Down at the love motel

Your baby left you? Never mind - there's a new hotel in Lincolnshire where you might just find another one. Robert Nurden reports
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Indy Lifestyle Online
When Elvis Presley sang "Ever since my baby left me, I've found a new place to dwell, it's down the end of Lonely Street and it's called Heartbreak Hotel", we assume he didn't have any particular place in mind. But now that mythical retreat for the broken-hearted is set to become a reality - in rural Lincolnshire.

Scheduled to open next year, Elysium will be Britain's first purpose- built hotel for singles - and more specifically for singles who are looking for love. Because while the owners plan to ensure it is a luxury hideaway, the agenda is on finding that special someone. Elysium will be a sort of dating agency with beds.

"We did research and the consensus was for a sanctuary for singles," says Graham Brown, 43, the director of the venture. "We can dictate everything in a secure and private environment. And, of course, we won't be charging a single room supplement."

In return for an annual fee, singles get to spend 12 nights (one a month) at the hotel over the period of a year. A complex rota means that by the end of that time, everyone should have met all the other members - there will be 480 in all, half from each sex - which should provide plenty of choice.

Graham himself has been lucky in love: he's been married to Chris for 13 years. So what does he know about heartache? Apart from having been a Samaritan, he's also a romantic. In fact when he's talking about Elysium he has a tendency to lapse into the language of greeting cards.

"I have come across people who have had such heartache and disappointment in their lives," he says. "I wanted to help them find the partner of their dreams." Ah, sweet. But sadly this spirit of altruism doesn't mean that the venture is non-profit-making - a year's subscription will, in fact, set you back a cool pounds 1,800.

Guests will be able to tell straightaway that this is no ordinary hotel. The aroma of lavender in the bedrooms will "embrace them and put them at their ease" - that's the first clue. The second is that each (single) room will have a king-size bed. A bit saucy, isn't it Graham?

"It's there as a treat," he insists. "So often singles just get something narrow and uncomfortable. We are here to pamper them." Is that all? OK, he admits, if a couple were to hit it off straightaway then the double bed would be "useful". He rejects the idea that what he's setting up is a weekend knocking shop. Each applicant will be chosen personally by Graham and his co-director Juliet Motley and anyone who is suspected of having a primarily sexual motive will simply be barred.

The hotel is as much about healing as it is about luurve, insists Graham. He believes that much of the thinking connected with a break-up is wrong. "It's not space you need, but support," he says. On each of those king- size beds there will be a teddy bear with a label tied to its neck. "You may not have found true love, but you are never alone as long as I'm here," it says.

"Inanimate objects such as stuffed toys are often used in counselling and we would see this as part of the healing process," says Juliet, without a hint of irony. "People should feel free to talk to the bear and establish a friendship."

Each member will receive a free image and style consultation so they're looking their best when they arrive. But what if that special someone still fails to appear?

There will plenty of things to do, Graham insists. Each weekend will have a theme such as wine-tasting or fitness. Therapies will be on offer and, if needed, counselling. This is no health farm though: aerobics and sports are frowned on by Graham as too competitive.

The decor of Elysium (which meant paradise to the ancient Greeks) is designed to promote its aims. The hotel borrows features from Venetian architecture - narrow arched windows, large overhangs, a central cupola and a moat. A Frank Lloyd Wright-style oblong lake with "psychologically calming water" will bisect the complex. Lights line the paths around the courtyard: the left-hand side red lamps, the right-hand side green to simulate the port and starboard lights of ships that pass in the night.

"It sounds like it might offer what I'm looking for," said Marilyn, 34. "I used one of the computer dating agencies but got nowhere. The only time you really get to meet people properly is at social events."

Penrose Halson, author of Happily Ever After and director of the Katharine Allen Marriage Bureau, is not so sure, however. "It sounds like a rather exclusive cattle market to me," she said. "Similar interests such as bridge or dancing should bring people together in the natural course of events; singles should not be forced together. It's the contrived nature of the enterprise which worries me."

Roseanne, a 39-year-old lawyer, will definitely not be on the list. "Everyone will be thinking they just have to meet someone to justify the expense. It seems to be saying there's something wrong with being single. I'm happy being single and if along the way I meet someone I like, then fine. But not this way, no thank you."

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