Mimi Biggadike guides you through the minefield of the heart with earnest instructions on how to win over your date-friend in ways that aren’t creepy at all.
Congratulations, friend, you’ve done the hard part. You’ve asked them out without disgracing yourself too fully or enacting that vivid dream you endured the night before where you simultaneously fart and cry whilst simply trying to say, ‘hello’. Let’s hope you didn’t just ask them out for coffee, though. Coffee is but for the boring; I saw a man drink a coffee once and I can’t say I found the experience particularly riveting. We’ve got grander plans, and even though I’m not condoning the consumption of a single coffee, grander plans does not entail multiple caffeines. No-one is impressed at being gifted twelve coffees.
Do you know what is impressive though? Goats. And where would one find these goats AND chickens AND hand-thrown pottery AND organic sourdough AND COFFEE in East London? Why, Hackney City Farm, of course. It is the place to be with a date-friend, I assure you. Who is not going to be intrigued by being asked out to a farm? Do you own the farm, they wonder? They wonder further: do you live on this farm? No, silly, I only eat amazing brunches and convene with ducks there. And on this special date-day of ours, so shall you. (That’s what you write in the card you send them to their parent’s address 3 days before the date).
Jokes/creepiness aside, there’s nothing like the smell of hay and an abundance of poultry to dissipate the date nerves. Hackney City Farm is genuinely a very lovely place. Your choice to date here says the following things about you: ‘I am a grounded and aesthetic individual, I have good taste and I know how to appreciate the small things in life. Including these farm eggs I have purchased in front of you which I have, in fact, never before purchased but will now pretend to have done so for farming authenticity’. Later you can buy a handmade bowl and comment on the real life finger imprints in it because it is handmade, you know. Machines don’t have fingers; it is handmade by human hand. On this point, all awkwardness surrounding tentatively asking about the please-be-real potential of a second date dissolves: Hackney City Farm hold pottery classes every Wednesday and Thursday evening. Whilst browsing the ceramic wares, casually drop this lovely fact-nugget into conversation. “Oh!” / “Would you like to go?” / “Yes!” BOOM> DONE. This is assuming that your date can only exclaim monosyllables, be prepared for them to maybe speak more words).
I grew up in the countryside in and around farms. This means that I am full of facts about pigs and can distinguish different types of poo by smell alone. This is helpful to you on two counts: do not let your date slip on poo, especially pig poo (the most hideously pungent). On a scale from ‘little whiff’ to ‘sizeable dilemma’, chicken is the whiff and pig is the dilemma. Goat is mostly inoffensive, you can let them trip on this if you really have to. Recount to them this knowledge before you enter into the farm, they will be fascinated and impressed at your caring nature. Another impressive thing: if you stroke a pig’s bum it will obligingly uncurl its tail. I speak no word of a lie. Do this in front of your date, blow their mind and subsequently smugly retreat and imagine the stories to be told later, to the eager ears of your date-human’s friends, about your pig powers.
If you’re not hungry yet, pretend you are for it is brunch time! Brunch is a meal invented by the middle classes who have nothing to do but count their money between breakfast and lunch, a hungry task that requires frequent nourishment intervals. Brunch at the farm is served in the café, Frizzanté. It is a wholesome mixture of seasonal food and slouchy couches, which are lower down than you’d think, so watch your coffee. There’s everything from a vegan brunch with sautéed mushrooms, avocado and sourdough to a fill-your-face Sunday Dinner with roasted veggies and Yorkshire pudding. The café is always sustainably busy, but the food is worth the wait and you’ll get to chat merrily in the meantime. Topics of conversation could include- Peter Pan, Fishcakes and Tropical Eco-Systems. It is also a good place to play a fine game of, ‘Their parents were Swingers’. The objects of this game are easy to spot because they often have very proper haircuts and speak in short sentences.
Once you’ve finished feasting, leave the farm, cross the main road and keep walking until you come across a gang of middle-aged men shouting about flowers in the middle of the street. This is Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s a bit of a battle to traverse this bulb-based wonderland due to the myriads of fellow flower-sniffers, but it’s definitely worth pushing your full stomach through the crowds. (Mind your recently bought eggs, though). If you’re feeling dashing, buy your date-friend the flowers they’ve lingered around. If your date-friend is a persistent lingerer, maybe ask them at the end to choose their favourite stem. This is obviously assuming that the date is going well, if you’re not even a tad smitten, this is a very useful crowd to quickly lose yourself in. They’ll never be able to find you ever again.
In my professional capacity of being an investigative journalist, I have asked a grand total of one man what he would like out of a first date. When I frowned mightily at his first and immediate response, he timorously proffered that he would like to opportunity to properly get to know someone. How better to do this than to fearfully skirt around ample blobs of chicken shit in a farm courtyard also full of tearful (and mostly frightful) small children. You have your flowers and your coffee for some light relief, and the sum total of all this is an expertly curated day. A day in the date life of a professional (could-be-yours-for-a-day) partner.
Jokes and ridiculous bombast aside, you’re going to need a good sense of humour to endure any kind of date scenario. Just relax into it and pray for brains. Meanwhile, I’m sat pondering whether this ramble might not be of worthwhile use and whether it is possible I may only have detailed the means of how to successfully woo me as your love-life accomplice. In my constant delirium of denial, however, I’m inclined- nay, obliged- to believe that my farm-based weirdness is universal and that everyone wishes to spend any/ all possible time in the presence of manure and various loaves of handmade bread. I will, however, accept formally written date invites by express mail. Best calligraphy wins.
In case you’re not going for the jovial, ‘might-be-a-bit-of-a-psychopath’ vibe, below is a listing of the genuinely lovely, wholesome and romantic date activities to be had in and around Hackney City Farm.
- The Farm itself comprises of a main farmyard with all the bigger mammals and a little cobbled courtyard with mostly ducks, chickens and guinea pigs. There are even very tiny chickens (not chicks, but a teensy bred of miniature chickens) to behold. The café itself is amply provided with both an outdoor terrace and mismatch chairs and tables inside. It’s very homely and relaxed and leads directly into the pottery room where they sell the wares on little market stalls every Sunday.
- Columbia Road Flower Market is on every Sunday and is bustling, busting busy but so worth it. The flowers are many and mighty and if you nip to Pavilion Bakery beforehand to grab a coffee, it makes the stroll even more delightful. Whilst you mootle your way down the market, pop into Milagros for colourful Mexican home ware and thick, spiced hot chocolates.
- And if prolonging the date even further is in order, then head straight in to the just-the-right-amount of dingy interior of The Birdcage. It’s become notorious for its amusing and expertly executed drawings of various drinks on the windows and also its week-night special of having one barrel of beer for very reasonable monies until the barrel is gone. The have a comprehensive listing of drinks and bar stools or even the intimate booth depending on how limby you’re feeling at this point.
Words by Mimi Biggadike