Still bloody searching

A friend forwards me the link to an article: The 10 Best Places to Meet a Man.

“Saw this and thought of you,” she writes.

Ever game, I click on the link. It’s an American article, so I expect there to be a few cultural differences, but … fine, let’s read it anyway. Who knows, perhaps there are swathes of hitherto inaccessible menfolk, just waiting for me to read this article and seek them out.

So, let’s see … where should I be looking for my Prince Charming?

1. Men’s clothing store
Studies show less than 15% of men buy clothes online, therefore, it is reasonable to think that a men’s store would be a good choice.

Well, yes, but what do I do in a men’s clothing store? There’s only so long you can drift idly round the trouser section, vaguely thumbing the fabric. Plus, what studies don’t show is that 80% of the guys shopping instore are doing so with their designated lady. And anyway, won’t any guys in there assume that I’m shopping for my man at home? Why else would I be in a men’s clothes shop?

Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough, but I’ve NEVER picked up a man in a clothes shop. Ever.

2. Interstate train
I have personally witnessed a gold mine of men in my state-to-state excursions, all handing out business cards like people handing out free fried chicken at the shopping mall food court.

And herein cultural difference number one: we Brits are notoriously reluctant to speak to strangers unless it’s absolutely necessary. Besides, I only really take the train to London, and that’s full of financial whizz-kids barking self-importantly into their mobile phone. I can just imagine the reaction if I tried to start up a flirty little conversation with one of them…

3. Online dating sites

Hold it right there. Been there, done that. Ran away.

4. At the gym

Setting aside the debacle of the Darkly Intriguing Man From The Gym for just a moment, I should probably mention that the photo accompanying this entry is of a hot-to-trot guy straining to press what’s no doubt an impressive weight on some machine, while a simpering female stands by showing her admiration, her pert bosom just inches from our heroic gym-goer’s nose. Um … next!

5. The Apple store

Oh, please.

6. High-end supermarkets
Anyone spending that much money on groceries is serious about their health and he can probably cook!

I concur. Sadly, I can’t afford to shop there. And I believe you can be arrested for loitering.

7. Annual events
This one is simply about math, a big event means big attendance.

Aha! Now this one I like. I just need an invite. Offers, please…

8. Facebook


9. An educational setting
Let’s face it, a smart man is a sexy man…

I couldn’t agree more. But in my time I’ve attended language classes, fitness classes, dance classes, business classes – you name it. And every time I’ve met some fabulous girls. But never once a single guy below pensionable age.

10. A volunteer project
When we volunteer, we dedicate our time towards our passions and values. There is no better qualifier to meet “Mr. Right” than our values.

Hold on. Does that last sentence even make sense? Anyhow, in principle it’s not a bad idea, but I must admit I was looking for a quick-fix solution, rather than a long-term investment of time that I don’t really have. My bad.

To be honest, although this sort of article is well-meaning, it just sets you up to fail. If you’re going to meet the love of your life in a supermarket, it’s surely going to be by chance, not by design. You can’t tip the hand of fate by hanging out in the sportswear section, because “logic” says that’s where all the hot, sporty men are hanging out, too.

And you can hang around the Apple store all you like but you’re more likely to arouse the suspicion of the staff than meet the man of your dreams.

Anyway, surely what I need is a copy of The 10 Best Places to Meet a Woman. Once I know where the guys are searching, it’ll be a cinch to go where the hunters hunt…

Hmmm. I’d like to be convinced, but if I’m honest, I’ve got more faith in getting a t-shirt printed.

“Single and searching” – here I come.


A bit of skirt

Guess what? The Darkly Intriguing Man From The Gym has got a girlfriend. Surprise, surprise.

I finally pulled myself up by the bootstraps and confronted him (admittedly by email) and he confessed that he has indeed got a girlfriend. But they’re splitting up so he doesn’t feel he’s behaved badly… blablabla …

Whether this is the truth or a conveniently concocted fairytale is of no interest to me. Either way, he’s out of the window as far as romantic liaisons are concerned. And I’m back to square one.

Anyway, today my head’s full of other things: I’m in London for a business meeting, it’s rush hour on the tube and I’ve got my face smushed into the back of the world’s tallest man.

Someone’s briefcase is wedged firmly in my ribs and, behind me, a screaming sproglet administers repeated kicks to my calves as an expression of his or her disgust at London’s finest method of transport.

By the time we get to Leicester Square, I can take it no more, and I hop off. I’ve got time to kill and I’d rather walk back to Kings Cross than spend another minute defending my poor, battered body against the fearsome onslaught of rush-hour commuters.

On the street, there’s a light, misty rain and I enjoy the changing scenery: the tacky glitz of Shaftesbury Avenue; the genteel streets of Bloomsbury; and the little oases of calm in Russell Square and Cartwright Gardens. All too soon, I’m at Euston Road, with the gothic majesty of St Pancras towering above me.

St Pancras is one of my favourite buildings. Not so long ago, I read an article about its renovation and conversion into sumptuous five star lodgings, and ever since I’ve fancied taking afternoon tea there. (It’d have to be afternoon tea, as I surely couldn’t afford to stay.) They call it ‘the cathedral of railways’ and really, it’s no exaggeration.

I’m still pondering its fabulousness as I wander into Kings Cross.

It’s not too crowded now, and I find a seat without much difficulty. Sinking gratefully onto the chair, I’m more than happy to get my bag off my shoulders; my laptop makes it feel pretty heavy after a while. It seems quite warm in here after the chill air outside, so I stand to take my coat off.

As I unbutton my jacket, something white catches my eye. It’s the lining of my dress, which isn’t usually on view. But it’s making an appearance today, thanks to the friction created by the synthetic fabric of my dress and the synthetic lining of my trench coat, which have conspired to make my dress shimmy slowly upwards.

My hemline is now around my waist.

And I’m flashing my underskirts to all and sundry.

An old Jamaican guy opposite me raises his eyebrows, and stops sucking on his Cornish pasty just long enough to smirk, “That’s a great look you got there, girl!” before breaking into wheezy laughter.

Mortified – AGAIN – I pull my skirt down. As if flashing my knickers once in a month wasn’t enough.

I’m almost glad when a girl walks by and shoves a leaflet into my hand. At least it’s something I can make myself interested in while the redness fades from my cheeks. Until I look at it more closely…

“eHarmony Dating”, it reads. “Find the perfect match for you!”

I look at it in exasperation. There are no words. Really. No words at all…


When I’m full of a cold – tired, grumpy and a just a little bit emotional – that’s when I really miss being coupled up.

Since waking up with a sore throat and snuffly nose this morning, I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. It’s quite selfish of me, I know, but at times like these I just want someone to give me a hug, smooth my hair, make me a cuppa and pass the aspirin.

Naturally, I’m not just after a nursemaid; there are – obviously – other moments when I miss having a mate. But somehow being poorly makes me want to be cosseted by someone who loves me and still wants to cuddle me even if my nose is red and I’m wheezing like a pair of broken bellows. Someone apart from my mum, that is.

Of course, I’ve got plenty of kind-hearted friends who’d be more than happy to indulge me in a bit of meals-on-wheels. But unless I’m at death’s door, availing them of their services just feels a bit like taking advantage, whereas with your other half, it’s pretty much an inalienable right.

Beyond that, you can snuggle up to your companion in a way that’s quite likely to alarm all but your closest cohorts: I take great pleasure in leeching body heat from more thermically charged partners, but it’s a benefit that friends tend to bestow less readily.

Anyway, today I’ve spent almost the whole day in bed in the company of my hot water bottle, feeling slightly tragic.

If I’m honest, I’m still a bit miffed about the Darkly Intriguing Man From The Gym. Not only because I really rather liked him, but also because the whole situation is yet more proof of my abysmal judge of character: I really thought he was one of the good guys.

However, after speaking to a friend, I’m wondering if I’ve misjudged him. After all, I’ve known him for more than six months, and there’s never been mention of a girlfriend in all that time. Admittedly, we’ve never been out at night, but we’ve been for extended coffees that have lasted for hours on various lazy Sunday afternoons.

“So,” says my dear, wise friend. “What’s the evidence for him having a girlfriend?”

“Um…well…” I mutter. “They mentioned him and this girl in the same sentence, like… three times. And one of those times was about him taking her somewhere abroad. So…”

“So really, you haven’t got much evidence, have you?” says Friend. “She could be his housemate for all you know.”

I consider this. If I’ve got my rose-tinted glasses on, then yes, she could be his housemate. But I thought he said he lived alone … didn’t he? Oh, rats! I just can’t remember.

“Or his sister.”

OK, OK. I admit my evidence is flimsy.

“For goodness’ sake!” says Friend. “Why don’t you just ask him?!”

Ask him. Yes.

I could ask him. I suppose I could. But that’s like admitting that I care whether or not she’s his girlfriend. And also admitting that I’m interested.

And if by any chance he is interested, and he hasn’t got a girlfriend, he might think I’m asking because I’m not interested.

“What?!! What kind of logic is THAT?!” splutters Friend. “You know what? You think too much. It’s no wonder you’re still bloody single!”

Chastened, I hang my head.

But I have to admit … he may have a point.

A darkly intriguing disappointment

So it turns out the Darkly Intriguing Man From The Gym has a girlfriend.

Of course he has. Of course.

I learn this in passing during a casual conversation with mutual friends. Luckily, not because I asked, but because they happened to use his name in conjunction with another – female – name several times. Naturally, I don’t say a thing, but I think back on our online chats and quietly wonder if there’s any way I could have misread his words.

In the last few days, we’ve spent hours online, so when I get home I re-read everything, wondering if I’ve been seeing something that wasn’t there.

I see all the kisses, all the flirtatious comments, the suggestions of places to go together… and I don’t think I was wrong to read it as I did. Which makes me wonder: what hope is there of finding a decent man if even the nice guys (and our few mutual friends routinely refer to the DIMFTG as “a really nice guy”) are this disloyal?

What’s even worse is that the DIMFTG surely tells himself there’s nothing wrong with his behaviour. After all, he’s not done anything improper: just messaged a friend, maybe gone out with her for a coffee a few times.

But I wonder how he’d feel if his girlfriend were to read our correspondence? Because I think that level of friendship and intimacy would make any girl feel uncomfortable.

And even though I’ve never met this woman, I feel as I’ve let her down.

This variance in perspective seems to be a fundamental difference between men and women. I can’t tell you the amount of men I’ve met … at parties, in bars, on the street … who’ve been all too happy chatting and flirting – even asking for my phone number – when all the time they’ve got a girlfriend.

Of course, there are plenty of men who are completely honest and completely faithful, but I’ve still heard innumerable sob stories, of the “my girlfriend doesn’t understand me” variety.

This kind of man makes me want to shake them by the shoulders whilst yelling, “Oh, please! Spare me!”

After all, nobody’s forcing you to be in a relationship, and if it’s not right, then change it; either work on it to make it better or get out. Don’t sit there whining about it to someone you’ve just met in a bar. It’s hard to tell who these men have least respect for: me, their girlfriend or themselves.

But anyway, the DIMFTG’s girlfriend has nothing to fear. In this respect, I’m 100% a girls’ girl: no matter how charming the man may be, I’m not about to collude with him in his disloyalty. Because nobody deserves to be cheated on or whined about behind their back … and also because I hope that if I’m ever in a similar situation, that girl will do the same for me.

Mind you, the way things are going, the chances of finding myself in any sort of romantic situation are looking increasingly slim. Even the sexy barista has found himself a girlfriend – oh yes, indeed – and here I am, still waiting for my frog prince.

Since all other avenues have failed me, there’s only one thing for it: I’m going to start a Blue Peter appeal.

Somebody, somewhere must know a single man of decent character, between the ages of 30 and 40, with all his own teeth. Surely it’s not that much to ask? (If he can string a sentence together without using the word ‘LOL’ then so much the better.)

Dear friends, if you know of someone who fits this description, parcel him up and send him over NOW. Your actions can make a difference; your actions can make the world a better place.

Your actions can save me from a life of knitting doilies and a subscription to ‘Cat Lovers Weekly’.

Act now. Please. Act now.

Caged birds and locked bicycles

It’s been a funny sort of day.

It starts with a sun-filled cycle ride, during which I breathe the tepid (if slightly petrol-tainted) air, and marvel at the trees, which are currently filled with such glorious blossom that it makes your heart sing.

As usual, I drop into the coffee shop for my morning fix, and it’s only as the sexy barista hands me my espresso that I realise I’ve forgotten my purse. Blushing, I explain my predicament, and he gallantly waves a dismissive hand as I babble my excuses amid promises to pay tomorrow. But of course, no purse means no lunch.

Since I’m on a tight deadline work-wise, I resolve to toil for as long as my stomach can take it, and it’s nearly three o’clock when I finally decide to cycle home for some sustenance.

Which is when I find that some genius has locked their bike to mine.

And with no money, I can’t even get the bus home.

I leave a note for the mystery bike locker, berating them for their inattention and asking them to notify me when my bike is released. Then, sighing, I join the serpentine queue at the bank. After 20 minutes in line, I manage to answer enough questions to persuade them of my identity and finally emerge victorious, triumphantly clutching a tenner that covers my lunch and my bus fare.

By the time I arrive home, several precious hours have flown by, and my deadline is looming large.
I’m working frantically when my phone pings to announce the arrival of a text from an unknown number.

“Wait a minute, that’s not how karma works,” it says.

Despite the somewhat oblique message, I assume it’s from the mystery bike locker.

“Yeh,” I reply, “karma shouldn’t keep good people from their lunch! Does that mean my bike is no longer captive? Thank you if so…”

If I’m honest, I curse a bit under my breath, because although I’m glad my bike is now free, the message has reminded me that it’s situated a good 40 minute walk from my present location. I’m still considering my options when the phone pings again.

“Yes I have unchained you. Some birds shouldn’t be left caged. I’m sorry, I should apologise to you. I was in a very hungover state when I cycled to work this morning. Finding your note was a very unexpected experience for me. I didn’t realise I was capable of such stupidity. Once again, sorry for locking you up like that. I believe in karma and I shall seek to restore the balance by locking somebody up to give them joy rather than annoyance.”

I look at the message, slightly nonplussed. Although its content is a tad pert, I suppose that an answer is required.

“Well, good luck with that,” I write. “Unfortunately, I had to get the bus home cos I had no more time. Pls give my bike my best wishes and tell it I’ll be back for it soon. And thanks for texting. Much appreciated…”

So, should I walk back into town, take the bus, or what?

Ping! goes my phone.

“Yup. And you too for writing that note and replying. The world doesn’t seem so cold today!”


“You know what?”


“I wanna get to know you”

You’re joking, right? I know I pride myself on my sophisticated style and innate joie de vivre, but I’m not sure I’ve managed to convey all that in 140 characters …


“I got a girlfriend though so I kinda can’t”

At least you’re honest.


“Regardless of your sex or relationship status”

Well, of course. I’m 87 years old and I’ve got no teeth. Still interested?


“I feel like a caged bird”

Naturally, I’m grateful that the mystery bike locker took the time to apologise, and even more grateful that he’s refrained from using “LOL” anywhere in his correspondence, but I can’t help laughing at this turn of events.

I eye my phone suspiciously, but it remains resolutely silent. Confident that the textual avalanche has halted, I compose a response to my unsuitable suitor.

“Hmmm. A caged bird? Or perhaps a locked bicycle?”

After a few moments, my phone pings again. My would-be paramour is succinct in his reply. I smile as I read his text, composed of just two words:

“How ironic.”


Another message arrives, but this time it’s the Darkly Intriguing Man From The Gym.

“Got time for a chat?” he says.

We spend an hour online, messaging each other about everything and nothing, and this time I get a total of nine kisses … which even a romantic ignoramus like me would take as a sign that he’s interested … right?

Flirty friends and predatory pumas

Every single has a Flirty Friend. You know the one: it’s the guy or girl with whom you have fabulous chemistry but – for whatever reason – you know they couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t ever be anything more than a mate.

In my case, the obvious candidate for this title is The Young Swede: he’s sexy, smart and incredibly good fun, and the hours fly by in his company. Whenever we get together we flirt outrageously … but the ten-year age gap means that anything more than friendship could only be classed as folly. In another lifetime, I’ll be five years younger and he’ll be five years older and we’ll live happily ever after. But for now, he’s Flirty Friend #1.

But there is also Flirty Friend #2.

This time it’s distance (and a good dose of common sense) that keeps us apart, but the Peruvian Puma can always be relied upon to lift my spirits with coquettish conversation and lots of improper innuendo.

Dark, handsome and dangerous, I know that if we ever got together, the Peruvian Puma would drive me crazy with his fecklessness – and probably break my heart into the bargain. But as a Flirty Friend he’s second to none.

The majority of our friendship has been carried out online – we’ve only met in the flesh four times – but we’ve managed to flirt, fight, fall out and kiss and make up many times over. He once stood me up when I’d travelled over 800 miles to meet him, and I’ve managed to offend his very soul with what I considered a fairly innocuous comment, but still our long-distance colloquy continues.

Whenever one of his messages pings into my inbox, I feel a frisson of excitement: a born flirt with an occasionally inopportune use of the English language, some of his comments cross the line from suggestive to scurrilous … but there’s no denying he’s darn sexy.

He’s also one of the very few people in this world who has managed to leave me speechless. And I mean REALLY speechless.

Picture the scene: it’s the evening of my birthday, and I’m getting ready to meet a few friends for pizza and a celebratory glass of wine when I get a Skype call from the PP. This in itself is quite unusual, since our correspondence is usually limited to messages and email, but of course today is different and I’m due some birthday wishes.

When he asks if I have time to talk, I truthfully say that I can chat for a few minutes, but then I have to leave or I’ll be late for dinner. In fact, I keep getting ready while we chat.

And so, I’m attending to my mascara when he starts his striptease.

Now, we’d bantered about this kind of thing in our flirty chats but – call me naïve – I’d never imagined it might actually happen. But there he is, doing a sexy dance and removing his clothes layer by layer. Wherever he is, it’s obviously quite chilly as he’s gone through about four jumpers, but before long he’s down to his undies and the application of my mascara has ground to a halt.

As he gets down to the nitty gritty, I remember myself and get back to my make-up: somehow, it seems rude to gawp, even if the show is for you and you alone. It seems, however, that this is the wrong response. In fact, he gets a bit tetchy, gathering his clothes around him and growling, “OK, show’s over!”

Somewhat nonplussed, I thank him politely, he wishes me a happy birthday and we hang up. As I run out of the door towards my dinner date, I finally burst out laughing – not so much at the notion of my birthday striptease, as much as my terribly British response and the smudge of mascara that’s halfway down my cheek.

Yep, there’s no doubt about it, he’s one wild cat. And it’s a good thing he’s on the other side of the world because if he were here, that Peruvian Puma would eat me alive.

Wearing my heart on my … umm … t-shirt

Do you know how long it’s been since I went on a date?

Hmmm. No, me neither. Not exactly. I ran out of fingers before I could finish counting. Unless you count the pair of coffee dates that the dating site turned up (and I don’t), it’s been … well, absolutely YONKS.

Not that a hot date is necessarily a precursor to a successful relationship. But it’s a start. And if you don’t start, you certainly don’t get anywhere. But how to start when you don’t meet any suitable candidates?

Not that I’ve resigned myself to spending my twilight years surrounded by cats just yet. But I definitely need a hand with identifying and approaching eligible bachelors because otherwise the Cat Rescue will be awarding me Patron Saint status far sooner than I’d like.

… and speaking of bachelors, may I rant for just a moment?

I know I’m not the first to mention it, but ‘bachelor’ sounds so funky, doesn’t it? A ‘bachelor’ is definitely single by choice: he’s elected to prowl the savannah a while longer, enjoying the highlife with his crrrr-azy bachelor chums, who high-five and back-slap each other on wild nights out like something from a Bacardí advert.

‘Spinster’, on the other hand, conjures up something altogether more medieval: it brings to mind a be-hooded crone, sitting vainly at her spinning machine, trying to turn flax into gold, just one step away from being arrested for witchcraft and burned on a bonfire amid cries of, “Heresy!”

I know some ladies prefer the term ‘bachelorette’, but that makes me think of the kind of caravan that was considered the height of swinging style back in 1964.

Anyway, returning to the subject of my manhunt … I’m seriously considering getting a t-shirt printed with some eye-catching message, specifically to attract passing menfolk.

‘Open to offers’ might give the wrong impression. But ‘Single and searching’ might do. Or, more directly: ‘Ask me out!’ Alternatively, I could go for a more oblique approach like, ‘Hates cats’ or ‘Professional go-go dancer’.

“Forget the t-shirt, you just need to start SPEAKING to some men!” declares my wise old girlfriend, as we sit airing our woes over a coffee.

Easier said than done, say I. I know it’s a perfectly reasonable approach, but this is the UK. If you start talking to strangers, they immediately wonder what you want from them, and whether they should call the police now or later.

While I’m pondering this, she goes off to get the coffees in … and returns with a mischievous look on her face that I know spells trouble.

“I decided,” she says, “to take matters into my own hands.”

I look at her questioningly, with not a little trepidation.

“I asked the sexy barista when he was going to ask you out.”

Oh my god. I can never hold my head up in this bar again!

“You did wha…?? Oh, god! Oh … GOD! Why??! And anyway … what did he say?”

“Not a lot,” she giggles. “He blushed, said he was shy, then screwed up the order.”

She indicates the two lattes she’s holding. Definitely not the double espresso I ordered.

I don’t know whether to be pleased that he was bothered enough to blush or mortified that the thought of a date with me reduced him to such a bumbling mess.

Either way, I resolve to stay off the coffee for a while. And look into getting that t-shirt printed. Slogan suggestions on a postcard, please…