This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
During 2020 I did actually meet someone. The delightful Bruce! Our dating for several weeks consisted of walking, kayaking and swimming in the river. There was very little else to do. No pubs, no restaurants. We had fun, and he was kind. We decided on a whim to go away together. It was still early days, and I knew it would be ‘kill or cure’. We went on the Norfolk Broads. It killed the relationship stone dead. He was ex-military and, pardon the pun, but very regimented. An alarm was set every morning at 7am. He watched what I ate. One day preparing lunch, he asked me if I would be eating ONE fish cake or 2. Certainly implying that one was the correct answer. I ate 2, and they were delicious. Another day after a couple of glasses of wine at lunch, I expressed the desire for a nap. He agreed it was a good idea and said he would set an alarm, and he did so. The nap was for 12 minutes. We didn’t see each other after the holiday.
This put me off dating for quite a while until the following spring, when I met a lovely man. Our first date was on the beach. We walked, ate, talked, and had the most fabulous time. We saw each other every weekend for about three months. I was starting to have feelings for this darling man and all of our wonderful coastal adventures. The beach was definitely my happy place, and he was brilliant company. Then one weekend, quite suddenly, he ended things – by text! Devastated didn’t come close. I think he was the first man I had fallen for since my ex-husband. To be dumped unceremoniously hurt hard.
My friends rallied around. There wasn’t a weekend where they hadn’t planned an activity for months. Days out, theatre trips, weekends away – anything to distract me and help heal my breaking heart. But as it happened, both of us had big birthdays close together, and I had already found him a funny card, and it felt churlish not to send it. So I did – with all good wishes hoping he was happy and wishing him all the best. He phoned to say thank you and admitted sheepishly that the woman he dumped me for had since dumped him.
Anyway, I had already decided my life needed a shake-up and started looking for a property on the coast. I started looking back in Brighton, a place I was still drawn to – but property there is easily London prices, and what I was looking for was way out of my budget. Then I looked in Chichester – ironically the place of my birth. At least it still had culture and a heart to it. I found a quaint cottage. It had a fabulous garden which I fell in love with – the house itself was a full-on renovation project which I wasn’t sure I was ready for.
Then I looked at several villages between Chichester and the coast, but they all felt quite isolated. I found a house I loved in Selsey. After 3 visits, I was ready to make an offer. At this point, I had received an offer on my house. The new house was 43 steps from my front door to the beach. I was ecstatic. My children less so. Doing their own research, they said the town itself was not for me. And then my solicitor discovered the imminent arrival of a wind farm on my doorstep. Back to square one.
I am now on talking terms with the ex-arse! I picked his brains, and he pointed out how much I had loved Poole. It wasn’t just Poole, but when my children were small, we frequently visited Swanage, Corfe Castle, Mudeford and Wareham. They all still had their old-fashion charm. It felt like every weekend I was driving to and from the coast, trying to find a new place to call home. I lost two properties that I tried to buy around Poole – I was getting so disheartened. I had found a part-time job which I was due to start. At one stage, I was commuting 2 hours each way or staying in B&Bs. Eventually, a fabulous estate agent I had been in touch with almost daily said they had a house due to come up for rental – did I want to see it straight away? Of course. Another 2-hour trip for viewing. But I took it.
It is perfect, on the edge of a green with a cute little fountain. It feels like a village. The train station is only 5 minutes walk and gets me into London in 1 hour and 45 minutes. There are so many fabulous bars, cafés and restaurants around the green. The seafront is a 10-minute walk, and the stunning sandy beach at Sandbanks is a 10-minute drive. Each weekend friends and family come to stay. There has hardly been any time for dating.
However, I did go away at the beginning of the year. BFF and I visited the most gorgeous little island off Mexico, where we had a ball. A chap I had vaguely conversed with before we left phoned me every night I was away so BFF took to her bed with a book. I sat on the balcony with a glass of wine while I was schmoosed by this funny, entertaining, and witty man. We finally met on my return, and he was gorgeous. Tall, dark, handsome, charming and funny. We frequently met as he was just 10 minutes away. We had some wonderful evenings, but after a couple of months, he was getting flaky and unreliable 😳 So after a few weeks of this, I challenged him – I think you’re married. He vehemently denied it, of course, but the seed of doubt was sown, and I backed off completely. Crashed and burned again. Mr Mexico was no more.
Then I was due back in Henley to officiate at a wedding. I had been contacted by a guy on a website who ironically lived in Henley. We laughed that despite living there for nine years and the fact he lived 100 yards from where I had previously worked, our paths had never crossed. We had a date – OMG, Daniel Craig, eat your heart out. He had salt and pepper hair and the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen. I could go all Brontë and say I actually swooned, but my heart definitely skipped a beat. We met at a newly opened coffee shop, two coffees later, and the conversation flowed freely. After the 1.5 hours I had allowed for the date – neither of us wanted it to finish. Shall we go somewhere for a glass of wine he asked… rude to say no? I actually had another date lined up in Poole, which I was 1.5 hours late for. But I blamed it on traffic. Maybe I should have just cancelled. Mr Craig and I conversed rapidly, and apart from being sex on legs, he was intelligent, funny, interesting and charming. He came to Poole the following weekend, where we had arranged a beach picnic. It was such fun, and I shamelessly confess that we made out in the sand dunes like teenagers. He even asked permission to kiss me. However, somewhere between dates 2 and 5, he was headhunted for a role in a foreign country, hot and dusty. We are still in touch, but the long-distance thing is not something I envisaged.
I am, however, very content. In the last ten years, I always thought I would meet someone – either through an introduction by mutual friends, a chance meeting in a coffee shop or through the dreaded online method. And I would be whisked away to a new life. It’s not happened, and now I realise I cannot depend on anyone coming in to change my life – the only one who can change my life is me. I was getting stifled doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? But now I have new vistas, new hobbies, and a new zest for life – who knows what the future might bring.
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