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Heart Searching: How I made the right choice

AFTER waiting 12 years to find a kindred spirit, without success, I was persuaded by one of the clergy at the church I attended to join a dating agency for committed Christians (I was surprised to discover such a thing existed). It was very cheap, only pounds 20, and on joining I received a list of their entire male membership, which ran to 20 pages of very closely typed A4.

The agency made no attempt to match you with anyone, but left the choice to you. The house rules were that all introductions should initially be made by letter, and out of courtesy all letters should be acknowledged, even if only with a polite 'thanks, but no thanks'. The membership list was compiled according to the order of joining, and made no attempt to list people according to age or location. Each month an update of new members who had joined would be sent to you. It was a daunting task to read through pages of this bumf to try to find someone who sounded interesting, so I decided to sit back and wait to see who would write to me.

Over nine months I received 35 letters, a few of which were memorable, if not for the right reasons. I vividly remember the solicitor whose letter introducing himself consisted of a list of points numbered one to ten, each of which commenced with 'I am . . .'. Another gentleman sent a duplicated letter lamenting the fact that he got so few replies, and expressing the hope that I was not thin as he 'really liked fat women'. I wrote back trying politely to point out that his response rate might improve if he took the trouble to write an individual letter, and kept his voice about female physique to himself until he knew the person better.

After about a year I decided to be more assertive and toiled through the membership list until I found the description of someone I would like to write to. We corresponded for five months before meeting, and then had a rapid 'courtship', to use an old- fashioned word. We have been married for four years and are very happy. Considering I had only the briefest three-line description and biography to go on, I think I chose very well.

Heather, County Durham