We arrive at his beautiful West London pad and Alex presents all the guests with a red rose. It’s a nice touch, one that would have earned him extra points on Dinner Date, at least. He’s brought two friends, one beardy and a bit zany, one more clean-cut in good knitwear. They’re both easy on the eye, but not my type, and I know for certain they aren’t Belle or Sabrina’s either.
We begin drinking heavily. I corner Alex, Sab takes the beardy one, and Belle takes the one in the roll-neck. At 10pm, we have the starter. Alex apologises that he doesn’t have much in the way of crockery or chairs, and Sabrina and I have to sit on a sofa footrest, our chins just grazing the table as we share a plate of mezze served out of the Nisa Local plastic containers they were purchased in. We also have to take turns with the sparse cutlery. Sabrina wonders aloud whether the flat and perhaps even the friends are all rented for the night.
The girls later tell me that the point they knew I was not enjoying the evening was at the moment I queue up for the loo in the hallway of this man’s flat with my handbag over my shoulder like we’re in a nightclub, to avoid sitting at the table and having to make conversation with Alex.
With nothing else to talk about, we sit and silently adorn him with all our bangles, necklaces and hairclips as if we were playing a game of human buckaroo
The main course comes at midnight, and we’re all completely trashed – if it were an episode of Dinner Date, the producers would have already booked our Addison Lee taxis home for health and safety reasons. We know the chances of romance are off because, before I’ve finished my plate of chickpea stew, one of them is ferociously tucking into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s with a spoon. This hunch is cemented when, for some reason I will never be able to understand, we all gather round on the sofa and watch the opening ceremony of the Sochi winter games on an iPad, for an hour.
We divide into a disparate party of two: girls on one sofa and boys on the other. Later, Belle tells me she felt the atmosphere at this point was that of a university seminar when the tutor asks the class to divide into groups to discuss a topic. We interact across groups only once, when the man with the beard asks to try on all of our jewellery. With nothing else to talk about, we sit and silently adorn him with all our bangles, necklaces and hairclips as if we were playing a game of human buckaroo.
We leave at midnight. The cold air hits us and I’ve been drinking like Oliver Reed all night. I trip over my stiletto and stack it down the stairs. I stand up and dust myself off. “I think that went quite well,” I say. “Happy Valentine’s Day”.