So here I am on my initial sortie into the world of online dating and I have survived intact. I haven’t encountered any axe murderers nor have I been bored into a state of near paralysis. I think I am ahead of the game.

Of course, I have had a close shave or two. I narrowly missed meeting up for a coffee with a man who neglected to tell me that he had been married for twenty-five years to a woman suffering from clinical depression. I was a little slow in replying to his request due to a family bereavement and in the mean-time he felt the need to confess a clearer picture of his situation than the one he posted online. Honesty – like cheques – are better late than never. I also narrowly avoided a close encounter with a man who had not yet extricated himself from the marital home. But all things considered it was not the minefield of disaster I had anticipated.

As I said in my last column you have to be clear about what you want and then make sure you ask the specific questions required to establish that the anonymous object of your recently acquired affections is at least in the ball park of where you want to be going forward.

Some of my dates were not as inquisitive – and ultimately not so lucky. One went out with a woman who turned out to be a man. The matter came to light a mere six hours into the first date. Another had arranged to meet a woman who turned out to be someone else entirely. She had posted another woman’s picture. I was flattered with the exuberance with which he greeted me at One Duke Street in Richmond, but later realised it must have been the sheer relief that I matched my picture.

Common sense is at the heart of this….if you will excuse the pun. Everyone expects to ask a few rational questions when they meet someone in the conventional way. The same is true of online dating.

The initial foray of establishing contact is no place for undiluted banter. Sure, you can flirt but you have to be prepared to get to the nitty gritty quite quickly. The nitty gritty – by the way – is what you expect to get out of the date and what you expect to give.

 There are some people out there hoping for the hurly burly of the chaise long, while others want companionship that lasts. Mostly, as one man said to me, “I just want to watch Love Actually on the TV with someone to cuddle.” A lovely thought but one viewing of LA was enough for me. I would rather watch back to back episodes of the BBC 4 crime thriller Salamander with a bottle of Meursault. See what I mean. We would have needed two TV sets from the get go….and probably two sofas.

Debrett’s have helpfully provided a guide to online etiquette and since manners often have their roots in common sense this is well worth reading if you are going to embark on the long haul of sorting through possible dates and ultimately mates.

 Those seeking any kind of long-lasting relationship – and reassuringly this is the majority – it pays to tell the truth, even about the details. Hobbies are a good example. No-one wants to end up on a date climbing Ben Nevis when what they really have in mind is a visit the local boozer with their dog in tow.

Always say what you mean – not what you think the other people wants to hear. Sustainability is key here. You won’t keep up any pretences in the long run.

Play by the rules. There are plenty of decent men out there but sadly for me none of my friends is going to buy a hat anytime soon.


Debretts & OurTime have produced a guide to 50+ dating.

Here are a selection of tips.


Use recent photographs, no more than a year old, when creating your profile. There’s no point trying to mislead your date if you ever hope to meet in person.


Much like a CV, your profile should be honest and not too self-promoting – but not overly self- deprecating either. Excessive modesty can come across as negativity or cynicism.


It may have been traditional in the past for men to make the first move, but online dating is an egalitarian plane, and women can now take the initiative too.


Keep your first message light-hearted and brief, and make it personal: mentioning something you particularly like about a person’s profile will show that you’re singling them out. Don’t be creepy, though: it’s far too early for come-ons or innuendo.


It’s natural to want to show your personality in your messages, but avoid over-using exclamation marks, emojis and kisses, which can come across as excitable.


Download the full guide: