'You need someone generous,' she said, my husband's name unspoken between us, 'with a bank account, not a piggy bank'.And so, just before Christmas, I meet Mairead Molloy.Men say they want intelligent, independent women who are their equal in every way, but do they, really?
Until now, I always thought people who resort to dating agencies must be a little desperate. I have never before even been set up by friends or been on a blind date.But then I reached the first anniversary of my divorce and, much to my surprise, having sworn off men for life, I started to wonder, with the prospect of a great big yawning new year stretching ahead of me, whether there might be someone out there for me and, if so, how on earth am I going to find him?It doesn't bode well that it's my date, and I don't even recognise him!I think I cover up my amnesia, and he gallantly phones his driver to take me back to my hotel.Otherwise, the qualities I am looking for are pretty standard: he must be kind, funny, not pompous or bossy, be intelligent and well read and an animal lover.
I tell her I'd prefer someone around my own age (she tells me I don't look 50, and am in fact 'slim, fashionable and gorgeous', which makes me want to date her), but they must be boyish rather than Steptoe-like (I tell her Imran Khan could be her template, although I wouldn't date him as I don't think my cats would want to live in Pakistan).
We say our goodbyes and I go to freeze in the snow, trying to hail a cab.
After about ten minutes, a man asks if I need help.
I'm not interested in the boring banker types that make up the bulk of her clients.
She tells me I seem to have narrowed my options to Paul Mc Cartney but, rather valiantly, accepts the challenge to help me find Mr Right. Once a client has been interviewed and then vetted - Mairead visits them at home, checking out passports and, if necessary, decree absolutes - she will then introduce them to prospective partners all over the world (rich people, it seems, have no truck with annoying things like distance and time zones).
But, after a few minutes, and much to my surprise, I start to enjoy his company immensely. He says women in New York are only interested in how much money a man makes. But I can tell he fancies me, this despite his lack of curiosity about me, and his disconcerting habit of continuing to talk into the remote of his mobile phone. Men like to know they come first.' After two hours, he pays for our drinks, apologising that he has to leave for a dinner engagement.