Several years ago, between husbands, I dipped a toe into the world of computer dating. This seemingly unbalanced move was initiated after a rather unsettling experience with a Lonely Heart from the local news paper.
Have you ever rung one up, out of curiosity? Most of the men sound really ordinary but this chap sounded interesting. He was a teacher who had formerly been an engineer and travelled all over the world. I left him a message and after a brief telephone conversation we agreed to meet at my local pub. He would recognise me by my red desert boots. I would wait to be recognised.
I enlisted the babysitting services of my friend, Biggles, and told her that if I wasn’t back by 10pm she should call the police. Not that I was nervous or anything.
On entering the pub I was disconcerted to find myself approached by a round cheerful chappy wearing Stayprest trousers and an anorak, and sporting what I can only describe as a Beatle haircut! Hmmm. Oh well, looks, style and sophistication were not an option but surely he would be interesting to talk to.
We sat ourselves down on a bench seat in one corner of the bar. He appeared to be very excited by me – I tried to be polite. He kept sliding towards me – I edged away. After about half an hour he slapped his hand onto my thigh and announced that he would take me back to his place for ‘a cup of tea’.
I removed the hand and, I thought, any conception that I would venture within a mile of his place. I announced my intention to go home.
‘At least let me walk you to your car,’ he insisted and I, being too stupid to argue, agreed.
My car lurked in a dark corner of the car park. Taking care to keep the car between us I bade Cheerful Chappy farewell, unlocked the driver’s door and dived into the drivers seat.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself nose to nose with Cheerful. Nothing if not resourceful he had taken advantage of the central locking and simply let himself in. Before I could say anything I found myself in an uninvited and, to use British understatement, rather unexpected, wet snog.
After a bit of a struggle I managed to emerge for air and voice, quite urgently, my disapproval of his behaviour. He was crestfallen.
‘I tried to go too quickly, didn’t I?’ he ventured.
I answered in the affirmative, not wishing to deflate his ego further by telling him that if he’d stayed at home it would have been too quick!
‘I suppose you won’t want to see me again then?’
At this point I was absolutely horrified to hear myself saying ‘Well, not necessarily,’ and giving him my address. We agreed that he should ring me the following evening and I hurtled homeward to let off steam to Biggles.
‘Oh my God,’ I yelled, pacing up and down my living room floor ‘I’ve given him my address, how could I have been so stupid?’
Biggles, normally pretty decisive and opinionated, could only manage, ‘Oh dear,’ from the sofa. Not a great deal of help under the circumstances.
As it happened the poor misguided chap rang me at the appointed time the following evening and I was able to tell him what I should have told him in the first place, to sling his hook. He did, and I never heard from him again, but this was a salutary lesson and I decided that I needed the slightly more secure realms of Dateline.
As I have mentioned before, I lived in sheep country and the population there is not dense. I filled in an introductory, short questionnaire I had found in a magazine. ‘Please tick all the things that interest you,’ it requested. I ticked art, theatre, eating out, easy listening music, barber shop singing, reading, watching television, walking and I don’t know what else. I completed my personal details and sent it off.
After a week or so I received an envelope bearing the logo of the dating agency. I ripped it open, dying to know how many hot dates I had lined up.
‘We have entered your details into our database and matched you with the following people who share your interests,’ it announced. There followed a list containing a solitary name and stating his interests as ‘watching television’. My cup ranneth over.
Undaunted I paid up my money and completed the full, unabridged questionnaire feeling optimistic that if I widened the radius to include larger towns and cities as far away as Manchester, I ought to get one or two hopefuls.
I received a first list of half a dozen men and there, at the top, was someone I worked with, well blow me down. I rang him straight away and we went on a few dates. He was not ready for a proper, all singing all bonking relationship, still smarting from the pain of a recently departed work colleague wife who, to make matters worse, had run of with a chap from their, and my work place. He was, not unsurprisingly, reluctant to get involved with another co-worker. We had a few pleasant dates and he cooked me a lovely meal but that was it.
I decided to tackle the others on my list.
1. A park ranger, rather good looking, lived near Manchester but had no interest in his career so I didn’t pursue him; he didn’t ring me either.
2. A bloke who had the cheek to ask me, on the ‘phone, what size clothes I wore. I lied and said ‘Size 10 but I don’t think you’re my type’.
3. A bloke (I think he must have been the one who liked watching television.) he was a boring as hell and his face looked as though it had been shut between two lift doors.
4. I guy who turned out to be on the British Antarctic Survey. Yes really! He was away for months at a time but I had a lovely conversation with his mum who told me all his secrets, including how he was heartbroken after a recent relationship had ended, what his favourite meal was and all manner of things I have had the decency to forget.
5. A chap who had left dateline months ago, having met somebody through the organisation. He confided that I would have to ‘kiss a lot of frogs’ before I found my prince. A chance would have been a fine thing!
Well, in the end I gave up on Dateline. I’m sure for some it’s a good idea but I just hated that awkward, weighing-each-other-up, first date. It’s not for me. I wonder if those men I crossed paths with have ever met Mrs (almost always) Right.
Some time after leaving Dateline I was set up with a bloke I knew really well through work. He didn’t work for the same company as I but for a firm of suppliers. And that, to coin a phrase, is another story.