First up on Friday night was a secret underground supper in Camden - being no stranger to the provision of oral pleasures, the Rambling Restaurant had devised a feast of historic aphrodisiacs which were guaranteed to get tongues waggling (in more ways than one). Three delicious courses were on offer after a cocktail reception, but surprisingly it only took one before numbers were being exchanged. With our stomachs satiated and our libidos enlivened, many left two by two after what must have been the most relaxed, unintimidating and - most importantly - successful dating event we've ever experienced. Music may well be the food of love, but in this case food was the food of love, or at least lust. Will church bells soon be chiming (for the first christening, if not the first wedding?)? Snap up tickets for events in the new year by following their progress on Facebook.
Still in recovery mode and feeling distinctly unfocused, we stumbled to Shoot Experience's first photography dating event, at the discretely located (for which read "borderline impossible to locate", but certainly worth the effort) Bathhouse in Spitalfields. Teams were set out to mingle using a system determined by rotational dynamics, numerology and which way the wind was blowing over the Sahara last Wednesday, but even this couldn't outweigh the heavy skew to the numbers of women. There were some very, very lucky guys present... The 20 minute challenges sent these groups of previous strangers out into the local area, with the intention of stimulating both hearts and minds, although drizzle and darkness drove many teams to stay in the bar (or, in some cases, the toilet) where both creativity and romance soon bloomed amongst the pop of flashbulbs coupled with a heady mix of cocktails and cupcakes. The pressure of dodging deadlines and downpours may have distracted from the dating task at hand, but at least it meant that taboos such as work, family and background were far from the topics of conversation on the tips of our tongues. Even those who were unlucky in the romance stakes stood to win prizes for their photographic efforts, from books and photography experiences, to a digital camera - yes, EACH - for the team deemed to have created the best image. As far as we could tell, nobody went home completely empty handed, even if it was a goody bag rather than a hand they were holding.
To bookend a weekend richly laden with the prospect of romantic possibilities was a brutal dose of reality from Sophie Calle at the Whitechapel Gallery, whose reinterpretation of a break up letter from a variety of different perspectives brought humour and sensitivity to what would ordinarily have been a painfully personal process. In her exhibition Take Care of Yourself, Calle has assembled a series of portraits of and contributions from people from a vast array of different backgrounds - schoolgirls to sexologists, doctors to dancers, and even a parrot called Brenda - who were merely united by a common theme of being female. Stand out pieces were a cartoon depicting the dichotomy between sender and recipient in poignantly opposing shades of light and darkness, and a letter from the artist's mother, which seems to dissolve into a wave of impenetrable tears. Perfect for a jaded Sunday afternoon meander, this is certainly an exhibition for anyone who has loved and lost and lived to tell the tale. It just goes to show that at the end of a relationship as at the beginning, there is much comfort in the company of strangers.