one we had been in was for rich people and tourists, the way everyday Muscovites move around is to hail any old car down and offer them some money.  This didn't seem terribly safe to me, so I offered her the taxi fare.  She declined and went on her way.

She had things to do the next day, so she couldn't meet me until the evening.  It was Sunday, it was a crisp sunny day.  So I got myself a map and walked in to the centre of Moscow.

This is one of Stalin's Seven Sisters (bureaucratic offices), near the hotel:

Internet Dating - Olga from Moscow - on my first internet date this was near the hotel
My first Internet Date - One of Stalin's Seven Sisters, near the hotel in which I stayed
I took a guided tour of the Kremlin.  In 2005 I was 37 years old, my guide was incredibly attractive and aged early thirties.  She was also quite a flirt.  I was sorely tempted to ask her out for dinner, given the way things were looking like they may turn out with Olga.  For two reasons I didn't - it wouldn't have been fair on Olga, but more importantly, I bottled it!

The tour of the Kremlin was really interesting.  Here are some of the photos:

internet date number 1 - visiting the kremlin
On my first internet date - the cannon balls were actually larger than the bore of the cannon!

a church on my first internet date
Didn't Lenin ban religion?

I visited the Kremlin on my first internet date
The Russian Federation flag flying above the his main residence meant that Vladimir Putin was at home.

I was having more fun sight seeing than I was with Olga on my first internet date
Famous bell within the Kremlin.

A tour of the Kremlin whilst on an internet date
Then when you get around the other side of the bell...
I thanked Elena, my tour guide, for showing me the Kremlin and made my way to Red Square.

Here's some pictures of me and Red Square:

Me in Red Square

Another on of me in Red Square

Outside Lenin's Mausoleum on my fist internet date

Monday, 4 April 2005

My first Internet Date - Olga in Moscow - Part 1

It was Spring 2005 and I was living alone in South Western France. After the day at work I would travel back to the great big farmhouse that I was renting and try and understand French TV. There was a dial up connection available at the property. I soon got fed up of French TV and started using the internet as my entertainment. It wasn't long before I started to investigate online dating. 

Even though I had been around the internet for seven or eight years I was still cautious about using internet dating sites.  I was aware of the stigma attached to them.  I certainly wasn't going to tell any of my friends anything about my secret online life!

At first I would put some scant details about myself, mostly truthful, but never a photo and I would never pay, just relying on the features of the sites that were given to non-paying members.  In those days there were two UK sites that stood out - and DatingDirect.  I was a non-paying member of both.  After several weeks of nosing around I eventually started to 'wink' at some of the women I liked.  Nothing.  Then more nothing.  Ok, I thought, let's take the bull by the horns and get on with it, so I subscribed to 

I kept on looking at profiles and, since I hadn't dated for around a decade, didn't really know the correct form for approaching women.  I got it wrong so many times.  In the end I thought 'I'm in France, very few people know me here, what have I got to lose?'. 

Months of nothing happening passed by and I was just about to throw in the towel, when out of the blue, Olga dropped me an email.  It was a very long letter-type email.  Still, it was the only bite I had had to date, so I thought about how I was going to answer.  She was working in Paris, a place I passed through a couple of times a month and also went to London frequently, again a place I went to often.

We corresponded a lot, maybe even as much as 50 'letters' backwards and forwards.  We had taken so long to do this that I felt like I knew every detail about her life and she about mine.  It was time to move in for the kill and get that first internet date!  I suggested we speak on the phone, we were both in France, after all.  She tried to call me a few times and couldn't get through.  I put it down to the telephone exchange in the local area, which was in a very remote part of the French countryside.  I suggested that I call her.  Then she went very quite all of a sudden, no emails, nothing.

A week or so later I received an email from her saying that she had had to return to Moscow at short notice and that she would like to talk again.  So, taking this at face value, I arranged to call her in Moscow.  The line was very bad and we kept getting cut off.  We finally had enough conversation pieced together and we agreed to meet.  We started talking about where and when.  She offered London and I said that sounded good to me, but then she had problems with her visa.  

I had been running international development for the French company I had been working for, so I had accumulated tens of thousands of air miles with Air France.  I used these to buy my ticket.

I then had to travel to London to get my visa.  I remember it was Easter Monday 2005.  The reason I remember the date so clearly is that virtually all of London was closed, except for the Russian Consulate, which was open as Russians don't celebrate religious festivals.

I thought I had all the paperwork I needed on arrival at the consulate.  I presented the bundle of documents (including my pre-paid five star hotel accommodation voucher).  The brusque man behind the desk passed the documents back to me 'you need two photo, not one'.  Damn it, I was running out of time, the fastest the consulate will process an application is an hour and it was 11.30, the consulate was closing at 1.00.  I ran down the road and found a convenience store owner who gladly gave me the photos in return for £10 - bargain!

I went back to the consulate, there was a sliding scale of charges, based upon how quickly you needed the visa.  Two weeks and it costs £10, then half day around £100, but if you want it in an hour, then it way £200.  Ah well, she was a very pretty girl and I was getting a holiday out of it, besides I'd already spent the money on the hotel and used my airmiles on my plane ticket, so £200 was nothing at this point in time.

At 11:55 the man behind the counter said, 'ok, we issue you visa, now you go to counter 4 to pay'.  I looked at counter four (I was at counter one).  Counter 4 was closed.  Anyway, not wanting to point out the obvious, I wandered over to Counter 4.  As I did, the man from Counter 1 got off his seat and made his way over to Counter 4.  We went through the process of me handing over the money, my passport and all the stamped documents were then sent down a chute.  I was informed to go downstairs to collect my visa.

On arrival downstairs I was met by a stern looking woman.  I said 'hello there, I think that's my visa, any chance I could take it?'.  She replied 'What service you did pay forrrr?', I told her about the one hour service, she replied 'you wait', so wait I did for 55 minutes!

I was ready!  Moscow and in partcular, Olga, here I come!