Maeve Higgins on... dating the English and 'Irish time'
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Maeve Higgins on... dating the English and 'Irish time'

I NEARLY had a heart attack the first time I saw a dog in a pub. It happened in Crouch End last week, while I was on an official first date with an adult male human.

I was already on edge, because I’m not used to going on dates. In Ireland, there is no such thing.

Going for a drink with someone can mean absolutely anything.

It could be a catch up, a work meeting, a therapy session or a simple way to fill time before dinner.

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Nobody asks, nobody tells. Both parties shuffle around and attempt to guess what, if anything, the other is after.

Often, even after they sleep with each other, the relationship remains ambiguous.

The only way people know for sure they are going out with each other is when they buy a house together.

Property, even if it does turn out to be less than worthless, speaks louder than words.

Here, it’s different. People ask each other out and nobody laughs.

So, I was on a date and that’s when a dog rested his head on the arm of my chair and sighed loudly. I jumped up, terrified.

I’m not afraid of dogs, it’s just that dogs aren’t allowed in pubs at home. Perhaps they are if they’re helper dogs, or wealthy, thirsty dogs.

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That night in Crouch End, there was a terrifying few seconds where I thought a silky-faced, floppy eared bag snatching man had rested his brazen head beside me. No wonder I jumped, I get frights really easily at the best of times.

Once my sister unexpectedly said ‘hello’ and I screamed, banged my head off the doorframe then fell down some steps. I’m just an elegant, sophisticated kind of woman like that.

As you can imagine, the rhythm of the evening was thrown off by my panicky outburst. No harm, since up to that point it had largely consisted of my date monologuing about his trip to Ireland while I made ‘I don’t agree but I’m being polite’ faces.

He said Ireland was a wonderful place, but he just couldn’t bear doing everything on “Irish time”. I asked what he meant and he explained that “Irish time” is when people take a long time meandering around a topic instead of just getting on with it.

I asked for an example and he told me about a woman in a sweet shop telling him “her whole life story” before serving him.

Naturally, I’ll take my sweet Irish time before seeing him again.

Maybe I could forgive him his ignorance if everything else had been in order. By ‘in order’ I mean if he was a Michael Fassbender lookalike with a kind heart, a clever brain and a great recipe for gluten free rhubarb crumble.

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Is it wrong to forgive slight racial slurs if you fancy the person doing the slurring? Please, don’t answer that. Instead, allow me to stay up here on my high horse, completely alone, tut-tutting into the night.