The only way is Essex, minus Epping
Cosmo and Dolly
Twice divorced, Cosmo Landesman, 61, has proposed and been turned down five times. He recently ended a clandestine relationship, but still dreams of finding true love.
Finding love in January is a lot like making new year resolutions to lose weight. You start off with high hopes and promises carved in stone: I will stay positive; I will be careful who I date; I will look only for true love and avoid the carbs of lust. Then, suddenly, you find yourself flicking through date apps and indulging in a full-on binge. The old, desperate you is back in charge.
I had a date with a seriously rich Russian woman who spent the entire evening getting pissed on pink champagne and telling me why she hates men. “Pigs! Men are pigs! I want to find a woman to love.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You’re not a pig. You have big, sad eyes and the soul of a failure.”
I’ve also had a date with an old hippie, who said: “I snogged you at the first Glastonbury festival back in 1970. Do you remember?”
“Of course I do,” I lied. Still, it’s nice to know that a kiss, like a dead star, can still transmit light all those aeons ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my kiss.
I even joined an exclusive, upmarket dating agency called Berkeley International, where clients pay upwards of £10,000 to find love. So when they matched me with Lana (not her real name), I was a bit worried she would be disappointed. I assumed the women who join these elite dating agencies want successful, rich, go-getting men; the sort of men who get aroused by the ads in GQ and think Johnny Depp is still cool. You don’t fork out ten grand to have a drink with a melancholic, grumpy old hack.
Blonde and sexy, Lana looked like a young Jerry Hall. She was an Essex girl in her mid-forties. Yes, we all know the stereotype. She did, too, and was quick to mock it: “If you don’t like my personality, I could always just show you my tits.” That certainly broke the ice. We talked so much, we forgot to order food.
We all live in social ghettos full of people just like ourselves, so it was great to go on a date with a woman from another planet, someone who was so different from me and my small media world of middle-class neurotics.
I really liked Lana. She has managed the difficult art of being sexy and friendly, funny and warm, all at once. There was something cool and quirky about her, too.
So, now I have the problem of where to take her for that difficult second date. I found this suggestion on the internet: it’s called a “grooming date” — “You can help her do some woman stuff like shaving, waxing, nail paint. She can help you groom your body hair.”
Who says romance is dead?
Dolly Alderton, 27, has form: her previous dating adventures include a fling with a Tinder playboy and an on-off relationship with the Comedian. Now she’s not sure what she wants.
There is no doubt in my mind that, in another life, I would have been a groupie. I am made of the right stuff for it. I obsess over my favourite musicians, reading everything there is about them, like a forensic detective trying to piece together every cell of their being. I learn the track lists of my favourite albums in the same way better humans learn poetry by heart. I even have faith I could summon the stamina for a weekend at Redlands with Keith Richards.
My long-suffering flatmates are aware of my weakness for musicians, and have been dragged around to tons of gigs as part of the Get Dolly a Rock-Star Boyfriend Project. They even join me for a regular night at our favourite crap bar in Camden, where a band plays. For years I have tried to chat up Jay, the divorced cheeky-chappy lead singer, but other than a few encouraging winks when he sings, or a brief flirtation when he comes off stage, he always leaves me hanging.
“Maybe tonight will be the night I finally snog Jay,” I announce at the pub, as I nurse my third and final gin and tonic for the night. “I’ll be more sober than usual, maybe I’ll have a clearer head.” They both groan.
“If you bring that man back to our flat, Dolly,” India says, shaking her head, “I’ll be so disappointed in you.”
“Because he’s a slightly overweight, slightly balding man who sings bad Dire Straits covers, while wearing huge white trainers and a sleeveless shirt.”
“I am with India on this,” Belle wades in. “I don’t know what happens to you. It’s like you become possessed.”
It’s true. When I’m lost in the bottomless depths of a sweaty dancefloor, dancing in front of a man with an electric guitar, practically anyone could sing Smoke on the Water and I’d be theirs. Tonight is no different and after the set I go backstage to see Jay. “It’s not ‘backstage’,” India hisses. “It’s literally just a door, anyone could go in.”
“So, what are the band doing after this?” I ask him.
“Probably going home,” he replies, packing up his guitar.
“Why don’t you stay for a bit? I’ll get you a beer? Or we could all go back to mine for a…” I hesitate, “jam.”
“Dolly,” he says, holding my shoulders. “You’ve got to stop this. I’m 42. I’ve got two kids. I live in Epping. I’m not Mick Jagger.”
I stare at him dead in the eyes, then shrug his hands off me moodily. “Well, you could at least pretend to be,” I say.
“We’re not even a tribute band. We’re a covers band.”
“Well, maybe if you were more like a tribute band and less like a few middle-aged blokes playing at a wedding, then your version of Sympathy for the Devil wouldn’t be so shouty and out of time.”
“I think we had better leave it here,” he says icily.
“Yes, well, so do I.”
“I don’t think we should go there any more,” I say on the bus home, as we all eat chips. “The music’s not that good. Also I hate that singer guy.”
“Thank God,” Belle sighs.