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.’