Cupid is alive and well . . . and hanging out in a wine bar: Heart Searching: Adele Gautier describes how she organised her own singles night

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MANY of my friends are welleducated professional people who have spent their twenties building up their careers, often at the expense of their romantic lives. Until now, it's not something they've worried about - they tend to have high disposable incomes, have travelled a great deal, enjoy varied social lives and have had their share of dates and serious relationships.

However, many of them are hitting their thirties without having met the 'right' person, and they can't quite see how it's going to happen, particularly if they don't have the opportunity at work.

I have always been a keen matchmaker among my friends. Until recently, my efforts have focused on discreet dinner parties, where one or both singles may know they are being set up, but they don't know that the other person knows. Very confusing, and a rather limited success rate.

Two things happened recently to change my views on matchmaking. First, I realised that the odds of one dinner party bringing together two people who are absolutely right for each other are fairly unlikely, and that if I carry on this way I will be having dinner parties every night for the next 10 years. Second, I was having a drink with Rachel, a 27-year-old, attractive, successful, single female friend who reminded me that although she has plenty of dates, she hasn't had a serious relationship with a man for longer than she'd like and could see no sign of one in the imminent future.

I decided to find a way in which Rachel and others could meet significant quantities of unattached people of the opposite sex - and there was no point being subtle about it] I banded together with two friends, Sharon and Claire, and we decided to set up and run our own singles night.

The attraction would be: unlike commercial events, everyone who attended would have something in common (their connection to me or my friends); there would be no 'nerds' allowed (we could be as selective as we liked); there would be an equal mix of men and women (nothing worse than turning up and finding you're one of 30 women forced to fight over two not particularly interesting men); and everyone would be genuinely single, which we would know because they are known to us or one of our friends personally.

We decided on a casual format with which most people would feel comfortable: Friday night drinks in a private room in a wine bar. We set a date, billed the event as 'Cupid is Back in Town', and started inquiring among single friends if they might be interested in attending. They were. We had planned an event for about 30 people and ended up with 64.

To make sure that everyone knew what they were letting themselves in for, I constructed a questionnaire (only half-joking) entitled 'Time to Bare All' which was sent out to those who had committed to attend.

The questionnaire went beyond the obvious topics such as interests, smoking preferences and desired partners. We felt that there are some basic areas in which people should be compatible: we asked about what kind of holidays they like, their ideal alternative lifestyle and their secret ambitions. This was not for the shy or the inhibited: we also wanted to know what other people don't like about them, and, with a stab at Freudian cleverness, asked the men which of their mother's characteristics they wouldn't want to encounter in their partner, and the women which of their father's characteristics they wouldn't like to find.

When we came to the analysis stage, the questionnaire was full of interesting little facts (people's views on the Royal Family, the names of their pets, what newspapers they read - the Independent scored highest), but contained little scientific evidence to form the basis of a serious relationship. Numerous questions arose. Could someone whose favourite breakfast is a large fry-up really be compatible with someone who considers a bowl of muesli an indulgence? Most people named ironing as their most detested household task; would we end up with numerous happy but scruffy couples as a result? But since when have relationships been scientifically correct, anyway?

The responses of women asked to 'describe your ideal partner' ranged from the the not very fussy 'mustn't be skinny or stingy', to the practical 'fun to be with, and rich enough to took after me', to the harder-to-find 'Matt Dillon's face, Clint Eastwood's legs, Superman's torso, David Bowie's feet, Richard Gere's bum, Robin Williams's sense of humour', to the downright philosophical 'someone who likes to laugh, likes the good things in life, and likes me'.

Men were on the whole more specific in their requirements, though I had to wonder at the self-esteem of the chap who said he wanted a woman who 'isn't choosy'. The hardest demand to meet was that of the guy who wanted a woman 'whose father owns a Scottish salmon river'. Equally demanding was the one who wanted someone 'sporty, relaxed and with a very large motorcycle'. Many were quite specific that they wanted a woman who was fashionable, stylish, well-dressed, while women dwelt less on physical appearance, beyond the rather vague 'attractive'.

We were confused but undeterred, and matched each person up with at least three potential partners, whose names were given to them in an envelope when they arrived. For the people we knew personally, 'gut feel' had a major role to play.

Only three people failed to turn up on the night, and the bar was soon seething with wall-to-wall singles. The idea of the three names proved a good ice-breaker, although no one seemed too uncomfortable as they all knew one or two other people. Once the alcohol was flowing, people needed little pushing to go and introduce themselves to the people they'd been matched up with. Their conversations focused initially on figuring out why we had considered them suited. Once they had either endorsed or dismissed our flimsy logic they got down to more serious conversation - although no one seemed to be taking things too seriously.

Many people did seem to be making progress with their preassigned 'blind dates', which was a gratifying vindication of our assessment process. Posters around the walls bore exhortations such as 'Have you asked for her phone number?' and 'Don't leave without six phone numbers' - quite a few followed this advice.

The party went on until after closing time. Most people left the way they had come - on their own. The exceptions were three couples who went on to dinner, and one guy who appeared to be taking two women home with him.

The big question any romantic will ask is: did anyone meet the love of their life? While tactfully declining to speculate, I can confirm that at least a dozen couples have made further dates. As one woman said, at the very worst, she'd met a lot of like-minded people whom she'd be happy to meet again. Another said it had been a real ego-boost being chatted to by so many nice men: 'It's not often that you meet 30 single, eligible people of the opposite sex who are all looking for a partner.'

And what of my friend Rachel, who inspired the evening in the first place? 'I had a great time and met some great men, but not the right one,' she said. 'I think maybe I'm a hopeless case.' Several people asked me when we're going to do it again. I had so much fun playing Cupid - probably more fun than anyone else there - that the answer, I think, is soon.

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