'97, New Year: New You

Sometimes we want to get on in the world, sometimes we want to escape. In the final part of our programme for regeneration, ways to bring your daydreams to life
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The Independent Online
find yourself a new man

It may feel like panning for gold in the Yukon, but one simple rule should get you close to paydirt

How to find a new man? Go out and grab one. Where the idea came from that men like passive girls who wait at home for the phone to ring I'll never know. No, whenever psychologists do discreet surveys of men and women's behaviour in singles bars in the States they nearly always find that it's the woman who's made the first move, albeit at an extremely subtle level. She may catch the man's eye, lick her lips, toss her hair, or, if she's near the man, she may "accidentally" touch his arm with her breast. It may appear to be nothing, but it gives the man a signal that she's interested and it's only then he'll say to himself: "Ay-ay!" and start chasing. The approach can be discreet or blatant. I was recently at a party when I heard a chat-up line of gobsmacking directness. He revealed himself to be a vet; she looked astonished. "An animal doctor!" she said. "But you should have been a human doctor - a gynaecologist. You have just the kind of face that a woman would feel reassured to see looking at her between her legs." "And what kind of face is that?" asked the vet, his eyes bulging. "A face full of rare intelligence and humour," she replied, "and wisdom, caring, inner strength, deep knowledge ..." He had taken her phone number long before she got to the end of her list.

Like many other women, I know that to find one good man requires about 50 disappointments, and the prospect of all that work, all that expended emotion is exhausting. Not to mention those dismal chats with girlfriends on the phone. "Are there any normal men around? Are all men like little boys? Are all men terrified of getting involved? I mean do you honestly know any man who is halfway normal who is free? No? Well, what about the married ones? No? Well, me neither."

Looking for a new man may feel like panning for gold in the Yukon. It seems that you have to be intrepid, cunning, have endless patience and never give up. But among the myriad of guidelines for attracting members of the opposite sex, wanting them but not needing them is probably the only rule that needs sticking to. If you've got craven, limpet-like suckers hanging off you, like most of us do, the trick is to glue them to anyone else but the man you adore. You want a lover - invite the next bone-headed bimboy into bed with you. You want a man to fix the house - get a builder. You want a man to accompany you to events - get a walker of indeterminate sex. You want someone to listen to all your inner problems and anxieties - get a girlfriend.

Having got rid of all those desperate needs that hung about your person as unattractively as bad breath and crow's feet, if you still want a man you can now afford to wait until you find someone who might be remotely suitable. In other words, someone who's kind. You only like rich men? Find one who's rich and kind. You only like great sportsmen with hunky torsos? Find a hunk who's kind. You only go for addicts? Find a dope- head who's kind as well. To sum up: stop needing him and start wanting him; stop waiting for him and start taking control; and finally, go for someone kind. A new man who's a shit is just not worth having at all.

Men to beware of:

l a man who's been married twice before

l a man who drinks too much

l a man very similar to your last boyfriend

l a man who's looking for a mother

l a man who says: "Don't tie me down."

l a man who says: "We are like mirror images of each other."

l a man who says he'll never get over his last girlfriend

l a man who makes you remotely unhappy.

Where to look for a new man:

l London theatres; single male tourists often go alone

l museums or galleries; there's nothing odd in starting up a conversation over a relic

l classes; woodwork, car maintenance or comparative religion rather than aromatherapy, massage or cookery

l small ads in the broadsheet newspapers; risky but upfront

l the gym; take a leaf out of Di's book

l night buses - according to Time Out

And where not to ...

l AA meetings; you'll find hundreds of men there, all unsuitable

l meditation courses, mainly made up of women

l tea dances, one man for every 20 ladies

l Sainsbury's; the men you'll probably find poring over the smoked fish are ones with partners at home - male onesn

Virginia Ironside

have a pounds 500 flutter

Here's a couple of dead certs - well, almost. And even if you don't make killing, you still don't lose out

This year, why not throw caution to the wind? If you have pounds 500 or pounds 1,000 to spare, why not have a little flutter on one of the following two tips? With luck, you might turn over a few quid. At worst, you won't have lost any money. Go on, it's either this or Frankie Dettori and he's not likely to come up with another seven winners in one day's racing - is he?

Invest in Premium Bonds Forget about the Lottery: a minimum pounds 100 in Bonds gives you a bite at a pounds 1m monthly jackpot, plus 349,999 smaller ones, ranging from about four monthly pounds 100,000 prizes, around eight pounds 50,000 prizes, 16 at pounds 25,000, to many more from pounds 10,000 to pounds 50. The pay-out from Premium Bonds is a fixed percentage of the total invested in them; at present, this is 4.75 per cent of punters' funds, tax-free, each month.

If you have a few thou to spare, you could almost treat them as a low- interest investment, albeit one which will pay in dribs and drabs and on an irregular basis. Indeed, several high-flying financiers of my acquaintance have a little nest egg in Bonds, not that they'd want to boast about it, mind. If you get tired of waiting for the big win that never comes, you can cash Premium Bonds in for the same price you paid. It takes eight days to get your money back.

Punt another de-mutualisation You know about the free shares bonanza coming from the Halifax, Woolwich, Northern Rock and Alliance & Leicester. Who's next? Try Nationwide, Bradford & Bingley, Britannia and Birmingham Midshires. The first three have stoutly rejected suggestions that they will abandon mutual status, but then, so did Northern Rock. The Midshires is reckoned by most experts to be gagging for someone to take it over. Among mutual insurers, a policy with Scottish Amicable, Scottish Widows or Friends Provident wouldn't go amiss - but only if you also need life insurance cover. Or you could end up being the most insured but most penniless gambler around n

Nic Cicutti

escape to the woods

A country cottage was out of the question, so Charlie Paton built himself a log cabin in his own patch of deepest Sussex

Feeling trapped in by the city? Why not buy a small forest? Three years ago, Charlie Paton - a 46-year-old lighting designer living in Hackney, east London - took out a bank loan and bought a 32-acre woodland within striking distance of London for pounds 50,000. Now, every Friday afternoon, he peels off his suit, pulls on his mud-caked boots, dons his donkey jacket, packs his family up in his Citroen and escapes to his own private forest in Sussex. He is married to Marlene, a jewellery designer, and has three children, Ben, 23, Alice, 11 and Adam, nine.

"Like most middle-class city folk, my job is fairly sedentary: I sit behind a desk inventing products or I sit in meetings or I sit on the phone. It's not as if I don't get a buzz from my work - I developed the remote-control lighting for West End shows such as Starlight Express, and I'm always dreaming up new ideas - but by the end of the week, when I'm hyped and manic and full of my own self-importance, I feel a primal need to wield an axe, to do something physical, to connect to something larger than myself.

"Acquiring the proverbial `cottage in the country' was beyond our means, but I discovered that we could buy a woodland for as little as pounds 1 an acre. After two years of hunting, I came across a wood in a valley in West Sussex - an ancient, magical woodland with a lake in the middle, originally planted with oak, ash and beech - and the whole family fell in love with it. The wood had once been owned by an estate that had planted exotic species like azaleas and spectacular rhododendrons that had grown 50ft high. They had laid out tracks and interesting little walks, but it had not been tended to since the Fifties and much of it had deteriorated into an impenetrable jungle.

"It seemed a daunting task to hack through the tons of undergrowth and some lessons were hard learnt. While I was slashing away at some brambles, I mistakenly attacked a wasps' nest and got badly stung. I blithely carried on working, but soon my hands and face swelled up and I started feeling dizzy. My vision went blurry and my heart began palpitating and then, apparently, I passed out and I was almost in a coma. My wife wasn't able to lift me back to the car and drive me to hospital, so she frantically fed me homeopathic remedies. I came round after four hours.

"We go down every weekend, however icy the weather. Traffic permitting, it only takes one hour. We've put up a hut which we heat with a great big log fire and that keeps us cosy. The children bring friends and as soon as we get down there, they run down to the lake, check out the mallards and see who the foxes have eaten. Then they run off and we don't see them until dinner.

"At night it's carnage. We lie in the hut (or the tent if it's summer) and listen to the animals of the forest gobble each other up. One night we heard a loud wailing noise. When we investigated the next morning, we found a baby deer that had been savaged by a fox, lying with half its leg off. It hadn't been dead long because it's eyes were still open and it was still warm. It was the children's first encounter with death and they were mortified. They decided to bury the doe and Alice collected flowers to put on the grave, but when they went back, they found that the fox had dug it up and dragged it away and all that was left was fur and a few bones. It's not the kind of thing that you get exposed to in Hackney, and although Alice and Adam were shocked, they were also fascinated.

"Last year, when my mother was dying of cancer, I'd stop off at the woods on my way back from visiting her and occasionally I'd stay overnight to gather my thoughts. I always felt safe when I had company, but being alone in a forest with no one to talk to and hundreds of little critters watching you can be dramatic. One night, there was a tremendous clatter right outside my tent. I looked out to see a herd of stags rutting. It was awesome.

"It may sound cliched, but I feel a different person when I'm out there. It makes me feel grounded. Every time we go it's an adventure, every weekend a holiday. Without doubt, buying a forest is the best thing I've ever done"n

David Cohen