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The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Alice Pit­man

The time-hon­oured sign that one is get­ting on a bit is when po­lice­men start look­ing younger. Fol­low­ing a re­cent bur­glary – the thief climbed through an open win­dow and made off with daugh­ter Betty’s hand­bag – the bobby who came to take a state­ment looked too young to be out on his own. It took him two weeks to re­turn to take our fin­ger­prints. Pre­sum­ably he’d gone on his school hol­i­days.

An­other in­di­ca­tor of age is my ig­no­rance of on­line dat­ing. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, the whole phe­nom­e­non has passed me by. Un­til re­cently, I had no idea that so many sin­gle young peo­ple are ar­rang­ing dates with strangers at the click of a but­ton and a few flir­ta­tious Q and As. Older gen­er­a­tions must pre­sum­ably be do­ing the same, but I only have knowl­edge of the twen­tysome­things via daugh­ter Betty, who has an on/off dal­liance with a dat­ing app called Bum­ble. There are oth­ers, such as Tin­der. But it is the cosy-sound­ing Bum­ble that seems to have caught the in­ter­est of Sur­rey’s young adults.

Quite a num­ber of Fred and Betty’s old school friends use it, as well as the neigh­bours’ chil­dren. I know this be­cause Betty some­times lets me match­make on her be­half and fa­mil­iar faces keep pop­ping up. ‘Look, it’s that lit­tle hor­ror who used to set fire to things!’ ‘That can’t be Dan what­sit from up the road, can it? He’s got a beard!’ Who knew on­line spy­ing could be so much fun? There are now so many mil­len­ni­als look­ing for ro­mance via the in­ter­net that it makes you won­der how they would ever find any­one in real life.

This is how Bum­ble works. The boy/ girl up­loads pro­file pho­tos of them­selves,

of­ten with a corny Blind Date style sound­bite, such as ‘En­gi­neer­ing ge­ol­o­gist that knows how to rock your world.’ You swipe right if you like the look of the boy, or swipe left if you don’t. If the men – I must stop call­ing them boys – then like you back, it is called a match. It is down to the fe­male to start a con­ver­sa­tion.

As Betty’s re­searcher, I have found the men’s pro­files fea­ture one of the fol­low­ing:

1. The boy-next-door type, pos­ing with the fam­ily dog or el­derly rel­a­tive to sug­gest a car­ing na­ture .

2. The body-build­ing nar­cis­sist – all to­p­less self­ies, gim­let eyes, and rip­pling mus­cles a-gleam.

3. The night­club he­do­nist – never fea­tured without his mates, pints held aloft in slightly off-putting male sol­i­dar­ity.

4. The nice but dull man in It/bradley Wig­gins wannabe – all moun­tain-bike ac­tion shots that could be any­one.

5. The eco-war­rior gap-year stu­dent - art­fully di­shev­elled hair, astride ele­phants in Thai­land or con­nect­ing a wa­ter pump to an African vil­lage.

Betty says that af­ter a while ev­ery­one starts to look the same. I know what she means. But where she gets Bum­ble fa­tigue, I still find my­self hap­pily scrolling away in the hope of find­ing her Mr Right. The usual form is for me to whit­tle the best down to three for her fi­nal pe­rusal. They have to be tall and blonde, with a hint of the spiv about them. The ones I present she dis­misses with a Scar­lett O’hara-type in­sou­ciance bor­der­ing on cal­lous. ‘But he looks nice!’ I say. Once I thought I’d found him: ‘He’s tall, blond and spivvy and guess what? He only lives round the cor­ner!’

But it turned out Betty had known the boy from her pre-school nurs­ery. ‘He used to stamp on my sand­wiches.’ ‘He won’t still be stamp­ing on sand­wiches. Cut the boy some slack!’

‘He got a girl preg­nant in Year 11… and drunk-drove his dad’s car into the Co-op.’ ‘Oh.’ So far she has been on one Bum­ble date. He was Scots-posh – his fam­ily owns an es­tate in the High­lands. I se­cretly had great hopes for the Laird. But just as Betty started men­tally pick­ing out Far­row & Ball shades to re­fur­bish the tired-look­ing Scot­tish cas­tle he would one day in­herit (she’d found it on Google maps), he told her he was see­ing some­one else. ‘I’m done with Bum­ble,’ she de­clared. So then I thought… per­haps young PC Wayne, who was so kind over the loss of her hand­bag. But she wasn’t in­ter­ested.

‘I’ll just stick to Lupin,’ she said, throw­ing her arms round the dog.

‘You can’t have him,’ I snapped. ‘He’s mine.’

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