The Islander

Lots of readers of this blog have messaged me to say that reading about my dating exploits have encouraged them to try out Tinder for themselves, although god only knows why as none of the dates I have written about on here have ended in true love… yet. And I suppose the yet is the most important part of the sentence because no matter how much you don’t want to, and no matter how much the thought of going on a first date might make you quiver in your boots you have to just keep trying. It’s with this philosophy I found myself on a date with the Islander.

The Match

About two years ago I moved jobs from from The Spectator to Dennis Publishing. Strangely my job in the Spectator only had me on one weeks notice so when I handed in my notice rather suddenly after being approached by Dennis on linkedin I found myself with a week to myself between ending one job and starting another. I wanted to make the most of it and decided to go away for a few days of sunshine. Of course at such short notice none of my friends were able to come with me so I found myself making the brave albeit slightly terrifying and also slighting sad decision to go away on my first solo holiday.

Now sure I had gone travelling on my own a number of times years before when I was in Australia but that was a bit different. I was a backpacker and when you are a backpacker almost everyone you meet are also fellow backpackers and you are all travelling the yellow brick road together so despite yourself you quickly make a tonne of friends and you are never alone for long.

But this was my first actual, real life, five days away on my own in a resort type holiday and I was definitely a tad nervous.

What would people think? “Look at that sad lonely girl holidaying on her own, what a loser”. But I quickly wiped that thought away. Mostly cause I don’t give a fuck what people think of me half the time. I go to the cinema on my own all the time and I love it, surely a holiday would be like an extended cinema visit except much less dark and much more nachos.

What if I get attacked on my own at night I thought. I had seen enough banged up abroad to know that dangerous people loved nothing more than preying on vulnerable women when they were on holidays. But I wiped that away too. I was going to Lanazarote, to a safe resort that had 5 stars on tripadvisor and it wasn’t like I was going to be going out and getting locked by myself every night. It would be perfectly safe and I had a mean right hook myself, if any man dared to attack me he’d be in for a surprise right in the gonads.

No the real reason for my nervousness was what if I never meet someone. What if this first holiday on my own is the first of many holidays on my own.

A long bleak future of singles holidays lay out in front of me.

But then I just thought fuck it, I’m luckier than some. At least I can afford to go on a holiday, at least I don’t have to wax if I don’t want to, and at least I can have the whole bed to myself at night. Singledom has its perks and I was going to add solo holidays to the list. Plus you never know, I might just meet the man of my dreams while I’m out there.

Before I left my lovely mom gave me some sage advice.

“Enjoy it Ariana” she said as I called her from the airport “just enjoy every minute. You deserve it. And don’t be worrying or stressing about anything, just do what you want when you want. When you’re in the pool just think, I’m in the pool now and I’m enjoying it, don’t be thinking about what you have to do when you aren’t in the pool anymore, just enjoy being in the pool”. She knows me well my Mom. I’m a grass is always greener person and often need to just step back and breathe and enjoy the now.

It turned out to be great advice which I took seriously. On my second day sitting by the pool sunbathing I started feeling a bit guilty. “You should really stop being so lazy and go and explore the island” I said to myself but then the angel on my shoulder (or devil, depending on your take on it) said

“Do you want to go explore the island Ariana?”

“No I don’t actually, I want to lie here all day, read my book and dip in and out of the pool while drinking a cocktail or to” I retaliated

“So do that then” the angel/devil thing said to me and so that’s what I did, and continued to do for the rest of the day.

That night I went out and bought myself a slap up steak dinner in a gorgeous hilltop restaurant over looking the island and later I happened upon an Irish bar playing live music so I went in sat at the bar and ordered myself a large glass of red wine and swayed to the music. It was ‘Masterdating’ at its finest.

When you take yourself out on dates; dating yourself. You already know what you’re into, likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc… Dating yourself also allows you the freedom to have a great time, all the time, and never have to hear “you’re not paying attention to me” or other forms of bitching and nagging. You are free to mingle with whom you please and are able to spend time enjoying life and being happy.

Could come off as self-centered, egotistic, or conceited to those who don’t understand how hard it is to find someone as awesome as you are.

It was all going so well until the Irish singer, in the one man band decided to shout across the bar at me. Well he didn’t exactly shout, he had a microphone so everyone could hear him perfectly. All 15 of the people in the bar that was mostly made up of German couples and Irish families,.

“Hey you, lady in the black dress sitting by herself at the bar”

Fuck. Maybe I can just ignore him. I thought as I sipped my wine.

“You hooooo, pretty girl in the black dress I’m talking to you” he sang as the bar maid tapped the bar in front of me and pointed to the man.

I did a nervous laugh and flapped my hand in his direction.

“Why is a pretty girl like you sitting on her own, where’s your boyfriend” he said over the microphone like I was some extra in his Cabaret.

“Um, oh, haha” I said

“Where’s you boyfriend?” he repeated

“Oh, eh I don’t have one” I said turning red

“No boyfriend?” he exclaimed like I had just said I was an Alien visiting from Mars

“Nope, fraid not” Why was I apologising I admonished myself. “Nope happy here on my own” I said quickly lest there be any confusion.

“Where’s your friends” he asked. Literally now the whole bar was looking at me as if I was some strange being. At least some of them had the  decency to look uncomfortable on my behalf.

“I’m here on my own” I said in clipped tones hoping he would get the message

“Good for you” he said “Get that girl another drink” he instructed the barmaid who turned out to be his wife. “Enjoy your night love” he said before launching into a rendition of Galway Girl.

Turns out I actually ended up having a great night despite my attempted death by mortification. My second glass of wine turned into a fourth and by the end of the night I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from getting up on stage to sing Runaway by the Corrs.

The following day was my second to last night of my holliers and as I enjoyed my lie in I picked up my phone and took advantage of the free wifi. Scrolling through my facebook, and then my twitter, timehop and instagram I was running out of apps to occupy my time when I decided to open up my Tinder. The screen started calibrating to people within my area. “Oh my god” I thought “I’m on an island, full of men, men who are on Tinder too!”. If I was in a cartoon a lightbulb would have just gone off above my head.

I swiped right on a couple of hotties and the next thing I knew two of the guys started messaging me.

One typed to me in a language I couldn’t decipher, Russian possibly, while the other messaged me in in Spanish. I messaged them both and asked it either of them spoke English. The Russian didn’t reply but the Spanish replied immediately and said “A little”

He was cute, judging from his three limited pictures. He looked very Spanish, tanned, brown eyes, golden brown hair. His age said he was 38 and that was about all the info I could glean.

We messaged back and forth for a while and I told him I was on my holiday. Of course I lied and said I was with friends because if all went to plan I would be meeting him for a drink at some point and so the last thing I wanted him to know was that I was a single girl on my own on an island. Not because he might judge me but because he might murder me. Obvs.

So anyway after messaging back and forth for an hour or two I said..

“So hey my friend is out tonight with a guy she met so I am at a loose end, don’t suppose you fancy meeting me for a drink tonight?”

Why not. I was on my own, I was on an island, I had this amazing app which afforded me the ability to meet an eligible single man, I was a modern day, free spirited woman who upon my mothers advice was living in the moment.

“Of course” came his reply ” Lets say 8pm in La Delicatezza”

“Perfect” I said “See you then”.

The Date

I got dressed up. Applied perfect make up. Straightened my hair and off I went. Of course…and this is important…of course I Googled the bar first to ensure it was a big bar in a well lit area frequented by lots of tourists. The last thing you want to do is accept an invitation by an unknown man to an unknown bar in an unknown land without getting as much information about the place as you can first. I also texted my best mate and told her I was going on a date and I sent her the name of the bar cause you just always have to be safe.

The bar was pretty cool to be fair. It was big and by the sea and had all these funky palm tree themed booths and gorgeous cocktails that didn’t have a sparkler or an umbrella in sight.

When I got there it was fairly quiet as to be fair it was only 8pm which is rather early by Lanzarote standards. I spied my date sitting in a large booth with sea views.

My immediate thought was “Well I’m defo not gonna get laid tonight”.

Come on…. I was on holiday, if he was hot it would be allowed.

But suffice to say he wasn’t. Lets just say he was obviously economical with his photographs. It appeared he only took pictures every 10 years as the pics in his profile were clearly a decade old. He was at least 45 if he was a day and he couldn’t have been any more stereo-typically Lanzorotean if he tried.  (I don’t think Lanzorotean is a word but you get my drift). He had on a silk burnt orange shirt with the top three buttons undone revealing a manly, hairy chest with unmistakable flecks of grey peaking out between the brown fuzz.  His thinning hair was slicked back with slightly curled tendril’s sticking out behind his ears. And I kid you not he was was wearing a gold medallion necklace around his neck. Oh and of course, his name was Jose. He was like a walking postcard.

“Hola” I said lamely as he stood to greet me kissing both cheeks.

“Please, please” he said waving his hand at the seat.

“Thanks” I said sitting down.

“You. Arrreee. EEee.Beau.Ti.Ful” he said in heavily heavily accented English. Despite myself an image of Manuel from Fawlty Towers popped into my head.

“Haha…Thhhhanks” I said smoothing down my skirt.

“Soa, wel.come toa my beau.ti.ful eyeland” he said sweeping his hand across the backdrop of the sea.

“Haha..Thhhanks” I said, brushing my hair behind my ear.

“Wha.Awt wood you li.ka to drin.ka?” he said proffering the cocktail menu

I had to restrain myself from ordering a sex on the beach lest he got any ideas.

“Um I’ll have a Mai Tai” I said as the waiter appeared as if from nowhere.

“Sooooo” I said, struggling “Are you from here?”

“Yes.a. I.am.from.a.Lan.Za.Rot.E. I am a t.rue Eye.Land.Der” he said placing his hand on his heart.

“Lovely” I said “It’s a beautiful Island” not that I had seen much of it lying by my pool but what else could I say.

“Yes, you Like.a?” he asked earnestly

“Oh yeah, it’s lovely” I lied. I mean I’m sure it was but I just didn’t know.

“You are.a from Irlanda” he asked, trying hard to engage with me.

“Yep, from Dublin” I said sipping on my cocktail which I had gratefully received.

“Ah. Yes.a. it’s a Beau.ti.ful.eyeland too yes?” he asked/stated

“Yeah it is indeed. Have you been?”

“No.a, I have only been to Spain.a and It.a.lee, there is no.a need.a to visit anywhere.a else when you are.a from.a such a beau.ti.ful eyeland such as this.a” he said again sweeping his arm dramatically across the room.

“haha, oh of course” I said agreeing with him visually by nodding my head whilst in my brain I was thinking Christ this man is mad.

“Sooo, um, what do you do?” I asked, hoping that he would launch into some kind of monologue about his job so that I could just sit back and nod my head and drink my cocktail. Thankfully I was in luck because that’s exactly what happened. Turned out he was in the fashion industry, but not the Paris, Milan, catwalk type deal, he was in more what my Dad would have refereed to as the Rag Trade. He bought and sold clothes to traders who then went on to distribute the clothes nationwide. Presumably, judging by his shirt, he sold mostly Spanish clothes. As it transpired trade hadn’t been good for the past few years because of the recession and his business wasn’t doing so well. He lamented to me how he had considered selling up but that he didn’t want to live anywhere else but Lanzarote as all his family were here. Which seemed to consist of large quantities of extended family including aunts and uncles and cousins. I know this because he showed me several pictures of them  from his phone.

“So.a yes.a it has not.a been so good.a for.a me.a but I must.a carry on.a” he said with a sigh.

Bless him, he was a good aul sort and I got the sense that he just wanted to talk to someone, someone who he wasn’t related to. There was absolutely zero sexual tension between us on either side and I felt more like I was out having a drink with a friend of my uncles who I had been asked to meet out of politeness. There was lots of head nodding and sympathetic ooh’s and ahh’s. When my drink got close to the end, another one appeared before I even had the chance to accept or decline and so I just sat back and listened as he told me about the history of the island, the volcanic eruptions of 1730 and the discovery of a prehistoric settlement called El Bebedero.

I certainly learned a lot and was grateful I hadn’t booked myself into the walking history tour of Lanzarote.

By 9.30pm my second drink was empty and so I stretched my arms wide, feigned a yawn and told him I was tired and that I really should be getting home. He looked equally as relieved as I think he was running out of interesting things to say about his homeland.

He paid for the drinks like a true gentleman and walked me out the the roadside, told me what a pleasure it had been to meet me, kissed me on both cheeks and opened the taxi door for me while wishing me a safe journey home.

It was a thoroughly pleasurable evening, one which I would have, had it not been for Tinder, likely spent alone in my hotel room watching a badly dubbed movie.

Instead I had two cocktails bought for me by a lovely, albeit lonely man, who told me lots about an Island I would have otherwise known nothing about.

Ok so I didn’t meet my one true love on a deserted island, but we can’t all be Shirley Valentine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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