Are dating agencies any good

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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?

I feel as though I'm about to sit my A-levels all over again. Mairead phones to tell me about M, who is 46, in wealth management, whatever that is, and a divorced father of two grown-up boys. We agree to meet the following night in the bar at Claridges. I buy a black lace skirt and silver platforms from Prada, and get my hair done.

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).'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.With such a terrible track record, I started to realise that, if I couldn't meet someone when I was in my prime, how on earth was I going to meet someone now I'm 50?My friend Kerry, tired of my moaning, had told me about an upmarket dating agency that takes on only high-achieving rich people.

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