Almost a year ago to the day, I went speed dating at A Game of Two Halves in Bar Kick, Shoreditch, for no other reason than it sounded like a decent night out. With the night about to kick off again for a new season (too many football puns in that sentence), and still wearing the relationship urban myth badge of ‘the speed date that turned into a relationship’, now seems like an appropriate time to give it my once-over.
I’d tried speed dating once before at uni, but it was more of a drunken dare than anything else. Now, in my mid-twenties, there was an undercurrent of seriousness attached (not that I expected it to result in anything much). I was well and truly on the London singles dating ‘scene’; not so much of a scene, as a string of peculiar, often bleak dates with good-looking but uninteresting men or interesting oddballs – both categories that my mum detested.
Bar Kick is a fun, carnival bar, festooned in world flags and airing a constant stream of football, past and present. Foosball tables see plentiful action while the relaxed, café-style ambience makes it appealing to both genders. It was also one of my favourite places to watch the World Cup last year, incidentally.
The premise of ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ is a love-match-football-game, Victoriana style. You fill in an application form with a fantasy pseudonym (be prepared to be called this all night), your ideal topic of conversation and your contact details. Mine was ‘Willowy Wanderer’ (don’t ask) and ‘Do a party trick…without undressing’ (ask away). These topics are then used as a starter point for each date, resulting in no awkward silences…in theory.
You then take your mildly embarrassed, possibly drunk, alter ego around each ‘date station’ (some foosball tables, some actual tables) and ‘date’ the other 22 people in the room for three minutes at a time, ticking either ‘yes’, or ‘no’ in the hopes of getting an e-match the next day.
The two halves? After the half-time whistle, the girls get up and move around in the opposite direction – not at all common for standard speed dating, where the men are expected to sweat their way around the room while the women recline into their lily pads.
There were a number of other strange rules, like penalties in the form of yellow and red cards (actually stickers) for mentioning your age, what you did for a living, or how much your earn because they don’t define who you are, punishable by the mystifying Gloves of Justice.
Like any sane person, I went along with a friend for support and to have a practice first date when the events kicked off. He regaled some anecdotes about the peculiarity of the women in the room, but it would be unfair to divulge. From my perspective however, let’s just say a man who doesn’t talk at all, a man who only talks French, a man who talks about asking Jesus, Muhammed and Allah why there is so much suffering in the world at a fantasty dinner party (Me: “You know they’re not real, right?! Now, I’d invite Piers Morgan, Princess Diana, Barack Obama….”), and a man who puts a yellow sticker on my chest for no reason other than “wanting to touch” me (shudder), is getting an automatic ‘no’; a never.
I only ticked ‘yes’ to three men: one was the friend I went with, one was an arrogant hottie who I just wanted to see if I’d get a ‘yes’ back (I didn’t), and one is now my boyfriend. If I were to go again, I would strongly recommend ticking ‘yes’ to everyone to gauge the percentage of the room that fancies you. Plus, the more matches you get, the more free bottles of wine you can claim from Bar Kick. Win-win.
Superbly organised by Lady Evelyn Ware, Baron Iachimo Levine and their strange ukulele serenading, I suggest donning your best chap and chapesse outfits, downing the free cocktail you get on entry, and playing the field (groan) at this weird and wonderful singles’ night.