It’s been a while since I went on a date, perhaps through choice, more like fear of losing my singledom (Why would she want to be single at 34??) I’ve been rather content to be single. Content because I’m not sure where I might even live by May – the sunny mountains of California? Or the historical architecture of London? Why subject any decent man to that? You’re right, anything can happen, and God is bigger than my plans. But happy I was. And it was going to take quite a bit to get me on a date. But it appeared a man, 36, wasn’t frightened of such a challenge.
I met him the night before the book launch, over coffee. He lived in New York/Kenya and the UK, so instantly I thought he would be safe to meet, considering I don’t live in two of those three parts of the world.
After 3 hours of talking, and not enough time to get enough before my next meeting, I invited him to my book launch the next night, expecting a no-show.
But as I ploughed into the Q and A, he appeared, through the wrong door, late and right into my back.
‘This is Leo everyone’ I announced to the crowd.
Without flinching, he responded to the entire room
‘Thanks for coming everyone’.
Regardless of the applause he received, it was my mother who was most impressed with his entrance.
He left without saying goodbye, but texted a little later to say how much he enjoyed it. I thought nothing more of our banter and endeavoured to find myself in a bar with a girlfriend that night, wondering occasionally about this guy.
A week later I found a hand written letter come to my door step. The first page was an apologetic tale of why he didn’t write outside of single digits. Overleaf he invited me for the following week, to The Long Bar, at the Sanderson Hotel, London. And to bring a pen.
Now there were a few things that grabbed my attention:
- His observation of realizing a writer loves post. Hardcore mail.
- His choice of Ian Shrager hotels, made me thankful for his fine taste.
- His wit had far outweighed many men I had ever met, the dude was a writer and had probably been paid more than I have for his powerful pen use. This guy once had a column. I was just a new-born author.
- Why a pen?
- How did he get my address?
The voluntary letter made me accept his invitation by typewritten letter of course. We met at The Sanderson a week later. His was an Old Fashioned – the choice of the Irish, and mine was a mixed berry, non-alcoholic cocktail, because I had not eaten much that day.
He was a gentleman, mature, observant, a great listener with no intention to impress. Which was important to me, I was so done with the charm, and yet here he was unintentional in suave and wit.
He kept watching the clock, which was interesting. I loved a man with time management. I couldn’t tell if my content in conversation was unimpressive, but time was key.
At 6.30pm we walked through Carnaby Street and into Piccadilly Circus, toward BAFTA and into London’s oldest bookstore – Hatchards
‘I just need to get Oscar Wilde’s biography’. He uttered. ‘Sorry – and then we’ll get on with the date.’
‘I’ll just take a cheeky mosey around here’. I replied.
‘No. Follow me’ he said. I followed him downstairs to see him grab Oscar Wilde.
Behind the book, was mine: ‘The Virgin Monologues’, wrapped in a ribbon saying ‘Signed copy’.
‘Oh?’ He reacted. He might be a witty writer, but his acting abilities weren’t quite on par.
I was dumb struck. How was my book in the oldest bookstore in London? Unless…..and how was it behind….
He grabbed the book and opened it. Blank in the front.
‘Did you bring your pen?’ He asked. Smugly smiling.
I could have reacted in shock, cried, laughed. But instead, wanting to rise to this Irishman’s cockiness.
‘Of course’… I brought out my fountain pen and signed it:
To Leo, That was awesome. Very awesome. Do thank Oscar Wilde and Anne Widdicome for letting me sit next to them.
We left the store and into another cab.
Who was this guy?? He’d invited me to The Sanderson, knew I loved old bookshops, and now was taking me to new talent central. He had set up an entire night of treats and surprise, all based on what I loved. All I could think about was who let him in on my loves and desires?
I didn’t question verbally, however.
The cab arrived to the Queen Purcell Room at the Royal Festival Hall.
‘I know you like old things’. He replied.
‘You mean vintage? Applicable to Typewriters, books and wine – yes.’
It made sense then as we walked into the theatre with its Eames lookalike seats, knowing I was about to witness the fine expertise of a man who had perfected the work of an art form 150 years old.
Mat Ricardo was the choice from the menu, the Vaudeville performer. The ‘gentleman juggler’ – the man who makes Flairers blush.
A one-hour show and back to Soho at Café Garamound, the restaurant underneath the writer’s members club – The Academy.
A club I wasn’t even aware of until that evening. One stunning bottle of Café du Rhones and a steak down, the waiter sparked up conversation with us about The Academy.
‘You have to be a published author’ he responded.
‘Well my friend here has just published this.’ Leo bought out his now signed copy, of my book.
‘Oh! Well congratulations.’
‘We’ll need another published author for your recommendation.’
‘Oh I live in America’ I responded.
And all of a sudden it dropped. That I didn’t live anywhere near Leo, most of the months of the year.
Yet one thing I forgot to tell you. Which perhaps I should have, was the third page to his letter. It wrote:
But I’m tight with a big God of big plans.
Who probably hasn’t told me,
Which town I
Are to spend the rest of our lives in.
I had no clue what was happening here. But I knew one thing: detailed kindness had become far more fascinating than ever before. I was done with crazy, I was done with charm, I was done with show. This wasn’t a try-hard, charm-hard, chase-me, feeble pursuit.
This was just a guy, working out how to learn a girl, from opposite sides of the world.
And within one date, the man raised my standards, he raised the game and made me happy that I hadn’t settled before now.