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Until now, I always thought people who resort to dating agencies must be a little desperate. I have never before even been set up by friends or been on a blind date.But then I reached the first anniversary of my divorce and, much to my surprise, having sworn off men for life, I started to wonder, with the prospect of a great big yawning new year stretching ahead of me, whether there might be someone out there for me and, if so, how on earth am I going to find him?I feel as though I'm about to sit my A-levels all over again. Mairead phones to tell me about M, who is 46, in wealth management, whatever that is, and a divorced father of two grown-up boys. We agree to meet the following night in the bar at Claridges. I buy a black lace skirt and silver platforms from Prada, and get my hair done.
I think I cover up my amnesia, and he gallantly phones his driver to take me back to my hotel.I hobble off into the night on my shoes and text Mairead: 'Am V depressed. I find this hard to believe, having watched a great many episodes of Sex And The City, but I valiantly call skirt and shoes into service yet again (wearing the same outfit acts, I as a sort of scientific control), meet Christie, from Mairead's sister agency, Premier Matchmaking, who is hand to arrange everything.Our chat reveals straight away how different the dating scene is in the U. She tells me where my prospective date went to school and college, lists his many degrees, tells me he is 6ft 2in, divrced with no children, and is the CEO of a bank. I agree to meet P at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. He arrives, and although he is indeed tall and dark, resembling none other than Mr Big, I know in less than five seconds that I will never fancy him. The test is what they look like straight out of the shower.' Oh dear.'You need someone generous,' she said, my husband's name unspoken between us, 'with a bank account, not a piggy bank'.
And so, just before Christmas, I meet Mairead Molloy.She never sends clients photos, but instead supplies a brief resume of their qualities. He says he likes good hotels and restaurants, long walks and log fires.