Friday fun with history and dates

Before you get too caught up in all the stresses and strains that a Friday afternoon in the early part of the 21st Century brings, allow yourself a few minutes to see how life used to be…

Isn’t that beautiful? I can’t quite believe that once upon a time, there were no tall, shiny buildings behind the Tower of London; or that horse and carts were regularly sighted on the bridges of London. I don’t think I’m alone in finding it strangely poignant too – the many young men featured would probably be fighting in WW2 within little more than a decade.

From the sublime 1920’s to the ridiculous 1920’s. You know what’s set in the 1920’s? The next season of Downton Abbey. Ever wondered what this next season might look like if it was performed via the medium of Musical Theatre? No, I hadn’t either, but someone did and it looks rather wonderful:

As with so much of life, the dominant pre-occupation of Downton is relationships – primarily, marrying the right person, with the right inheritance, at the right time. (And then producing an heir to that fortune before script writers kill off one of the parents…) In the 1920’s, they had society balls. In the 2010’s, we have online dating. OK Cupid! would be one such example of this kind of match-making facility, but sadly it is not quite as attractive an option as a society ball. This is partly because you can make an amusing YouTube video out of the ridiculous things men include on their profiles – witness:

You think they’re exaggerating, don’t you? They’re not. Christian dating sites are even worse, apparently. Men publicly declare that they’re looking for ‘their princess’, or that they will ‘respect your purity’ – and use profile photos that feature themselves crying, or believe that their church building is an adequate image to use instead of their face. I digress. But talking of Christians, this gives me an excellent opportunity to share this video, which helpfully connects with the subject of Christian dating…

And with that, I should get back to my wrangling with the Doctrine of the Trinity. Nothing changes in the Christian world – people will always use ridiculous words in attempts to communicate the incomprehensible.

Friday Fun with a bang. A big bang.

There was much cause for celebration last night as E4 viewers finally had some new The Big Bang Theory episodes added to the endless rotation that’s on multiple times a day. Perhaps in honour of this, CBS yesterday released a YouTube video of the cast and crew flashmobbing, mid-filming. It’s short, it’s filmed from a slightly odd angle, but it is delightful and has been played multiple times already today. You’ll need to watch it a few times if only to track what the different characters do. (Pay particular attention to Sheldon and watch it right through to the very end.)

As it’s Friday, perhaps you have plans for tonight? Perhaps you’re hoping to meet someone who might want to see again, even date perhaps? If so, I recommend watching the video below and then ensuring you DO NOT replicate it in any way…

I love the Date My Mate concept. I also love that the guy in the video is married to a trainee vicar.

Perhaps you prefer to spend your Fridays improving your mind? Fear not, I have a fun way in which you can do that too. I wouldn’t usually choose to watch a science programme on TV, however, this 3:45 animation of the basic laws of physics (narrated by Dara O Briain) is a joy to watch:

Quizes are also excellent educational fun for the end of the week. Well, they can be, it completely depends upon the topic of the quiz. An excellent (pointless) minute of distraction can be found in this ‘Is this burger from Burger King or McDonald’s’ quiz – which, if anything, demonstrates just how gross junk food can be.

Finally, something that combines several classic elements of Friday Fun: Lego, animation and comedy music. Perhaps this is a particularly niche childhood memory, but when I was young, one of the few tapes that regularly got played in the car (as opposed to listening to cricket matches or Radio 3) was a selection of Flanders & Swann classics. Follow that link to learn more, but basically, they created comic songs of an ilk that only British men in the 1950’s and 1960’s could. This is a Lego interpretation of one of those songs – The Gas Man Cometh:

Matchmaker, matchmaker

Given how much I whinge about being single, you’d think I’d be pleased when friends try setting me up with potential suitors. The thing is, by and large, such attempts are utterly disastrous.

For some reason, weddings provide a wonderful opportunity for such matchings – the seating plan could be second only to online dating as a means for blind dates. A couple of years ago, my dear wise friend used her own wedding as an opportunity to place me next to a guy who was interested. I could simply leave it at the fact that his name was Fabio, but that would be unfair (he didn’t choose his name, he did however, choose the white suit he was wearing). The most interesting topic of conversation was the fact that he’d recently read a new translation of the Bible from the Hebrew to Spanish. Thrilling.

On Saturday, we had a family wedding. It was a rather posh affair – the wedding list was held at Fortnum & Mason, if you please – and we were greatly intrigued by the family our relation was marrying into. Conversations with my mother (regarding my outfit, which many people seemed over-concerned with) in the run up to the event seemed to suggest that she was hoping I’d find my own fabulously wealthy spouse. Imagine her and my sister’s glee when they consulted the table lists and discovered I’d been sat alone (as in the only member of my family) on a table next to the bride’s younger, single brother…

Oh dear, he was a dullard. I played along and was a gracious guest engaging with those around me. He made the mistake of asking random, closed questions:
“Do you read?”
“Have you travelled?”
“Do you watch films?”

In the spirit of communication, I didn’t simply answer “yes” to the above, but conversation dragged, just a little. All the while, my parents at the next table kept an eye on my adventures, sporadically checking for updates. In between courses I worked the room – maintaining the illusion of social butterfly, all the while delaying the moment I’d have to return to my seat. Thank goodness for waiters who refill wine glasses before they’re empty!

Fast forward a couple of days to the conference (still going – yesterday I had all of an hour’s free time between 6.30am & 10pm) and I was greeted by a contemporary of my parents who I see fairly regularly through work. Our conversations always begin with the same two questions:
1. How are you?
2. Have you got a man yet?

I don’t mind, but he is a terrible matchmaker – terrible in the sense that he never gives up, not necessarily that he chooses bad people – I have a lot of sympathy for his recently single daughter, as she must get it a lot worse than me! Fortunately he doesn’t know many men in my locality/context and the one person he’s tried out (a one-time colleague – how embarrassing) was as uninterested as I was.

Wise friend recently told me she was getting back into the matchmaking game, which concerns me. Even though we have frequent conversations about men, she has a very shaky grasp of what I’m looking for, yet whenever I complain, she calls me picky – I am not picky, I just have standards. We’ll see what she comes up with…

[Oh, and if you were wondering about my wedding outfit – I’m sure you were – I rather think I got it spot on. My father decided I’d morphed into a young Emma Thompson, which I’m going to take as a compliment. Bless him.]

Overheard on the 19.28 from Richmond to London Waterloo

“Well, it’s not as though you’re 35 and have to marry the first man that comes along or be single forever…” 

“Marry him right this minute!” 

“Only on the cheeks? How very 1940’s of him. Next time maybe you should take the initiative.” 

“You found things to talk about for NINE hours – of course there’ll be a third date!” 

“Ooooh, maybe we could double-date?! I LOVE double-dating!”

In these five extracts from a phone conversation that lasted from Richmond to London (approximately 15 minutes) we have many of the problems that exist in female friendships:

(i) Ridiculous relationship advice. The woman spent the entire conversation practically insisting that her friend must like this latest man, even though the friend in question was rather confused about it all.

Don’t get me wrong, advice between friends is excellent. Whenever I have an issue there is a distinct circle of people who are consulted (always the true researcher, this usually includes a varied sample of ages, faith backgrounds, relationship statuses and occasionally genders), but their advice is considered on its individual merits. But, there will always be ridiculous advice that’s not worth taking.

(ii) Over-excitement at friends getting into relationships. When one is a smug-married (and I know this girl was, her boyfriend was right next to her, immersed in a book and muttering at intervals) the temptation is to drag every single one of your friends kicking and screaming into smug-marriedness with you – regardless of whether or not they are interested in someone or if someone is interested in them.

(iii) The classifying of men and the adoption of stupid nicknames. Referring to her chum’s potential new man as “1940’s man” owing to his chivalrous tendencies was odd, referring to her own boyfriend as “1960’s man” was even weirder. Thing is, I think a lot of women do it. Amongst my friends there are men referred to as ‘idiot boy’, ‘J-God’, ‘Fish’ and ‘Tim’. (Yes, the last one might sound like a perfectly normal name, but it is in fact code.)

Anyway, why would someone have such a conversation, loudly, with a highly irritating tone of voice and laugh (think Janice from Friends) in public? It’s the friend she was talking to that I feel sorry for. I bet she’s delighted that an entire train carriage have heard the details of her dating adventures!

Dating & Mating

Trade descriptions could have me for that title – there is no mating in what follows. Apologies if that disappoints.

Mega churches like the one I attend are rather keen on coupling people up. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s just that – in Christian circles – there is always a finite number of men and they don’t quite go all the way round.

To combat this problem, someone’s come up with Date my Mate. (Please note the amusing url: – I’m sure he does.) The premise is that a function is held at which singletons appear, with a single friend of the opposite sex in tow. In this way, there’s an even number of the genders, all are (in theory) vouched for and fun can ensue…

All good – in theory. My issue with this concept has always been that if I had a number of single male friends, I probably wouldn’t be single myself. (Dining with my mother a couple of week’s ago she cried exasperatedly “don’t you have any straight, single, male friends?!” Oh mother, sometimes I do wonder…) Finding a single male friend (who I don’t want to date myself) and is willing to go to such an event is really quite a mission.

Tonight I was going to go. I’d actually located this mythical male friend, well, to be fair, two of our friends bullied him into going over lunch on Sunday – he seemed keen though. However, he stood me up. His loss of course, he could have met the woman of his dreams. Still, I’ve got him sufficiently guilt-tripped to ensure he comes to the next one…

[What was that? Did someone suggest I was being manipulative? Moi? Never.]