BLIND DATE: A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT THE REGULAR DAILY MAIL FEATURE

12 March 2020 Kensington, London, UK

You've seen The Daily Mail article - now get all the extra gossip from my blind date with Rachel as featured in this weeks FEMAIL


BLIND DATE: A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT THE REGULAR DAILY MAIL FEATURE
Image credit: John Godwin for the Daily Mail

Original Article: Who will find love on our blind date? This week it's Rachel, 32, and Alex, 37, but will romance be on the cards? 

"I'm looking for single divorced separated widowed men to go on an all expenses lunch or dinner date. Over 35 please!" read an intriguing tweet from self confessed "Tee-total-tree-hugging veggie writer" Samantha Brick.

A little unsure whether Sam's tweet lacked punctuation or if she wanted a guy fitting all of the criteria stated, I figured nothing awful could come from making an enquiry and whisper it quietly... I am most definitely over 35, so I at least matched up to that requirement.










However, one thing that I haven't exactly whispered about of late is my newly found and not necessarily intended single status.








It would be fair to say I have been rather beating myself up about things since the turn of the year and logging back onto a Tinder account that I had thought was long done with was a most depressing one to say the least.





But having started to come to terms with my situation and acknowledging the need to get myself 'back into the game' so to speak, it was clear the fact that I was willing to put my name forward was a further positive step on the road to self-recovery.







Eventually, as emails began flying back and forward between me and The Mail's production team and more of my personality was revealed to them, a curious hopeful sensation began to grow within. They seem to like me I thought, might I actually have a shot at getting this gig?




True, I would tell myself that this was probably down to the fact they didn't have that many eligible men to choose from, but judging from my research of past editions of their Blind Date series I was happy to believe that I wasn't as bad as some of the men that had gone before me.






Not wanting to get ahead of myself, I steeled myself not to believe in the possibility until the date was formally confirmed - and even then I was a little dubious given my past of experience of 'winning' a Magnet competition (where's my Google Home Hub Magnet?!?) - but with venue, train tickets and overnight stays booked, it was finally time to believe.

I am doing this!

The morning before the date








I perform my best "man at C&A pose" at I get my photos taken for The Daily Mail's Blind Date feature
I perform my best "man at C&A pose"

For those of you not familiar with the Daily Mail's weekly Blind Date feature, the setup is a relatively simple and fun one.

They pair up two unsuspecting singletons for a date, who after having a mini makeover and individual photo-shoot, go on to meet up in a high-end London restaurant before spilling the tea on each other for the nations entertainment.







True, the prospect of meeting someone you don't know in strange circumstances and then having that recorded in a paper with a print readership of over 1 million may sound down right scary to some, but this was never a thought that really occurred to me.








That was because I was massive fan of the original Blind Date featured the one and only, god bless her, Cilia Black - so much so, I had applied to go on the show a couple of times in my late teens - meaning this sort of scenario was always something I was intrigued to do.





There was also elements to this scenario that I saw as added bonuses. For one, the date was pre-arranged meaning I had minimal chance of messing things up before I got to that stage. Add to that the chance to have a beautiful meal at somewhere my current student budget could never afford and earn a modest 'thank-you' fee in the process; this was a no-brainier opportunity.







That meant that come the morning of the date, despite a late night following my journey down on the train from Middlesbrough the prior evening and a rather uncomfortable stay in the cheapest multi-occupant hostel dorm I could find nearby, I woke with positive spirits and light footed it across to my initial appointment of the day at the Daily Mail's Kensington base to be glamorised.





After signing a form to declare I had not caught coronavirus, which was a little dubious given my stay the evening before, I was met by co-ordinator for the day Emily, photographer John and make-up artist to the stars Desmond.

Desmond does his best to make me look beautiful ahead of my photo shoot for the Daily Mail's Blind Date feature
Desmond does his best to make me look beautiful. I imagine he's had easier Saturday mornings.

And I couldn't speak highly enough of the job these three did that morning, despite Desmond managing to knock over my morning coffee all over the studio floor. As well as employing their best efforts to make me look reasonably photogenic, their warm and engaging manor managed to get me to feel at ease, despite the growing nervousness of what was to come.






Having quite enjoyed the experience of having Desmond covering up all my wrinkles and imperfections - it's not something I've really considered for myself before, but maybe I could get into wearing some 'male-kup' - it was now down to Emily to decide what I was going to wear.






Instantly rejecting the varied options I had brought with me in my suitcase, a venture upstairs into the Daily Mail's fashion boutique, a thin elongated cupboard just aside from the Femail news desks containing racks and racks of various outfits, some navy blue chino's, a light blue shirt and some rather ugly looking brown loafers were selected for me.









With all of these slightly too big for my slender frame, I got a further insight into what it must be like as a high-fashion model back on set as the clothes were pinned and clipped to me to make it look like this was something I chucked on everyday.





But, despite looking respectable at this point, there was just a little something missing from the overall look. Queue Emily to rush out to the H&M down the road to grab a perfect pairing, a blue and white speckled blazer to complete my look, ensuring the tags were hidden from view so that it could be taken back later.



Feeling fabulous, now was the time to try and get that to show through the lense of the camera. The call sheet had requested pictures to be taken of a string of different poses to reflect the possible outcomes of my later date.















"Look happy, tuck your shirt in, head forward, smile, tuck your shirt in, arm down a bit, more natural, tuck your shirt in" came the directions one after another, as my brain struggled to keep up with all I had to do and ignore the new and strange sensation of pulling a cheesy grin whilst wearing make-up on your lips.






Then came a call from reception. My lunch date was here for her turn in front of the camera, meaning my photo shoot was now a wrap and I needed to be bundled out of the rear entrance!

John does the best with what he's got to work with as part of the Daily Mail's Blind Date feature
John does the best with what he's got to work with

The Date


My leaving, suitcase in toe, meant that our lunch date was getting ever nearer, but with a couple of hours to kill before our booking at our venue for the afternoon - The Ivy - I needed to decide what to do with that time.










And this was possibly the most uncomfortable part of the whole experience, as the anticipation of what was to come grew and I became a little lost in knowing what to do with myself. Fortunately, I would come across a Waterstones on my random walking up and down Kensington High Street, so decided to use them as a library for an hour or so as I browsed the self-help section to give some important last minute guidance and inspiration for my date.






As time slowly inched nearer to our scheduled 2 o'clock meet and not wanting to be late, I eventually decided it was time to make my way across to The Ivy and took up a position at the bar so I could witness the world go by, all the time wondering if each women that went past might be my date.






With nerves growing by the second, the wait felt like an eternity, but that interval was to be ultimately worth it as Rachel finally appeared through the doors of the restaurant, instantly lighting up the room and turning several heads in the process.









Wearing high heels, navy jeans and soon to reveal a lacy black blouse with a classy yet tantalising deep v-cut, the air of confidence she portrayed as she made her way towards the table where I was sitting was fully justified.







Trying to remain calm and composed, I got up from our table and greeted Rachel with a warm smile and hug trying to dispel thoughts of "she's way out of my league".






But in some ways, this thought was perhaps a reassuring one, for quickly accepting there was little chance of developing something meaningful on a romantic level produced the mentality of "let's just enjoy this for what it is" releasing all the nerves I had been gathering beforehand.





A further aspect that helped instantly relax me was the fact that Rachel was so easy to talk to. We must have been sat down and nattering away for at least ten to fifteen minutes before our initial food order could be taken - we had barely glanced at our menu's - which certainly seemed a positive early sign.

The Ivy, Kensington's, Crispy Duck Salad starter
The Ivy, Kensington's, Crispy Duck Salad starter

That conversation had barely stopped up to the point of our starters arriving, but then came what I was later to learn would be an "embarrassing moment" for me as I pulled up my camera from besides me and enquired if it was "ok" to take some pictures of our food.












At the time, Rachel didn't object to this request and in fact seemed quite content to take a couple of shots with her phone as well and I figured, whilst bringing a full DSLR camera with me might seem a little over the top, we are in the age of serial Instagram food bloggers constantly posting what they eat, so me wanting to do so here would not seem that odd.




But how wrong could I have been, as I read back Rachel's comments from the final published article this morning.








"I did find it a bit strange when he took out his professional camera to take pictures of the food. He was working on a college assignment" she would later reveal under the 'embarrassing moments' section, with the editors handily providing an amplified quote of "I found it strange he took pictures of the food" just in case this faux pas of mine been missed by The Mail's readers.











This perhaps tell me I shouldn't have looked to mix business with pleasure, but I remain unashamed of whipping out my 55mm at the table, it was something that had to be done - after all, you wouldn't be getting this insiders account if I hadn't chosen to do that.





Strangeness aside however, the date did seem to be going well. Despite sensing I probably wasn't her type, we had clearly both relaxed into things from the off as we bonded over our bizarre experiences of things leading up to the date and our probable status as 'token northerners' for this feature.







And having initially had reservations about our seating placement, I started to find that the unique l-shaped corner booths of The Ivy, that forced you to sit towards each other with an inwards lean, were a more intuitive way of attempting to build up a connection during a date than the more traditional form of sitting across from one another on opposite sides of a table.

The Ivy, Kensington's, Chocolate Bomb dessert
The Ivy, Kensington's, Chocolate Bomb dessert

So far, so great, but there was an obvious additional problem to any of this leading to anything more meaningful between us - distance!







Now I'm sure some of you reading will say that no object is so great when it comes to love, which can be true, but clearly in this scenario we are not at that stage, we would still be rapport building and whilst there were positive signs of attraction coming from my dining companion - cute smiles, laughter and playful touches of her hair - that progress would be difficult to maintain when back in our normal lives over 100 miles apart.




Not one to skirt issues... for the most part, it was an area I was keen to explore Rachel's thoughts on and openly asked her whether she'd thought such a situation would work and if she'd had experience of a long-distance relationship before.






I went on to explain that from my view, long distance relationships that do work are more likely to happen because they've been created out of an existing couples changing life patterns that has meant they've had to move apart from each-other temporarily, rather than starting a relationship with over 100 miles and the small matter of the Pennines between them.

The end result of this all was that we were clearly both accepting reality of our situations; that it was nice to meet each other, that we'd continue to enjoy the experience through to dessert and keep in loose contact afterwards, but that the prospect of anything on a romantic level was not there.









And whilst that clarity of understanding brought with it a little sadness for me, because Rachel had certainly grown on me throughout the course of our date, as I think I did on her - possibly to her surprise - I was happy to appreciate what Rachel and our date experience had given me.







That was because personally I don't think I could have had a better date than Rachel, she is a beautiful person inside and out and her engaging personality was a key part in making the experience the enjoyable one that it was.







Indeed, I said that much to her as things were drawing to a close and I hope, and think, Rachel will say the same from her side of our experience too.

But there was a further important aspect that Rachel unknowingly helped me with in my quest to move on from recent heartache; because she really did help restore my faith in finding love again, my self-belief and my self-confidence.


A big thank you also has to go out to everyone that was involved in putting our date together. That's Emily, Desmond, John, Alana, Samantha, Siobhan.

If you've seen my account and you're thinking "yeah, I fancy giving that a go" then let me just say do it. It's a lot of fun and who knows something special might come from it. To apply, simply start of by sending an email to blinddate@dailymail.co.uk 


Additional links:

Desmond (our makeup artist for the day) - https://www.instagram.com/desmondino/
John Godwin (photographer) - http://johngodwin.co.uk/

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