“I sold a date with myself on Groupon”

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In June 2014 I managed to somehow convince Groupon to sell a date with me on their website.protestIt had taken hundreds of emails and a lengthy protest that almost ended in my arrest, but I’d got what I needed. I was a Groupon addict looking for someone to share the adventure with. And the rules of the deal were simple. I’d take one lucky winner out on an all-expenses date wherever they were in the country. And who knew where it might lead from there?deal 1Luckily the idea seemed to catch people’s imaginations. Groupon launched the offer on a Tuesday morning and the following day I was front page news on the Huffington Post; I made headlines in the Daily Star; and I did an interview for a feature in Real People magazine. (If you’ve never heard of Real People magazine, then it’s one of those magazines that have stories like ‘I had a holiday romance … WITH A SQUID!’).daily starSo word was getting out, and take-up for the deal was strong. Girls were getting in touch on Twitter letting me know that they’d made a purchase:twitterI’m glad that a date with me constitutes an ‘all time low’. But by the deadline a week later I’d sold almost a thousand dates. My ef-girlfriend even got in touch, with this message:charly 3It was literally the last thing I had in mind! I now waited anxiously for Groupon to tell me the name of the lucky winner. There was a 1/1000 chance it could be my ex-girlfriend’s dad. I was also genuinely worried that my mum might have secretly bought a date, as a sympathy purchase. After all, she had previous. When I was growing up, there’d always be one Valentine’s Day card waiting for me on the doormat. And I’d pick it up, giddy with excitement, and think, ‘Oooh, who’s this from? Maybe it’s Hannah from the year above?’ And then I’d open it and it would say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day darling! From your secret admirer, Mum’. Which was both disappointing and creepy. But as if that threat wasn’t enough, I was also terrified a man might buy the date. After-all, nothing in the rules banned blokes. And what a waste of time that would be. I was lonely,  but not ‘Might aswell become gay now’ lonely.

Eventually Simon from Groupon told me that my date would be with someone called Alex Seabright. ‘That’s a very ambiguous name gender-wise,’ I said. ‘Are you sure it’s a woman?’ He said he had no idea. But there was nothing I could do. I would have to cross my fingers and hope for the best. So I e-mailed Alex to confirm a date and a time, and I booked a restaurant in Soho. They offered me the best table in the house, right by the window. Mainly I think because I booked it under the name Lord Groupon. The peerage I’d bought had finally proved handy.

I arrived slightly early and waited outside the restaurant. My stomach in knots every time someone walked past. Finally, I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned round and it was her. She was a woman and not my mother. I felt like weeping with relief.

What happened next? You’ll find out in the book! Available to buy NOW. Just click here.

Groupon #43: how I became a Lord and you can too

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It was time to put myself out there again. I was single and ready to mingle. So I signed up to an online dating site. But I wanted an edge. I needed to find a way to stand out from the other guys. I needed as a USP. An X factor. So I became a lord. Not many men could compete with that, surely? As a bona fide Lord of the Realm I consequently received the Deeds of Entitlement to the magnificent Dunans Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

dunans-castle

I was suddenly on the property ladder! And now that I was a lord I was legally entitled to use my new peerage in whatever ways I saw fit. In fact, I rang up Santander and got them to change the name on my bills to Lord Dickins.

Lord Max

Alright, I bought my Lordship on Groupon for 12 quid. But the women on Match.com didn’t need to know that did they? I WAS A LORD! And I would insist they called me that throughout the date.match

I actually got a date as Lord Max Dickins, and it was a disaster. Here’s a clue: dateawkward
You can read all about it in the book! But it NOW here.

Groupon #70: when spray tans go wrong

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tan tasticMy flatmates told me that it would make me look gorgeous. They told me that it was a great way to prepare for a date with my beloved ex-girlfriend. And so, for want of better judgement, that afternoon I went off to The Tanning Salon in Clapham to have a spray tan. An hour later I was stood in the lobby. On the way in I walked past a middle-aged woman the colour of an orangutan’s ball bag. She was a deep Lucozade orange, like a sub-Saharan reptile, or a Geordie. I approached the reception desk. Waiting there was Kayleigh in her skimpy black uniform, like a chorizo wrapped in a napkin. ‘Hello sir, I’m Kayleigh. What colour would you like? “Dark” or “Dark-dark”?’ she said. ‘I don’t know what you mean by that, Kayleigh. What’s the difference?’ ‘Well, do you want to look like Enrique Iglesias or Denzel Washington?’ she said. I thought about it for a second and then decided to play it safe. I went for ‘Dark’.

Next I was shown to an electronic spray tanning booth. Kayleigh was very cheerful, giggling away as we walked down the stairs and asking me lots of questions, including: ‘So are you having this for a special occasion or is it just a treat for your boyfriend?’ In the cubicle an electronic woman’s voice talked me through the whole process. All I had to do was strip totally naked and put a blue fishnet cap on my head. So by the time I stepped into the booth I looked like a Greggs’s employee who’d had a breakdown. Then the spraying began: the nozzles ejecting microscopic beads of brown paint in a cold mist. It’s a very weird smell, spray tan. It’s like a cross between chocolate and low self-esteem.

I got out of the booth and looked at myself in the full-length mirror. I didn’t look that brown. So I went upstairs to protest. Kayleigh tried to put me at ease. ‘Actually sir, you’re going to get really dark in, like, eight hours’ time.’ And in eight hours’ time I was at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, watching a show. There were three intervals in this show, and each time I came back from the interval I was a different race of human. To the point where I came back from the third interval, and the bloke sitting next to me just went, ‘Errr, sorry, someone’s sitting there, mate,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no, it’s just me. I’m blacked up.’

I did hundreds more Groupons. Including: colonic irrigation, wrestling alligators and baby scans. Buy the book here.

Groupon #14: moonlighting as a BEE KEEPER

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I always thought bees were wankers. Summer terrorists, suicide stingers; obsessed with sugar, like flying toddlers but with knives for an arse. When I heard that the world was facing a ‘bee shortage’, it sounded the same to me as if the world were facing a ‘fart drought’ or a ‘dickhead famine’. Good riddance! I thought. We can do without honey, can’t we? Who’s it going to affect? Winnie the Pooh? He can do with laying off the stuff anyway. That’s all he eats. He’s probably diabetic by now. He’s also very fat for a bear, and yellow, which is not healthy. He’s got jaundice basically. So bees weren’t top of my bucket list, but my relentless search for new experience drew me to the bastards and a small family home in Brentford. Where in the back garden were four hives containing almost 2,000 bees.

What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘beekeeper’? You probably think of an old man with a beard living a hermit like existence in rural Somerset; a vagabond who drinks milk straight from the udder and sleeps in a dilapidated caravan with only a goose for company. In short, you think of someone mental. But what struck me about this beekeeper was that she was totally ordinary. Lynn was a lovely lady living in a nice house with two children and a husband. Over honey cookies, I asked Lynn if the neighbours objected to her keeping a ton of bees. ‘Oh yes, they’re allergic to bees,’ she said, as if that wasn’t relevant. ‘The bees do sometimes swarm, and obviously they get upset,’ she added. ‘Also there’s a school down the road and they’ve been swarmed too, ruined their GCSE exams one year.’ Well, bees will be bees.

Taking care of bees-ness with my friend Dave and I, was the fattest woman in Europe. I don’t know this for a fact. She wasn’t wearing a medal and I haven’t done a full survey. But she must have had the same BMI as an oil tanker. It felt dangerous to teach this lady how to rear her own bees. She’d basically have her own honey factory. That’s like teaching a junkie how to grow his own heroin. It was time for us to don the bee suits. Dave and I put ours on without much hullaballoo. The lady needed help from all three of us. It was like pulling a condom over a cow. Having donned our protection, we went out to inspect the hives.bee 3Lynn gave Dave a smoker, which is a set of bellows with a small fire burning within its belly. Beekeepers blow smoke into the hive before taking the lid off because it makes the bees think the hive’s on fire so they gorge themselves on honey expecting a long fly, and end up eating so much that they can’t be bothered to attack you. This was Dave’s responsibility today. Unfortunately he obviously didn’t do a thorough enough job because the bees were now swarming around the fat woman, probably because her blood was 80% Coca-Cola. She began to panic: waddling around in a circle, manically waving her hands in front of her face, gasping the word ‘Help!’ Lynn was calm as always: ‘If you stop moving they’ll relax,’ she said with a shrug, ‘There’s no need to worry. You’re wearing a protective suit!’ No sooner had these words left her lips than a bee somehow broke into the fat woman’s gauze helmet. All hell broke loose. ‘I’m trapped!’ yelped the woman, now literally punching herself in the face.

Luckily Dave still had the smoker and so took the initiative, blowing smoke straight into the fat woman’s eyes. This compounded matters. The fat woman was now screaming and sobbing. Lynn was at the end of her tether. She replaced the lid of the hive and the bees slowly returned. When the cloud of bees and the cloak of smoke had lifted we returned indoors. ‘What’s the best way to treat a bee sting?’ croaked the upset fat woman. ‘Simple,’ said Dave, ‘you piss on it.’ Dave reached for his flies as if ready to do the honours. ‘No that’s jellyfish, Dave,’ I said, really regretting asking him to join me.bee 2Read more about ‘My Groupon Adventure’ in my new book. Available here.

Groupon #23: When dogs do YOGA!

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Dog yoga, or ‘Doga’, promised to allow me to access my dog on a ‘more spiritual level’. I was previously unaware that dogs had a spiritual level. In my experience, dogs tended to exist very much on a ‘urinating on trees and sniffing each other’s bum holes level’. But there was one major obstacle to my dog yoga plans: I didn’t actually have a dog. I called my uncle and asked him if I could borrow his Jack Russell, Marmite, for a few hours. He said ‘Yes’ before I could finish the question, because Marmite is mental. He never stops moving, leaping around all day long like a popcorn kernel in a hot pan. And he barks, and he licks, and he chews, and he digs, and he farts. He’s a pinball with an anus.

I picked the dog up from my uncle’s flat in Putney. He was waiting in the road as I pulled in, with Marmite already straining at the leash. I opened the back door to my Peugeot to let Marmite climb in. For once the dog was stationary, looking away nonchalantly. ‘He doesn’t like to go in the back,’ advised my uncle. ‘He likes to ride up front.’ ‘Oh does he?’ I said ‘And what radio station does he prefer?’ I opened the passenger door and Marmite hopped on the seat, propped aloofly on his hind legs. My uncle handed me a small yellow bag. ‘He’s just been for a dump, but here’s a bag just in case.’ He then ran inside and locked the door before I could change my mind. We set off. I put Radio 1 on. Almost immediately Marmite pawed the radio and changed the station to Classic FM.4704773038_a28bb92c61_bThe Doga was taking place in a dance studio near Fulham Broadway tube station. There were three other dog owners waiting in the hallway outside our room. The dogs were predictably losing their minds, turning the narrow corridor into a canine Hadron Collider. We all exchanged amusing small talk about the looming absurdity. The blonde lady looked down at her dog and looked back up at me and said, ‘He’s not going to talk to me after this.’ I stared back at her: ‘Does he talk to you now?’

Finally our instructor – Shawna – arrived to let us into the studio. She appeared to have a wig tucked under her arm, but on closer inspection it was actually a pathetic looking Shih Tzu. Shawna handed out our yoga mats. Then something very strange happened. The dogs started urinating on the mats. Mine in particular came in for a special hosing. Everywhere I looked genitals gushed. ‘Oh,  this is totally normal,’ reassured Shawna. ‘It’s territorial.’ I looked down at my mat, which glistened blackly. ‘Errr … shall I go and get some loo roll?’ I wasn’t going to do yoga submerged in piss. I wanted to access my dog on a more spiritual level but I drew the line at water sports. Shawna reached into her bag and pulled out J-cloths and a luminous yellow bottle of Flash.

With the urine mopped and the congregation sat cross-legged on their mats, we were ready to begin Doga. ‘You are Yogi and Doggie,’ she said. ‘It’s very important to ignore your dog, don’t play with them or drag them in to you. Concentrate on your breathing, clear your mind and be in the moment, I promise your dogs will come to you when they’re ready.’ We began our breathing exercises. It’s very hard to be in the moment, to experience oneness with the universe, when there are five dogs attacking each other a few feet from your face. ‘Inhale … exhale,’ continued Shawna, a consummate pro. She seemed totally unfazed by the spaniel that had taken a huge interest in her vagina. We started to go through the yoga poses. A spaniel was now trying to escape through the door using his head as a battering ram. The other dogs barked and bit each other. This was pointless.Dog yoga‘Now we are going to breathe like a dog,’ said Shawna as if it was the most normal thing in the world. ‘Raise your cheekbones and smile … good … now open your mouth and stick your tongue out … now pant like a dog.’ We all exchanged nervous looks but did as we were told. ‘By breathing like a dog it allows us to vibrate with the same energy as our dogs.’ The dogs were now frenzied. ‘They’re barking because they think we’re dogs.’ After five minutes of panting, we returned to the yoga positions. The dogs continued to wrestle. Finally, something snapped in Shawna and she stood up and picked up her dog, which was placid to her touch. She knelt into position again, her dog on its back in between her legs, spread out like dough, totally docile. The others dogs seemed to relax. ‘Robbie is the leader … it’s all hierarchical. They will chill-out now.’

We continued the session and gently a miracle unfolded. As my heart rate lowered and my breathing slowed, Marmite came and sat with me.  He became malleable. His eyelids grew heavy. He affectionately licked my hands. He lay on his back in front of me. And let me pick him up and hold him against my waist as I stood legs far apart, bending in the trikonsana pose. He even appeared to mouth the word ‘namaste’, but I could have been hallucinating. Inhaling urine fumes for two hours will do that to a man.Dog yoga 2Finally, I released him as we did some final breathing exercises and he retreated into a corner and fell asleep. I had somehow become the dog whisperer. ‘We are one energy,’ explained Shawna, ‘I believe in oneness – if we are relaxed and in the moment, then our dogs will be relaxed.’ It sounds mad, I know, but if a delinquent like Marmite can be tamed with the power of the mind then maybe there is something in it. I put Marmite on the lead without a struggle for the first time ever, thanked Shawna and left the studio. As we walked down the stairs and through the lobby Marmite appeared in a trance. Then, as soon as we got outside, he first tried to run after a bus, then urinated on a pram, and then tried to wrestle the stick off a blind man. Within two minutes we were back at square one.

If you liked this you’ll love my book. Buy ‘My Groupon Adventure’ here.

Groupon #2: Alpaca Trekking

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I got home and immediately rolled the Groupon roulette wheel again. I landed on something completely bizarre-I went alpaca trekking in Kent.

alpaca

Apparently in a car park. You’ll notice I’m wearing an alpaca wool scarf, which is adding insult to injury for the alpaca. That’s like going to meet a pig wearing a bacon bikini. In hindsight, I think the alpaca trek is aimed at children rather than twenty six-year-old men. I know that because on the trek it was just me and a six-year-old girl. She turned up with her mother and her sister, but farm policy demanded that only two people could go on each trek and so the little girl ended up coming with me. The first thing I did was grooming. (The alpaca, I mean, not the six year-old girl). Then we all went for a walk around the Romney Marsh: me, the girl, Hershey the alpaca, and our guide, Lara. The little girl was such a brat. She just wouldn’t stop talking; I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. ‘Where’s his mummy?’

‘Do alpacas go to school?’

‘Does he do a wee-wee or a poo-poo?’

All questions I wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

alpaca 2

Alpacas are extremely hierarchical animals and walk together in a straight line in a woolly conga. If anyone tries to get above their station and jump the queue they get spat at. Yes, literally spat at. Alpacas have two stomachs, like cows (and Americans), and they regurgitate green bile from the first chamber and gob it at you. I tell you what though: they can give it out but they can’t take it. When I spat back at my alpaca it went absolutely mental.

But alpacas aren’t just farmed to provide comic relief to bored morons like me. They’re also often used by farmers to scare off dogs and foxes. Alpacas hate dogs and if they corner one they jump on it until it dies, like canine bubble wrap. Not so cute now, are they? When the little girl heard that fact her face dropped, her naive world view shattered, as if she’d just walked in on her Barbie shooting-up smack. No wonder she was disappointed. We overly romanticise animals, I think, especially for children. But the truth is we are deluding ourselves if we think animals are ethical. Have you ever seen a nature documentary? Animals are nihilistic psychopaths. Dolphins are prolific rapists, female pigs often eat their own piglets, and pandas deliberately refuse to reproduce in a cynical attempt to get handjobs from humans.

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I’m entering the World Wife Carrying Championships

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On the first weekend of July I will compete in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland. It’s like the Grand National. Apart from instead of a jockey you have a wife. And instead of a horse you have an idiot. To win I will have to lug my spouse across a ruinous assault course including water hazards, hurdles and sand pits. The length of the track is around 250 metres. And the world record stands at 45 seconds. Easy peasy.

I’ve got one little problem though: I don’t have a wife.

This seems a pretty devastating blow. But hold your horses. Let’s see what the rules say:

“The wife to be carried may be your own, or the neighbour’s, or you may have found her further afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age.”

On closer inspection it seems I don’t need a wife at all!  I can just borrow one. And after some serious thinking outside of the box, I’ve come up with 9 easier alternatives to finding ‘the one’:

Option 1: use a friend’s wife.

On the surface of it, this seems to be the simplest route. But it is an awkward conversation to have. And not just because of the connotations of infidelity. But also because I will have to be very picky about who I carry. I don’t simply want a wife, I want a light wife. Don’t get me wrong, big is beautiful. But not when you’ve got it strapped to your back.

Option 2: advertise for a wife and hold auditions.

This is what Gumtree was invented for.

Also, I’m planning to take a classified ad out in Readers’ Wives magazine.

Watch this space.

Option 3: hire a local prostitute.

Flights to Sonkarjarvi are about £200 return from the UK. I will also need to fork out for a hotel for a night or two. That’s some serious dosh.  So, on reflection, this might be the cheapest option available to me.

I’m not a moron. I’ll obviously insist we use protection. Crash helmet, ankle strapping, nipple tape and so on.

To be clear: I don’t endorse prostitution. And I obviously won’t sleep with the woman. But this seems like a win-win for both of us. I get to save money. And she gets a shot at becoming a world champion.

Option 4: Thai bride.

Small and cheap. Therefore ticking a lot of boxes.

She gets a passport. I get a trophy. You don’t get much more symbiotic than that.

Option 5: target the swingers community.

Again, there is nothing sexual about my ambitions here. I just need to find open minded wives and laid back husbands. And what better place to do this than in the swinging and dogging community, where ‘borrowing’ another man’s wife is actively encouraged.

If you’re the sort of man who leaves messages in service station toilets inviting strangers to have sex with your missus then you are going to be getting some very strange text messages from me over the next 6 weeks.

Option 6: Tinder.

If you build it, they will come:

My Tinder profile

Option 7: your mum.

Hahahahahahaha!

Seriously though, can I use your mum?

Option 8: my mum.

No.

Option 9: widows or the terminally ill.

The absolute last resort.

 

So, a question for you: can you help out?

“Behind every successful man there stands a woman.” So the patronising patriarchal cliché goes. But in this case it is literally true: I cannot win the World Wife Carrying Championships without having a fair maiden clinging like a limpet to my back. If you’ve got any ideas about how I can source a wife I’d love to hear from you.