They say that were it not for alcohol there would be no British people. And I am coming to realise just how ill-prepared my British upbringing has left me for the world of dating outside the UK.
For those of you not in the know, the traditional courting ritual of the British mating pair involves nervously avoiding each other for anything from one week up to six months (in rare cases this phase of the mating cycle may last for years), a wary circling which sooner or later culminates in one frenzied night of passion, largely fuelled by any one or combination of the following:
- Stella tops
- Bombay Sapphire and Tonic
- Snakebite and Black (students only)
- Sainsbury's Valpolicella
After fleeing the scene - normally within twelve hours of copulation, and often in haste leaving behind appendages of varying degrees of essentiality (shoes, bras, contact lenses - known as 'Cinderella syndrome') - Phase Two, or Sub-phase One, 'secondary avoidance', begins. The tension begins to build again, eventually reaching its climax - excuse the terminology - in a second night of liquid-laced activity. At this point, the couple in question is generally no longer able to fend off probing questions from members of their social circle, and - somewhat sheepishly - a relationship begins.
As the relationship progresses, the volume of alcohol required prior to mating may vary in either direct or indirect proportion to its duration.
Typical mating calls of the Anglo-Saxon female may include:
- God, I'm so wasted!
It has become clear that this method ceases to be effective across the Channel.
Now in Belgium, the avoidance and booze technique is simply getting me nowhere. Ultimately it results in my sitting at home in front of Spooks with a bottle of Cotes de Rhone, inadvertently avoiding more or less everyone.
I wouldn't mind all that much (I'm starting to get into the new series, and 75cl of Carrefour red is an awful lot cheaper than going halves on a candlelit dinner for two), only the effects are starting to show in other areas, namely that I tend to channel pent-up - ahem - physical energy into feverish yet futile mental activity.
I have two degrees, speak Polish and play the organ and can't believe it's taken me this long to work that one out.
So, to save my neighbours from the inevitable insanity that can only come from frequent repetition of pages three and four* of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody on organ setting; to prevent my floor becoming completely lost under a pile of old copies of Polityka and to stop me missing most of Grey's Anatomy by trying to read the Dutch subtitles, I'm enlisting your help. Teach me how to date in Europe! That's all I ask.
In return, I'll avoid you for a month and then come round with a bathtub full of snakebite and black...
*the only two pages that I can play.