Monday 6th October
I dial Alex K's number, he answers. "Hi"
Me: "Hi" I say
Alex K: "How's it going?" he asks
Me: "Ok, where are you?" I ask this because in the background I can hear that he's driving the car.
Alex K: "I'm on my way to acting class." he says.
Alex K is always working on and improving his acting skills. The reception on the phone isn't that good so I get to the point.
Me: "What time does the class finish? There's an event at Casa Tapas it's that social night having it's second birthday."
Alex K: "It's been that long?" Alex K says, realising it must have been at least a year since we went there. Then he says "I might be able to make it about 10:30, what time does it finish?"
Me: "About 11 or 12. Ok, well if not, I'm going out on Friday. I've invited some people, we're meeting at 9pm in Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens. Come along if you like."
Alex K: "Ok, I'll come Friday, I'll speak to you later in the week."
The social night was set up by a guy called Steve. At first it was a group of people going every week to the same bar. After about 3 months Steve decided to run it properly as an organised event. A room was hired in Didsbury, it was promoted with posters, leaflets, and on the internet. It went so well that popularity increased to it becoming like a club night every Monday.
I first found out about it 6 months after it had first started. Phil, a friend I was meeting up with in the city centre every week on Friday it's when we used to go to bars with the after work crowd at 5pm he introduced me to Baz who told me about the group. I went along and that's when I started going to Didsbury more.
The event was free, although Steve would go around trying to get people to buy raffle tickets to cover costs by then Steve had quit his job and started running it full time. The reason many people enjoyed the night was because there wasn't the loud music or drink promotions, also there wasn't the drunkards or battles you'd normally get in a club. For £2 to £3 of raffle tickets it was good value.
The last time I went was a year ago when it was at its peak. After that it reached the point of running out of newcomers in Manchester. Many people would come a few times, make friends, and leave never to visit again. Also, rather than the trendy and normal people that attended regularly in the early days, it started attracting geeks and unemployed who just didn't make the effort to be smart or social. It also became cliquey making the event pointless it had just become another bar.
All the same, Steve had something there to work on and updated the format. When I went a year ago the meetings were every Monday night at 8pm. Now Steve has changed the format to the first Monday of every month. The meet up is just a get together and the organisation is more about putting on events. It's more like other social groups such as SPICE or Club 18-30. For example this month there are pub crawls, poker nights, art gallery visits and a Halloween weekend at a countryside hotel.
I park my car on the sidestreets of Didsbury, get out, lock the car and go over to Casa Tapas. It's another warm evening the type we've been having for the last month which is great for going out. I'm dressed smart in shoes, black trousers with narrow stripes but less obvious than the classic pinstripe look, a black belt, and a dark grey shirt. Casa Tapas is a restaurant near the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Wilmslow Road. I go inside and people are having meals and drinks. It's nicely decorated. Then a lady at the back of the room sitting at a table with a friend notices me and keeps looking at me every now and again. The event is in the function room upstairs. I go to the foot of the staircase which is near to the lady who was looking, she looks again, but I decide not to chat her up and I go upstairs.
The function room is 12 metres long by 4 metres wide. Chairs and tables at one end where about 40 people are sat, Steve is at the other end setting up a line of chairs. Steve notices me.
Steve: "Hello! Good to see you."
Me: "Well done on running it for two years. How's it going?"
Steve: "It's growing slowly, like any business it takes time. But I enjoy what I do and make a living which is great."
I actually meant how is it going generally, but he took it as how is the business doing. He's busy moving chairs and tables so I say
Me: "I'll see you later."
Steve: "Yes. Thanks for coming."
I get a half pint of beer from the bar and go through the double doors at the end of the room to the balcony overlooking Wilmslow Road. It's a good view and an atmospheric place. Then I go back into the function room to check out the venue and see if there's anyone I know. There isn't. Steve starts announcing musical chairs as it's the 2nd birthday he's made it like a real birthday party. With any other host it wouldn't work, but Steve gets everyone involved and makes it fun.
A few party games later and everyone is back to having conversations and drinking. By now I'm near the balcony again and someone called Jackson recognises me.
Jackson: "Hi, I haven't seen you for a while. How's it going?"
Me: "Good, I came over for the 2nd birthday party."
Jackson: "This is Visana."
Visana: "Hi, how are you?"
Me: "Good thanks. It's a fun party."
Visana: "Yes. Have you been to any of the events?"
Me: "No, I might do in future."
Visana: "I'm going on the pub crawl. I went last month and it was good. Have you been here before?"
Me: "I used to come a year ago. It was every week then, it's changed quite a lot."
Jackson: "Yes. Steve has made it more about the events."
We talk a while longer about careers, Visana turns out to be a web designer and Jackson is in the computer business too.
Generally though, the place is friendly but not as much as I expected. The event is built around people socialising and it is good. However people are still in cliquey groups, so if you want to meet people you still have to approach, make an effort, start a conversation, have some good things to say, make them like you it requires all the skills normally needed on a night out in the city centre. All the same it's a good night.
I'm watching a guy chatting up a lady and he seems to be doing ok. They finish the conversation and she goes to sit down in her seat next to 3 other guys she's been talking with most of the night. They're all about 10 years older than her and their body language isn't that confident they're leaning in way too much.
The guy who was originally chatting her up comes over to be social and talk to me. Visana is also with me, we're standing near the balcony at the top of the stairs.
He says: "Hi, I'm Phil, how's it going?"
Me: "Ok thanks, how about you?"
(I'll call him Phil2 not to get him mixed up with the Phil I mentioned earlier in this story.)
Phil2: "Good. It's my first time here. Steve asked me to do some graphic design to redesign the brochure."
Me: "That's good."
Phil2: "I moved to Didsbury a few months ago and started my new job. So I thought I'd come down here and meet some people."
Me: "Aren't you freelance?"
Phil2: "No, I work for a company. It's going well but I'm a bit annoyed at the moment. The boss wants me to go door to door to sign up people to utilities like gas and electricity."
Me: "I thought you were a graphic designer."
Phil2: "I am, but the boss is setting up another business. He thinks it will make him a lot of money. It means I'll be working 12 til 8."
Me: "If you were hired as a graphic designer, you shouldn't have to go door to door to do a utility warehouse type scam."
Phil2: "It's not a scam. Besides, it might only be for a few weeks, it pays well and it'll keep the boss happy and all that. You know how it is in the recession"
Jackson calls Visana over to him at the other side of the room and me and Phil2 continue to talk.
Phil 2: "I was chatting to that lady sitting down over there earlier."
Me: "I noticed, you were doing well."
Phil2: "I want to get to know her. You know, go on a date."
Me: "So go ask her for her number." I say smiling and half daring half encouraging him to do it.
Phil2: "She's with 3 guys."
Me: "So what. Break into the group. She'll respect you for it. It'll show you're confident."
Phil2: "Everyone will hear what I say. The music isn't loud like in a club."
Me: "So what? They're not going out with her. Look at their body language, they're all leaning in too much."
Phil2: "You're right. But I can't just go over and chat her up. What will I say?"
Me: "Ok. I'll give you a quick lesson on how to approach, what to say, and then you can do it."
Phil2: "Will you? I'd be very grateful."
So I give Phil2 a 2 minute lesson on how to approach and get a number. He's a safe guy, also polite and grateful for the advice. A lady would be lucky to date him.
Me: "Ok, go and chat her up!"
Phil2: "I can't!"
Me: "Look, someone's just got up. There's a free seat next to her. Go and sit down in it."
He goes and sits down next to the lady. She's got red hair and dressed in Laura Ashley style clothes. A minute passes and he hasn't said anything. She's in conversation with the 3 guys. At this rate she's going to notice him there and wonder what he's up to, so I go to back him up. I walk over, tap the lady on the back of her right shoulder, which is the side where Phil2 is sitting. I do it so subtle she turns around to Phil2 and thinks he tapped her on the shoulder. He has to say something now! I walk over to the other side of the room and talk to one of the people there. Phil2 is making conversation with her.
A few minutes later Phil2 comes over smiling.
Me: "What happened?"
Phil2: "I did it. I asked her for her number."
Me: "Did you get it?"
Phil2: "No. She said she'll see me here again next time."
Me: "Nevermind. The main thing is you did it. Now you know how, you can do it again with someone else."
Phil2: "Yes. I've never asked a lady for her number before in a bar. I was so nervous! But I did it! Thanks!"
Me: "It's ok."
Phil2: "That was good stuff. How much do I owe you for teaching me?"
Me: "It doesn't matter."
Phil2: "I'll buy you a drink. I'm going to the bar, I'll be back in a minute."
Then I meet a few more people. Steve announces there's free birthday cake and does the raffle for which the prizes are very good. They include a meal for two at a restaurant and free entry to nightclubs. He's improved lots the way he runs the night, coming across a lot more professional and well organised.
Now it's the end of the night and as everyone is leaving, the lady who Phil2 chatted to earlier goes over to him, gives him a kiss on the cheek, and leaves.
Me, Phil2, and Jackson go outside and talk in the street.
Phil2: "What if I see her there again?"
Me: "Now you know each other you can speak to her again."
Phil2: "But I asked her for her number."
Me: "Be cool. Don't mention it. Get to know her better next time. You didn't specifically ask her on a date so you can always say you wanted to be friends."
Phil2: "Oh yes. That's good advice. Thanks."
Jackson: "That's good."
We talk a while longer about the event, then about cars and takeaways. Then I go back to my car with and Phil2 goes home. I take the car to Fallowfield and we park on the street. We stand by the car in the warm night talking for half an hour about the evening and the computer business Jackson is in. Then we go home. Jackson walks to his flat. I get in the car, start the engine, do a U turn in the road, and drive out of the Didsbury suburbs.
Summary and reviews: Monday 6th October
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The social circle event is a meetup group like SPICE and club 18=30. They can get a bad reputation because people don't like to admit that they go out to places based around meeting people. But why not?! It's worth having a go and you never know who you'll meet there.
Very busy. Clientele: smart casual. Dιcor: 7/10.
Notes: A well kept venue. The function room has a balcony that overlooks Wilmslow Road.
A group for people to make friends, go on trips and take part in activities.