I think I met a serial killer… Speed dating in St Paul’s

“Never again,” I’d decided after a nauseating speed dating experience three years ago. Where I’d expected cute, dateable men; instead I found a lot of desperate wife-hunters with mental checklists in tow. “Do you eat meat?”, “Are you religious?”, “Do you smoke?” were the sorts of questions fired my way, along with the bog-standard, “Where do you work?” Boring.

I’d also made the classic errors of a) failing to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ straight after each speed date, and b) failing to make any notes to distinguish each man from the next. As a result, by the end I’d confused myself entirely as to who was who and had a banging headache, so I hastily ticked a few boxes on the scorecard before handing in my slip – only to regret the entire thing the next morning, when I emailed the organisers and asked them to remove my scorecard from the count. WUSS! But in my defence, speed dating was a bit much for my 23-year-old self.

So, last night – three years on – and armed with another single friend, a new scorecard and a renewed sense of optimism, I gave it another punt. It was the same formula: women sit at tables around the room, men move from table to table every three minutes when the whistle is blown – and it wasn’t actually that bad.

I should interject before I go on that I do think speed dating should come with a firm caution along the lines of: ‘It is entirely possible you’ll have crap, awkward dates where the three-minute slot may feel like an eternity. This is perfectly normal. We cannot be held accountable for the shittiness of the talent on offer.’

I didn’t walk away from the night with the feeling that I’d met my Prince Charming, but I did meet an entire spectrum of men – from the weird one who gave off a serial killer-vibe (more on him in a second), to the beardy man who chatted to me for an extra 40 seconds after the whistle was blown. Aw!

This time around I was on top form: I made the ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘friend’ selection on my scorecard as the night progressed, and I made notes too. My notes mostly consisted of a word or sentence that reminded me of the date – for example, for the one mentioned above I wrote ‘big beard’, another I wrote ‘Egyptian’, and another I wrote ‘gay?’

Conversation flowed and some guys actually came prepared with interesting icebreaker questions – for example, one asked, ‘if you could host a dinner party, who would you invite?’ Even if he did use the same line on all the ladies, it did make it a more positive experience.

I also appreciated the fact that there was a ‘friend’ option on the scorecard of the Original Dating event, which meant you weren’t outright rejecting, just friendzoning.

Just as I was starting to relax and actually enjoy the night, the scary/weird/odd man, who I’ve decided to nickname the ‘serial killer’ came to my table. He had a stone-cold look on his face as he sat down, and when I asked his name, he grabbed my scorecard and wrote his name down rather than telling me it, and he asked me to do the same. He wrote his name in big angry capital letters too.

Next he said, in broken English: “I’m [insert name], I’m 31 years old and I’m looking for a girlfriend.” *Conversation killer!* I wracked my brain for a quick fire back, and came up with some generic questions about where he lives, what he does for a living and what brought him to London, etc. Bearing in mind he’d been talking at me for about a minute by now, there was a pause as I thought of something to try and continue the conversation. He rudely interrupted my thoughts with the question: “So are you going to ask me a question or what?” DEMANDING.

Ok, I came up with the topic of films: films should be the winning topic to save the day, I thought. “Do you like watching films? Films?” I asked as I wasn’t sure if he could totally understand me. “Yes, I like films with blood. You know, killing.” The background noise was getting louder and my expression may have suggested that I couldn’t hear him. At this point, he reiterated his point, saying “killing films” and made wild stabbing gestures towards me with an imaginary knife to illustrate. That was when I thought, “Errr, when’s that f*cking whistle going to blow? I’m about to die here.” I picked up my drink and took a long, long sip. The whistle still hadn’t blown. I took another sip, and did it again. Then I inquired as to whether this was his first time speed dating. No, he said – it was his third time because the last two times he didn’t get any matches. No bloody surprise! Then the whistle saved me. Hurrah.

That entire experience did, however, make me question the number of male speed daters who turned up to speed dating alone. Is that weird, or is it just a very female thing to want to take a friend everywhere you go?

Aside from the serial killer, there were 15 other men I met at speed dating – one I found really boring because he wanted to talk about politics, another piqued my interest as he revealed bits of his bucket list to me and asked me to do the same, and one offended me straight away by saying he thought my name was odd. Of the 15, I actually enjoyed talking to about 5 of them. It was a real mixed bag, and I think that with speed dating, ultimately you won’t know what you’ll find till you get there.

One cool thing about the Original Dating event was that you didn’t have to give your scorecard in to anybody at the end of the event – you could take it home and have a think before entering your choices into its unique smartphone app, Mixeo. This buys you time to make an objective decision the next morning. The app then tells you who you matched with and links your profiles so you can use its private in-app messaging system to chat to them if you want.

Would I speed date again? Probably not. But I met a serial killer and survived, so here we are.

PS Top trick for speed dating: one girl at the event revealed that she ticks ‘yes’ to every speed date to see who matches her before deciding who she’d actually like to talk to or date – I suppose it’s a bit like swiping right to everyone on Tinder. If you’re brave enough, you could do the same.


Fun bachelorette and hen party games: tried-and-tested!

A few months ago, I took on the responsibility of organising my sister’s hen/bachelorette parties. Yes, I used the plural – ‘parties’ – because the madam decided that she’d have one hen party abroad (for those who could make it to another country) and one nearer to home (for everyone else who couldn’t) – apparently it’s the new thing to do.

Having only ever been to one civilised hen party before taking on this mammoth task, I was a little lost for ideas, so I had to be inventive.

I wanted to share the games I researched, and created, to help those ladies who are stuck in a similar rut – with a hen party to organise, and a limited amount of time to get it together! Remember, the main aim of the party is to make a fuss of and embarrass the bride-to-be, while entertaining her hens.

Give these heart-shaped bubbles to each of your hens – they’re cute and chic, and a nice memento of the night! Or you might like these or, alternatively, these naughty ones

Hen party games

-Wedding-themed memory game: If the hens don’t know each other too well, this is a quick way to break the ice. The first hen starts by saying: ‘My name is ______ and I’m taking a _____ to [bride-to-be’s name’s] wedding. So if the hen’s name is Sally, and the bride’s name is Mary, Sally would say: ‘My name is Sally and I’m taking a sausage to Mary’s wedding.’ We played it so the name of item also began with the hen’s first initial, so Sally took a sausage, and Laura took a lizard. The next hen has to repeat Sally’s item, and add one of her own, etc.

Get this badge set so each hen has their own. These badges are cool too

-Interesting fact: This is another great icebreaker but it takes some preparation. In the run-up to the hen party, ask the hens to tell you an interesting fact about themselves. Then, at the party, read out the fact and ask the rest of hens if they can guess who it relates to. We had some hilarious revelations: one hen was a member of a medieval re-enactment group, one liked to drink tea in between a drinking session, another owned 60 pairs of shoes – you get the gist!

-Pin the willy on the bloke: A variation of the traditional Pin the Tail on the Donkey game – simply replace the donkey with a hunk, and the tail with a willy. I did a DIY job with preparing this – I just stuck lots of pieces of paper together and drew on a life-size hunk, then used Blu Tack to secure to the wall. Draw or print off a cartoon willy, cut round it and use Blu Tack to give it a sticky back. If you don’t have time, just buy the game. Blindfold the hen, swivel her round a few times and then let her pin the willy. We wrote the hen’s name on the spot she pinned to compare performance!

What’s in your purse? The hen with the weirdest things in her purse is likely to win this game. Hens get points for the items they arrived at the party with – so, for example, as the host, you would ask: ‘Who has a receipt for shoes in their purse?’ and all those hens who have one are awarded 20 points. You can make a list of a range of things, such as: toothbrush – 5 points; picture of partner – 5 points; condom – 10 points; PMS medication – 15 points; spare underwear – 20 points; a pen which isn’t black or blue – 10 points, etc. The hen with the most points wins!

-Mould the best willy: Arm some of the hens with Play Doh, and challenge them to model a willy. If you’re feeling really adventurous, get them to do it blindfolded, or with their eyes shut. The rest of the hens then vote the winning model.

-Pass the bouquet: This is just like musical chairs, but it uses a bouquet. Get your hands on false flowers, or real flowers if you fancy it, and you’ll need one of the hens to control the music. Get everyone else to stand in a circle with their back to the centre, and while the music plays the hens have to pass the bouquet to the person next to them. The person who is holding the bouquet when the music stops is eliminated, and the last person standing is the winner!


Inflatable selfie picture frame

-The biscuit game – You’ll need a packet of digestives from the supermarket for this game. Get hens to bite the best heart, bouquet or willy shape and compare the results at the end – awarding prizes for the best willy, biggest willy, or biggest heart, for example.


Inflatable props and accessories

-Mr & Mrs Quiz – Get the groom to fill out a quiz, and the bride-to-be to guess his answers. Turn it into a drinking game by making her take a shot for every answer she gets wrong. Here is a list of questions I gave to the groom > Questions for groom.


A cute keepsake for the bride

-How well do you know the bride? Craft a multiple-choice quiz for the hens, about the bride-to-be, which she has answered in advance. Split the hens into teams and get them to guess the answers. Swap sheets at the end and get the teams to mark each other’s answers – the winning team receives a prize! Here is the quiz I created for the bride to fill in > How well do you know the bride? Quiz questions. Then you can get the losing team to do some dares – here are some outrageous dare cards

-Bridal pictionary: Based on the well-known Pictionary game, for this you need pieces of paper and pens. Think of wedding-related words, such as rings; flowers; bride; champagne; cake; music; wedding dress; 27 Dresses; bridesmaids etc and write them on small pieces of paper. Split the hens into teams – perhaps ‘The Bride’s Team’ and ‘The Groom’s Team’ and get them to take turns in picking a word and attempting to draw it using pictures. The team that guesses the most correct answers wins.

-True or false: Gather 10 to 15 facts about the bride-to-be. Half should be true and half should be false. Get the hens to try and decide which ones are true!


Prosecco pong – beer pong’s classy sister

-I Have Never – drinking game: One hen starts by revealing an ‘I have never’ statement such as ‘I have never eaten a whole box of chocolates’ or ‘I have never lied about my age’. Those hens who have done this – who have eaten a box of chocolates, or have lied about their age – must drink. Then the next hen says what she has never done, etc.

-Scavenger hunt and to-do list: Give your bride-to-be a list of items she must acquire, and a set of tasks she must complete during her hen party. If you don’t want to be too cruel, you can add that she can nominate her hens to do some of these for her. Items to collect could include: a business card; a condom; a phallic-shaped item and boxers. Things to do could include: get a guy to buy you a shot; get a photo with a man in uniform; get a guy to dance for you, etc. The prize of the game is a lifetime of memories. Click to see the ‘Bride to be to-do list’ and the ‘Bride-to-be’s list of things to collect’

-My first kiss: Get the hens to go round and reveal details of their first kisses… Prepare for lots and lots of giggles.

Themes for hen nights

It’s great fun to set a dress code for the hen parties. We chose nerds, where we wore oversized glasses, braces, knee high socks and drew on zits. We also dressed up as Disney characters – we coordinated so we were all different characters, from Cruella de Vil and Pocahontas to Snow White and Minnie Mouse. For the final night we dressed up as animals – so the girls wore animal print dresses and tops, and some wore ears, tails and I got hold of some face paints, too.

Easier themes would include cow girls; angels and devils; fairies; neon; James Bond and The Only Way Is Essex! If you’re looking at hen tat to buy, sashes, whistles, mini bubbles necklaces, Hen Party name badges and willy straws really went down a hit! If you want to go OTT, you could get an inflatable willy, mini tiaras, glow sticks and a bride to be veil. Have a happy hen x

Use these bits and pieces to accessorise the party:


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