Heart Searching: Blonde ambition leads to blind ally: Rolex Man left early, and several dates bottled out, but Lyndsay Russell joined the party

FOR MOST of us, a blind date means an evening of sweaty palms, bad breath and an 'urgent phone call' from your dying grandmother if things do not go well; an impression confirmed by Carlton Television's Singles series and letters from many Heart Searching readers.

But, according to the Henley Centre for Forecasting, nearly 50 per cent of the adult population is predicted to be single by the end of the decade, as a result of divorce and insular living in major cities such as London. It may seem shocking, but as the demand for introduction agencies increases, blind dates could well become the normal way to meet.

Angela Cash, a thirtysomething divorcee, has devised what is possibly a less painful approach to blind dating, by turning the trauma into a party. 'I invite equal numbers of each sex to my house, and start the event off by giving out clues to help each person discover their partner for the evening,' she explains. Then, a la Cilla, she packs them off to various restaurants, with instructions to return to her place by 11 o'clock for brandy, coffee and a communal post-mortem on their dates.

The last part may seem cold and calculating. But you may draw some comfort from the thought that if you don't like your date, you might find that you fancy someone else's.

According to experienced guests, it's also safer than some aspects of the singles scene. 'The people you meet at the party are not strangers in a bar, and the home environment helps take away any stigma.'

However, when I arrived at 7.45pm at the Victorian house in the suburbs of Hampstead, Angela opened the door with worried expression. She explained in hushed tones: 'Some of the dates haven't turned up. If they don't, the numbers are going to be uneven.' At pounds 20 a head to play the game, she was probably right to be nervous about disappointed guests.

She was expecting 18 people but, due to several last-minute cancellations, only 11 were there, waiting in the drawing room. 'It's an uncontrollable risk. What can you do when people let you down? You can't have reserves on standby.'

From the room came staccato bursts of conversation broken by long periods of uncomfortable silence. 'Oh God,' wailed Angela. 'Wait 'til they know the press are here]'

Armed with the guest list and the prepared clue cards, her assistant raced in from the kitchen. 'Toby just rang to say he's on his way - but Sara hasn't shown and he insisted on a blonde.' Glancing around with a look of panic, Angela forcefully grabbed my arm. 'You'll have to do.'

Whoa there] This was supposed to be a 'fly on the wall' assignment. And what kind of man insists on a blonde in this day and age, I wondered. 'Quite a few,' sighed Angela. 'Here's another one,' she said, as a paunchy, flashily dressed man wearing a diamond Rolex pushed past to pick up his mobile phone.

'Forget dinner. I'm out of here,' he grunted, dialling for a taxi. But what about his date? 'I've sussed out who it is,' he said. 'I met her here last time. She's not my type.' Ruthlessly frank, he added: 'Hey, I'm in the rock business. I'm used to cute groupies.'

Meanwhile, back in the drawing room an elegant woman called Beverly announced she was feeling faint, and going home. (No doubt she had clocked the talent and also decided none was for her). Noticing Rolex Man was leaving, she innocently asked him for a lift. Ah, Cupid's irony - she was the very date he was trying to dump.

As they left, my date arrived. A property developer. It was an intriguing study in diplomacy watching Angela explain that his dream date was not only a reporter, but a brunette to boot. He was not impressed. 'Er, I'll just cancel the restaurant to something less formal . . .' Oh hell. It was going to be a night at McDonald's.

By now, most guests had hunted down their partners. The eclectic gathering included an accountant, a fashion designer, an advertising salesman, a gem dealer and a computer analyst. But two young women seemed miffed that, apart from their own dates, the men were so much older. 'It was pretty easy to guess who we were matched with,' pouted one of them. Still, Angela had said in advance that most of her clientele were over 30.

Angela explained that the men usually pay, but as everyone marched off to their chosen restaurants, she quietly pointed out a man who was renowned for his meanness. 'He said he would only come if his partner paid half the restaurant bill.' Seconds later, his date sidled up to her and discreetly inquired of Angela whether he 'had money'.

At the last moment, a woman called Tania burst through the front door. All the men were taken, so I offered her Toby. He took one look at this lovely, longlegged creature and announced: 'Err . . . I'll just re-book the original restaurant.' Oh thanks.

Six guests ended up going to the same local restaurant, and two couples had decided to make their night a foursome, muttering something about safety in numbers. 'Don't photograph me,' said one divorcee. 'I want my ex-husband to think I'm at home suffering.' Judging by her date's monosyllabic speech, she was.

Meanwhile, Tania and Toby were having far more fun, dining in style at Mezzaluna's, while giggling and guzzling their way through bottles of champagne.

'I had no expectations of the evening. I came because it was one more new experience,' smiled Tania. 'Anyway, you can't expect to meet the man of your dreams by spending pounds 20.' During the appointed 11 o'clock night-cap back at Angela's the atmosphere had relaxed a little, but the only real spirit was in the brandy bottle. Sheets of paper were handed out with questions such as 'What did you think when you first saw your date?

Instead of laughing at the idea, everyone looked appalled. Poor Angela admitted that out of the 15 parties she had held, this was by far the worst. 'No one's hitting it off. Normally, the ratio of those who date again after is as high as 50 per cent.'

Suddenly Tania and Toby arrived - a mysterious 40 minutes late. The room breathed a sigh of relief as they clowned around. 'We'll fill in the questionnaire together, because we two are now one]' trilled Tania.

With brazen courage, Angela picked up the completed questionnaires. Squinting, she began to read aloud. 'On first sight, James thought Eleanor was . . . er . . . plain-speaking?' She announced the rest of his writing as illegible.

The same excuse became extremely useful for squirming her way out of sheet after sheet of wicked answers. No one was fooled.

As everyone made their leave, only Toby and Tania exited together. 'See? It was all worthwhile,' nudged Angela. One can only hope.

Still, as Toby steered Tania to his Porsche, he did whisper: 'Well, she may not be a blonde, but I've a strong feeling she could highlight my life]'

More information on the parties can be obtained by ringing: 071-435 8363

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003