Friday 15 February 2008

Not you, Ffion

14st 7lb; a mere 1.0 unit of alcohol; 1,449; Roseden (R.I.P.)

After yesterday, which was the romantic equivalent one of those Western ghost towns with tumbleweed blowing down the street, I feel it behoves me to spell out what I am looking for. A woman, obviously. Ideally one still of child-bearing age, though actual child-bearing will probably not be required. I don’t think I’d be much of a father, even if I could manage the necessary preliminaries. Added to which I’ve got five godchildren who are all counting on their inheritances, hoping against hope that I don’t manage to spend it all before I go.

So what am I after?

Let’s start with the obvious, for a man. Looks …

It’s difficult to be specific, so let me put it like this. Many years ago I arranged a dinner in York for a well-known confectionery manufacturer and a group of City analysts, and made the elementary mistake of not producing a seating plan. (I was new to the job in those days.) Having left things to chance in this foolish way, I happily found myself sitting next to a fine old gentleman stockbroker who had picked up an MC during the Second World War. Across the table sat the luckless chairman of the confectionery company, next to the incredibly pushy and almost unbelievably ugly woman who had replaced me as an analyst when I moved from stockbroking into public relations. The old war hero quizzed me politely about my career, and I told him where I had come from. “Aye,” he said, for he was of Scottish origin, “yon firm disnae follow food companies any more now you’ve left, does it?”

“Oh yes it does,” I said. “My replacement is sitting just there, right next to the chairman.”

He looked up and for the first time she registered in his rheumy old eyes. A stunned silence then fell upon the room as he yelled, in a voice that would have carried right across any regimental parade ground, “Oh, Jesus Christ! What a terrible sight!”

Ideally, I’m looking for someone who doesn’t produce that sort of reaction. At least not every time.

Additional desirable qualities include a sense of humour. Indeed, getting down to specifics, it would be quite helpful if you were one of those people who find William Hague amusing (apart from you, Ffion). That’s because I have stupidly bought two tickets for a glittering dinner with the funniest man on the Conservative front bench in Gateshead (Ah! The glamour!) next month, and I’m going to look an even bigger idiot than I actually am if I end up going with either my cardboard cut-out of Margaret Thatcher or a blow-up doll from Ann Summers. You don’t need to be a Tory, but it would obviously be helpful if you could remain vaguely civil in their company, even after you have had a drink or two. A tendency to spit noisily on the ground every time the Blessed Margaret is mentioned would probably be a no-no, I fear.

On the whole, a tendency to snog other women at the dinner table is not desirable in principle, though it certainly added to the hilarity of the occasion when the last woman I took to a Tory Ball did just that. She claimed afterwards that one of her drinks must have been spiked, though she didn’t suggest for a moment that I had been responsible for doing so. And I wasn’t, though it would certainly have served me right if I had done, given that the result was so spectacularly counter-productive.

Looking slightly longer term and further afield than Gateshead, it would be pretty useful if you liked (or, at the very least, felt you could tolerate) opera and were either (a) in possession of five posh frocks, or (b) were the sort of woman who didn’t mind wearing the same posh frock five times. Hang on, I got distracted there by the large Middle White pig buzzing around my standard lamp. The reason for this stipulation is that I’ve just taken delivery of my 2008 batch of Glyndebourne tickets and it would be quite handy to have some company, to be honest. You get some odd looks when you picnic on your own.

All applications should be sent in the strictest confidence to Oh, all right, Ffion, you can give it a go if you absolutely insist.

P.S. The above-mentioned analysts’ visit to York was also the occasion of the finest ad lib I heard in my City career. It came at the end of a long talk about the origins of the Yorkie bar. Which, as any fule kno, was actually made in Norwich. However, the brand manager explained, they decided to name it after the city where the company was based. Cue voice off from bored analyst: “Bloody good job you’re not based in Goole, then.”

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