Katy Guest: Beware the love that 'just sort of happens'

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The Independent Online

Perhaps Chantelle Houghton put it best when she tried to explain the particular brand of love at first sight that afflicts only a select, unfortunate few. "No one went out to hurt anyone," she said in 2006. "It just sort of happened. You could be married and go to the baker's because you're hungry and then fall in love with the baker."

Chantelle was talking about her relationship with Samuel Preston, a 25-year-old singer whom she had met on the set of Celebrity Big Brother. He was not a baker (bakers turn out to be relatively safe from this category of romantic coup de foudre), but when they met he did have a long-term fiance. In other words, Preston was married, he went to the baker's to buy pies for his starving beloved, but in an instant he was smitten by true love and never went home. It happens all the time I mean, what kind of idiot would ever let their lover go to the baker's in this day and age?

In this stumbling metaphor, Chanelle hit upon a very peculiar phenomenon. This week, the singer Cerys Matthews and the actor Marc Bannerman have discovered that they too have been struck the same blow. "I don't know what love at first sight is, but I had the most intense feeling," said the starry-eyed Bannerman after he met Cerys on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! He wouldn't be the first man to mistake indigestion for something more. "I fully intend to take it slowly," revealed Cerys, who is hoping to spend Christmas with Marc and is considering having his children.

Bannerman's jilted fiance, Sarah, says she hopes they both rot in hell. But he is "not a love rat", he insists. After all, "out of loyalty to Sarah I tried not to look at the girls in their bikinis." He was in love with two women, was his problem. If that's love, Cerys might have thought, give me indifference, please.

There is something to do with reality TV shows that appears to act on their contestants like a combination of spring time, chocolate, sunlight on the pituitary gland and ecstasy tablets. Bannerman claims that his now former fiance had encouraged him to go on the show to earn money to provide for their future. Is she mad? Or had she never watched one of these programmes before? What reality TV seems to be creating is a variation on Stockholm Syndrome, in which candidates fall intensely in love with their fellow hostages rather than their kidnappers.

Is the body's natural reaction to stress and starvation purely sexual? Is it something about the lack of adequate shower facilities that brings out irresistible natural pheromones? Does the prospect of eating insects make them want to put someone else's tongue in their mouth instead, and quick?

If Sarah has not learned the lessons of other, similar shows then neither, clearly, has Marc. He might not be predicting a lifelong union with Cerys had he watched this year's Big Brother. In that show, Ziggy declared love to Chanelle and then dumped her with the words: "It's not you, it's me." Has he not heard about all the other instant love affairs? Will anyone be able to use the word "soul-mate" again now that it has been so devalued?

And has Marc not read any newspapers this year? If he had he, might have noticed that Preston and Chantelle recently split up after 10 months of marriage. Sometimes, you do fall in love with the baker. But anyone who commits on the spot to locking himself in and then eating doughnuts for a year is going to end up being sick.

A couple of important points ...

A lot more than hats off to Lorraine Kelly for adding her support to the cleavage lobby. This latest dilemma exercising modern minds asks whether a woman has any right to carry bosoms in public. The answer is yes, if she's a pop hottie; no, if she also wants opinions; and absolutely not, if she is the Home Secretary women MPs are obliged to leave those puppies at home because they can't concentrate on both having boobs and doing their jobs. (Note to boys: they pretty much look after themselves actually.) So it was one in the eye for the breastophobes when Ms Kelly arrived at an exhibition proudly bringing her cleavage with her, left. All this, and opinions, too. Is that allowed?

* It hasn't always been easy to sympathise with Cecilia Sarkozy, the former French Premire Dame with the immaculate coiffure and the I-live-on-croissants-but-I'm-thin-as-a-rake smirk, but you have to feel sorry for anyone who suffered a mother-in-law like hers without committing murder.

Mme Sarkozy Snr initially held her tongue about the break-up of the President's marriage, leaving everyone to think that Cecilia was to blame. Now le vieux bagage has spilled the beans about her "brilliant" son, leaving a nation wondering how Ccilia stuck it out so long.

Andre told a magazine that Cecilia is "cold", and so are her daughters. She fondly imagines her son is "spoilt for choice" when it comes to women, but hopes that "no one will think of marriage". She reckons that the President should not marry again because, she says, "I have had enough of brides". Something tells me that nobody will marry him in a hurry after reading that.