I had an interesting exchange in China - where I’m on a work trip - when I was chatted up.
It’s been a long time since that last happened, 1994 to be exact when a woman with bad teeth and an aroma I couldn’t quite pinpoint but which reminded me a little of cauliflower soup approached me at a bar and told me I looked hot. I thanked her and asked if she wanted to go for a drink.
She got momentarily embarrassed and replied, ‘no you look ill, as if you’ve got a fever. I was checking you’re okay’.
I never really chatted anyone up myself when I was younger. I think it was due to lack of confidence because of my face and how it looks - my nose and ears are in the right place but look as though they belong to someone else.
Anyhow, for the first time in years it happened the other day, someone actually made a move on me.
We went to visit the Canton Tower, which I must tell you a little bit about. It is the world’s second highest freestanding structure and is – and it’s important to use the technical term here – massive. To the uneducated onlooker it looks like a giant tower with some metal wrapped around the outside. But on reading up about it I learned that the architect, a chap called Mark Hemil, says it represents the image of a woman twisting at the waist. Which is nice but difficult to see - if anything, to me, it looks more like a giant cotton bud.
Anyway you can get a lift to the top of this tower and the others in our party rushed to purchase theirs.
I, meanwhile, a man with a lifelong fear of heights, took one look at it and refused point blank range to go within 20 feet of the entrance.
I mean call me a wimp - and many do - but no man-made structure is infallible right. What if there was a sudden gust of wind and the whole thing toppled over? I wasn’t risking it.
In fairness I may have been brave enough had the elevator not been made of glass. No way am I going 1,400m into the sky separated from the ground only by a couple of sheets of double-glazing (and I have no idea or details on who manufactured the glass; for all I know it might be a dodgy firm who went bankrupt a year or two later because of their poor glass-making technique).
Worse still, there is a ride on top of the tower that plummets off the edge. Again the people I was with seemed incredibly keen to try this, as if it were exciting and a treat. Nutters. Every one of them.
So what happened was that as I had two hours to kill while they went up to the top, almost certainly to meet their maker, to pass the time I went to a local park where I lay down on the grass (lay because in China they don’t seem to believe in benches – this park was huge and yet there wasn’t a single one around).
Two things happened. First of all a man walking past with his wife came and sat beside me and asked his wife to take a picture of us together. He spoke no English, I think he was a local, and didn’t ask if it was okay. He put his arm around me and sat smiling while his wife took the photo. I didn’t quite know what to say so I tamely allowed it to happen, my only form of protest to make sure I scowled surlily at the camera in avid to make my displeasure known. I can only assume I am now part of the holiday snaps he and his wife will show friends and relatives when they arrive home. (‘And here’s one I took in a park with an English guy. Miserable so-and-so isn’t he...’).
Less than two minutes after, a young man in a white shirt came and sat right next to me.
There were about three other people in the entire park and the park was the size of four football pitches. Worse still he tried to make conversation, at which point I told him I was English and didn’t understand what he was talking about.
Rather than deter him, he began using some sort of translator thing on his mobile phone to begin a conversation with me. He muttered something in Chinese then held the phone up and a voice said ‘hey how are you?’
I looked at him like he was insane but didn’t want to damage Anglo – Chinese relations (I mean imagine if word got around, and the last thing Theresa May needs right now is an export war with the Chinese) so I sort of muttered, ‘I’m okay thanks’.
He pondered this for a moment and then said something else into his mobile. ‘Good-looking’, the voice from his mobile said.
Now I was slightly taken aback but assumed, maybe a tad naively, that because I was sat with a view of the Canton amTower in front to me, he was talking about the structure. So I said ‘yes it is’.
He then, without a word of a lie, edged himself closer towards me -so that there was now barely a couple of inches separating us - and said something else into the phone. Moments later it announced ‘I like you very much’.
I looked across at him and saw he was now pouting slightly in my direction and the full horror of the situation suddenly took hold.
Rarely have I jumped to my feet more quickly but being English and polite still felt the need to say ‘sorry I must be off now’ before part-walking, part-sprinting away from the scene.
Now I don’t know whether it was the fact I was wearing shorts and running trainers, which had slightly lurid luminous green laces, or simply the fact that I’m an incredibly attractive man, but I must admit this little exchange came to something of a surprise.
On reflection I guess I should be flattered – at the age of 43 it means I’ve still got it – and perhaps I should’ve accepted his offer and begun a courtship. However, the language barrier would’ve been hard and the commute even more tiresome - I mean China is a long way and we’d have only seen each other, say, three or four times a year. it would have been difficult for both of us.
So in the end I think I probably did the right thing in turning him down and will instead stay with Mrs Canavan, probably much to her disappointment.