Speed dating with AA (batteries not included).

Writer’s diary: stardate: 18.04.2014

When I was with Alcoholics Anonymous they organised a speed dating evening with a branch from a neighbouring town. Many of us had lost our partners to drink. We were a miserable, sad and lonely bunch. And booze is often used to fuel that fire or douse the flames, depending on how full, or empty, your glass is.

The couple who ran my local AA believed that if they could get us into relationships we might be further motivated to stay off the sauce. That’s not been my experience of relationships. Quite the opposite, actually. Still, they said it worked for them, so I went along with it and to it. They thought that through empathetic common interest, we could provide support and encouragement for each other in the fight against the demon drink.

At the time, I hadn’t had a drink for two months. (And with good reason. My previous session with Satan’s Urine – a potent west-country apple cider – ended up with a disappointing one night stand. I went to bed with the ‘belle of the ball’ and woke up with Bela Lugosi. That’s cider goggles for you.)

I thought I deserved another chance at life and love. I was too young to call time and throw in the bar-towel on all that. Besides, what was the worst that could happen?

I’d never done speed dating before – didn’t know much about it. I asked after the format and protocol and was told to make an effort with my appearance, be positive, friendly and smile. They advised us all to prepare a couple of simple but pertinent questions and to expect to have to answer some. That was it. We’d have two minutes with each other and then move swiftly on to the next round. Put like that, it sounded like a night out with my ex.

Anyway, the evening came. I did what they said. It was before my accident so I didn’t scrub up too bad. I was a bit nervous. I wrote my questions down on a slip of paper, in case I forgot them.

My first slot, I found myself sitting across a little round table from a gorgeous petit brunette. She had the deepest, brownest irises set in the whitest, clearest sclera I’d ever looked into.

My palms got damp and I felt my pulse quicken. We smiled at each other. She had great teeth, too. And a dimple. Just one. One was enough.

I took a sip of my mineral water. She fiddled with the straw in her Fanta.

Me: ‘Hi.’

Her: ‘Hi.’

Me: ‘Oliver.’

Her: ‘Jane.’

Me: ‘Are you an alcoholic, Jane?’

Her: ‘Yes. You?’

Me: ‘Yeah. What’s your poison?’

Her: ‘Wine, mostly.’

Me: Red or white?’

Her: ‘Rosé, actually. Do you like wine?’

Me: ‘Sure.’

Her: ‘And you? Beers or spirits?’

Me: ‘Beer.’

Her: ‘Lager or ale?’

Me: ‘Strong lager. Tins mainly. And cider.’

Her: ‘I love cider.’

Me: ‘I like some spirits.’

Her: ‘So do I. Gin.’

Me: ‘Vodka.’

I remember an awkward pause during which her tongue flicked out to moisten her lips. Her voice was low and quiet when she said, ‘Do you fancy a drink?’

Me: ‘Wait there. I’ll get my coat.’