A Crap Date in Battersea Arts Centre
(A Star on Lavender Hill excerpt @Tim Robson 2018)
One of the problems of dating in Battersea, if you hold right-wing views, and I do - mildly and quietly - is that your potential date will be - by habit, by convention – culturally of the left. They’ve never met anyone like me, most are appalled I even exist. Therefore, I have a dilemma - to stay quiet and fail gracefully to progress the relationship, or to reveal my politics and be damn certain not to. I mostly choose the shorter path.
I’m also a bit of a nob. That doesn’t help.
Chloe and I met via some online dating agency. We agreed to meet for a drink in the bar at Battersea Arts Centre. So far, so Guardian Soulmates.
“Well Chloe, digital marketing, what does that actually mean?” I said with more bravado than tact.
Chloe looked disgusted, as though I’d demanded her best mate’s number. But the lure of being condescending proved too much. “I run word-of-mouth campaigns to organically connect brands with sympathetic networks and communities.”
“Yeah, all of that, love it - gets me a little stiff frankly - but what about digital marketing?” I laughed to underline that this was a joke. A slightly risqué joke perhaps, but still a joke between adults. On a date. Chloe though was a little younger than me and so treated life in an appropriately serious manner. Laughing at life’s absurdities is something the millennial generation appeared to have jettisoned. Shame; I used to like humour.
“Traditional marketing only concentrates on consumer relationships defined by the act of purchase. Digital marketing is about creating communities.”
“Communities that buy stuff?”
“That’s part of it.”
“So not very different!” I laughed, so alone.
“What do you do then?” Chloe asked somewhat perfunctorily. In my profile, I’d written some bullshit like skywriter or dream-maker. Basic pleasure model. I like to arouse curiosity even where none is merited.
“I manage accounts.”
“Who for?” she asked – interest momentarily piqued, itchy finger on a LinkedIn request.
“A small merchant acquirer.”
“We sign up shops and restaurants to accept credit cards. Like this place. Means you can pay for my next drink with your Gold Amex!” Again, humour. Mistake. She heard the bit about her buying me a drink but missed the rest. Oh dear! No one gets me.
And then - how very quickly - Chloe’s participation in the conversation declined into monosyllabic disinterest. There was an overwhelming possibility of an early morning meeting. Or the unfortunate calamity of a sudden headache. Sadly, my dates often end with unexpected haste.
But I aim to please, to give a party bag to my departing ladies containing the full right-wing arsehole experience, to provide a cautionary tale to pass onto girlfriends over a bottle of Prosecco after a hard day creating organic, but brand-aware, communities.
“So, Brexit. Great result, eh? Finally, free from our European masters!”
Chloe was gone in less than a minute clutching her pearls. I think Wandsworth voted 98% in favour of remaining in the EU. If only a couple of boxes of postal votes hadn’t got lost, there would have been a ringing 110% endorsement.
I reflect on this date as I pass Battersea Arts Centre. My reflections are warm but never salutary. I repeat the same mistakes and fall too willingly into the same traps just as I walk the same route, encounter the same people, and have similar thoughts each and every day. On Lavender Hill.