I know in some ways it’s a bit daft, but every now and then I have a pang of guilt about the little guy and the fact that he’s growing up in a household that has no men.
I mean, sure, he’s under no illusions about who his daddy is – he sees him every six weeks – but … on a day-to-day basis, he’s missing out on all the things that boys do with their dads, from fixing and dismantling stuff to poking about under the bonnet of the car.
I know that plenty of boys grow up without a father around at all, but in our gang, we’re pretty much the only ones. (I recently discovered one other single mum – one! – after four years of searching.)
I also know that not all dad are practical gurus and that I’m quite welcome to get into DIY or bike maintenance myself, but whatever a parent’s skills are, by the very nature of the beast, they can never be as broad and varied as those of two parents’.
Now, generally speaking, I’m not the sort of mum who panics because her child hasn’t mastered quantum mechanics shortly after ditching the diapers … but I do sometimes worry that I can’t help the little fella with lots of things he might be enthusiastic about. Which might, I suppose, be one of the reasons why I find myself here, back at the speed dating again.
I know, I know. The devil made me do it.
Even though these soirées tend to be about as much fun as stepping on snails in the dark, they’re also the only practical way for a single mum to meet other singles – what with having approximately zero socialising hours and all. But honestly … why I do it to myself I just don’t know.
Anyway, so far I’ve sat through a full five minutes of Baz’s jalopy racing (Baz doesn’t know a thing about me beyond my name); an intense conversation with a Russian nuclear physicist whose greatest passion seems to be collecting beer mats (what is it about me and Russians?); and a highly jocular, if slightly forced, conversation with a guy from the American airbase who pronounced caramel as cormel … leaving us at cross purposes for a decent chunk of our allotted five minutes.
Yeah, I know… but these are the kind of conversations you have at speed dating events.
Anyhow, just a few seats away, coming closer with every round, I see a guy with a striking similarity to Alan Carr. And throughout the beer mats and whatnot, he becomes a beacon of homeliness; a cosy, Paddington Bear-type character that I’m quite looking forward to meeting … though not necessarily in a romantic context, it must be said.
He’s not exactly like Alan Carr. Obviously.
He’s presumably less funny … and almost certainly less gay, given that he’s elected to spend his evening at a decidedly hetero speed dating session. But nonetheless, I can’t deny I’m expecting some sort of similarity. So when he opens his mouth and a deep Yorkshire baritone comes out, I nearly fall off my chair.
“I didn’t expect that accent,” I say.
“It’s the Alan Carr thing, isn’t it?” he replies, quick as a whip. “Everyone says that. They’re expecting a mincy mockney then this voice comes booming out.”
“You do have a bit of the Alan Carr about you,” I say, as if I’d just thought of it. “How does that work out in the world of dating?”
“Not as well as you might think,” he says, grimacing.
“Well, at least you seem to fall into the ‘normal’ bracket,” I reply. “You’re not into jalopy racing, are you?”
He shakes his head.
He starts to laugh. “You’ve had a good night, then?”
“The best,” I say wryly.
Around us, everyone is starting to pack up and leave; our five minutes are up and the event is drawing to a close. Nearby, the Russian physicist hovers expectantly.
“Oh lord,” I say, tilting my head in his direction. “Beer Mat Man. Save me, Alan Carr!”
And do you know what? He does.
He holds my coat for me, then pulls my arm firmly through his, gives Beer Mat Man a robust nod by way of farewell, and marches me out of the door.
We hold our poise until we’re well clear, then burst out laughing.
“That was impressive,” I say. “Truly masterful.”
“Oh aye,” he smiles. “Alan Carr doesn’t mess about.”
Then he pulls me close and kisses me, and I think, you’re darned right: Alan Carr really doesn’t mess about.