My bad trip – I met a handsome Scotsman with a crossword puzzle and thought it was true love. I was wrong | life and style

I I didn’t travel until my late twenties which meant I was also a latecomer to what many 18 year olds discover in the misty morning light on Kuta Beach or stumbling across the Berghain from Berlin: Nothing stokes the fires of romance like a ticking clock. Knowing your plane leaves in 24 hours can take a vaguely promising flirtation and turn it into love for the ages.

In 2013, 31 years old and living in Los Angeles for work, I traveled to London for a short internship at Central Saint Martins. As we were celebrating our “graduation”, a handsome Scotsman rescued me outside a pub and insisted that I help him solve the cryptic crossword puzzle. My friends watched in dismay as my eyes turned to cartoon love hearts.

A few hours later, after passing by trash cans outside a supermarket, I stumbled towards my subway station certain that I had met the love of my life. When I got back to LA, we started a torrid Internet affair of hours-long Skypes and endless playlists. Plans have been made for me to return to London in the fall.

I chose to ignore my doubts about his friendly closeness to Pete Doherty, his porridge diet, or the fact that he had to boil water in a wok because his drunk roommate peed in the kettle. By October, those doubts had grown stronger, but I chalked them up to nerves and got on the plane.

Once in London, text messages to my internet lover went unanswered. I checked into my Airbnb, a roommate that had been taken down by the extended family of the host, who was about to marry his girlfriend. Each evening, in the adjoining bedroom, the happy couple enthusiastically celebrated their impending nuptials. As I lay there, listening to the bed frame collide with the wall as both sides screamed in ecstasy, I wondered if perhaps I had been too quick to book my return to London.

Finally, the time has come for my own romantic reunion. Waiting in an empty pub on a rainy afternoon, I barely blinked as a disheveled, waterlogged figure rushed in the side door. It wasn’t until the figure approached my table that I realized it was actually my internet boyfriend. He tried to dry his beard with a dish towel and explained that he had to sell his umbrella. As we were talking, I realized, with galaxy brain clarity, that any spark that had existed between us should have been allowed to dissipate somewhere between the Waitrose bins and my tube station. Overwhelmed with relief, I started laughing and couldn’t stop. What a sight we must have been: a hysterical Aussie and a Scottish drowned rat.

Clem Bastow is looking to rekindle the flame of travel romance in London in 2013. Photograph: Clem Bastow/The Guardian

He had to go back to work, so I agreed to drive him home. As we walked around, I spotted a Starbucks. Making a quick decision, I brilliantly announced, “Well, that’s me!” and sprinted back to hide behind a rack of mugs. He didn’t come looking.

In the years since, we’ve exchanged the occasional email, and I really hope he’s okay (and no longer making tea in a wok). But I’m grateful for its role in a belated but essential life lesson: If you find yourself single and on vacation, sitting in a gutter outside a pub, beware of Scots carrying crosswords.

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