Lowri Turner pays for the pleasure of an evening in the company of The Baron
Tell A Girl She's having dinner with a baron and she's apt to get a little over-excited. The breathless possibility of a rakish moustache, an exotic accent and a penchant for gallant hand-kissing swim in the imagination. Admittedly, suspicions are aroused when I am told his name. How many barons do you know called Marcus? The less appetising prospect of picking over a plate of pasta with Tim Nice But Dim beckons. In the event, it is neither a brooding Hungarian, nor a wobbly-chinned Sloane, who presses my door buzzer. Marcus is about 5ft 7in, slightly plump ,and has an accent that is prosperous south of England, with just a touch of Estuary. His father's family were Russian emigres and he is Jewish, but, he tells me, uncircumcised. He was brought up in Plymouth. He now lives in Wembley. His day-job is selling pensions.

If less glamorous than expected, The Baron is keen. Very keen. He holds doors open, orders for me - "the chevre grill for the lady" - chooses a modest Frascati (well, I am paying) and when I go to light a cigarette, he removes the lighter delicately from my hand. If this all sounds a bit unctuous, it isn't. It's actually rather pleasant. Although when I tell him my age and he says: "Oh, but I thought you were only about 24," that's pushing it a bit. Still, that sort of patter will surely go down a bomb with the rickety old duchesses who The B foresees himself "walking" to Ascot. It is his familiarity with the etiquette of such occasions that he considers to be his USP - that and the title. At secondary-modern in Plymouth, he kept the baron bit pretty quiet - he had enough to deal with, what with some of the other boys' taste for tying the young Marcus to a netball post with his tie - but these days it can be "pretty useful".

The B has never been married and admits to 35. Conversation veers from tennis, which he likes, to golf, which he likes even more. He has just returned from skiing in Andorra, where he got so drunk he couldn't take his boots off, and thinks Moet & Chandon is "good for smashing against boats" but prefers Laurent Perrier rose. With this sort of swishy lifestyle, it seems peculiar that The B should need to hire himself out for pounds 100 a time. "I've spent years paying for ladies' dinners. It's nice that it's the other way round," he declares.

We go for drinks at a nearby hotel and he makes a joke about going to get a room key. All evening he has been polite and attentive, but this is the first hint of anything remotely sexual. So, were his "date" absolutely gorgeous and inclined to book him for an intimate apres dessert, might he succumb? Cigarette lighting is on the menu for such evenings, apparently lingerie loosening is not. "Sex is overrated," he confides. "Besides, I don't want to spoil my golf swing."