Tag Archives: Keep Calm and Carry on Dating

Moving with Style – In the Pink

Monday, 24th March, 2014.

Well not a lot of action on the house sale for the last few weeks. Oh apart from the housework having been amplified tenfold due to the sheer number of viewers we’ve had through the door; though no offers to buy. Being my usual optimistic self I had envisaged the house selling instantly, but seemingly I was lacking a magic wand.

I have this house showing lark off to a tee now. After hours of toiling – on all fours scrubbing kitchen and bathroom floors; laying and lighting two coal fires; vacuuming and dusting the entire house; mowing the lawns; turning the house into a florist’s shop with copious bunches of lilies and tulips to fiddle with – ten minutes before a viewer is due I vacate the house. No longer do the dogs and I head for the beach; but Costa.

Costa does make it better
Costa does make it better
Coffee love
Coffee love
My Costa clubcard is laden with points
My Costa clubcard is laden with points

The dogs are okay with it. They receive a mini muffin each. As well as a bag of mini muffins, I order a regular Cappuccino-to-go. Parked on the promenade – just a stone’s throw from the house – we enjoy a fabulous view of the beach we should be walking on. After thirty minutes we return home. But re-energised and feeling like the pink bunny  from the Duracell battery advert – all fluffed up and powered by caffeine – I head straight back out and onto the beach. How the dogs love house showing days.

The Duracell bunny

‘To the beach —>’

With the switch in my head flicked into overdrive, this is when positive house moving decisions are made. Hmmm.

Firstly, there was the cave house in Calitri, Italy. (Cave photos via Rightmove)

Entrance to the Cave
Entrance to the Cave
The living room
The living room

Maybe initially it appealed to the primitive side of me – or was it the price? At £21,000 the price is primitive. Either way I could see myself as a modern day Wilma Flintstone. My leopard print heels and a pair of chopsticks stuck in my hair would look great! Ahem. And Betty and Barney  Rubble might be neighbours.

Wilma
Wilma

When I began reading about Calitri, I was hooked. Calitri is a town in the province of Avellino in southern Italy. It is about one hour’s drive from Naples. Calitri sounds like a magical place, as locals liken it to Positano – the stunning village on the Amalfi Coast which is revered for its vibrant colours and year-round sunshine. Calitri itself is a medieval village, and the surrounding countryside is steeped in history, with castles and aristocratic palazzos in abundance. Apparently Calitri is world-known for its artistic ceramics. There are thermal baths to luxuriate in, exceptional cuisine on offer, and wine tastings galore. The cave would make a gem of a holiday home, and half the fun would be the journey getting there. Bello. (Photo via Rightmove)

A street in Calitri. The Cave can only be accessed on foot or by a three wheel vehicle.
A street in Calitri. The Cave can only be accessed on foot or by a three wheel vehicle.

Secondly, there was the cider farm in Brittany, France. I had always associated cider – or scrumpy – with southern England.

scrumpy

The traditional Breton cottage in France is situated in rolling countryside. Accessed by a little footbridge across a river, the apple orchard of 200 trees produced 2,000 litres of award winning cider last year. (Photo via Rightmove)

The Orchard
The Orchard

The cottage even housed a bread oven. Food and drink costs could be kept to a minimum. And not a bad diet either – bread and cider – carbohydrates from the bread and vitamin C from the apples. May need a few chickens running around – for protein of course. But then I thought of the neighbours I might encounter … The Wurzels – Combine Harvester

And I remembered I do not like cider.

Now if the apple orchard were a vineyard, there would have been a sale on the cottage. Tasting the wine would be pure pleasure … Absolutely Fabulous

My head is now back in the land of Blighty, and this week I view a quaint looking cottage a few miles down the road. Judging from the photos in the brochure, there appear to be some interesting artefacts lying around the living room, including a crystal ball! I wonder if a ‘sold’ sign will be slapped on the ‘for sale’ board when I arrive … the vendor may have seen in her crystal ball that the new owner is me. Hmmm.

SOLD
SOLD

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :-) Have a magical week.

Moving with Style – Hidden Corners

Monday, 3rd February, 2014.

Last week was week two of the house being up for sale. It was time for me to view some properties. Interesting how one’s imagination can run riot. I viewed quite an eclectic bunch of houses, and each one told a story. Two stand out in particular.

The first property I viewed had been part of a convent – a block of flats now stands where the main convent building once stood. The owner assured me that the flat dwellers provided a top notch Neighbourhood Watch service. And I truly believed him, for not only did the flats loom large over the property, but the residents’ car park was the owner’s back yard. There was no garden. There was an outdoor space to the property however, but this was accessed from the main bedroom. A French door led outside onto a roof terrace, revealing urban views of row upon row of roof tops and chimneys. A smudge or two of soot on my face and I could star in another version of Mary Poppins, singing and dancing the nights away to ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee.’

Now if there had been a garden then I may have been interested, as there was a hidden gem to this property. For in the lounge an ordinary looking bookcase concealed a secret. One touch on just the right spot and the bookcase swung open at an angle to reveal a secret room. Memories came flooding back of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But instead of walking through a wardrobe into a land of snow, I slinked behind a bookcase into a world of books. Forget Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, this was the stuff that James Bond movies are made of. I could be Pussy Galore … or at least Miss Moneypenny. The secret room had been decked out from floor to ceiling in shelves, housing a library of books. A tantalising thought entered my mind at this point: replace the shelves with wine racks. Images of cosy candle-lit wine tastings fluttered into my head – La Cave du Jane. Mmmm. I had to be realistic – no garden! It was a ‘no.’

La Cave du Jane – grande

wine cave

La Cave du Jane – petite

wine room

Wine tasting Beijing style … interesting

Beijing wine

The other property which stood out had a hidden room also. When viewing this house, not only was I met by the estate agent, but also the owner, the latter being a nice elderly lady who must have been an estate agent also – in a past life. The ‘real’ estate agent may as well not have been there. The owner described her home as a tardis as she enthusiastically guided me from room to room. The estate agent faded against a backdrop of pink chintz and collections of china tea cups as the old lady regaled me with her life story. Sigh. I did not want to linger longer than was necessary as the entire house wreaked of cigarette smoke. Not even the Febreze candles could mask the odour. Mind you the scent from those is pretty pungeant anyway, and they don’t exactly invoke a seductive atmosphere to sway a prospective purchaser.

Top Tip:  Any product, be it candles, perfume or body lotion containing vanilla, releases a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ into the air, and is a real winner!

This house was long, dark and narrow. Tucked away in the darkest of corners at the back of the property was a door. The owner was keen to open it informing me that this was a recent extension … I did not understand the design of the room we entered into. It was jam-packed with junk. A toilet sat in one corner, whilst a shower cubicle sat in another. The latter contained a bike which stood upright on it’s front wheel, half covered by a grim looking shower curtain. The owner assured me of the slick workings of the toilet and shower. Sliding patio windows led outside into the garden …? Okay. A room for exhibitionists perhaps? Well I’m sure that in summer it would be pleasantly refreshing strolling through the open doors into the garden au naturel, to dry off in the sun. Save on washing towels. The house evoked a mishmash of thoughts, from Dr. Who to ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ and from Psycho to ‘I’m Too Sexy … for my shirt.’

Possible warning signs to look out for …

haunted sign

Positive signs to look out for …

champagne sign

Ideal secret room 1 …

secret lounge

Ideal secret room 2 …

secret bedroom

It’s not going to be easy finding our next home, but I’m finding solace in Jane Austen’s quote: ‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.’

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog :-) Wishing you a wonderful week

‘A Spot of Bother’

Bio: http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013

Monday, 12th August, 2013.

Driving home from a visit to friends midweek, I pondered on their love for one another. With an age gap between them of thirty years, they have been happily married for twenty two years. Their success, they say, is a sense of humour and not taking life too seriously. A great adage for anyone to live by.

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old. George Burns

As I turned on the radio the sound of Rudimental’s song, Feel The Love, flooded the car. And as I glanced down at the front passenger seat, I felt love for the carefully packaged parcel of home-made lemon cake which I had been sent on my way with. I was looking forward to enjoying a slab of the cake, together with a strong cup of Tetley tea when I arrived home.

Unlike my glass of wine which is always topped up, the Mini’s petrol tank is not. I never feel the urge to fill up with petrol until the needle inside the petrol guage is hovering below the thick red line, signalling empty. I have turned driving my car into a bit of a game, not dissimilar to Limbo – ‘how low can you go’. Anyway, so great was my yearning for the lemon cake that I knew it would be a non-stop journey home.

Alas, it was not to be; and as my car trickled to a halt I felt like Penelope Pitstop from the Wacky Races. All I could hope for was that The Ant Hill Mob would turn up and rescue me. As it happened, it was only a matter of minutes before three men touched base with the Mini. The trio of men who had magically appeared, informed me there was a garage nearby – they would push the car to it. Now this team consisted of two young men, and an older looking gentleman, who in his big, black-framed specs bore some resemblance to Michael Caine.

loitering with the lemon cake
loitering with the lemon cake

As I glanced in my rear view mirror, it was apparent there was some competition between ‘Michael’ and the younger men. I chuckled to myself as scenes from The Italian Job flitted through my mind. The action became even more exciting when the Mini hit a bump and there was a slight gradient – it was like petrol power had resumed – and the A Team were no more. The Mini was free wheeling at an alarming rate of knots, and as my foot hit the brake pedal, lemon cake was launched into the driver’s footwell. Fortunately a pedal fiasco with the cake parcel was averted. A breathless ‘Michael’ gestured for me to put down the passenger side window, and clutching both sides of the roof he resumed pushing the car as the two young men brought up the rear. With the A Team back on track and the lemon cake safely tucked into the glove box, we soon glided onto the forecourt of a petrol station.

In a desire to leap to safety, but also with the intention of expressing my gratitude to the team for the rescue, I hastily pressed the button to close the window, trapping ‘Michael’s’ fingers. It was a painful moment for us both. An already red-faced ‘Michael’ now had a handful of matching fingers. He told me in a rather concerned manner – or maybe the pain of his throbbing fingers was the cause for his emotional outburst – that someone like me should not be on their own: I needed someone like him who did absolutely everything for his wife.   ‘Michael’ looked a sorry sight, and I couldn’t help but feel it was his turn to be ‘rescued’. And if I’d had his wife’s telephone number I would have called to tell her to run a nice bubble bath for ‘Michael’, and to tend lovingly to his injuries.

. . . The lemon cake was luscious – the tea, powerfully strong. And as I wallowed in the calm surroundings of home, I satisfied myself even more with the thought that ‘Michael’ would sleep well that night.

A good laugh is sunshine in the house.  William Makepeace Thackeray

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog – happy motoring  :-)

Basking in a Bevy of Barbecues

Jane’s bio http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013

Monday, 29th July, 2013.

Barbecue mania shot into my life this week. My children told me I should be getting out more – they must have been concerned about my Twitter addiction – and so I emerged from my comfortable cocoon and blossomed into a social butterfly. And it turns out that I have been a bit of a ‘barbie’ magnet this week.

Last weekend it was refined barbecue dining with friends in a countryside setting. Once again ‘Chef Pierre’ weaved his magic and produced food to an extraordinarily high standard, which was up there with the big boys: chicken and prawns marinated in ginger, lemongrass and chilli; and a selection of berries freshly picked from the garden, doused in Amaretto syrup and served with home-made vanilla ice-cream. Although five star food, it was a chilled affair. Shorts were the unstated dress code and we dined by the light of the moon. No wonder the Aussies are a laid-back lot – outdoor dining in a warm temperature instills a relaxed state of mind. And I don’t think I would have batted even an eyelash if Skippy the bush Kangaroo had appeared from out of the trees and pogoed along the path before us. We could have sung renditions of Skippy whilst sitting around the chiminea. That night – although not a ‘happy camper’ – I would have quite happily rolled out a sleeping bag – if I had one – and slept under the stars. What an enlightening experience that could have been . . . and knowing safety and comfort was only a stone’s throw away.

'Chef Pierre'
‘Chef Pierre’

Midweek it was barbecue night at a local restaurant where I met up with one of my best friends. The tables outside the restaurant were all taken. It was a shame really, as these tables were bedecked with twinkly lights and surrounded by olive trees, inducing a continental-style ambience. The barbecued food was fairly plain, but the Seville orange tart was a delicious change from classic lemon tart. The Greek and Spanish waiters gave the evening a sense of Mediterranean authenticity. That was until the restaurant was bathed in the sound of Mika singing Big Girls you are Beautiful – and I did wonder whether this would deter catwalk model types from entering the building. Our table was positioned in close proximity of the kitchen, and I thought The Platters’ song – Smoke gets in your Eyes – may have been more appropriate.

Cool, calm and collected ... she makes the best Brownies ...
Cool, calm and collected … she makes the best Brownies …

The final barbecue of the week could not have been more typical of the Great British barbecue – as it rained! In true Brit style spirits were not dampened, and I found myself sitting it out under the pergola whilst rain lashed my back. There was a brief interlude when the rain took a break which enabled my friend – who was as cool as the barbecue was hot – to blitz some pretty mean burgers, chicken and kebabs. The barbecue was really smoking at this stage but I knew we were in safe hands, as one of the guests was a fireman and the other a magician. Any sign of the barbecue misbehaving and one would be there with the hose, the other with a magic wand.

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.  Paul Prudhomme

In between barbecues I have been in somewhat of a frenzy finalising arrangements for the launch of my eBook, Keep Calm and Carry on Dating. With a guest appearance on BBC Radio Lancashire this morning, and the launch of my book on Amazon and other platforms tomorrow, these are exciting times. I’m just waiting for the next barbecue invite so I can get into that chillaxed state of mind again.

Thank you for reading my  blog – Keep Calm and Barbecue :-)

Link to Troubador Publishing to purchase Keep Calm and Carry on dating

 http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2411

Four Girls Go Cycling in France

Bio: http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013

Monday, 22nd July.

Pedal Power – no matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.

As we’re in the midst of the holiday season I would like to share some moments with you from an unforgettable cycling holiday in France.

Our base for the holiday was Coulon – a small town located on the banks of the river Sevre Niortaise in western France. Coulon is now classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France and is not too far away from La Rochelle. It was girl pedal power all the way as I and my best friend, Rachael, and our two daughters (aged 10 at the time) set out on our best ever holiday. Forget ‘lashings of ginger beer’ and think instead ‘lashings of rose wine’.

We knew we were heading for an adventure the minute we hit Manchester airport. For as we chatted to some friendly Americans in the check-in queue, I was struck by just how much our friends from across the water loved France, as we seemed to be swimming in a sea of American accents. It was only when one of them asked whether it was our first trip to New York that we realised we had joined the wrong queue.

'Elevenses'
‘Elevenses’

Having joined the correct queue I was soon pulled out of it, as I was frisked and my bag was searched. The security lady found a bottle of contact lens solution. I was allowed to go no further, and so ensued our first sprint of the day. My daughter, fearing she would be flying motherless to France, sprinted back towards the entrance of the airport and joined me in a search for a clear bottle in which we could transfer the contact lens solution into. Not being able to locate one, I shoved the original bottle of contact lens solution into my daughter’s hand luggage. For some reason a wave of guilt washed over me – was I using my daughter as a drugs mule? I really did panic when my daughter’s bag was searched. But when I offered to flip out my contact lens and wet it with the ‘dodgy’ solution before popping the lens back into my eye, a nice young man saw sense.

It was 10.15 in the morning and the four of us settled down at a table in the bar area, where I became engrossed in the girls’ puzzle books. When I glanced up, Rachael appeared from behind the bar clutching a shiny bucket containing a bottle of Moet – it was a heavenly sight! And I would urge everyone to find a friend like Rachael, who exudes spontaneity in magnums full. Once the champagne had been depleted, Rachael went on a mission to find a magical face cream – not that she needed one. I looked over in Rachael’s direction and watched as she embraced the magic by vigorously rubbing cream, not only onto her face but onto her arms too – she was a savvy girl when it came down to sampling tester creams.

Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more.  Henri-Frederic Amiel

An announcement came over the tannoy – it was the last call for our flight to France. Rachael was still caught up in the magic as the girls and I moved swiftly over to where she was. And so followed our second sprint of the day – down long, empty corridors, the odd leap over a table and a swerve round a bin – it was exciting. And I couldn’t decide whether it was like competing in a steeplechase event or being stunt girls in Charlie’s Angels. We were greeted by a packed plane, full of stony faces. We apologised for our tardiness before taking our seats. We laughed at the sequence of events but were soon shushed by our daughters, who told us to calm down – we were being too ‘exuberant.’ And for a moment I was quiet, as I was impressed by the girls’ extensive vocabulary.

'Young ladies'
‘Calm young ladies’

Now I have secretly always wanted to be met at an airport by someone holding a large sign with my name on it, and this was about to happen. The cream had worked its magic on Rachael’s skin and I was feeling in good shape after the morning’s sprint sessions. As we spotted someone in the distance holding up a sign, we strutted confidently in that direction, only to falter in our steps as we read the words on the sign – ‘Cycling for Softies’. This happened to be the name of the company who had organised our holiday.

En France

Upon our arrival in Coulon we were greeted by Peter – a lovely man who was to be on hand for the duration of our holiday should we need him – and oh how we needed him! On our first day of cycling we were presented with a detailed, large scale map of the area which we were told was foolproof; only it wasn’t Rachael and Jane proof. In fact Bonnie Tyler’s song, Lost in France, springs to mind. Dressed in our cycling gear – and with Rachael sporting an ‘Audrey Hepburn look’ with a hat upon her head which resembled a ‘flying saucer’, we cycled fifty metres from our hotel to the path by the river. Here, a decision had to be made: was it a left turn or a right one? And so our first mobile phone call to Peter was made.

'Where are we?'
‘Where are we?’

Happily heading in the right direction on our bikes, we continued for a couple of miles until we came to a crossroads. Once again we were unsure as to which path to take; the bumpy track through a forest looked rather enticing, but we phoned Peter just to be certain that it was indeed the right path to pursue. Peter was soon alerted to our incompetence at reading even a basic map, for within five minutes he was at the edge of the forest waving and gesturing for us to turn back. He instructed us to follow the road by the forest for a mile before forking left. There was no veering in the wrong direction this time, as Peter had driven ahead of us in his car. He was standing in the middle of the road like an air traffic controller, signalling to us with his hat to go left. Not long afterwards the sky turned black and a torrential downpour began. But we need not have worried about getting wet as a car pulled up along side us, and a soothing voice crooned through an open window, ‘Drop the bikes girls and get in the car.’ And from that moment, ‘Pop-up Peter’ was affectionately christened.

The case of the disappearing baguettes - solved.
The case of the disappearing baguettes – solved.

Having experienced severe hunger pains over a two day cycling period, due to disappearing baguettes, we got wise to the fact that baguettes were being launched into the air from the bike panniers whenever we hit bumpy terrain, and so we bought some string and secured lunch to the bikes’ handlebars. As well as flying baguettes, I lost count of the number of times Rachael’s hat flew off her head. From day one Peter had told her to lose the hat, but she was rather fond of it. And there were moments whilst waiting for Rachael to retrieve the hat, when I was gently reminded of my dog fetching his Frisbee.

Rachael and the flying saucer.
Rachael and the ‘flying saucer’

We didn’t have to worry about cycling with our luggage as  Cycling for Softies ensured it was transported from hotel to hotel. After one particularly long day of cycling we arrived at a boutique-style hotel, only to be told they had over-booked and there were no rooms available. However they would arrange for us to stay elsewhere (this wasn’t the fault of the holiday company). We did not have a problem with this and were transported to a converted farmhouse in the middle of open countryside. We were invited to use the pool by the American owner, and it was arranged he would give us a lift in his car to an exclusive restaurant for dinner later on that evening, to make up for the hotel’s booking error.

Junior Tour de France
Junior ‘Tour de France’

We were seated at a huge table in the centre of the small restaurant, and were treated like VIPs. The Maitre d’ was like a young Norman Wisdom as he flurried around our table, and I thought that if he stooped any lower he would disappear under the table. Rachael joked to him in French that he had poured more wine into my glass than into hers. A bewildered looking Maitre d’ took a few steps back from the table, stooped down even further and squinted at the wine glasses. He squeezed a few more sips of wine into Rachael’s glass, whilst muttering some French words we did not understand.

After an enjoyable evening for us, and a frazzled one for the Maitre d’,  we were transported back to the farmhouse in the middle of no-where. We scrambled around in the dark for the door key and let ourselves in. It was pitch dark inside the house and we heard flip-flopping sounds coming from above; it was almost as if a giant goose was wandering the corridor upstairs. We had no mobile signal and had no idea of our location – not even Peter could rescue us this time. And before you could recite, ‘Goosey, Goosey Gander, where shall I wander …’ Rachael had morphed into Popeye after a spinach fix, and was tearing down the corridor with a double mattress. She launched it onto the floor of the bedroom which my daughter and I were sharing. We bolted the door and window, before the four of us fell asleep.

When we awoke the next morning voices could be heard, and we realised that there were other people staying in the farmhouse; this explained the noises in the night. We had to get the double mattress back without being seen. Like Laurel and Hardy on a mission, we waddled down the corridor stopping and starting with the mattress, as we had to navigate our way through the dining-room without being spotted. What fine examples of capable mothers! Ahem.

Our Last Night

I will omit the dog rescue escapade here, in which we phoned for the local pompier (fireman), and will fast-forward to our last night in Coulon. We had made a dinner reservation at the beginning of the holiday at a restaurant which was mainly frequented by locals. The four of us dressed up in our finery for the final night in France. Rachael was resplendent in an Audrey Hepburn style, black dress, and I wondered whether we were heading for Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

We dined al fresco, and no other English people were at the restaurant. Throughout the evening a portly man with a beard appeared intermittently from inside the restaurant, and greeted people he knew. He scooped up a young boy and sat him on his knee, before breaking into song. No-one seemed fazed by this and he received enthusiastic applause. We discovered the singing man was in fact the chef.  His singing just got better and better, and it was like Pavarotti was ‘in da house.’ Now I forgot to mention that Rachael is a pretty amazing singer, her forte being opera, and I knew it would only be a matter of time . . .

Rachael could restrain herself no longer, and we were suddenly swept onto the set of The Barber of Seville. It wasn’t long before Rachael had won the heart of the chef and they were duetting. This was met with rapturous applause, and I am not afraid to admit that my eyes were watery; I felt proud of the Italian Audrey standing before me. And for a split second I wondered about starting off the Mexican Wave. Hmmm.

It was late when we made our way back to the hotel. Rachael had popped into the restaurant’s kitchen to seek out the chef to wish him bonsoir, but he couldn’t be found. However as we approached the hotel, the singing chef was out for an evening’s jog and was puffing his way towards us. A grand encore took place beneath the arched entrance of the hotel, much to the bemusement of a family, who nervously edged past the singing duo before entering the safety of the hotel. C’est la vie!

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.     Elbert Hubbard

Thank you for reading my blog – happy holidays! :-)

Potions and Poles

Jane’s brief bio: http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013

Monday, 15th July 2013.

‘It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and preserving courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created for years or even generations.’  Kahlil Gibran

I wonder how many of you think the above is true. I certainly would like to believe it. After observing social interactions between males and females on a couple of dating programmes recently, I really was astounded by the obvious, and sometimes subtle differences – of which there are many – between people. No wonder it is difficult to meet your perfect match. Let me tell you about some of the people looking for love.


First Dates

A restaurant is taken over by first-date couples having dinner. They have only seen photos of one another before meeting up.

Flowery love potion
Flowery love potion

A lady of 62 years of age met up with a man, aged 49. I found myself watching in disbelief as the lady produced an Evian bottle at the dinner table and explained to the handsome man sitting opposite her that she had made a love potion. Next she produced a tea strainer. For this love potion was not only pink in colour, but was full of flower petals. She filled up two wine glasses with the potion. Even though she attempted to sieve the drink the poor man still managed to choke on a petal. He was a gentleman and did not ridicule the lovely lady – for indeed she was lovely – although the expression on his face spoke volumes. This lady had obviously convinced herself from viewing the man’s photo that he was the one and wanted to do everything possible to secure his affections. And I don’t mind admitting I nearly shed a tear when the realisation hit me that no-one had ever loved me enough to want to secure my affections for them, by producing a love potion. Hmmm. When the couple were interviewed together after dinner, the lady – still convinced that he was the one – turned to the man and told him the love potion would take time to work . . .

Another couple whom I watched with interest were in their late twenties. The guy was funny and handsome. The girl was, well, serious. She piffled on about wine whilst quaffing some red – her mouth and teeth becoming visibly more smeared and stained with red wine – until the guy asked her what job she did. She was in hospitality, and carried on saying that she was a trainee funeral director which was event management and customer service at its highest level. He thought she was joking but she wasn’t.

How an advert for a trainee funeral director may appear in this age of corporate hospitality.
How an advert for a trainee funeral director may appear in this age of corporate hospitality.
Taster session in a luxury hearse
Taster session in a luxury hearse

There was another couple in their thirties. He said he wished that he could think of something interesting to say, and followed this with the line, ‘Where’s the nearest M&S to you?’

And then there was a couple with a ten year age difference; he was 36 and she was 26. She asked, ‘Have you been drinking already?’ He replied, ‘No, why?’ To which she responded, ‘You look really tanned.’

Millionaire Matchmaker

Millionaire Matchmaker is an elite service for successful (millionaires) men looking to find their true love. Its offices are located in Los Angeles and it is run by a strong woman named Patti. The matchmaking service is given free to women, but the men have to pay a huge amount of money for Patti’s matchmaking services. Patti has a strong code of conduct: no sex unless in an exclusive committed relationship. She goes on to say that if a girl sleeps with a man before she is in a committed relationship, the relationship ultimately fails, and that girl has ruined it for the next girl; resulting in a society of ‘passive, aggressive Peter Pan idiots.’ Common sense I suppose. Patti’s requirements of the girls are beauty, brains and class, and a readiness to settle down.

Harold – aged 46, never been married. He wants a Cindy Crawford look-alike from ten years ago, or a girl aged 25-30. The girl in question must be as comfortable in a Valentino gown as in pearls and gym shoes! Patti rolls her eyes when it comes to his age requirement, and says to the camera that she will give him a young hotty who will flake on him; this may make him re-evaluate his quest for a much younger woman.

Dave - aged 40, never been married. He is a real party guy who has a stripper pole permanently set up in his office at home. Patti instructs someone to remove the stripper pole, but Dave refuses to agree to this. Patti tells him that he will be the party guy who ends up in a nursing home hitting on the nurse because there is no-one left. Dave thinks Patti is brutal.

boysblingMen’s pole dancing ‘costume’?

Patti’s assistants have to find 15 – 20 eligible girls to put before Harold and Dave at a mini VIP affair; there they will choose three girls each to chat to for ten minutes, before choosing one girl to take out on a date. I would not like to be one of the girls brought before Patti – not that I would ever be a contender of course. Patti says to an attractive redhead, ‘Men have this thing about redheads that they’re just not the freshest product on the aisle. Lose the earth mother dress. Would you dye your hair dark brown?’ Ouch!

Patti tells her assistants that they haven’t picked well. ‘We are the Dom Perignon of matchmaking – go find me the ‘tens’. We need 5 – 10 hotties on the books – use the rest as camouflage.’

Predictably Harold chooses a girl aged 30, who after the first date on a yacht, doesn’t bother answering his call for a second date. Dave chooses an intelligent girl who genuinely likes him, but she soon realises that she doesn’t fit into his pole party lifestyle.

Phew! I think my happily married friends will breathe a huge sigh of relief after reading this. Two favourite quotes spring to mind:

‘Immature love says: I love you because I need you. Mature love says: I need you because I love you.’  Erich Fromm

‘Beauty is in the heart of the beholder.’  H. G. Wells

I am still of the opinion that once becoming wise to the idiosyncrasies of internet dating that there is a good chance of meeting your match online. Before my brother married he wistfully said to me, ‘I wish I had tried internet dating because all I ever came home with after a night out was a kebab.’ No need to worry about that anymore.

Thank you for reading my blog. Keep applying that suncream :-)

Waterfalls and Waxworks

Jane’s brief bio: http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013

Monday, 8th July. 

My friend and I had an eventful weekend recently. We decided to sample life in Manchester. Indeed Manchester did not disappoint, although there were moments when we felt as though we were ‘extras’ on set, muddling our way through an episode of The Only Way is Essex, mashed-up with Made in Chelsea.

Saturday night, and ten minutes into our evening at a well-known restaurant, I found myself responding in French to a waiter who assumed I was Francaise. It was rather amusing as I am without doubt an English mademoiselle, who was dining in an Italian restaurant in the middle of rainy Manchester with my Chinese friend, Fiona. I asked the waiter why he thought I was French but his rapid reply evaded me. Perhaps I had finally achieved French fashionista status I concluded. Coco had nothing on me that night. Hmmm.

But this multi-cultural experience did not end there, for there was a man dressed in a black suit resembling a mature-looking Alfie Boe, and he happened to be from Chile. He was the restaurant manager who circled our table manically wafting napkins, like Basil Fawlty on Lucozade. I was in a state of disbelief when the French waiter told me the Chilean manager liked me, and if I had known the Spanish words for ‘ooh la-la’ I would have uttered them. A Bridget Jones’s Diary moment – must emulate this chic look more often.

After the meal Fiona and I moved into the bar area to finish our drinks, where we happened to bump into an old acquaintance who was having a drink with some friends. They invited us to join them at a party which we accepted, but not before the French waiter thrust a piece of paper into Fiona’s hand with a phone number scribbled on it: surely we were too old for this? Like giddy teenagers we exited the restaurant with a heady realisation that there was indeed life after 45.

'Ooh la-la'
‘Ooh la-la’

We arrived at a gated complex which was home to my acquaintance’s friend. As the electronic gate glided to one side, I did a quick scan of the surroundings to check for a speedy getaway should we need it; but there wasn’t one. The presence of a black Bentley and black 4×4 – very funereal – had made me feel uneasy. It would have to be a ‘leg-up’ job to scale the railings – that’s assuming they weren’t charged with electricity – but then that would leave one of us stranded unless there was a stray dustbin about. The Thelma and Louise moment soon evaporated.

By entering the building we had stepped onto the set of TOWIE and Made in Chelsea. The house was littered with naked Greek statues with perfect physiques and beautiful, emotionless faces. It reminded me of Musical Statues – the living were tricky to spot  – and I did wonder whether we were attending a Madame Tussauds’ event, only with a lot more bling. The most animated, natural looking beauty I could see was Fiona.

Then there was the language barrier to deal with: ‘dorbs’ meaning adorable; ‘presh’ meaning precious; ‘maybs’ meaning maybe; and when I first heard a girl say ‘totes’, I glanced down at her feet expecting to see them covered by a pair of Totes slipper socks. Apparently ‘totes’ means totally. The two designer cats, both of whom were ‘dorbs’, dazzled in diamante collars, and in true feline style Pip and Squeak did not respond when called – totes in order with names like that, don’t you think?

The whole scene was in stark contrast from the night before when we had visited a jazz club, where a faded red carpet disguised by candlelight had been the only colour in the place, and sticky tables and wobbly chairs were in abundance. Yet a comfortable atmosphere had been created, and the jazz was, well, jazzy. I even made a mental note to borrow my dad’s flat cap for any return visit.

Outdoor Waterfall
Outdoor Waterfall

As we mingled among the gods and goddesses, Fiona and I were aware of the sound of rushing water – and there, right slap bang in the middle of the ‘party room’ where a black leather couch with seating for twenty curved its way round the room – was a waterfall! It wasn’t just a trickle of water; a fast current thundered down the enormous slab of rock. It occurred to me in my excitement that maybe this was some elaborate champagne fountain, and for a second I felt the urge to rush over and offer my glass to the waterfall. We were mesmerised by it, but this was short-lived when I felt a sudden urge to go to the bathroom.

Now the downstairs loo deserves a mention all of its own. One wall had been shelved from floor to ceiling; the shelves were crammed full of coffee table books, and a set of rolling library ladders could transport you from door to toilet. The other half of the bathroom was devoted to toiletries which resembled an over-stocked cosmetics counter in a department store, minus the sales pressure. The toilet itself was reminiscent of a throne: scripted gold lettering on its walnut lid bore the owner’s initials, ‘B B’. Can you imagine anyone with a big bottom ever wanting to return?

Big Bottom?
Big Bottom?

When I eventually tore myself away from the bathroom, I drifted into a room where a handsome grand piano was being played. The equally handsome pianist started to sing, and he blew me away with his musical talent. He was the host’s friend. Though the owner of the house had great taste in his choice of piano, he was no pianist. The guy playing the piano had recently lost his business and had experienced a series of bad luck; he played and sang wherever he could to make ends meet. This was a real man with soul who did not belong on set in a land of make-believe.

‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.’  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Thank you for reading this blog post – hope you enjoyed it. Have a happy week :-)

THINK BIG . . . sometimes small

Jane Austin bio:   http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013

Monday, 24th June 2013.                                                           

Someone asked me the other day, “What inspired you to write your book Jane?”  I got the feeling they were expecting to hear some juicy repertoire by way of a reply.  But there isn’t one.  Quite simply, a male friend who is a pro at internet dating suggested I write a book about it.  What I did find inspiring were the fabulous online daters I got to meet along the way.  Whether their experiences were funny or shocking, they all looked to the bright side of life.  But I should just let you know that the book is littered with tantalising titbits.

By revealing your credentials and stating your requirements on a dating site, you are more likely to be matched with a suitable partner don’t you think?  Of course that is if the online daters tell the truth, but a short spell spent on a dating site would ensure you avoid the posse of pinocchios.  Talking about interesting characteristics, the word ‘gnome’ appears in one of my stories in Keep Calm and Carry on Dating.  Now I have nothing against little people as I am one of them.  And without giving too much away,  there is a surprising revelation towards the end of that particular story – and it has nothing to do with size.

"Nolly" - looking for love
“Nolly” – looking for love

The other evening I came across a new dating programme on television – a popular topic on our screens at the moment – I was hooked.  A large restaurant had been taken over by first-date couples.  They were of all ages and from all walks of life.  The obligatory ‘Barbie and Ken’ couple were there, and for some reason the whole scene reminded me of a big bag of pic ‘n’ mix sweets from Woolies.  By the way, did you know that the last ever bag of Woolworths pic ‘n’ mix sweets sold for £14,500 on 21st February 2009, on eBay?  All in the name of charity I believe.

One couple in particular caught my attention.   After their dinner date the couple was interviewed: firstly individually and secondly together.  On being asked whether they had enjoyed their date, there was a long pause and I had to check the mute button on the remote control.  After being hypnotised by the camera for some time, the guy eventually emerged from his vegetative state to confirm that he had indeed enjoyed the date.  Prior to this the girl had been interviewed and was posed the question, “Is there any chemistry between you?”  To which she eloquently replied, “It’s a bit like mould, it’s a grower.”  Rotten.  Hmmm.

Think big

Whether it’s dating or not, I think good social interaction of any sort is what we seek, which brings me back to the sea of social media.  From being a hesitant newbie I am positively frolicking in it now.  Twitter is my favourite, even though plenty of tweeting faux pas have been made, but I am having fun and surely that’s what counts.  I have become addicted to it like the two heaped teaspoons of sugar I tip in my cup of tea every day.  Twitter is a reminder that you don’t need to stay in your own backyard and tweet.  You can spread your wings and twitter BIG.  Global-style.

P.S.   I will try and get to grips with planting random bits ‘n’ bobs on this site for you to click on so that you can be whisked away on a social media tour, and which will allow you to sign up for exciting things – not sure where they will take you or what they will be just yet.  Any IT buffs out there?

Have a fun week :-) back Monday

dove

Keep Calm and Carry on Dating

A very warm welcome to my blog – the inspiration for which comes from the completion of my e-book Keep Calm and Carry on Dating.  And so I’ve chosen to kick off with some thoughts about internet dating.

After interviewing over 40 people and putting together a collection of 50 short stories based on their internet dating experiences, I don’t think that anything can surprise me now . . . or could it?

The way in which people were happy to share notes with me about their online dating experiences was enlightening, and I realise that any stigma previously associated with internet dating has all but disappeared.  This is a good thing.  Everything these days seems to be happening via some form of social media, so why not meeting your partner online?

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There’s Email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Digg, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram – some of which wouldn’t look out of place on a road sign.  After tentatively dipping my toes into the sea of social media recently, I realise that I’m still bobbing along and learning to swim.  Perhaps we can liken this to internet dating.  How do we learn to get it right?  Practice I guess.  And I suppose like most things, we all progress at a different pace.

Learning to weed out players and gold-diggers from internet dating sites is a basic lesson of many, in the busy world of online dating.  There are so many attractive faces to choose from.  And what happens when, after exchanging lots of witty banter online, you finally meet up with the woman of your dreams who turns out to be a man!  This happened to a friend of mine who is a rugby playing hunk and completely sane – the only possible hint of a clue was the ‘lady’s’ keen interest in football and blokey sense of humour.  My friend assured me that the ‘lady’ was an Amazonian Katy Perry look-alike; I kissed a man and I liked it, springs to mind.  Hmmm.

There is no doubt about it, internet dating has exploded in popularity over recent years and a third of people in the UK are now looking for love online.  I think that internet dating is the way forward – what do you think?

Please feel free to share your thoughts – I would love to hear from you.  Have a great week :-) and remember to check out my weekly Monday blog.

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  Jane Austin bio:   http://en.gravatar.com/janeaustin2013