Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Survey: My Strangest Date

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Survey: My Strangest Date

Article excerpt

Toby Young

Status anxiety columnist

About 15 years ago, when I was single and living in New York, I acquired what I can only describe as a stalker. A woman took exception to a newspaper article I'd written and started bombarding me with emails. For about a year, she sent me three or four emails a day, demanding a reply. In one of these emails she claimed to be a columnist for a magazine called Chest Monthly , and that piqued my interest. So I invited her on a date. We agreed to meet in a café and she was quite difficult to spot because, contrary to my fevered imaginings, she was completely flat-chested. I asked her how she'd managed to land a job as a columnist for Chest Monthly . There was a deathly silence as it dawned on her that this was the only reason I'd asked her out. 'Chess Monthly ,' she said, coldly. 'Not Chest Monthly . Chess Monthly .' She stopped emailing me after that.

James Runcie

Author of The Grantchester Mysteries

I met Lucy at a dinner party in the early 1980s. By the main course we were holding hands under the table. She told me she was about to go travelling in China. By the time we reached the pudding I told her that I would wait, and after a bit of late-night kissing (in which I was told that I tasted of 'erotic raspberries') she went home.

She phoned before she left. 'When we sleep together it will be like a wedding night,' she said. Then she added that her stepfather wanted to meet me. Even I thought this was a bit speedy, but I went to see him all the same. We talked about politics, the miners' strike and the Cold War. The miners would be all right, he thought, since they all had video recorders and could spend their enforced leisure time watching films.

When Lucy returned in December I had everything ready: flowers, dinner, champagne. She looked surprised but got into my bed wearing her pyjamas. 'Here we go,' I thought.

'What are you doing?' she asked after a tentative approach. 'I wasn't expecting any nonsense.'

This was dispiriting. 'What do you think I'm doing? You told me I tasted of erotic raspberries. You said...'

'Oh I didn't mean any of that. I thought you needed cheering up. Besides. There's Richard...'

She turned onto her side.

I looked out of the window into the dark night. It wasn't snowing or anything appropriately seasonal. It was just going to be one of those shit days where it never gets light.

'I hope you have a nice Christmas,' she said. Then she began to snore.

A.L. Kennedy


I dislike dates. It's either a yes, or a no. Why date? Sadly, I am both bad at reading the signals which indicate the outbreak of a date and attractive to people who are bad at signals. This means that I end up -- often in coffee shops -- with a variety of men who suddenly exhibit enthusiasms I cannot return. Among these gentlemen would be the portly chap in Day-Glo cycle shorts, the man who brought an ugly plant with him, the man who cried, the man who talked unendingly about the rows he used to have with his last girlfriend, the man who sat next to me, miserably unable to speak at all, and the man who got crawling-drunk and then confessed something, mumbly, before hiding in his hotel room for a day. And then there was the man who gave a brief -- but not brief enough -- summary of the actions involved in coitus before suggesting we try it. I can only repeat: we weren't on a date. It was just coffee. I was honoured by your attentions, but did not require them. When I do require attentions, I say so. Really. Thank you, but no.

Dan Snow

Historian and television presenter

I was in the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem. We were dining in the courtyard of this former residence of a pasha and his numerous wives, under the tall mulberry trees, when she walked in. Let's just say that among the overweight male clientele she stood out like a gleaming Israeli settlement in a sleepy Palestinian farming valley. …

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