Second time lucky for romance Published: The Evening Telegraph's very own Charlie Brown took the plunge and joined an indroduction agency. Here he gives his own full and frank account of how RSVP helped him find love again — over tea and cakes. Getting into the dating game after a relationship breakdown can be a daunting prospect for anyone. LAST year was a pretty bad one, from a personal happiness point of view, but it came up trumps in its final two months.
It had begun OK, but the relationship I was in went into decline, with the worry and paranoia that goes with it, until, after a particularly tense short break to Venice together in May, it came to an end.
The lifestyle that I had sort of become familiar with suddenly finished. Then I had the whole summer stretching in front of me — those warm sunny days and long balmy evenings that should be filled with fun things — barbecues, trips to the beach and all that.
But I just wasn't in the mood for it, and I found myself at a loss for what to do at the weekends. I cursed each glorious hot day. By the autumn, I was pretty much back to my old self, I had resigned myself to being on my own again, and was getting back to doing some of the things I used to do, such as going dancing on a Monday night with my colleague Sarah. Then I was asked at work if I would like to "go on a date with a lady". I hesitated, and then found my self saying: I had nothing to lose, and it might prove to be interesting.
I was certainly feeling the lack of close female company in my life, and, what with not going out much, there was little chance for me to meet anyone new by any other way. Membership with dating agency RSVP was hastily arranged, and I was being telephoned to arrange an initial meeting with the agency. I chose Peterborough's Bull Hotel, where I met Deborah Kelly, to go through creating my profile and spelling out the sort of woman I was looking for.
I was nervous, but Deborah quickly put me at ease with her informal and friendly, bubbly manner. She helped me fill out a form asking general information, and questions on work, education and interests, personality, and what I'm looking for in a partner. Part of the package I had with RSVP was a complimentary session with a life coach, and this was the next stage of the process.
The purpose of these sessions is to help people who feel like shrinking into a corner when walking into a room full of new faces, to shine and play a full part. I felt I didn't really want what she had to offer.
We just had a long chat, with the option that I could call her at any time if I needed any help to boost my confidence. The package I had guaranteed up to 24 hand-picked introductions a year, with unlimited amounts of members who could be introduced to me, plus full benefits of the social programme. The social calendar includes restaurant nights, trips to pubs, concerts, and activities such as wine tasting, or even clay pigeon shooting and quad biking. As it turned out, I didn't get a chance to go on one of these events.
I was sent a profile and telephone number of a girl who lived near Uppingham, and she sounded fine, so I decided to bite the bullet and give her a call. I'm as nervous as the anyone else when it comes to phoning people out of the blue, especially a girl to ask for a date, so I summoned all my courage, after about half an hour of fretting.
When I called, I interrupted a meeting she was having at work — oops — but we arranged to meet in a village pub near her on a Sunday night. It was a wet and miserable night and, after the long drive, I found the pub in darkness. Things weren't looking good. We found a nice bar in Uppingham instead, and chatted over drinks.
It was quite an enjoyable evening, but it was clear we weren't dating material. She was a bit too different, and perhaps much too well-to-do for me. She had a cleaner, gardener, she owned a horse, and travelled around the world a lot.
Not much chance of me whisking her off for an impromptu shopping and site-seeing trip to New York, I'm afraid. And she looked a bit older than I had been expecting. So, after a couple of hours, we went our separate ways and didn't get in contact again. I was sent another profile and phone number about a week later, and I really liked the look of it. She sounded more up my street, and interested in similar things.
I kind of knew I would get on with her. So I texted her first, to introduce myself — I thought this would make the phone call a little less cold and out of the blue — and we arranged later to meet in Stamford, on a Sunday afternoon. We met at The George Hotel, and quickly discovered a mutual enthusiasm for tea and cakes — a definite plus in my book — and found before long that we were talking quite fluently and naturally with each other, and any nerves I had subsided.
I enjoyed finding out about her life, and her work as primary school teacher, and wanted to know more. It wasn't a case of dry mouth, struggling for something to say, and ending up compensating either by totally dominating the conversation by talking about myself, or just saying very little. We both talked and listened. I found her attractive, and on my level. We had a lovely day walking around Stamford's streets, and across the meadows, and ended up having dinner in a restaurant there.
What I had expected to be a couple of hours turned into a whole afternoon and evening. We arranged to meet again, and had dinner the following Friday in a pub in Elton. That was good, too. For the last couple of months we have been seeing each other every weekend, and one day during the week also, and seem to have become extremely close in that short amount of time.
I didn't think I'd have much success with the agency, but the second person I met has turned out to be a fantastic girlfriend.
It's rounded off the old year and started the new on a totally unexpected high. More and more of us are turning to the internet in a search of the perfect match, where as others prefer to put their trust in an agency. RSVP claims to have one of the most sophisticated methods of profiling the perfect match, placing more emphasis on personality and interests, than looks. Roland Stringer, who runs the company with his wife Anne, said: We have a personal profile that is second to none in the business.
Membership costs start at , registration fee and Charlie Brown was on a Platinum membership, which costs 1,, and includes life coaching, at least 24 introductions a year, hand-picked introductions and access to a range of hosted social events, from clay pigeon shooting to walks in the country. More people turning to agencies.