Bold-hearted seek Cupid's arrow at a Blind Date

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The Independent Online
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That was the motto of hundreds of lonely hearts who pitched up at the New Connaught Rooms in central London yesterday to audition for the new series of Blind Date.

St Valentine might have failed to deliver, but Cilla's televisual arrow was right on target. After rummaging through unpromising post bags, suffering an intermitent slump in self-esteem and indulging in a quick, inconsolable sob, the bold-hearted trooped off to tackle the problem head-on.

The dating doors opened at 11am and no appointment needed. Eighteen-plus - tick. Single - big tick. Would you like to go on next series of Blind Date - why not? It was, effectively, a love raffle. Pink tickets for the girls, blue for the boys.

"Blind Date is not a dating agency," say the rules. "It's not a serious attempt to match up couples with a view to marriage." But for some, it was quick, tidy work. "I didn't get no flowers, no nothing," bemoaned one tattered heart. "Oh, I'm sure there's someone out there," came the consoling reply from Norman. "When are we getting married, Tiger?" said the pouting 30-year-old, much made-over.

From the multiple applications of shimmery blue lipstick to the flashing bow-ties and brand new Levis, the contestants were dressed to impress. A gaggle of girls with uniform blonde highlights mocked their elderly sisters who were seated at the front.

Looking for the world as if they were back in the bingo hall, the pensioners lined the front row. "First in the supermarket queue, first to the Blind Date audition," sniped one. "I don't think by that age I'd care what I did," another contributed.

Some filled in their questionaire forms ferociously; others agonised for hours, as they say in the waiting room for love. Martin fell firmly into the first category. Do you smoke? "Yes. Loads of marijuana." Marital status? "Never". Done any modelling? "Yeah, lots of porn modelling." Do you have a party piece or special talent? "Don't ask".

Same-sex groups of eight were escorted to the next door room at half- hourly intervals. In the spirit of the game, men select women and vice versa. "Why did we want to go on Blind Date?" asked a discerning Dave. "My boyfriend dumped me and I thought: 'I'm fed up with long relationships, I just want some fun'," replied Mandy, 32.

"I was going out with this guy for seven years and he wouldn't marry me," explained Dawn, 20. "Waste of seven years if you ask me. I want three children and a big garden." And presumably a man.

The odds were stacked against them though. Only 150 of the 39, 850 applicants who will be interviewed at locations across the country between now and May will qualify for the next series.

James took refuge in the rules. "Some of the dates are in the British Isles, so if you are only coming on the show in the hopes of winning a trip to an exotic location, you may very well be disappointed," he read with a satisfied smile on his face. "The 150 lucky ones who make it onto the next series will only go to Brigton or Bognor anyway," he rejoiced.