It’s a wintry January evening and my husband has decided to take me on a date as life has been so busy lately and we haven’t been on one in a while. He doesn’t tell me where we’re going. After a ten-minute drive we have parked outside the Hollywood Bowl in Garston. I smile and we make our way inside. I take off my shoes and am handed a pair of blue and white bowling shoes and led to the VIP lanes.

There’s a lively atmosphere, people are already in mid-flow and endless bowling balls are flying down the polished wooden lanes towards the ten pins. It’s the sort of activity that anybody can enjoy, from pre-schoolers to pensioners.

The lights are low, the carpet soft and we’re shown to lane two. I immediately notice that the skittles in our lane are hot pink. That must be a good sign! On my first few goes, I release the ball only to stand back and see it rolling into the gutter. Surely I can’t be that bad?

My husband asks me if I need the side bumpers or perhaps a ball ramp? I smile at his facetiousness and reply: “No thank-you!” It's time to focus and show him just how advanced my hand-eye co-ordination is!

In the middle of it all, our waiter brings us each a tall cheeseburger filled with lettuce and tomato, and two generous portions of fries. We take a break and lounge on black sofas under tall murals of silhouetted iconic figures like Audrey Hepburn and Han Solo.

I feel like a teenager “ hanging out” with my boyfriend.

By the second game, the words 'Strike’ and 'Whoop Whoop' flashes onto the screen a bit more frequently. It’s an amazing feeling as my bowling ball knocks all ten skittles down in one go. I leap into the air triumphantly and we high five each other.

Towards the end of the second game my husband has realised that I’m in the lead, which unsettles him. “The score sheet doesn’t lie!” I enjoy telling him. This time he releases the ball with more focus and power and it’s a strike! Yayyy! The screen lights up. “Great Shot!” I find it hilarious playing games with competitive people, it’s fun to watch how serious they become if they start losing. Fortunately, his score is improving and the ice cream has arrived so he’s all smiles again.

I’ve always thought that the ideal first date would be going to a bowling alley, followed by dinner in a restaurant. It gives the couple a chance to sit and chat and enjoy a simple game together.

The golden age of bowling in the US was between the 1940s and the 1960s. It became a big part of American lifestyle and television helped the game’s popularity to grow exponentially. By 1958 the Professional Bowlers Association of America (PBA) had formed. Ten-pin bowling was introduced to the UK in 1960 from the US and at its peak there were more than 150 bowling alleys in London.

Our date has been fun, not exactly the Ritz, but while making a hot chocolate later that night, I realize how relaxed I’m feeling, how you don’t need to spend a fortune to be entertained, and that in the midst of play, I actually forgot about all of my cares and worries.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.