First dates.  In all honesty I am not a font of knowledge when it comes to this area of romance.  You may well have guessed as much seeing as I met my husband in Year 7 at secondary school.  However, we did go through a long winded on/off stage whereby I went to university in Exeter and he shared a house with one of our long-suffering friends, Pete (hi Pete).  I ended up with my teaching qualification whilst my husband had a good time getting into debt.  Debt which was the result of a heap of junk car that literally sucked the pennies from his pockets and a book he had bought at the airport. 

‘Book?’ I hear you say?  Well, yes.  My husband, in his financial wisdom, managed to go into his unplanned overdraft by little over a pound for said book, which he then left to mount up into a ridiculous sum of money.  Being more stubborn than my four-year-old who is repeatedly asked to eat some form of nutrition which isn’t beige, he still claims it was worth it because the book was just that good.  Kudos to Chris Ryan. Anyhow, the result of these rock star living habits ended up leaving him with a black mark against his name.  I tell you it was fun times to discover this little gem when we applied for our first mortgage.  I was so angry at the time, I think I really did ask him to ‘kindly remove his genitals’ with a pair of scissors. *

Anyway, it was during this time I went on a few ‘first dates’ which turned into nothing more than weird anecdotes to share with the internet…just like I’m doing now.  However, even though the hubby has committed some sinfully stupid monetary decisions, I feel it only right to start with our first date at the local recreation centre, which took place the weekend after we had agreed to ‘go out’.

Pre-date preparation involved shaving one’s hairy bits, checking that my swimming costume fit, only to then yelp at one’s reflection in said swimming costume. This was all closely followed by hyperventilating at my mother who found this more than a little amusing.  You must understand, my parents were fairly liberal and didn’t view me dating a boy at fourteen as a cause for concern, more an opportunity to make fun of me.  My father wasn’t waiting by the front door with his shot gun, ready to lay down the law.  He was more likely to be there to shake future hubby’s hand and offer him a glass of wine over some rustic French bread and cheese.

Now, as previously mentioned, I lived miles away from civilisation so needed to have a lift to get anywhere within reach of another human being.  It was therefore down to my mother to taxi me over to our date in the family car, a Renault 25 which frequently scared the living beejesus out of everyone. Her less than five-foot height had you believing the monstrosity was driving all by itself. Upon arrival, I instantly saw the husband nervously waiting outside of the front doors, looking just as petrified as I was.

“Why mother?! Why the hell do boys and girls insist on doing this to one another?!” I gulped whilst I momentarily considered telling her to drive on and avoid the whole situation altogether.  She merely cackled with glee, told me she would see me in a couple of hours, before zooming off, looking like a real-life version of Edna Mould.

“Alright?” My date asked, then smiled nervously whilst I muttered obscenities under my breath. I love my mother but there are times when she causes my eyes to roll so far back, I’m in danger of blacking out altogether. For example, when we go shopping and I realise far too late that she’s wondered off without telling me.  In such situations, I’ve usually been walking around talking to myself for an embarrassing length of time, consequently making me look like a crazy person.

“Yep,” fourteen-year-old me eventually replied, sounding just as anxious as him and with far too many teeth on show. “You?”

“Yeah,” he responded before gesturing for me to lead the way.  As you can tell, the conversation was already off to a good start.

Now, give the boy his due, he paid for my entry, was beyond polite and behaved in such a way his mother would no doubt be very proud of him.  However, this did not set my nerves to rest in the slightest, in fact it only made me feel more nauseous.  I wasn’t used to him being polite with me. I was used to him pinching my backside up and down the stairs of the Nichol’s building, throwing himself on top of me in front of an entire classroom of people and gifting me with a twig on Valentine’s Day because I said cards were a waste of paper. And now, dressed in nothing but my swimming costume, one made for functionality rather than fashion, I was about to face the boy who was trying his level best to be charming and…’nice’.

Once in the vicinity of the pool, with an atmospheric temperature which rivalled the surface of the sun, we both tried our very best to avoid looking at one another’s unmentionables.  Board shorts hadn’t quite caught on in the fashion stakes, so he was wearing nothing more than a pair of nut huggers, whilst I was wearing fitted Lycra over a pair of breasts which easily rivalled those of both my best friends’ combined.  What can I say?  I come from a family of naturally busty females. Perhaps they were meant to be an evolutionary physical advancement, to have my very own set of airbags and flotation devices. From personal experience, I can tell you they are far from accommodating. Especially when trying on zipless dresses, which become firmly stuck and have you gasping for air because you are seriously considering having to go out onto the shop floor to ask the assistant to cut you out. 

Now the hubby was quite a physically fit boy back then, being that he went to army cadets, swam twice a week and cycled everywhere.  That bod is still there, somewhere, but like me, who used to be a size 8 and a nice C-cup, it’s hiding under a little comfort spread.  However, whereas I was the same colour as Edward Cullen from Twilight and literally glow in the dark, he had been gifted with a naturally Mediterranean complexion.  I am still cursed with such skin, almost to the point whereby I should come with a health warning during summer months when I venture to bare my legs. It would read something along the lines of ‘people with sensitive vision may wish to avert their eyes or wear a pair of sunglasses.’

The next hour was spent on opposite sides of the pool, wondering what the hell to do or say next, only to then talk about mindless crap when we finally managed to have enough courage to be within a one metre distance of one another. After which, we went to the overpriced café of tasteless tea, stale flapjacks and confectionary that had such a mark-up, you would need to sell off body parts to actually afford them.  My husband, being the gentleman that he is, bought me a packet of cheesy crisps which tasted how vomits smells, then waited beside me until Mum came to pick me up.  Not that he could see my mother for she was still hidden behind the dashboard.  She was one inch away from needing a periscope to see out of the windscreen.

It wasn’t a bad date. It was a typical fourteen-year-old date, full of awkwardness and too much skin on show. In fact, intimacy didn’t really hit us until Valentine’s Day when he bought me Romeo and Juliet. Arguably, this was the film responsible for practically every teenage girl beginning an imaginary affair with Leonardo Di Caprio.  Not the actor himself, but his character, Romeo, or maybe both.  Truth be told, I was never that enamoured with Romeo when reading Shakespeare’s play, he clearly lacked common sense and was somewhat fickle.  I’m more of a Benedict kind of a gal, hence why I married my husband, aka, my sparring partner.

Back to Valentine’s Day when my husband finally made his move in the form of an awkward arm around my shoulders, to which I reciprocated by curling up towards his lap.  We lay like a couple of puppies until it was time for him to cycle home on his trusty steed.  We even ventured to kiss one another before he disappeared into the darkness.  There was no tongue though.  That train wreck didn’t occur until a good few months later.  I would go into it in more detail, for it was truly hilarious. However, I have saved that debacle for a pair of unsuspecting characters in one of my upcoming releases.  I’ve planned for their story to hit Amazon towards the end of this year.  (That was a good, shameless plug, was it not?!)

I have more tales of first dates to share with you, not all of them mine, but I fear I have waffled on for much too long already.  My next blog will come at the end of the month when I am dangerously close to turning thirty plus a few years extra.

*Just so you know, I did read this to my poor hubby and asked for his permission to publish this blog.  I’m not that bad a wife!

Thanks for reading and remember to check out my new release, Learning Italian, on Amazon Unlimited.

So, the last time I ‘blogged’, I had left fourteen-year-old me underneath a table, wading through stale sandwich crumbs and slimy banana skins, not to mention a very questionable looking cheese wrapper which looked decidedly like something I hope to God it wasn’t.  Meanwhile, my now ‘boyfriend’ was causing noisy havoc down the hallways of the Nichols building, celebrating his success of wearing me down into ‘going out’ with him.  My best friend, Lucy, who I’m pretty sure was the one to give away my secret in the first place, was now smirking at me whilst hanging her head down to peer inside of my hovel for one.  She was affording me one of her signature smug looks. One that said, ‘yes, that fool running up and down the school building, sounding like his pants are literally on fire, is now your boyfriend!’  Said friend was silently told to ‘please shut the hell up and leave me to die of shock and humiliation in peace!’ 

The afternoon was spent in double Food and Technology, a GCSE which would prove to be thoroughly pointless to my future endeavours.  Having recently tried to engage with a virtual bake off at my daughter’s school, I can assure you I was left feeling both embarrassed and ashamed of my efforts.  However, it was over the course of this two hour stretch, that Lucy and I began dissecting the rather horrifying events of lunchtime.  Most of the other students were, by now, fighting the urge to attempt sleeping with their eyes wide open during one of Mrs Kepple’s long winded lectures about HACCP (hell if I can remember what this actually stands for, suffice to say my A* was obviously a complete fluke).  Fortunately for us, Lucy and I had managed to bypass the enforced seating plan because we were laughably known for our exemplary behaviour and focussed attitude towards our studies.  Little did our teacher know, was that we had the magical ability to switch off our attention to her monotonous voice and very rarely listened to a single thing she said.

“Oh my God!” was used no less than thirty-three and half times during that afternoon, most of which by me who was now feeling physically sick and wishing she had stayed at home and put her ridiculous notions of dating firmly out of her head.  Meanwhile, Lucy who was still sporting a taunting grin on her face, clearly relishing in my severe bout of awkwardness, was mocking me by highlighting all the things one is expected to do with a boy when you were ‘going out’ with them.

Now let me put it out there now, this was the year of 1997, when fourteen-year-olds still looked halfway between child and adult, did not engage in any activity which would bypass a PG rating and still considered having mixed sex parties as somewhere between exciting and horrifying.  I realise things have since progressed and our actions may be more akin to what ten-year-olds behave like nowadays, but I am verging on the precipice of the dreaded ‘midlife’ episode of my existence, so bear with me.

“He’ll want to hold your hand, hug you, maybe even…kiss you!” She smirked whilst listing out these sweat worthy scenarios, one by one, on her fingers.

“Oh, holy mother of hell!” I gasped on a frequency I can only imagine dogs and certain aquatic animals can hear.

After school, I was back, yet again, outside of the Nichol’s building waiting for my taxi to come and get me, because did I mention I literally lived in the middle of nowhere?  Seriously, my house was opposite a non-working farm where the youngest animal was about ninety-four million years old and should you be attacked by the gnarly serial killer in the middle of the night, there would only be a fat horse and a blind goat to hear you scream.  Anyway, I digress. I was waiting for my taxi with the driver who apparently only allowed himself to smile on special occasions, most likely funerals or worldwide disasters, when who should appear but my newly obtained ‘boyfriend’. 

Looking a little sheepish and wringing his hands nervously in front of him, I furrowed my brow in complete confusion over his sudden change in demeanour.  This is the boy who had literally thrown himself on top of me during one of the many infamous ‘bundles’ which occurred during the changeover of periods, when half the school would be walking down the stairs to get to their next lesson.  Yet now I had finally agreed to something other than indifference over his ‘liking me’, he was suddenly acting coy.

“Hi,” he said with an awkward smile.

“Hi,” I replied.

Silence.

More silence.

“So…” he started, then returned to silence again.

Readers, this should have been the first clue as to how things would go with my husband. If he can get away with saying nothing, he most certainly will.  His brain is permanently set to, ‘Say nothing! Do not implicate yourself even further.  You cannot piss her off anymore if you say nothing and look stupid!’  Oh, contraire man brain. Remaining silent whilst I’m losing my ever-loving shit only makes me want to commit some very questionable acts of violence.  It’s like trying to have an argument with a Labrador but without the cuteness.

“So, where are we going to go?” I eventually asked him, to which he shot a confused looking pair of eyes up my way and gave me yet more silence. “You know, you asked if I would go out with you. So, where are we going to go?”

Readers, this should have forewarned him that I was not going to be the easiest of people to bullshit. Unfortunately for him, he would have to make some form of concerted effort if he wanted me to engage with all the other crap that goes hand in hand with being someone’s other half.

“Oh, I hadn’t…” he flustered whilst rubbing the back of his neck and looking extremely put out by the very notion that he would actually have to take me on a ‘date’ of some kind.  Meanwhile, I enjoyed his squirming about uncomfortably, all the while thinking, ‘No you hadn’t thought this through.  Not in the three years of you hounding me did you think you would actually have to take me somewhere!’ Because ladies and gentlemen, ‘going out’ with somebody at a British secondary school in the nineties, usually meant you walked around holding one another’s sweaty hands and, if he was lucky, got to have the odd pash behind the bike shed.

Whilst enjoying my small revenge for all the years he had publicly embarrassed me, he seemed to brush this thought away with a small head shake and a charming smile that was usually reserved for the middle-aged female teachers.  The ones that would tell each other what a nice boy he was and always chose him to run the odd errand, which he would do with a polite nod of his head, quickly followed by an ‘of course,’ and a ‘no problem miss’. Conversely, when I asked him to get his four-year-old a drink the other day, I was met with a stare that would have had you believe I just asked him to kindly remove his genitals with a pair of the kids’ safety scissors.

“Where would you like to go?”

Cue my fourteen-year-old girl shoulder shrug. Hey, he should have been happy I had managed to answer ‘ok’ from underneath the table at lunchtime.  My bravery was officially wiped out for the day!

“How about swimming at the rec, on Saturday?” He asked, gesturing towards the recreation centre behind us, presumably because it was there and had been the first thing he laid his eyes upon.

“Ok,” I muttered, just before my cheerful taxi driver showed up.

“Ok.  See you tomorrow.”

“Hmmm.”

Once sat inside of the taxi with the hairy guy up front, who simply grunted by means of a ‘hello’, I suddenly asked myself what the hell I had just agreed to.

Oh Taylor, you really haven’t thought this one through have you?  You just agreed to go on a first date which involves you essentially wearing only your underwear and having your concealer washed away in a matter of seconds.  Bloody hell!

I’m going to leave fourteen-year-old me in a stupor for now but will get back to ‘First Dates’ in my next blog.

Look out for my debut novel release, Learning Italian, coming this month!

Deciding to enter into the world of contemporary romantic fiction must mean I have led my very own idealistic love plot…?  Well, I guess it depends on who is reading and what their idea of romance is.  Whilst it’s true that I have incorporated parts of my life experiences and thought processes into many of my female characters, I’m not sure the same could be said of my husband when it comes to any of the male protagonists from my stories.  That is not to say he isn’t one of my favourite people and an all-round good guy, because he most certainly is.  However, if I tell you he once referred to me as a ‘herby chicken’ when in the throes of passion, I’m sure you’ll agree he is a little off the beaten track when it comes to all things romance.  With a deep-set frown of confusion on my face when he uttered these magical words in the heat of the moment, he explained, “Now hear me out girl, what I’m trying to say is, you’re more than a ‘normal chicken’.  You’re like one of those more expensive chickens which have been ‘pre-herbed’!”  Totally swoon-worthy, right?

To be fair, we met at the tender age of eleven on our very first day at secondary school.  He was more of a towny, whereas I lived virtually in the middle of nowhere.  Having said that, we are both essentially country bumpkins from the New Forest area where your entertainment was a good jaunt around the woods and maybe a trip to Woolworths on a Saturday morning.  Now let me say this first and foremost, at this stage in my life, I had absolutely no desire to engage with all things boys and considered such things both embarrassing and terrifying.  Boys could be your friends, nothing more.  My husband, on the other hand, has since told me that when I walked into our Year 7 tutor group on that very first day, light had beamed out from behind my newly purchased C & A coat (made for comfort, not style), the angels sang, and he could see our entire married life mapped out before him.  Conversely, when I finally noticed him for the first time, I saw him as a slightly hyperactive and unusual kid who reminded me of an adolescent dog still learning how to respect one’s personal boundaries.  It was not love at first sight.  I was not ready for love at first sight.

And thus began three years’ worth of torment in the form of him making it abundantly clear to everyone in the entire school, including the teachers, that he liked me.  There was no subtlety or sophistication to his flirting either. We were, after all, a couple of eleven-year-olds trying to find our place in a new school where we were now suddenly bottom of the pack.  Whereas I wanted to comfortably blend into the wall and go by unnoticed, his approach was more akin to a bull in a china shop.  Suffice to say, I actively tried to avoid him whilst he sought me out to try and win me over by chasing me up and down the stairs at the same time as trying to pinch my backside.  Of course, sometimes he’d mix it up by choosing to leap on top of me in front of a class full of our peers.

By Year 8, my group of friends and his group of friends were now one collective group of friends. If I was being truthful, I found him funny and as most women will agree, a way to a woman’s heart is to make her laugh.  He was also starting to mature and had fortunately, come to the realisation that pursuing a girl was more successful if you didn’t try to humiliate her in front of the entire school. 

Alas, disaster struck his plans to claim me as his girlfriend when my Dad decided to sell up and move us to Tenerife, where he had bought a bar (another long story which ended in abject failure).  So, at the end of the year I was to be leaving and, apparently, this made me the biggest bitch of the century.  Thirteen-year-old boy logic told him I was now his archnemesis because if I was truly any sort of friend slash potential girlfriend, I would bid my family goodbye and stay behind to be with him.  Where I would live wasn’t something he had considered, but such rational thought wasn’t going to stop him from completely ignoring me.  But boy did that work!

You see, as much as I can make fun of his teenage boy antics and illogical thought processes, I too was a thirteen-year-old girl who fell prey to adolescent hormones and with them, irrational desires.  And when that bastard ignored me, it meant I suddenly wanted him!

So, Tenerife came, failed and went again.  As such, we ended up back at home with significantly less money and bad experiences behind us.  I returned to school where he was still not talking to me and would actively leave the room whenever I entered it.  Not that he knew this was the magical formula for winning me over, he was just being a typical Year 9 boy who was transitioning between being a pimply kid to a ridiculous man child who still refused to see logic or reason.  The entire year was spent trying to hide my attraction to him whilst he upped his game in the flirting stakes.  Only now he was now flirting with everyone else but me.  It was driving me crazy and when I finally admitted it to my group of gal pals, the buggers simply burst out laughing.  By now, being that I had a pair of boobs, a few other boys had taken note of me, but I wasn’t at all interested in them.  No, I only wanted the fool who refused to even acknowledge me.

In the last few weeks of Year 9, a year that has you believing you are vastly cooler than you actually are, I remember being sat in one of the English classrooms, innocently eating my lunch, only to find out that one of my friends had let slip to my future husband how I now felt about him.  Losing all coherent thought and control of my mouth whilst it remained hanging open in horror over such news, I was then informed that said cocky bastard was now on his way over to come and officially ‘ask me out’!  Holy crap, I wasn’t ready for this!  I had been living off my original plan to blend into the wall for the last few years and it had been working out well for me.  So, what did I do with this new, vomit-worthy piece of information? Why, hid under the table of course!

By the time he came into the room, there was an audience laughing over our ridiculousness and the fact that I was still sat underneath the table with my eyes shut tightly and with my back to the door.  His giggle reached my ears and I held my breath whilst mentally beginning to chant, ‘there’s no place like home’, with the rest of the unruly gaggle of teenagers suddenly going silent.

“Taylor?” He called out from the doorway where he chose to remain instead of at least trying to make this personal moment as private as possible.

“Yes?” I replied with a tremor in my voice.

“Will you go out with me?” 

A dramatic pause ensued, during which time I tried to open my eyes in the hopes that this was all but a humiliating dream to wake up from. Instead of being underneath a table amongst the detritus from lunch, I’d be back at home, safe in my bed with my faithful dog by my side, for she was as much as a coward as I was.

“Yes,” I eventually replied, sounding barely audible to the human hearing range.

Now, if this were a romantic novel, you would most likely expect us to embrace, kiss, maybe have me come out from underneath the table to face my new ‘boyfriend’.  But no, this was not a romantic novel.  This was real life, with fourteen-year olds who by the way, looked like fourteen-year olds, not body beautiful adults posing to be at least ten years younger than they actually are.  No, instead, my husband-to-be merely emitted a high-pitched laugh (very similar to the one he gave when I first told him I was pregnant), followed by calling out to the audience that was still gathered, “Three years! Three years!  And she’s finally said yes!”  I then heard him (because I still couldn’t face looking his way) run off in a whirlwind of laughter, shouting and whooping, just before the bell rang for afternoon lessons.

To be continued…