Channel 4's blurb for its television show The Undateables is 'People living with challenging conditions are often considered 'undateable' - this series meets a few and follows their attempts to find love.' On paper, it's not the kind of programme I would normally watch. I'm not a fan of dating shows and this one sounded fairly exploitative.
The reason I ended up watching it was because I realised that somebody I'd known many years ago features in it (Shaine the poet, for those of you who have seen it). And I continued to watch because I found that it's actually a show with real heart: it's not mawkish, or sentimental, but presents a realistic and affectionate look at the issues surrounding dating when you have a disability.
And what I also discovered is that the only unique difficulty that these prospective romancers have is finding a date to begin with (the show uses specialist agencies that match people up but a lack of numbers on the books means that clients often have to travel considerable distances to meet). The trials and tribulations of the first dates themselves are entirely familiar to anybody who has ever looked for a relationship.
A date is a date is a date
There are dates that go well, there are those that don't. Some couples sit in silence, others chat like they've known each other for ages. There are some encounters where you just know the couple has a future, and there are others where you know there is no chance they'll see each other again. While the nature of some disabilities can obviously make it harder in terms of communication and interpreting social cues, the most uncomfortable dates to watch occur simply because those involved are human beings, with all the awkwardness that entails. Plus, of course, their every move is followed by a camera crew...
And no episode has ever reached the excrutiating depths of a date I once went on where my date read to me extensively from a dictionary, put on the film Moulin Rouge without asking me if I wanted to watch it and then fell asleep. (Reader, I did not marry him.)
The delights of Daniel
(Blurry photo of Daniel Wakeford live on stage courtesy of my terrible photography skills.)
Many of The Undateable's participants are featured several times, but none have appeared on it as frequently as Daniel Wakeford, a singer songwriter with autism, from Brighton. I could easily write a blog post several times the length of this one to explain why I like him so much but, in short, he is wonderfully good-natured and raises my spirits every time he appears on screen.
I realise we are shown carefully edited footage but it's hard to imagine him in real life being anything other than the gentle, funny and unfailingly polite man who makes me smile whenever I see him. (Apart from the episode where he proposed to his fab fiancée, Lily, when I sobbed happy tears throughout.) Read Daniel's biography to find out more about him.
The reason I mention all this now is because I had the massive fortune of seeing him live, in Bournemouth, this weekend. He played at The Old Fire Station, where he and his band (The Daniel Wakeford Experience) treated us to the songs from his latest album 'That's How I See It' and several from 2016's 'The Songs of Gigs'. It was, without a doubt, one of the loveliest gigs I've ever been to.
His love of performing was obvious from the moment he appeared on stage and his infectious energy kept the crowd singing and dancing throughout, including some great wing-swooping to the beautiful 'There Was a Flying Birds'.
Daniel's autism manifests in a language disorder which influences the syntax of his speech, but his meaning is unaffected: his lyrics are authentic and speak about situations that he's experienced and people and things that matter to him.
(The cover of Daniel's album 'That's How I See It')
His songs are varied and interesting: there's the upbeat 'It's a Wonderful City' (about his home town of Brighton), the country-esque 'Everybody Likes a Rainbow, Everyone Loves a Rainbow', the gorgeous ode to love, 'Song For You', and a great homage to a former TV presenter in 'Toni Arthur's Greatest'.
And he sure knows how to do catchy: I'm still singing along to him now, several days later. I'm particularly fond of 'I Used to Watch the News is ITN' and 'Belly Dancers Are Here Together'. His music is available to download on Spotify - I urge you to do so now!
So thank you, Daniel, for an amazing Friday night - you're an absolute star and I can't wait to see you on stage again!
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