In the early naughties, I once went on a date with a scouser. Now, I’m not Liverpool bashing in this story. For the record, I LOVE Liverpol: the people, the shops, the football team, the nightlife. Liverpool is my city and I love everything about it.
However, like everywhere else in the world, there exists some losers. And I met one. Yes, another. It’s the story of my life.
I met him in Nexus in St Helens actually. I was 23 and
drunk merry when I met him but he texted me the following day suggesting we meet up.
There was no way I was going to go: especially since the place he suggested was on the outskirts of Liverpool, about fifteen miles away from my house, and about 1 mile from his. Who was desperate and bored enough to drive for a sober date with someone so selfish?
I reasoned with myself that it was more a boredom issue than a desperate one and perhaps he wanted to show me off to everyone in his local.
I decided on a pair of jeans and a black top, rubbed foundation on my face and sucked in my cheeks to brush over some blusher. I pulled straighteners through my hair, spritzed on some perfume and stuffed my bag with lipstick, my car keys and my mobile.
At 7.15, I got into my car and began to drive. I turned off at the next exit, turned left, and then right again. I turned left and right for the next thirty minutes, until I identified the correct road, and turned into it halfway, driving over speed-bumps. I turned and headed back down the high street in the same direction I’d just come I don’t think sat-navs were in back then?). I drove slowly up and down the road, looking anxiously for a nice little old stone pub, with hanging baskets and a sandwich board sign promoting their home cooked food.
Eventually, one hour later, I found the ‘nice little place’ that he’d suggested we meet.
It was a well-know pub, rhyming with Tetherspoon’s. (I love this pub, for the record, it just would have been easier if he’d have suggested a more neutral one seeing as they have one in practically every town). I parked the car and walked nervously towards the door of the pub. Now. I’m not very good at recognising faces. (Especially my own when I see it back on camera. Whaaaa… that’s me?? Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the lying-est mirror of all…) So I got to the doors to find no sign of anyone waiting. I pressed my nose against the window and my eyes dotted around the insides, as if it was a lab and there was a secret experiment going on in there. Perhaps he was already inside ordering our drinks? But how would I know it was him?
I gave myself a once over in the window reflection, and hesitantly, half terrified, I took a deep breathe and walked into the pub. My eyes scanned the room, taking in a sea of faces that had probably been drinking in the same spot for the last twenty years. I tried to remain hopeful. Often, the best nights out are the ones that aren’t planned, arent they?
My eyes rested upon quite a good looking bloke in a blue shirt that suddenly looked familiar and he gave me a hand gesture (thankfully a little wave and not the finger). There was an empty seat opposite him as if he was awaiting a guest, and so I smiled a nervous smile, and when he smiled back, I made my way past some randomly placed chairs and edged closer.
The spanner in the works was that he appeared to be halfway through a plateful of steak and chips.
‘Alright’, he flicked his eyes up at me momentarily. ‘Wanna drink?’. He had a bottle of wine infront of him that he was three quarters the way through and he was chomping on a piece of steak and then withdrawing bits of fat and putting them on the edge of the plate. He went to fill up an empty glass that was sitting in the empty space across from him, but I put my hand over the rim.
‘Thanks. But I’m driving’, I told him. ‘I wouldn’t say no to a diet coke though.’
‘Ok’, he nodded towards the bar. ‘Get me another bottle of wine while you’re at there then, will you? I’m just having my tea, won’t be long and I’ll be right with you.’
‘Right’. I smiled tightly and obligingly weaved my way back through the tables and chairs and returned just in time to see him mopping up some sauce. I slipped off my coat and hung it on the back of my seat, and another tight smile passed quickly between us. I handed him the wine and further uncomfortable silence ensued between us.
Still, I was here now.
If only I could have some wine. It wouldn’t be half as awkward. Just a couple of glasses and the conversation would be flowing- I’d be bright, bubbly, chatty and full of hope…
‘So’, I ventured after a considerable gap and no emerging signs of any conversation.
’Did you, er, have a good night last night then?’.
God, I was starving. I was trying hard not to stare at that last onion ring on his plate but if he didn’t hurry up and eat it I was going to nick it from his plate and shove it into my mouth.
‘Yeah. Good. You?’ He had nice eyes, I noticed, and it was just unfortunate that when he spoke to me, he appeared to be looking about two inches to my right. It made me feel a bit self conscious, as if there was something on my shoulder that I wasn’t aware of. I brushed my shoulder casually but there didn’t appear to be anything there.
‘Er, yeah. Great,’ I fibbed, feeling incredibly sober and uncomfortable. I knew it was a bad idea to drive. ‘R u okay?’
‘Yeah. I’m buzzin’, like…’, he said, piling the last of his peas onto his fork and munching silently for the next few minutes, pausing at intervals to give the same wave to practically every flat-cap or mini-skirt that came into the pub.
A couple of guys came over and patted him on back and I wondered if it was in appreciation of the fact that hed bagged himself a super hot date. (That’s me, of course! Unlikely, eh?) Still. Secretly I felt a bit hopeful again.
And in between that we managed to have a stifled conversation in which we established some basics about each other.
‘I’m Mel, you remember my name , right?’.
‘*Steve’, he shook my hand. Unfortunately, he still appeared to be looking about two inches over my right shoulder.
Still, I learnt that he was 27 and that he was currently looking for a job.
Steve bought me another diet coke and slid it across the table, and during that round of drinks he regaled me with his un-saintly use of language that revolved mainly around his favourite topic: football. Followed by the news that soon he might being going inside.
‘Inside? Inside where?’, I looked around. Was this some sort of coutyard with a roof and heating we were in?
‘The slammers. Banged up’, he casually remarked, and there followed a perfectly in-decent tale involving himself getting earache from some twat-face about some bitch that he was with that ended up getting a glass in her face by the gobshite and so he thumped the fucker and now he’s going to court.
I sipped my drink.
‘I see’. A gulp travelled down my throat but it wasn’t from the diet coke. This guy was as rough as toast with sandpaper on top. ‘And gobshite is….?
He began shamelessly chewing his final few peas and in-between he brazenly spat it out. ‘My…um..um.mmm, me ex’,
I stared at him, unnerved. ‘You’re ex?!! I had assumed that the gobshite in question was at least a guy.
He was still chomping when he narrowed his eyes. ‘Summat wrong, lid?’
Is there something wrong, lid?, I wanted to scream. ‘Yes love, you, you dysfunctional scum -bag’.
But I was sober and wimpishly so, so I stuttered ‘Er, no, I’m fine’, and I mustered a smile, even though my forehead was getting a bit sweaty and I really wanted to go home.
He must have sussed me out.
‘Hey, look’ he held his hands up in defence. ‘She started it. All ‘cos I brought me new bird in ‘ere…It’s me local. I can come in ‘ere with whoever I want, like. Sorted.’
Gulp. Gulp. Gulp.
‘In here?’. I glanced nervously around myself.
‘And is …er your ex… is she, er, likely to come in here tonight?’
I stared at him uncertainly. Up until this point, I’d had a general instinct that some thing was amiss.(Aside from his brain, that was. And his manners, ). It had crossed my mind before now mind that he was pissed. That he was jobless and had been sat here all day, watching sky sports, the resident wino. It might explain why he was looking two inches to my right all of the time. Double-vision perhaps? But then he answered me, and the penny dropped. Maybe there was something over my shoulder and it wasn’t a bit of dandruff.
‘Who? Gobshite?, he jerked his over to the fruit machines. ‘Oh, yeah,she’s over there,’ he said, without missing a beat. ‘Been texting me all night threatening that if she see’s me with anyone, she’ll knock their head off their shoulders. She’s all talk though…’
‘Er. Okay. Rewind. Over where? It suddenly felt as if someone was lobbing bricks at me from behind a secret wall and when I nervously glanced over my shoulder, I met the eyes of a girl staring directly back at me. I quickly looked away. ’Gobshite’ herself weighed about thirteen stone and was wearing a pink genealogically revealing skirt. Her hair was bleached to within an inch of its life and her fake tan made Donatella Versace look pale. I tried to focus on my drink. Don’t look back at her. It’ll only aggravate the situation. You’ll only end up with a sovereign ring imprint in your face.
Instinctively , I shrank back , trying to hide behind the menu.
But when I peeped over the top of the menu and my eyes accidentally caught ‘gobshites’ for a second time, she was still staring at me.
Not just on me, but on the man Steve himself. She was practically boaring holes into the pair of us.
‘She looks very young’ was all I could muster.
‘That is young’.
She also looked very hard and it made me feel incredibly tense. As discreetly as I could, I ran my eyes along the people stood next to her and was overwhelmed with panic. They resembled the cast of Shameless. It was like a line-up to identify the suspect. The one with cornrolls had few front teeth missing.
Oh shit. Scenarios were already beginning to materialise in my head.
Why the hell have you brought me here?, I wanted to shout at my ‘date’, who appeared to be obliviously scanning the desert menu, and, heart pounding, I stuffed my purse into my bag, sensing that I’d soon be running for the hills. (Or Birmingham service station knowing my luck and sense of driving direction). I felt incredibly sorry for myself. I’d been so full of hope about this date. Secretly. In private.
‘Er..I think I might head home now’, I said. I thought about making a run for it to the door, but no, I should walk calmly. Don’t run. Isn’t that what they say to do if you’re about to get attacked by a wild animal? Don’t make any eye contact, let it know you don’t want a fight. That was key.
I was about to stand up when a female voice interrupted and I nearly jumped out of my seat instead of rising from it decisively. An orange glow loomed over me like the sunrise.
‘Who’z this then?’ the voice demanded to know from Steve.
Oh shit. It was Donatella herself. Up close her fake tan made her look as if she’d took a bath in crushed wotsits.
Steve ignored her.
‘Fucking answer me NOWWW’, Gobshite snarled, seeming a bit more aggravated.
YES, STEVE, I thought. Fucking answer her NOW. Please. Pretty please. Before I end up with a glass in my face.
‘Are you iz new bird?, she turned her angry snarling face to me and poked me in the shoulder. She had a surprisingly strong finger.
No. Get lost. Leave me alone, I wanted to scream, but intimidation had took over and my voice had gone completely and I was frozen to the spot. I let out a little squeak that sounded like a mouse.
‘You.’ she poked me again.. ‘Are you iz new bird?’
‘No’, I squeaked. I wanted to be home reading an Ok magazine.
My eyes darted around for an escape route, but gobshites riot were everywhere. They were closing in on me, I was sure of it. They were going to jump me outside.
I went to stand up but gobshite reached over for my glass and picked it up. She was snarling at me.
I was waiting for the glass to hit my head, waiting…and waiting, and then, I chanced a peep, just in time to see gobshite draining the remainder of the diet coke herself.
‘You’re welcome to him luv. Arrrrsehole‘, gobshite hissed, slamming the drained glass back down against the wooden table, making me jolt. And then she stomped off to join the rest of the animals in her circus.
It might have been nice if Steve would have paused once in a while in the middle of eating his apple crumble to check that I was ok, but he didnt.
Either way, I really ought to have made my excuses and left by now. I ought to have stood up, and said something really sarcastic like ‘Well, this has been fun, driving all the way here, watching you sitting there, stuffing your face …’
I needed wine. Wine would have said it. Wine would have shouted it.
But that night I was a great big sober people pleaser and I couldn’t bring myself to, and so I plastered a painfully fake smile across my face and, trying to make it sound as if I was making a decisive decision, rather than because I was scared out of my wits, I said ‘I’m going home’.
Apparently, I was in luck, because so was he.
He got up and said he was going to the toilet. And then he said that after that, he was leaving. He wanted me to do the same so that he could avoid paying for his food.
I laughed a bit to let him know that I knew he wasn’t serious, but with a deadpanned face like that, obviously…he was.
‘Er, I really don’t think so…’. I shifted in my chair, looking at him as if he was an alien.
‘Okay then, sunbeam‘, he shrugged. ‘No need to be uptight. It just would’ve paid for an extra bottle of wine or two back at mine, that’s all. ‘You coming?’
Not with you, freakoid.
He had stood up and was adjusting his coat. He put a note on down on a beer mat and passed it to a waitress..
And we walked towards the door together.
I tried to act cool. I pretended to be texting on my phone and we reached the exit. I stepped out on to the pavement outside and something hit me.
Thankfully, it was the cold air.
‘Bye then’, I said.
I walked through the cold air, picking up speed into a run, a sprint, to my car. The only good thing I saw around there was the sign for the M62 home!! St helens – I love ya!
Liverpool, I love ya too.
Just not Scouse Steve.
*To protect the privacy of certain individuals the names and identifying details have been changed.