Love, we are told, is a many-splendored thing.
But the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day can be pretty depressing when that many-splendored thing is just out of your grasp.
We live in an age where more people are single than ever before.
And, facing my first Valentine’s Day alone, instead of wallowing, I set out on a mission to hook myself a date.
At 33, long gone are the days of meeting an eligible bachelor across a crowded nightclub.
So I took three different approaches – online dating, a blind date arranged by a friend, and a singles’ night.
And here are the results...
The singles’ night
For me, the thought of singles’ nights conjures up images of yuppies in 1980s wine bars, or uncomfortable dinner parties with desperation on the menu.
I choose Sophisticated Singles which is hosting a night at the Bridge Tavern, in Old Portsmouth. I’m so nervous I trip on my way in and my heel comes clean off my shoe. Not a great start.
After hobbling up the stairs I’m met by two very dapper and sprightly... octogenarians.
I’d be lying if I say I’m not just a tiny bit taken aback.
But Maurice and Fred are such sweet gents and have me laughing straight away.
I immediately relax and soon the pub fills up with about 30 men and women with an average age of around 40.
Organiser Sophie Personne introduces everyone and puts us all at ease. There’s lots of laughter as the girls swap dating horror stories, And the men are charming and there are no wandering party hands.
All of those there are professional, look after themselves, lead interesting lives but, for some reason or another, have found themselves single.
It is such a relaxed evening, full of laughter. And it was so much better to actually meet people in the flesh to see if you have that all-important chemistry.
I’m not sure how many couples clicked but I met a gorgeous policeman and we had a great date a week later.
But I think at 45 he was probably at a bit too old for me.
Sophisticated Singles is a brilliant way to get back into the dating game and it’s perfect for people who are 40 plus. It completely changed my view on singles’ nights.
The only real issue is summoning up the bravery to walk through the door in the first place but you have nothing to lose. Go for it.
The blind date
Ahh, a blind date. Something I vowed I’d never do.
But my friend was so convinced that I’d get on with her friend that I went for it.
She promised Phil Roch was tall, dark, and handsome, into music and the arts, and round about my age.
We had no contact apart from a few texts to arrange the night itself, so I knew absolutely nothing about him. I have to admit that I was shaking with nerves as I walked into the beautiful Garage Lounge, in Albert Road.
Fortunately my friend is right, he is all those things. Phil, a marketing writer and hockey player, from Portchester, is funny, warm, and can talk for England.
Which is such a relief on a date. No awkward silences.
He’s well-travelled and even makes his own films. We have lots in common and chat easily over pots of mango tea, Earl Grey and a passion fruit cheesecake.
The Garage Lounge really is the perfect location for a first date.
What is so great about being set up by a friend is that they know you both and have a good idea if you’ll get on.
We did, like a house on fire.
Though I’m not sure we had the chemistry needed to go on more dates I know I’ve certainly made a great friend.
Most online dating sites use a complex algorithm to decide who is an ideal match for who.
I wanted to see who was on the market, rather than let a piece of software dictate who was best for me.
With that in mind, I downloaded the most ruthless, superficial dating app out there, Tinder.
It’s a free smartphone app that’s taking the dating world by storm.
Instead of costly monthly fees for a dating site, you simply upload your profile photos from Facebook and put in your location preference.
It gives you information on all the singletons within your immediate vicinity, whether you have Facebook friends in common, and common ‘likes’.
You simply swipe right on the photo if you like the look of him, and left if you don’t.
If he also fancies you you’ll get a ‘ping’ for a match, and then you can talk to each other, through the app. It’s that easy.
In fact, it’s almost like a computer game. It’s thrilling to see the matches ping up.
Of course, you could argue that deciding to talk to someone based on how good looking they are is incredibly shallow and, yes, I agree.
But isn’t that how it works in real life?
Anyone who’s uploaded a selfie or used ‘LOL’ in their profile gets an instant swipe left from me – a complete turnoff.
I get some nice offers of dates but choose to chat to the person who is probably the least forthcoming.
There is a tendency for guys who are shy just to keep talking online, but I’m after a date for Valentine’s Day so I have to get the ball rolling.
After a week of chatting to the ‘6ft 3in gent’ I get a bit impatient and take the plunge and ask him out.
There’s always the danger that guys have used well out-of-date photos and they are actually 10 years older and 4st heavier.
The photos my date used were definitely old because he is far more handsome in the flesh.
I love meeting him and, out of the three, he is probably the one I would like to see again but I’m actually a bit exhausted from three dates within four days and it may have come across.
Alas, he hasn’t asked to see me again.
Perhaps I should have stuck more rigidly to the age-old rule that if you have to ask him, he’s probably just not that into you.
But it hasn’t put me off Tinder.
For people in their 20s and 30s it’s perfect.
As long as you’re prepared to accept that some guys are just going to ask if you ‘fancy sharing a naughty bottle of wine?’.
Now, I’m sure there are some girls who would fall for it, but not this one.
I haven’t met the man of my dreams yet but I’m going to carry on dating because it’s been so much fun and I’ve met so many nice people along the way.
And I’ve already set three of them up on blind dates with my friends!
AUTHOR Abbie Headon, from Southsea, has just published Poetry First Aid Kit, a collection of classic poems to dip into to gain perspective on every day dilemmas.
She says: ‘Poetry is important when it comes to love because it’s such a concise, intense art form. It conveys a lot of emotional content in just a few short lines.
‘You can read a poem in under a minute, but a good poem will give you enough food for thought that you can come back to it again and again and it never grows dull.
‘Another reason we turn to poetry to express our love is that, by quoting a famous poem, we are protected from expressing our own deep feelings too directly.
‘I suppose many of us would often choose a love song to play to our partner, rather than composing a new song ourselves – using a poem to express your feelings is comparable to that.’
Abbie has chosen William Butler Yeats’ He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven for today.
She says: ‘This is one of my favourite love poems. It’s so romantic, and it reminds us that love is not about expensive presents or grand gestures, which is especially comforting in this period of austerity we’re all going through right now. Yeats’ language is so beautiful. I think to be serenaded with this poem would melt any lover’s heart.’
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
DR Ed Morrison, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, spells out the laws of attraction.
‘The things we find attractive can be divided into the physical — such as the way someone looks, sounds, smells, and moves — and the non-physical, such as someone’s personality and intelligence.
‘Although we often hear that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, people actually largely agree on what they find attractive.
‘This is because many of our preferences can be understood in terms of biology.
‘For example, men tend to prefer women who look young because age is related to reproductive potential – the number of children they can produce in their lifetime.
‘Women generally prefer tall men because height may signal physical dominance or a childhood with good nourishment and little disease.
‘Some of our preferences work on a subconscious level, like smell.
‘The genes involved in the way a man smells also influence the immune system, and the most effective immune system is one with high genetic diversity.
‘By choosing a man who smells attractive, a woman could choose a partner with dissimilar genes to herself, which could produce children with the best immune systems.
‘Another woman may not find the same smell attractive because she has different genes.
‘Of course, attractiveness is not all about the physical, and both men and women agree that a partner who is kind and trustworthy is a high priority.’
Dr Morrison’s research focuses on human mate choice, especially facial attractiveness.
He also focuses on other aspects of human mating such as mate search, the process of finding suitable mates.