Can anyone find the man for me Sara despaired of meeting Mr Right – so she asked her mother, brother and best friend
to pick her the perfect date
10:37 GMT, 20 March 2012
Writer Sara Lawrence admits her dating history is ‘a disaster’. She has embarked on several relationships, but none of them has translated into lifelong commitment.
Sara, from Queen’s Park, North London, is 32 and aware her biological clock is ticking.
Increasingly desperate to find lasting love, Sara enlisted those closest to her — her mother, brother and best friend — to see if they would have better luck finding her Mr Right…
Sara Lawrence with her date Jeremy
DATE ONE – SET UP BY MUM
Sara’s mother Lesley Lawrence, 59, pictured right, is a marketing director, from Tiptoe, Hampshire.
Lesley says: Sara is the eldest of my five children and I’d love to see her settled with a soulmate. I met her father when I was 15 and he was 17, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Our relationship is based on humour, trust and shared values, and this is exactly what I want for Sara. When it comes to dating, I think she has too many check-boxes, and I can’t see one person ever ticking them all. Sara is such a strong character, it seems to me she’s a magnet for weaker people. She knows I didn’t think any of her past boyfriends were good enough for her.
I want to see her with an equal, which is why I think she and Jeremy, the man I’ve picked for her, will get on so well. He’s a good friend of one of her brothers, George, and he is a funny, clever person — as is she —so I think they could make a brilliant couple.
Sara had dinner with Jeremy Cook, 27, a currency trader who lives in Clapham, South London.
SARA says: I’d met Jeremy before through my brother, but I never thought of him as someone I might date. I’m five years older than him and somehow the idea just never crossed my mind.
But as I approach London’s famously romantic Dukes Hotel — which Jeremy has chosen as the brilliant venue for our date — I can feel a distinct flutter of nerves in my stomach.
Jeremy is waiting for me in the famous martini bar, sitting in a leather wing-back chair, looking very corporate in his sharp suit.
He has come straight from the BBC, where he regularly comments on economic issues. I know this because as I was getting ready, I saw him on the News At Six, talking about inflation and fiscal austerity measures — this probably explains the slight anxiety I feel about meeting him. I might be older, but he seems like the real grown-up in this situation.
My martini takes the edge off my nerves. Jeremy obviously knows how to charm a girl — ordering Pouilly Fume wine to accompany our scallops over dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant — and I am impressed.
The conversation flows easily, and it occurs to me that a major bonus of letting someone you love do the matchmaking on your behalf is that you’re guaranteed to have something to talk about.
Jeremy cracks a lot of funny jokes and I can’t believe Mum got it so right. There is the added bonus that my family already know and like him, and I love the fact that Jeremy likes my parents and siblings, and knows so much about them.
I feel we share similar values, and I appreciate that he’s clever and well-educated and works hard in a good job.
After dinner, we snuggle under a blanket on a sofa in the cigar garden while we sip coffee. I feel instantly comfortable with Jeremy, and decide I definitely want to see him again.
Later he helps me get a taxi, then texts to make sure I got home safely.
On paper this man is perfect. In the cold light of the next morning, however, I realise that, much as I enjoyed spending the evening with Jeremy, I’m not sure there is enough of that essential spark between us.
Jeremy says: I had an amazing time and it went by in a flash — much to my annoyance. Dating in London can be really hit-and-miss, so it’s great when you enjoy a night with someone as I did with Sara.
Lesley says: I’m so glad they had a lovely evening, but I don’t believe one date is enough really to know someone and I want them to see each other again. I’ve told Sara to have another go and not make any decisions until she’s seen him at least three times. Mother knows best!
DATE TWO – SET UP BY BROTHER
Sibling intuition: Sara with her date Ash
Sara’s brother, James Lawrence, 27, pictured right, is a stylist, who lives in Queen’s Park, North London.
James says: I’m sending Sara on a date with Ash, a film producer I met a few years ago when I worked with him on one of his documentaries, and we’ve been friends ever since. He’s a real adventurer, always planning trips to places like Everest and the Himalayas.
He’s funny, cool and clever, and exactly the sort of man I’d like to see my sister going out with. She’s always jetting off on crazy adventures to far-flung locations to write about them, and she’s a positive person, always laughing — the life and soul of any party.
I think she should be with someone who appreciates these qualities. Ash loves to party, as does Sara, so I think they’ll get on. I predict they won’t be able to stop talking once they get going — I’m only annoyed I didn’t think of setting them up before.
Sara went horse riding in London’s Hyde Park with Ashwin Bhardwaj, 29, a documentary film producer and writer, from Hackney, East London.
SARA says: I grew up in the New Forest and spent my childhood galloping around on ponies, so when Ash suggests we go riding in Hyde Park, I’m delighted. I love that he has chosen such an off-the-wall idea.
I’m immediately struck by how friendly Ash is when we meet round the corner from the stables, and how enthusiastic he is about riding.
He’s wearing a battered Barbour jacket and jeans, and seems extremely relaxed about being on a blind date, which puts me at ease, too. I’ve never ridden in London before, but the prospect of doing so in the company of a charming man on a gloriously sunny day puts a big grin on my face.
Ash and I chat non-stop — about our mutual love of skiing, about a documentary he’s making on his mixed British and Indian heritage, and a hundred other things. I feel very content as we trot along, side-by-side, and we have so many shared interests, I feel like I’ve known him for years.
Ash and I get on so well, we decide to have a beer in a local pub afterwards, and the conversation continues to flow. He’s funny, fit and charming, and I feel I’ve met a new best friend in Ash, someone I’d love to go skiing or climb a mountain with, and definitely someone I want to get to know better.
That said, I’m not sure this would be in a romantic capacity. Much as I’ve loved hanging out with Ash, I find it hard to imagine us together other than as good friends.
Ash says: When I first suggested a horse ride, I wasn’t sure if Sara would be up for it, but I didn’t know she used to be a champion showjumper. Game for anything, she was a great date and I look forward to seeing her again.
James says: Both of them called me after the date to tell me what a brilliant time they had, so I’m not sure I buy Sara’s ‘just good friends’ schtick. I still think they could make an amazing couple and I want her to give Ash another chance.
DATE THREE – SET UP BY BEST FRIEND
Sara Lawrence with date Tom Harrigan
Sara’s best friend Louisa Flynn, 32, pictured right, works for a hedge fund and lives in Vauxhall, South London.
Louisa says: Sara once told me she needed a strong hunk of a man to take control of her — someone to scoop her up at the end of the night and give her a fireman’s lift all the way home. So I’ve decided to send her on a date with 6ft 2in sports god Tom, who is my personal trainer and my friend.
I reckon they should spend the rest of their lives together, so I’m determined to make it happen. Tom is fit, fun, kind, honest and considerate.
He treats women well, which is what I want for my best friend —someone I can trust not to let her down. Like Sara, he believes in working hard and playing hard, so I really hope they hit it off.
Sara had a Sunday pub lunch with Tom Harrigan, 34, a personal trainer and designer of bespoke gyms, who lives in Kensal Rise, West London.
SARA says: Louisa and I met at Leeds University and were inseparable from day one. She is the most loyal friend, and knows me better than anyone. Because she gushes so much about Tom, his humour, charm and good looks, this is the date I’m most nervous about.
When Tom contacts me, he makes me laugh by saying: ‘There’s probably no need for you to go on the other dates.’
His cocky jokiness makes me think we might hit it off. He suggests we meet for Sunday lunch at a pub which I know and like. I arrive first and sit waiting anxiously biting my nails.
A tall, good-looking man walks through the door clutching a pink rose, and I feel a bit dizzy. Surely this can’t be him
The man makes a beeline for me and gives me a kiss on the cheek before presenting me with the rose and sitting down.
I have to admit, I had a few pre-date qualms about how much I might have in common with a fitness professional, given that my body is more amusement park than temple, but Tom doesn’t take himself seriously.
He loves his food, knocks back a few pints of Guinness, and we have a laugh sharing stories about nights out with Louisa.
We talk about our jobs, friends and family. I feel as if we’re already friends, but there’s also an exciting sexual undercurrent which, if I’m reading the signs right, is mutual.
He’s brilliant to talk to and gorgeous to look at and clearly going places with his new gym design consultancy business: I keep thinking what a wonderful job my best friend has made of match-making us.
I’m thrilled when he makes a toast to Louisa, thanking her for bringing us together and telling me what a great time he’s having. We sit at that table for six hours, talking non-stop and laughing uproariously.
Much as I enjoyed my previous two dates, this is the best one by a mile. So I’m delighted when Tom kisses me — passionately — before we leave, and asks if he can see me again. My answer is a resounding Yes.
Tom says: I knew I’d have a great time with any friend of Louisa’s, but I didn’t expect to have quite so much fun as we did. Sara is gorgeous and funny and clever and I am really enjoying getting to know her even better.
Louisa says: I had no doubt that my two best friends would hit it off in spectacular fashion. I really hope they grow to be as happy as clams together!
SARA’S VERDICT: Since I went from having no one decent on my dating horizon to meeting three strong contenders within the space of a week, I can vouch wholeheartedly for the success of this experiment.
If you are reluctantly single, I recommend getting your nearest and dearest involved immediately.
All three of my dates were great, but Tom was the one who really caught my interest and I’m delighted to report things are moving forwards.
It’s early days, but we’ve seen each other a few times since our pub lunch and are making all sorts of fun summer plans.
I have high hopes for this, so I’m hugely grateful to Louisa for using her matchmaking skills.