During the time I spent in Florence, I saw a city full of romance. I learnt that couples would celebrate their love by securing a bicycle lock to the bridges along the River Arno, a tradition which symbolises ‘eternity’. In the streets, any women under the age of 65 (and this was by no means a rigid cut off point) would be cat-called: ‘ciao bella’.
In Britain, this is alien to us, the nearest equivalent being the genial sexual harassment that is characteristic of our burly, Northern builders.
Nor do we have the smooth American Justin Timberlakes waltzing up to us and proclaiming, confidently, ‘It feels like something’s heating up, can I leave with you?’…because that is exactly how it would happen. Maybe there is something nice about the British reluctance to come out with these pick-up lines. Our wariness of being too forward. Our concern for politeness at all times.
And do not make the mistake of thinking that British people are not romantic. To quote British band The Troggs, love is, clearly, ‘all around’.
Here are just a handful of the ways that British people, despite their notorious ‘stiff upper lip’, manage to find love…
The Friend From Out Of Town
This one is brilliant, and fully supported by university culture. Flatmate announces that they have invited their [not necessarily] single friend from out-of-town to stay with them. Single friend is then assessed by the herd, via Facebook…which usually results in a subtle hint being dropped, to the effect of ‘my mate Joe thinks you’re smoking hot’
Helps if it is someone from a university with little to no nightlife scene, like Warwick or York. You might offer to be their ‘chaperone’, the generous benefactor of tequila shots and the friendly face in the crowd when they inevitably get lost in the crowd. They won’t know what’s hit them.
Incidentally, this one works both ways. Generally people visit other universities just to get out of their own little bubble for a while, not to meet the future love of their life. Hence the brilliant ‘no-strings-attached’ element. Of course, there is always the undesirable possibility that you DO get involved, and end up doomed to a long-distance relationship with someone from St. Andrew’s. Which has led to the popularity of…
Once upon a time, the young British gentlemen would call up their sweetheart’s landline (yes, that home phone singular which lived in the kitchen). The following sequence would then go a little like this:
Mother: Sally! Your boyfriend’s calling!
Sally: He’s not my &@$*ing boyfr―
(Whole family proceeds to listen to the conversation)
Now, thanks to the miracles of modern science, we have a whole variety of new seductions mediums. These range from old favourite Facebook, where you can woo your childhood sweetheart from Portugal ’03 (who is looking pretty cracking since puberty hit), to Skype, when romance really blossoms and you can actually stand to see their fallible, un-Photoshopped face.
But the real triumph of all these new developments is their discreetness. No longer does the British man have to profess, in public, to that girl down the road with the great rack: ‘Celia, you are my one and only!’. No need for that: they can just send it in a Snapchat, the only glitch being when they get her confused with that other bird from number 41.
Generally, the Cyber Seduction is everything you need: quick, underhand, and effective. It has even led to recent phenomenons such as ‘The Booty Call’ and, Tiger Wood’s favourite, ‘sexting’. And if this isn’t popular, because, god forbid, the recipient of your advances has already had the misfortune to meet you, then you could always try…
It’s a common scenario. Boy meets girl, they get chatting…somewhere along the line, you realise one of two things.
1) They are not attracted to each other.
2) Even if they are attracted to each other, they are both too British and emotionally-stunted to do anything about it.
Familiar? Do not fear, this is why clubs were invented. So, during your next venture to Oceana or whatever other hell-hole you have chosen for your club of choice, the magic happens. Aided by the nasal harmony of Rihanna (Lyrics: You can have me all you want. Any way, any day), the skimpy choices of womanswear and the Glenn’s you downed earlier, everyone is in the mood for…romance.
If this isn’t successful, there is always the 2:45am ‘rush of desperation’, when the club closes in 15 minutes and you are left with the hapless few who haven’t pulled yet. At this point, the dance floor just becomes a grand ‘free for all’, with more pairing off than a primary school P.E. Lesson. Alternatively, you could try…
On July 1st 2007, smoking in enclosed public spaces was banned, putting an end to smoky nightclubs and perilous cigarette burns, and representing a brilliant new opportunity for British romance…
This one directly corresponded with the rise of the ‘social smoker’: the ‘I only smoke when drunk’ brigade frequenting the outdoor smoking areas of clubs. Of course, these people might just enjoy the convivial atmosphere and the sub-zero temperatures outside, but the odds are that they are, in fact, on the pull.
It is a great pretext: ‘meet me for a smoke…you know, that addiction that neither of us have?’ Innocent enough, just the partaking together of a shared pastime. But also the ideal way to get someone alone, away from their friend who you may or may not have pulled the previous week. If you don’t have a special someone in mind, you could always just turn up with a pack of fags and wait until everyone becomes your new best friend with benefits.
Best of all, it’s a relatively-quiet place where British youths can regale each other with their drunken ‘wit’, for instance, the crazed man who once introduced himself as a ‘dolphin gynaecologist’, and launched a long interrogation about Kettle Chips preferences. Provided the conversation goes better than this, you might exchange numbers and, if all goes well, throw in an invitation to one’s semi-heated home…to share another cigarette, no doubt.