Liz Jones’s Diary: In which I meet a man I actually like

You know how you can be so fed up living where you are, you go on Rightmove and see online a lovely cottage, perfect, with a gorgeous garden stuffed with roses and peonies? Then you view it, and outside the kitchen window is a burnt-out car, several tractors, and the only view one of hundreds of giant bales of hay wrapped in black plastic, and a pile of old tyres?

Well, that is not what happened on Date No 2, the blind date with the man from Cambridge I met on Twitter!

Abbey Lossing

I decided to wear my flared inky Paige jeans, heels and a white T-shirt. Nic came round just as I left for the country house hotel to give her verdict. ‘You look gorgeous!’ she said loyally. She then asked if she could use my loo. I couldn’t very well say no.

On the drive, she sent me a photo of my bathroom, with its loo paper folded to a perfect V, and my bed, freshly made with professionally ironed linen, and a Welsh blanket draped artfully on the end.

‘Hahahahahahaha,’ she typed. I’d been rumbled. It wasn’t that I intended to bring a man home after a first date, it was just that I was open to the possibility.

It was a beautiful spring day. I was led to my table on the terrace. The waitress brought over some water for the dogs. I was so nervous, I ordered a glass of champagne.

I saw him approaching: jeans, loafers, a polo shirt. Hair. Slightly greying at the temples. He looked about 50, but slim and fit. I couldn’t tell whether he fancied me or not. We ordered.

I brought out my best antidotes*. About how, in 2016, sent to interview Donald Trump in Scotland, I had taken along an outfit and shoes, in case the Mail wanted to photograph me. My ex volunteered to drive me, and on arrival I gave him the clothes carrier to look after while we walked to the press conference. He got bored holding my clothes, and just left them. Later, I found out the CIA had detonated them, thinking they were a bomb. ‘It was YSL!’ I wailed. ‘That was your one job!’

This new man told me he’s never been married but is on good terms with the mother of his son, who’s at uni. He’s a commercial estate agent. He seems very straightforward, with no sharp edges. He didn’t keep trying to touch my arm; as we all know I don’t like men trying to paw me. He wasn’t angry, or chippy or rude to the waitress. He didn’t try to show off.

Two hours flew by. I can never eat when on a date: it’s like swimming. I think if I eat I will drown. He insisted on paying the bill, then walked me and the collies to my car. ‘Hang on,’ he said. And he ran off. I have that effect on men. Then he returned, clutching a squeaky toy for each dog.

‘I’m sorry you drove four hours to meet me for lunch,’ I said, starting the engine, thinking of my perfect, sex-ready cottage back home.

‘I really enjoyed it,’ he said. ‘I saw your face as I approached the table, and it was all sparkling. Why don’t you stop off in Cambridge next time you go down to London?’

With that, I drove off. I am now staring at my phone. No message, but then perhaps he’s still en route. It’s so awful, being judged in such a fundamental way. Just you, him, a table, napkins.

We had been getting on so well, texting. He doesn’t take anything too seriously. Now, though, I might never clap eyes on him again. I’ve decided, if he wants to meet for a second time, to say yes. But I’m worried I’m too old, too damaged, too difficult. He sent a nice text a couple of days ago. ‘All I want is a quiet life with a woman in jodhpurs.’

But now that he has met me, does he, though?

*Anecdotes. In the podcast, Nic is like Mrs Malaprop and always calls them this