Speed dating Jews? It's better than Freeview
It was either a famous Greek philosopher or an obscure Jewish divorcé who said that being married to a Jewish woman is one of those things you should try for a brief period, and then give up for the sake of your mental health.
One hesitates to use a word as loaded as "survivor" in this context, but what the hell - I was once married to a Jewish girl and survived.
Imagine, then, what damage exposure to, not one, not two, but 15 - count 'em - Jewish girls could do? I mean, we're talking almost radioactive levels of emotional corrosion. But such was the risk I took when I decided last week to go speed-dating.
There are numerous ways for Jews to meet these days apart from the obvious old-fashioned, and onerous, ones such as, you know, leaving the house, driving for miles, parking at great expense, then going to a crowded bar to endure ritual public humiliation as you get swatted away by gorgeous JPs with richer and hunkier men in mind.
For the more time-poor, and sensitive, among us, there are new-fangled occasional mini-events organised with near-military precision such as "cooking parties", where an equal, and small, number of men and women are brought together in the controlled environment of a kitchen in north London to master the intricacies of haute cuisine while hopefully finding a life partner. That's the idea, anyway. From what I've heard the experience is more likely to involve some uncomfortable fake bonhomie and banter, and lots of pretending not to find each other deeply unattractive while bowdlerising chicken or doing obscene things to tempura.
‘Are you always like this?’ said girl number one. I don’t think she meant it as a compliment
So I passed on that and instead plumped for speed-dating in a restaurant near Southgate. My first fear was that local girl made "good" Amy Winehouse and all her tattooed mates would turn up in their grungy Camden market boho wear and laugh at all us nebbishes in our off-the-peg shirts and slacks. Luckily, she didn't - her dad must have detained her with one of his impromptu sets of Sinatra ballads. Cheers, Mitch, I owe you one.
My other major concern was that, far from being a private function in a cordoned-off area, we were in full view of actual paying customers who had come to this cosy bistro for some quiet Monday night dinner and chat, only to find themselves surrounded by two dozen or more anxious, love-starved Jews.
You could see their eyes in the semi-darkness, flickering with anticipation. You don't get this much gratis entertainment on Freeview.
And it was entertaining - if you happen to get a sadistic kick out of watching men stumble nervously from pillar to post, or rather table to table, where each of the "dates" sit, just waiting for the assembled saps to fluff their way through conversations with them, a mixture of women clearly way out of their league or so not their type that the requisite five-minute length of the blip-date seems, ooh, roughly four minutes and 58 seconds too long.
My first superfast tryst was with a hottie. Now, they say great beauty drives a woman crazy. Well, men, too: show me a beautifully sculpted face or a well-proportioned body and I'm reduced to drooling monosyllables or stuttering attempts at humour. Weirdly, these rarely meet with success, and tonight was no exception.
"Are you always like this?" said girl number one, and I don't think she meant it as a compliment. I spent the remaining 120 seconds performing incredible feats of origami with a napkin. Sidling sheepishly over to the second table like a condemned man facing a showdown with his executioner, I got shot down before I'd even sat down. Scornfully scanning my grey jacket and trousers ensemble - one of Top Man's top-of-the-range numbers, or at least it was when I bought it in 1994 - she winced and said, with all the delicacy of a butcher with a hangover, "You didn't make much effort, did you?"
It really wasn't a successful outfit, all told – another woman opined that I'd "fit in really well around Burnt Oak." Ouch.
After that, le deluge. There was the girl who decided I made her "feel comfortable" - what, like an old blanket you give a dog? Thanks for that, attractive but inadvertently hurtful lady. Another didn't like the way I poured the milk into her coffee - odd, because like most of humankind I favour the vertical drop from jug to cup.
But the final straw came when a woman, halfway through our brief encounter, decided she needed a cigarette break. She'd lasted less than one minute with me. Still, that's probably longer than Katie Price will put up with Alex Reid.