Post in association with Babbel

I arrived at the warehouse on the outskirts of London feeling nervous.

I pushed my way through the plastic strip curtain covering the door. I felt like I was nine years old again, going into the chilled food aisle at Gateway with my Gran.

My head was full of Spanish phrases. ‘Tengo tres gatos,’ I muttered to myself. ‘Tienes mascotas?’

On the other side of the plastic curtain a film crew was setting up.

It wasn’t your normal kind of first date scenario.

First dates can be pretty nerve wracking at the best of times. Blind dates even more so. Add in the fact that you are being filmed and the whole date has to be conducted in a language that you’ve only been learning for three weeks and the scope for personal embarrassment is massive.

Fortunately I do not embarrass easily, which is why when language app Babbel set me the challenge a few weeks previously I had been all over it. I mean sure, I’d been secretly hoping that I would end up with French or German, as I studied both of these up to A-level, but Spanish… I’ve watched a bit of Dora the Explorer. I felt up for the challenge.

The fact that my date was Spanish had only been revealed to me three weeks previously in an Oscar ceremony style envelope opening. With the cameras on me, it was revealed that my date was going to be Marco, and off I was sent with a subscription to Babbel and a childlike desire to be star pupil. (I was one of four people taking up the challenge and damn it, I was going to be the best.)

How does Babbel work?

So there I was.

I had Babbel and I had three weeks. I was a little daunted, but I got stuck in. You can use Babbel on your desktop or via the app, but I did all of my learning through the app as liked the flexibility this gave me. You can download lessons to do offline, so I could do twenty minutes on the way to work easily, or do a little bit in bed last thing at night. (I had the idea that it would work a bit like a hypnosis and that if I did it just before going to sleep it would SINK IN without me having to do anything.)

The Babbel team recommended that I did around 15-30 minutes every day and I have to admit that initially I thought I might struggle. I was worried that it might feel a bit like a chore – like having homework set that you didn’t want to do – but it really didn’t. I actually found myself looking forward to it. Sometimes I did an hour, sometimes less, but the time always passed pretty quickly while I was learning.

Your learning on Babbel is split up into lessons, which probably take around 10 or 15 minutes each, depending how quickly you go. You can either work through a course of lessons, or try other ad hoc lessons according to why you’re learning. I went through the whole of the beginner level 1 course and part of level 2, but I also dipped into other subjects, like this one, you know, just in case:

learn Spanish with Babbel View Post

This year I popped my Love Island cherry. As far as cherry popping experiences go, it has been a good one – I certainly haven’t been left underwhelmed. In fact, Love Island has become an integral part of my evening. I even found myself giving relationship advice to a friend yesterday based on the exploits of the Love Island contestants.

‘If you’re finding yourself thinking too much about it,’ I said to a friend who has been seeing a new man for a couple of months, ‘maybe it just isn’t meant to be? It’s like Wes and Megan,’ I said, getting into my stride. ‘Wes was perfectly happy with Laura, but still at the back of his mind he felt like he could potentially be happiER.’ (Who doesn’t want to hear that from someone you’re dating?)

‘But then he got with Megan and he just KNEW,’ I said. ‘Maybe if he was right for you you would just KNOW?’

I feel like this total acceptance of everything that happens on Love Island as FACT probably says a lot about my approach to relationships generally, but we will brush over that bit for now.

What I want to talk about today is how sad I am that Sam and Georgia finally made the decision to leave the villa together. Aside from the fact that Sam is the only one of the boys who I could ever begin to vaguely imagine myself having sex with, (‘he’s relatively kind of small and like a weasel’ I wrote in my family WhatsApp group, ‘so pretty much my type’), I have developed something of a soft spot for Georgia.

I think it’s because she reminds me a bit of myself. View Post

In association with Match

I’ve been dating on and off for about ten months now and I’m actually really enjoying it. I’m happy on my own but I’m open to meeting new people and that feels nice – I can enjoy getting to know someone over dinner without any pressure and I’ve met some really interesting and fun people.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, and generally having a lot more confidence, but I feel more relaxed and positive about dating than I ever have before. It’s pretty cool.

It’s very different to when I dated ten or even five years ago. The fact that Belle is now 15 and happy to stay home alone makes a massive difference. When I think back to my earlier experiences of dating as a single parent I mainly remember the painful logistics of the whole thing.

Specifically, babysitting.

I mean think about it, it doesn’t matter how much effort you make getting your feet ‘summer ready’ or curling your hair in sexy waves around your face if you end up with a small toddler casually sat next to you at dinner does it?

single parent dating babysitting service Match Yoopies

What me?

(Just to clarify – I have never taken a toddler on a first date, mine or anyone else’s. This is one of my favourite ever pictures of Belle though, known affectionately in the family as ‘big sandwich’.) View Post

On Tuesday this week I found myself in a hot tub at the Lido in Bristol. I say ‘found myself’ – I didn’t wake up there, blurry eyed and confused, I got IN. You know, consciously.

Two women who looked about my age were sat opposite me, chatting about various lighthearted things. There was a natural lull in the conversation. The woman on the left, we will call her woman one, looked thoughtful.

‘I think I know what it is to love somebody,’ said woman one, seemingly out of nowhere, ‘but I don’t think I’m in love with my husband.’

There was another silence. Not so natural this time. Woman two looked shocked, like perhaps she didn’t feel like she knew woman one well enough to be hearing this.

‘Wow,’ said woman two, ‘that’s pretty big. How long have you felt like that? I think it’s pretty normal over time to feel a different kind of love for a partner.’

‘I’m not sure,’ said woman one, ‘I think I’ve always felt like it. It’s actually the first time I’ve said it out loud to anyone.’

Woman two was definitely feeling the pressure at this point, and I was doing my best not to stare directly at them, but it was hard to listen over the noise of the bubbles without being able to see their faces.

‘How do you feel about that?’ said woman two.

Woman one sighed. ‘I guess I just try not to think about it. I push it to one side. I figure that’s just it now.’ She looked sad.

WHAT THE HELL?? View Post

I’ve been on quite a few first dates over the last few months. I’m not desperate for a relationship or anything, (although I’d happily have one), but I like meeting new people and I love an outing, so a first date is just a fun excuse for cocktails really.

I find first dates a rather strange thing generally though.

It’s because of THE SPARK.

Ah yes, THE SPARK. That elusive something that is apparently meant to reveal clearly within minutes of meeting a total stranger whether or not they have the potential to be the love of your life. When you put it like that it seems a bit ridiculous doesn’t it?

That’s because it IS a bit ridiculous.

I mean sure, you might go for lunch with someone and be pretty sure at the end that you DON’T want to see them again, but unless they really are so tedious or insensitive or gruesome like this one I went on, that you can say NO with 100% certainty, then how exactly are you meant to know? How many couples have you heard joking about how they met – ‘Oh yeah, I couldn’t stand him when I first met him! I thought he was awful!’ – and then there they are, ten years later, happily married.

I love watching First Dates, and yet sometimes I can’t help but feel frustrated.

‘She was a really lovely woman’, a guy might say at the end. ‘She’s gorgeous, and we got on really well and shared a sense of humour, but I just wasn’t sure I felt THAT SPARK.’

God.

THE SPARK.

When should you feel the spark on a first date? View Post

A couple of weeks ago this picture popped up on my Instagram feed:

A post shared by Madelaine (@fromxthextower) on

I looked at it, scrolled on a bit, and then went back and looked at it some more. (It’s from a woman called Maddie by the way, who writes a really thought provoking blog here.)

I thought about it for a little while and started to feel a bit sad and cross all at once. Why it is that we have come to equate love with pain? Why do so many people feel that love without turbulence is somehow less worthy, less REAL? View Post