The real world of tabloid journalism - one inexperienced writer's opinion

Friday, 29 August 2014

You may have remembered a shout-out on social media looking for a young aspiring writer to head up a new column for The Sun. The lazily named Column Idol (why. Why does everything have to be like this) competition saw young people all over the UK vie for the chance to see their words and byline in print. We spoke to ArrayO'Style founder Khiera, 16, about her experience as a finalist, and why tabloid journalism has left a bitter taste in her mouth.

As part of the Media Trust's Column Idol competition,­ I featured in The Sun newspaper and received a mentor to help critique and finalise my article. But I'll be writing about how I felt let down by the whole process.

With credentials as shiny as their glass desks­ it's clear to see how fascinating it would be to work for such a prestigious newspaper and how featuring in it would be a dream. However, whilst sitting in a plush, classy conference room with the other competitors I felt weak and insecure.

I was the youngest there, and while that would be classed as an advantage to some, everyone in the room had degrees from the most sought-after universities in the world... and I was sat there anticipating my highest ever level of education, my GCSE results.

After discussions it appeared there were two candidates from Essex,­ myself and another chap four years older than me. While breaking the ice, which involved stating your location, educational achievements and just general status, it became evident after a few sniggers from the word 'Essex' my heart thundered, ferociously and spine shuddered. Was this tokenism, I wondered?

My mentor (a high up editor) was not present on the day, and with only a week to write the article  panic struck and it felt like bad luck was going to be accompanying me throughout this journey.

To date I still haven't met my mentor and have had no telephone communication with her. But to be honest, as we're both nine to fivers­ it was obvious we would rarely share words. The organisers knew of our employment commitments prior. We exchanged about four emails­ of which it was mainly me writing drafts and her reading through them.

She stated she thought my idea, entitled The Perils of the Pretty Faces 'really captured the reader's intention and makes them want to read on,' before mentioning I couldn't chose which pictures were selected alongside the article. I thought this was a crude decision as I wrote about model apartments - girls sharing with up to eight other models - and needed factual pictures­ which I gathered for the piece.

The article also mentioned many case studies but no actual model in particular. Nothing else was said before the article went to print.

The features were written and placed online.

Watching the other articles being fiercely retweeted and exposed on Twitter I had a clear list of contacts ready to help publicise the article's digital copy. During the Column Idol fortnight, the first week of contestants had their digital PDF copies posted on three different Twitter accounts under The Sun's stable, with total followers topping almost a million. They even had their web link directly placed in those tweets, one of which has over 500,000 followers alone.

In contrast to mine, where I was desperately asking The Sun to retweet. My picture was just a snapshot of the feature­ in their newspaper. And still no appreciation.

Had I wasted a week of my time writing something even the publisher didn't want exposed to others?

It was tweeted by one account; late at night, with no digital copy or web link. I had to keep emailing my promoters to wait, it was coming. It came a week and a half later and the model agencies weren't interested in passing it to their girls for exposure as it wasn't current.

On press day and feeling like a child at Christmas, I ran to the local corner shop to purchase the copy and see my words in print, words of which I agonised over for too long. Unbeknown to me, the dreaded had happened. Instead of my carefully chosen headline, I saw a different title, 'Ugly Side to Glam Lifestyle of Top Models.' It didn't even make any sense grammatically. A five-year-old could've picked that up.

Ok, it captured the reader's attention and made them want to read on­. But I had no mention of Cara Delevingne or Kate Moss, and it seemed only half of the words were mine.

I was heartbroken.

Yes, others were full of praise and recognition. But, it wasn't mine. Needless to say it was mine originally, but in my opinion it had been manufactured into a mess. Which I would then be judged on. How could so many negative feelings come from such an initially positive experience?

I remained silent then and have done since as the competition isn't finished. But I just can't help thinking: was this set-up really meant to be my dream come true?

Photo: Mark O'Henly/flickr ArrayO'Style
Interested? Read on...

Can your Twitter account turn a hobby into a career?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Whether it be blogging, vlogging, making music or creating your own business, we’ve all heard about the newly invented phenomena of certain individuals earning the title ‘internet famous’. But the real question is how did they acquire this level of success and how can you gain it too? How did these ordinary people manage to create a following of around 1 million people to anywhere up to 15 million?

Obviously personal traits (such as being hard-working, being dedicated and being able to persevere) need to be accredited to success, but social media plays a huge role in the path to creating a buzz around your online hobby.

For the purpose of leaving this list at a reasonable word count, I am going to use the example of creating a successful blog in the below tips, but they are applicable to any website you are trying to enhance.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the top five points to have social media help transform your hobby into a career: 

Grow your Twitter audience

Before you create a Twitter account, make sure you have content already as nobody wants to be enticed into clicking onto a blog page that's as empty as a student’s bank account!

Once you have a few posts up and running, create a Twitter account. The way to begin your growth in audience is to search for a few blogs that are similar to your own and follow them. For example, if you are writing a blog about travelling, follow other travel blogs. This will get you noticed in the blogging community and the word will begin spreading about YOUR posts.

Interact with key individuals 

Key individuals can mean a diverse range of people, but put simple, they're people interested in your blog. They can be other bloggers, industry experts and just ordinary people with an interest in what you’re writing about. Make sure you regularly interact and develop relationships them because when it comes down to it, they will choose your blog to read first if they feel like they know you personally.

If you develop relationships with industry experts they're more likely to promote your blog if you've developed a friendly relationship.

Relationships are key when starting out so make sure not to underestimate the power of old- fashioned techniques evolving in a modern world. World of mouth (or word of tweets and status updates nowadays) can still be one of the most effective ways to get people talking about your website.

Write great content

It's all well and good growing an audience to share your hobby, but you need to provide good content for them to returning and to share your posts with others. Tweeting about your new post will generate a few clicks to your blog, but great content will ensure people are coming back to your posts on their own, without little nudges from you.

Interesting, well researched content will create loyal, regular followers for you who also share your posts with their followers and friends.

Hashtags and directing tweets

Hashtags are searchable on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr etc. so make sure you use hashtags that are searched often. Using general hashtags that are popular to search (such as #beautytips, #holiday and #bloggerswanted) will make your blog viewable to many people that may have not found it before.

Hashtags are a great way of getting your social media posts out in the open to be seen by new potential followers and also a great way of telling these followers what many of your posts will be based around.

For example:

With this tweet, many people now know that I am a beauty blogger and will be posting regularly about beauty products, reviews and tips. Also, directing tweets to specific people and companies can be a good way to boost the buzz around your blog. If you tweet people with a higher following than yours, they will reply or retweet your tweet and you will get noticed by their following.

This is the same for companies but usually with a much larger following than individuals – sometimes with a following into the millions. This kind of promotion can give your blog the boost it needs to gain a large following and for you to be able to make your hobby into a career.

Show individuality in your social media channel

You will lose followers if you spam people’s newsfeeds with persistent begging tweets. You have to put across your individual personality with your feed so you are personable and approachable. Showing yourself to be a three dimensional person in the sometimes-restricting platform of social media is imperative to get through to your audience and create a loyal following.

People will prefer to promote a real person behind a good blog instead of an annoying spammer.

If you follow the above points, your following WILL grow. But above else, you must believe in the snowball effect. A small snowball rolling down a hill grows until it is huge and has collected a large amount of snow to attach to itself. The pickup of people noticing your hobby will start slowly but the longer time you dedicate to growing your following and creating great content, the bigger the following you will attract.

Anything worth having takes time and effort, so patience is key to turning your hobby into a career.

Good luck! :)

By Charlotte A’ Court of Beauty and Bolder

Image: Doug8888/flickr
Interested? Read on...

Review: Getting a volumising perm at London's Karine Jackson

Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

I have a confession. I last had a perm when I was 14. It was the year 2000, which is one of the worst years for hair. My mum is a brilliant hairdresser, and with such skill at my disposal I was always asking her to trim a bit here, add a fringe there, or bleach that entire section a bit no actually dye it back I don't suit blonde.

I loved my very first perm, and although mum went weak with the solution, anticipating my ever-changing style, it make my hair look full of volume and life. I was the envy of all my friends.

Skip forward to now.

Sandra from the life-saving Sophie and Lola (more on that to come) has crafted me a handmade floral crown for tomorrow, which happens to be my wedding day, which is exactly what I've been looking for. It wouldn't work with hair up, so I decided to go for curls. And rather than worry about them dropping during the day, a perm was in order.

Karine Jackson's salon, who I last visited last year for my pixie cut, was the first port of call, purely because they use organic hair dyes and perms. This means less damage to my hair and no chance of it reacting to my existing dye job and leaving me with green-tinted hair as I walked down the aisle. Plus, they won London Hairdresser of the Year and have been nominated in the London Lifestyle Awards this year. All these accolades mean they're really at the top of their game.

I have to tell you guys, two days later, perms are definitely the way forward.

Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London SalonVolumising perm at Karine Jackson's London SalonVolumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

A week before...

I met with Claudia (CLOUD-ear) a week before my perm in their Covent Garden salon. She sat me down with a few magazines and asked me what I wanted from my perm. Like an idiot, I muttered something about liking my hair when I curl it with GHDs. Rather than laugh in my face, which she had every right to do, she explained a perm will make my hair curly, but nothing like the result you'd get after GHDs or when it's run through tongs.

I wanted to go ahead anyway, so we agreed on a plan of action.

She snipped a section of my hair to process in the solution, and showed me a few photos of how my hair will more than likely look. Happy with what we'd discussed, I left the salon full of excitement. My straight locks were on borrowed time...

Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

On the day

I rocked up to Karine's and was warmly greeted by Sam, who led me to the back mezzanine area and got me a coffee. While waiting for the show to start, I said a quick hello to the friendly American sitting next to me. She's a KJ regular and was getting her highlights topped up.

"Oh hi there! I love it here," she said, in a typically American accent. "Usually my hair can't take going so blonde, but the stuff they use is like a miracle. All the mums from school pop in when they get a second to spare."

Before we could chat further, Claudia came over and said a warm hello before leading me down the spiral staircase for someone to wash and prep my hair.

As before, this was such a relaxing way to start the two hour treatment. The guy was great at the massage, and ensured I was comfy throughout (because sometimes those sinks can cause painful neck damage and terrible cricks, let's be honest). With hair all washed and me feeling suitably sleepy it was time to head back up and for Claudia to get to work.

Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

The perm: part I

As we'd talked about the week before, Claudia used a mix of roller sizes to ensure I got a natural-looking result rather than Shirley Temple style ringlets - not a good look for anyone over seven. My hair was sectioned, rolled and clipped into place. After twenty minutes my whole head was covered and it was time to add the solution.

This was a weird bit. As my was scalp exposed and hair pulled taught, the feeling of dripping water sent shivers down my spine. With a plastic hair-bib draped on my shoulders, I have no idea how she didn't spill a drop as it felt like it was running down my back. The solution didn't smell anywhere near as strong as it usually does. Claudia explained this was due to the organic nature of the product. So clients can have a perm and head straight out without worrying they smell a bit like cat wee (my words, not hers).

Once the solution was applied I was wrapped in plastic while a heater was set to work for seven minutes. Once that was done, my hair was blowdried to make sure I was getting a good set. Then it was just a waiting game.

Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London SalonVolumising perm at Karine Jackson's London SalonVolumising perm at Karine Jackson's London SalonVolumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

The perm: part II

Once the time was up it was back downstairs for the solution to be rinsed away. My head felt so strange after 45 minutes of being in the rollers, and the hair wash was wasn't as soothing as the first one. My scalp felt really numb!

Claudia explained the process a bit more to me: the perm will last for about eight weeks as it is, and then it'll gradually start to drop. Immediately after the treatment it'll look very, very curly, but this is normal and I can wash my hair after 48 hours. By the time it gets to needing a retreat, my hair will look like it has a gentle, boho wave to it. Not a problem! The perm is permanent, as its name suggests, but as it's organic, it's not going to ever be as harsh as people would think.

In fact, I can book in for a dye just ten days after treatment, something not possible with peroxide and ammonia. 

The perm: part III

Once the solution was rinsed away I was led back upstairs to the styling chair where the towel containing my new curls was removed and I experienced the big reveal. I was shocked. There were actual curls there, and although more ringlet than soft, bouncy waves I was thrilled. It was so strange (as you can see from the odd face I'm pulling there).

Claudia used organic mousse, which is more water-based than anything else and won't make my hair look sticky, and asked me to shift my head so the back of the neck was resting on the chair. Gravity is needed to make sure the curls don't turn to frizz and she expertly softened the look using a diffuser and her hands.

After I was done she assured me it looks better once left to dry naturally, that all of her clients feel they get a better result at home with natural curls than the made-up look I had at that time - a new experience from a stylist as usually I can never quite get the same look once at home.

I left the salon with a spring in my step and in my hair. The entire process took just under two hours, and on more than once occasion I nearly drifted to sleep, it was that relaxing.

Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

Two days later...

Immediately after I felt like a totally different person. I couldn't believe how different my hair felt bouncing around, and when I showed David he said he absolutely loved it.

I still haven't washed my hair yet, being about 35 hours after treatment, but I'm sure I'll update this once the wedding's over and I've perfected my new style. All I know for now is I'll definitely be back come December to get my hair curled again. I'm definitely a perm convert, and with a system as kind as is used at Karine's I can do so without feeling like it's going to damage my hair.

Volumising perm at Karine Jackson's London SalonVolumising perm at Karine Jackson's London Salon

Home maintenance for permed hair

Use an organic shampoo and conditioner, or a gentle solution for coloured hair

Only comb hair when it's wet to run conditioner through it

Use organic mousse for best results, and twist it through hair before giving it a good zhuzh

Let curls hang to the ground and dry hair upside down if using a blow dryer

A diffuser will help, but can make hair frizzy

If you need to blow dry, use amedium heat and speed, and leave it 90% damp

Ideally, zhuzh hair with mousse and leave to dry naturally. It's the best and easiest way.
Karine Jackson Hair and Beauty |  24 Litchfield St, London, WC2H 9NJ | 020 7836 0300 
Volumising perm starts from £70.
Interested? Read on...

Covent Garden, Spitalfields and wedding rings

Tuesday, 26 August 2014
The other week I finally spent some time meandering around the capital and getting to know my lovely city again (I live in Essex but London is near enough so shhh).

Work, as I'm sure you're pretty tired of reading about because I'm pretty tired of writing about it, has been manic. Yes, it's doing so well, and we're getting more press than ever since I started heading up their PR and marketing *puffy up feathers like a proud pigeon* and new opportunities are opening up etc etc but it's come at a cost where I feel drained at the end of the day. Regular late nights and far, far too much Red Bull have left me more knackered than a sloth being chased by a panther. Maybe I'm getting old. No. No it's YOU that's the problem.

So, making the most of a sunny afternoon and some free time, David and I decided to whisk ourselves away for a day and head on down to London Town for some retail therapy (and perhaps a cheeky glass of prosecco).

My first stop was Karine Jackson's by Covent Garden. Ever since I first met Karine just under a year ago I haven't trusted anyone else with my locks. My hair is awful, thinning and broken, so I need someone sympathetic who can work wonders with what's essentially, nightmare hair. Like, Edward Scissorhands hair. Professor Weetos hair. The salon is literally a five minute walk away from Tottenham Court Road and minutes from Covent Garden itself, although you do have to question the sanity of anyone using Covent Garden station for, well, anything.

While I discussed all things hair, David treated himself to a Cornish Rattler and a Wetherspoon's breakfast. Because nothing says morning treat like a beer with your banger, right? That's not rude. Maybe a bit rude.

Once I was finished getting my tresses cared for (see sneak preview of tomorrow's review), we took a stroll throughout the side streets with the aim of heading to Covent Garden market. Yes. You read right.

Now, I'm not a fan of this place. At all. During the week and working hours it's tolerable. But at the weekend and after work it's full of tourists and day-trippers with all their kids and buggies and elderly folk strolling along taking up the whole pavement like they're back in 1950 and people didn't have to be places... being in London for so long I've perfected a hasty, mildly threatening pace of walking. It was IMPOSSIBLE to walk at anything other than funeral pace. This is how I feel about kids, and this place was enough to make me wish various forms of death on everyone and myself. And especially the man spray painted silver in silver pants standing still.

We had a look through a few stalls before heading to the confines of the Apple store, whereby we promptly embarked on a tour of every shop David NEEDED to go to. Fossil, Schuh, Office, TK Maxx x 2, Boot's. For a man, he makes a very good woman. Note to retailers: MORE SEATS FOR POOR GIRLFRIENDS BY CHANGING ROOMS NEEDED.

After David had bought yet another pair of shoes, we were getting pretty tired of people. I wanted to make one quick top at Spitalfields market, firstly because it's right near Liverpool Street and Liverpool Street is how we get home, and two because it's never nearly as crowded. Tourists must not be able to venture this far east, I guess (good).

After a pit stop at McDonald's for a chicken mayo we soldiered on and had a proper gander through the stalls. Sophie and Luna were away at a festival so I couldn't thank them for the flowers, but all the other usual stored were there. We ended up leaving with a gorgeous wedding ring, and two paintings of London that I just fell totally in love with.

Sensing grey skies we hopped back on the train and went home to covet our purchases. It's been an age since we had nothing to really go out for and no aim. It's something I need to do more often - even if certain parts of London are crowded.

Just kidding tourists, I do love you really.

It started out so well. Blue skies and flies...In the Fossil store. Notice the equally as bored dude with his hands in his pockets. We shared a look of boredom.One of two bags while waiting for my fiancĂ© to finish shopping. Again.This guy thought I was taking a photo of him. Notice the creepy gaze, then imagine his embarrassment when he realised.The Apple store's roof after climbing all the stairs to get to the bit I needed.My crooked photo, how this place didn't have laptop cases is beyond me. Not every men's retailer had changing room seats, but this one had a working piano with, most importantly, a stool.Also drum lights...And a wall of stuff.The guitar was real. I sound checked this.David, looking at someone who resembles his boss, also called David.Shoes. I think this was actually an accidental photo but it's staying. Because that's how I roll.Liverpool Street. We were held here for ten minutes while football fans/hooligans were ushered out of the place, or fed to the Creep, either's fine with meMore tube bits.An arty train.Spitalfields. Thank goodness it wasn't rammed or I'd have screamed (not really).More of the market, it's definitely worth a visit especially if, like me, you hate the public.Because we both refuse to allow each other to take decent pictures of ourselves Around the corner, and more stallsBeautiful bunting strewn about the placeDavid, haggling with the art lady to get two paintings for dirt cheap (£40)The hipster's wardrobes. Forget Ikea, just get an old classic car!By the amazing Traffic PeopleGrey skies started to head out way, it was time to leaveThe city has to be my favourite bit of London. The old with the brand new.More grey cloudsSuch rain and a kid in a fedora. Parents, why do you make this happen?
And the last train home.

Interested? Read on...

Here's how to: pick the perfect dram of whisky

Monday, 25 August 2014

It's well known I love a good sip of whisky. In fact, there's no better drink to have in your hand when it's cold and frosty outside. Whenever I mention my favourite drink to either men and women, I always get a look of surprise shot in my direction - as if I should have said something more ladylike. We asked Alex, a 29-year-old lawyer and dipsologist at House of Bourbon to help explain why whisky isn't just for men, and how to pick the perfect dram. 

George Bernard Shaw described whisky as “liquid sunshine” which is handy seeing as its homeland, where residents often seek solace in the knowledge that today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky, is not known for seeing much of the literal sort.

Yet, despite its ability to warm you and nourish you in a way that no other drink can, to soothe you, be your BFF and guide you smoothly through all of life’s little ups and downs whisky has, for most of its life, been predominantly marketed and drunk by men.

And yet, all this is changing.

Whether it is down to the emergence of a genuine cocktail culture, the appointment of Christina Hendricks as a Johnnie Walker brand ambassador, or Carrie Bradshaw proclaiming that she’d rather be “one man’s glass of whisky than everyone’s cup of tea” whisky is gradually gaining popularity amongst the fairer sex. In the last three years, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a relaxed and unpretentious members club has seen the proportion of women amongst its new members rise from 10% to 25%.

Where should I start?

Well, first you must choose your entry point. Many a wannabe whisky convert has given up in despair having inadvertently plunged head first into a tumbler of smoked peat firewater but if there is one thing that Scotch whisky does better than any other substance known to mankind, it is to show how the combination of three simple ingredients can create the broadest range of complex tastes imaginable.

Whisky can be all things to all people.

If you want to drink nothing but peaty and medicinal Islay whiskies you can, and you’ll find millions who do. If you want to drink floral, hay-like lowland whiskies you can do that instead; and if you want to just keep trying different drams until you find one you like, you should. There’s a whisky out there for everyone and if you think you don’t like whisky it just means you haven’t found yours yet.

In order to try and bring some meaning to this madness, drinkers and distillers have long categorised whiskies by the region they hail from. This distinction is becoming less useful as trends in the industry have led to an increase in experimental and atypical bottlings. But for the purposes of an introduction to whisky, the notion of four broadly distinct regions, each with their own character, is still of some use.

I want to drink a fruity whisky

Geographically the smallest, and yet home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries, Speyside is home to delicate and honey sweet whiskies which taste of vanilla and orchard fruits. Start with the Cragganmore 12 year old - it's like eating peaches in a freshly mown hay field - and progress to The Macallan when you're ready to add apple blossom and marmalade to your fruit salad.

I want to drink a floral whisky

The calm fields of the lowlands (from St Andrews down to the border) produce gentle, floral whiskies. They scorn the use of peat in the drying process and this allows light fruit and cereal notes to dominate. The delightfully named, and fun to say, Auchentoshan is like licking a vanilla ice cream in a grain store, and is the lowland dram to start with.

I want to drink a salty whisky

The rocky outcrops of Skye and Islay are said to produce whiskies like their native inhabitants: strong, saltwater washed and err, often peaty. An air of smoke, pepper and iodine abounds here which means that island malts are often decried as an unwelcoming introduction to whisky. Dip a toe in the peaty water with Talisker 10 (and look out for the seaweed and kippers), then progress to the Lagavulin 16, to drink Lapsang Souchong from an old TCP bottle, or Laphroaig 10, for a suck on an iodine soaked liquorice allsort.

I want to drink a mystery whisky

The large rugged Highland area borders each of the other three, so has absorbed characteristics from all its neighbours. As a result, highland whiskies can be smooth and floral with hints of cereal sweetness in the north, dry fruitiness in the south, and peat, smoke and saltwater in the west. A great starting point is the Dalwhinnie 15, like a bag of toffees in an orchard at spring, and after this, the Dalmore for a sherry-pickled chocolate orange.

Where should I go to get a good dram?

I recommend The Britannia, a welcoming pub near London Bridge with an impressive range for a pub south of the Tweed. Sit down, relax and order your usual drink of choice. Later, if the mood takes you, pick a name from their wall-sized blackboard of whiskies handily categorised by region.

Once presented with your dram, decide whether you want to add water or ice. There’s no wrong answer here but take a sip of the neat spirit first and then experiment. Adding water will open up new flavours, and ice will smooth the edges as the cold will dampen the efficiency of your taste buds.

When you do finally take a sip, hold the nectar in your mouth and relax. What do you taste? Limoncello? An ambulance brake pedal? Or liquid sunshine in a glass?

I'm not into neat whisky though...

For those not willing to make the leap just yet, one alternative is try this transitional recipe, the Talisker Peach Smash Cocktail:

1/2 ripe peach or nectarine, cut into chunks
15ml fresh lemon juice
50ml Islay whisky (Talisker 10)
15ml triple sec (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
25ml simple syrup (equal parts granulated sugar and water)

Muddle the fruit and lemon juice in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add the remaining ingredients and shake well with ice. Fine strain into a tumbler full of ice.

Interested? Read on...

We ask a boy: Can you meet the love of your life in a bar?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

"There was the date I had in my favourite local pub where she bought me a chocolate orange beer," he says while he chops onions for the home made fish pie he's treating me to. "It made me almost vomit. Every sip I had I pulled a weird face. I'd taken so long to drink it but I couldn't exactly say she'd picked up a terrible choice."

Why didn't he just order another, I ask? He has no good answer for that, other than being polite.

I'm grilling my fiancé over bar dates - as in whether you can meet a girlfriend at a bar. This was the first experience he immediately called to mind after I'd asked the question.

She'd had wine, of course, and left the exotic beer to her date because she's either a clever girl, or a clueless one. You're always safe when you pick wine. Even if you just go for a colour rather than try and decipher a zinfandel from a Pino Grigio.

Except red.

Never, ever pick red wine on a date.

"I'd met her while I was working at a bar. She was the same age, maybe a bit older, and really attractive," he says when I ask how the date came about.

I've never understood women who can pick up men in bars. I'd never have the figurative manballs to walk up to a random stranger and flirt my ass off in the hopes of a decent conversation let alone something as daring as asking for a number.

"Well, because you could see the name on the receipt she waited until I served her and flirted from there." HA. So she cheated.

After the orange beer debacle she'd apologised a thousand times but conversation wasn't great. "It was all about the drink. I just remember her asking 'is it ok, do you want another?' over and over again. When the sole conversation is about a terrible tasting beer it's not going to go any further than making out on the sofa and getting a cab home."

He says he just saw her around town after that. There wasn't much awkwardness, it was just put down to another bad date. She'd seemed like fun when they first met, but was anything but.

Another example?

"I was single," he says. Yeah, I remember it well - he'd broken up with a long-term girlfriend, and the rebound wasn't working out too well either. HA.

"It was England vs. France in the Six Nations and me and my friends had been out on an all day binge. A few lads had gone home but there was two of us who'd stayed out. I was single, with no commitments to worry about - finally."

"We'd met a few girls - friends of friends - who were out on a birthday night out. They were clearly flirting, and they were the only reason we'd stayed out so long. They'd left in the early hours and I was on my way home when I recognised a girl I'd met in a local bar. So I ended up going back inside with her, talking and having a really good night getting to know her."

Things progressed to first date territory and looked good. "We chatted, and had a few drinks a week later." It actually turns out her took her to London to see a show for their third date. Things were promising. Relationship territory seemed on the cards, and I even remember being told that if things happened with her our friendship would have to be put on the back burner. So it's just as well things went tits up I'd say.

"I loved a local pub way out in the country which had great food. It was a gastro pub type place where you can eat, drink and then relax. We'd had great conversation before and London was loads of fun so it was the best option."

He met her at her house and they got a taxi together. All was well. "We were chatty in the taxi, there was definite flirting too." Why wouldn't there be? You don't take just anyone to see Wicked, right? (I'm not resentful, promise.)

"We arrived at the pub where she promptly knocked back a few vodkas before we'd even ordered. When I asked if everything was ok she blamed it on a bad day."

The food came, she played and picked at it and barely said a word. "I asked after her again, she snapped back she was fine and then walked out mid meal. I was stunned. We were halfway through eating when she flounced out, so of course I finished my food. She'd not come back ten minutes later. So I finished her food. And drink."

"We shared a taxi home, and I couldn't help but laugh." He saw her two weeks later over coffee and she apologised. But that was that. Having bumped into her in the local supermarket nothing but tense smiles were shared.

I ask if it's possible to meet the love of your life in bar.

He says no. "It's never based on personality, it's all looks, or luck."

He's right. After a night in a London club recently it's impossible to find out anything useful about anyone with blaring music dominating the night. Even screaming into each others' ears (how romance) isn't enough to work. Really, how can you know anything about the stranger you've picked based on terrible sign language [LOUD DANCE MUSIC] signalling you need to go to the loo but order me another vodka red bull? [LOUD DANCE MUSIC INTENSIFIES]

"Alcohol plays a massive part too. There are exceptions, but almost everyone's out to get wasted and make bad decisions. Men don't tend to think with their heads and women may do things they wouldn't have normally done if they weren't full of fizz."

Even if you manage some modicum of self control and go on that second date, they're very rarely what you remember of them. As the first example proves.

"There's so little chance of personality being compatible, or finding an emotional connection with someone," he says. "When you meet at work or through friends you see them with their guard down. They're just being, well, them. If the groundwork's been made, either online or wherever, then a bar is just another setting."

"If not," he says, "it's a really random and awkward way to meet people."

So, we ask a boy, can you meet the love of your life in a bar?

"It happens sometimes. But let's face it, is that the story you'd want to to tell your grandkids?"

Do you agree? Can anyone start a decent relationship that way? Or have you ended up with your soulmate after a night in a bar? Let us know!

Interested? Read on...