‘And Then I Ran Away’: London Dating Stories To Make Your Heart Burst

Consider this page the equivalent of watching Love Actually on repeat. Without the Christmas Carols.

From desperately (/stupidly) trying to find somewhere to meet in Soho on a Friday night, to popping out to the loo during a cinema trip and losing your date in the IMAX, or going for a casual drink in Camden and waking up in Morden, London dating is geographically difficult, socially awkward and tends to involve a lot of excrutiatingly weird hugs at tube stations. But that doesn’t mean we’ll ever give up on it. After all, for some people, it actually works out…

Yara and Xander: Together seven months.

‘I had recently got out of a five-year relationship and decided I needed to put myself back out there. I wasn’t on the hunt for a boyfriend, I just wanted some harmless flirting and fun, so I did the obvious thing.

I joined Tinder.

After a few of the stereotypically creepy guys you become used to stumbling upon, I matched with one particular man who had it all (AKA, he looked hot and could hold a decent conversation). After some text flirting we decided to go for drinks, and arranged to meet at the South Bank Christmas market.

Note to everyone planning an outdoor date in December – a leather jacket is not a warm enough option. I ended up drinking far more than I should have, just to keep warm, and Xander had to put me on the night bus home. Ah, the romance. I felt certain he wouldn’t be interested in me and spent the following morning with my head down the toilet.

Needless to say I was pretty shocked when he wanted to see me again, but we’ve now been together seven months and have just moved in together. Tinder FTW.’

Gemma and Marcus: Married 11 months.

‘It was during dinner on date three with my now-husband Marcus that I broke the news. He owed me the grand total of £770 – the cash I’d ploughed into fruitless My Single Friend subscriptions over two years and 11 months before I finally met him – The One.

I knew it within the first hour of our first date in Southbank in May 2012. Marcus was funny, calm and had great forearms. Who knew that I even liked forearms? And where the heck had he been hiding?

I’d treated my hunt for the perfect boyfriend a bit like shopping on ASOS – shoving lots of options in my Save For Later folder, clicking ‘buy’ on a few select items only to discover they weren’t quite the right fit. Regrettably all were returned to sender.

But on my first date with Marcus, when one quick glass of wine rolled into dinner, two bottles of Merlot then drunken dancing in a bar in Waterloo, I had a feeling that he was a keeper.

The following night, despite both of us nursing stonking hangovers, he was at my house sharing pizza and chilling on the sofa. Seeing me at my pale and bedraggled worst can’t have had the devastating effect that I’d feared because he stayed put for the entire weekend. By close of play Sunday we’d agreed to take ourselves off My Single Friend – who needs ‘will you be my girlfriend?’ when you’ve got a click of a mouse?

Within a year Marcus and I were living together, by July 2014 we were engaged and on August last year we said ‘I do’. It was an expensive wait to find him but good things come to those who wait, right?’

Follow Gemma on Twitter @TheGemmaCalvert.

Georgie and James: Together six months.

‘James and I met on Tinder in December last year. I say ‘met’, but because we were so busy with holidays and Christmas etc, we didn’t actually meet until two months later in February. Talking every day but never face-to-face was like having a penpal you fancy, living over on the other side of London. It was strange but in a good way, and so exciting!

As it was, he’d never have popped up on my feed if I hadn’t been over visiting family in West London, where he lives. And we’d never have met at all if it wasn’t for Tinder, because I lived in Canary Wharf at the time! I still cringe a bit at the fact that we met online but it’s funny I guess… Either way it’s a talking point!

In February, we managed to go on a number of dates – and we both pretty much knew straight away that we were going to be together. Or at least, I did. Looking back, I have no idea why he carried on dating me. On one of our first nights out together, he took me to his friend’s restaurant on Great Portland Street. I decided to have the best part of a bottle of wine to calm my nerves before – not realising we were having a tasting menu, and would be drinking lots of wine with each course. And then we went for cocktails – by which point I had already smashed a glass and bumped into a lady who looked like she wanted to punch me.

Of course, it gets worse. In the taxi home, I had to make James stop the driver so that I could be sick, and as soon as I was out of the car, I ran away because I didn’t want him to see me throw up. And then I forgot where the taxi was. To cut a long story short, he’s a saint.

Fast forward to now, and we went to our first festival together at the Isle of Wight a few weeks ago and are moving in together at the end of the month.’

Angie and Daryl: Together for eight and a half years.

‘Nine years ago, in Sydney, I packed up all of my earthly belongings and headed to the other side of the world looking for adventure. I was 23 years old, and London was calling, so I told my parents I’d see them in a couple of years, and promptly moved into a house share with seven strangers in Wimbledon, (which felt a bit like living in the Big Brother house at times!).

About a month into London life, one of my flatmate’s friends came over to our house for drinks before a night out. I remember saying hello to him and apologising for the state of my messy room! Of course, he turned out Daryl, and over the next few weeks we got to know each other better. I can still remember making eyes at him across a busy bar in Putney, thinking he was really cute.

The rest is history, as they say. Together we have travelled the country, and the world. He has been my home and my family when I was homesick. One of our favourite things to do together is walk around this amazing city and discover new things, and so for my 30th birthday, he planned a surprise London adventure day.

And here we are. Six weeks today we’ll be getting married at Camden Town Hall, in the same room where we became British citizens.’

Vicky and Jim: Together 11 months.

‘Jim and I met in September 2014 after a few weeks of flirting on Tinder. His first words to me were ‘Post-modern or post-mortem photography?’ in reference to my bio, so I knew he wasn’t the easily-spooked type.

We met at The Green Man just by Bank station, struggled to find each other initially (it’s a queerly complex set up in there) and downed a few glasses of wine before heading to the Southbank with some M&S cans. I wouldn’t say we had an ‘instantaneous spark’ (we’d both been through the mill a bit earlier that year), but I liked how he laughed, and how he spoke, and how he wasn’t averse to drinking on the street. There was also a fair bit of kissing after the cans had been emptied, which was a pleasant surprise.

The evening ended with us buying Domino’s and eating it propped up by a bollard; Jim picked a stringy piece of cheese off my chin in a very tender way (is that even possible?), and we said our farewells. On the way home I received a message simply saying ‘I like you’. I smiled all the way across London Bridge. And we’ve worked our way through a fair few pizzas since.’

Rebecca and Marcus: Together two years.

‘I had always assumed that when I met somebody, it would be online – I just didn’t think people met in person anymore! But when a friend organised a group weekend away to Norfolk, she suggested that Marcus and I went for a drink together to break the ice beforehand, as we were the only ones who were going and hadn’t met yet.

I hated him. We sat in Gordon’s wine bar at Embankment, irritating each other for two hours. He was a complete know it all, went on and on about having studied at Oxford, and used stupidly long words. Meanwhile, he thought I was “mouthy and annoying.”

We went our separate ways after drinks, I surmised that he was “arsey and boring” and I even got myself a stress related McDonalds because it was so awful.

Two weeks later we were trapped in a car back from Norfolk together, and slowly the ice started to thaw. He made me laugh, and before we’d hit the motorway I was surreptitiously putting on make up in the wing mirror.

Seven months later we’d moved in together and become inseparable. But I still maintain that on that first night he was arsey. And boring.’

Suzanne and Lewis: Married for 17 years.

‘Lewis and I knew of each other as we had both been at Leeds Uniersity, but we didn’t start dating until a couple of years after graduating.

Funnily enough I was on a date in Hendon with another guy when Lewis came into the same restaurant with his parents and we caught each other’s eye! Even until this day, my mother-in-law claims she knew from that moment we would be together!

We hit it off immediately and within 18 months were engaged. We both had the same family values and passion for life which was important. My husband works long hours in the city as a lawyer and I’ve always worked as a journalist – keeping my career going while bringing up our three kids has always been very important to me.’

Follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzanne_baum, or check out her website.

Rhiannon and Tom: Together 18 months.

‘I’d paid £30 specifically to read and reply to messages on Guardian Soulmates, so I was already financially invested when I met Tom at a cocktail bar just off Oxford St, where my boss Issy had booked a table for me (hissing down the phone “It’s their first date! They can’t be near anyone!”).

We quickly sacked off the tiny expensive cocktails for a rubbish pub opposite until closing chatting football, films and other stuff that doesn’t begin with ‘f’.

Then the nightmare scenario began – walking to the same tube and realising we were travelling in the same direction. But it wasn’t a nightmare, we had our first kiss on a TCR platform and held hands until Waterloo.

We had two lovely, and unusually promising dates before we decided to go to the cinema on a Sunday afternoon. It was almost the death of us. I’d moved things forward because of work commitments. Tom was in a mood (he’s since admitted he’d even brought his gym kit for afterwards. Ouch.) Then my bus arrived too quick and I jumped onboard, mumbling, “See you soon?”

As is often the case with online dating, after that, we felt fit to just ignore each other, (aside from one text that inexplicably read “Kolo Toure?”). Until months later, when he followed me on Twitter. God.

Neither my friend Liz or I can remember why I started DMing him. I just know we were drunk. Three days later we met at the BFI bar (neither of us sure if we were on a date) and sat outside, again until closing. And a year later, that’s where we just celebrated our first anniversary.’

Follow Rhiannon on Twitter @rhiannonev.

Hannah and Chris: Together two years.

‘My best friend had come to stay and we’d ended up having a wine and Brie fuelled picnic in Victoria Park on a Friday night. We were totally broke but eager to head out in town, so being ridiculously cheeky (and a bit drunk) I messaged some guys on Tinder, hoping we could wangle an invite to somewhere fun (and I’m mildly embarrassed to add – get some free drinks along the way). It worked – and before we knew it, we were on a bus to Shoreditch.

Actually, that’s not true. We’d stayed in the park for so long that we’d got locked in, and had to jump the railings to get out. But let’s gloss over that.

Whilst waiting for Tinder Guy and his pals to turn up, we moseyed into a bar and sat down with the cheapest drinks we could find on the menu. Within seconds we were accosted by a drunk middle-aged man, and to escape, I headed over to a table of guys sitting nearby and asked if we could sit with them instead. (To this day I have no idea where that burst of confidence came from.)

And one of those guys was Chris.

From that night onwards we spent every night together, and this month will mark two years since I became the girl that actually a managed to meet a guy in a bar in London. Last summer I moved out to Ipswich with my cat so we could all live together. And now we share a little red Fiat 500, I’ve started my own business and I’m planning on taking up gardening, for real.

Oh, and I have no idea what happened to Tinder guy.’

Follow Hannah on Twitter @Hannahfgale and read her blog here.

Caroline and Christian: Together for three and a half years

‘My fiancé Christian and I have been together for three and half years and will be getting married on the four-year mark in January 2016.

We met in December 2011 in Abacus, which is across the road from the Royal Exchange in Bank (it’s now been renamed). I was out celebrating Christmas with work colleagues, while Christian had moved to London from Spain just two weeks before. It was his first proper night out with work colleagues so meeting someone was the last thing on his mind.

I had other ideas. After spotting him across the room, I tried to give him the eye and did my best saunter past him. Clearly it worked – an hour or so later he came up to me and we had the most awkward conversation ever. He made me giggle as I’m a redhead and paled-skinned, and he called that exotic!

These days I run my own dating agency, Mutual Attraction, so I know how lucky I am to have met someone naturally. I think that’s what most of my clients dream of – though maybe not in a sweaty bar.’

Follow Caroline on Twitter @Matchmaker_Miss or check out her website.

Jess and Dom: Together three years.

‘Moving countries is hard. Moving back to London from Paris, city of romance, macaroons and impeccably dressed locals, is particularly so. In 2013, as I reluctantly packed up my life and gave up my love affair that was Paris and all things French, my best school friend Alice provided solace with the offer of a blind date. A blind double date, to be precise. Her, her boyfriend and his best friend.

I was sceptical – the words “blind date” brought to mind images of Cilla Black and 90s fashion mishaps – but also intrigued. If your best friend, who knows you inside out, thinks you would be well-suited to someone, surely the odds are in your favour?

The venue of choice was Duck and Waffle, a new venue that had sprung up during my time abroad. The timing, however, was less than ideal. I realised too late that I had managed to double book with the leaving party of my greatest university pal who was about to up and leave for Australia; an evening I definitely could not miss.

Determined not to cancel either event, I spent the day with my uni buddy drinking gin and tonics well into the evening and, in Cinderella fashion, fled at 10pm to meet the date trio for the late sitting at Duck and Waffle. Unwittingly, in my excitement, merriment and nervousness, I accidentally got rather (ahem, really) drunk. I perched at the bar and tried to do my best to cover “I’m trying very hard not to fall off my chair” with “I’ve just moved back from Paris and am totally nonchalant”, to limited success.

It turns out the butterflies I was trying so hard to hide were unnecessary; Alice had picked a good one. Dom was tall, chatty and interesting. He was passionate about food, his parents had lived in Paris and he was also a native country bumpkin. The date lasted well into the early hours, and with Alice and her boyfriend there too it felt like we had all known each other for ages.

Despite having arranged a second date the following weekend, Dom called me the next day to see if I would be interested in a Sunday evening date. A bold move, I thought, but definitely a good one.

Since then, we have endured all sorts together – job challenges, near boat capsizes, living above Dom’s pub (The Running Horse in Mayfair), long-distance during another stint in Paris, family illness and friends’ weddings – all of which has culminated in us recently moving in together with our adopted cat, Arthur. I guess that calls for a merci, Alice!’

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