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Even the Oxo Mum can run a younger man into the ground."There was a man, substantially younger than me, on the production team . ." said Lynda Bellingham, 56, the actress who once played the homely mother in advertisements, as she recalled the fun she had recently had on a Prague film set. This year a survey by Prevention magazine found 55 per cent of Australian women had dated a younger man. A look at figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests us lesser mortals are following the trend, with the proportion of relationships where women are at least 10 years older than their partner rising 23 per cent between 19.If good impressions are made, scorecards are ticked. Sandy from America seemed to be looking for something a little more permanent: her ex-husband (number two) had been 10 years her junior. Tricia, 39, in a denim jacket, ordered me to stand. Jason still didn't have a well-groomed hair out of place, but he seemed a little downcast. Oh, mate - she's bailed."Nadine had indeed bailed, leaving behind a trail of broken(ish), young(ish) hearts. Tricia had quietly ditched her name tag and moved to a public section of the bar - one with a fair smattering of tall young men. Europe has been a place of battles and political intrigue for centuries.If the ticking is mutual, Speed Dater will pass on e-mail addresses and leave it to you. It was probably safe to assume that Emily had not simply slipped out to fetch a suspender belt. Gazing out of the window, however, was a young man whose diffident manner made him seem much more youthful then the rest. As we approach a vote on the UK's membership of the European Union, we look at what 50 writers, actors, historians, artists and comedians have said about Europe and its nations.Experienced women now revel in their youthful conquests while speculating phlegmatically on how long their young beaus might last."If he dies, he dies," said Joan Collins, 71, of her new husband Percy Gibson, 38.
And that's just what younger men are keen on, too."At the bar in Tiger Tiger, I met Jason from Australia, a fellow aspiring toy boy. I was calculating that I was four years past my sell-by date. You will 'ave to wait."She had come to London to work as a translator, and also specialised in therapeutic baby massage. It is not all true." Nadine could be quite stern when she needed to be.
Liam was balding; Liverpudlian Rob was greying and unhappy. "Older women," he quickly assured us, "know what they want and don't waste time getting it. What seemed to vary far more, though, were conversational styles and motivation. Not at all."She fixed me with a broad grin, before spending the remaining two minutes and 30 seconds telling me that some of the men she had been out with "really needed therapy"; that she had had problems with "abusive relationships", but was now a psychology student, "so I know how to avoid that". Older men, or men of the same age, were A Bad Thing."Never, ever again," said Abigail, her head sinking at the memory."They were vile," said Emily of her speed dating experiences with contemporaries. Men of my own age are so old and angry and divorced. Irresistible to Sandy the American; and perhaps to Alison the Divorcee, who was moving in his direction as I left Tiger Tiger - or the last chance saloon, as I had come to think of it - for the cold London night. The Big Short, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' book of the same name about the causes of the financial crisis, opens in UK cinemas this weekend.
You get past stages one, two and three pretty quickly." (This, I discovered, was a popular theory among the would-be toy boys.) Dan, the Speed Dater organiser, explained the rules: everyone meets a partner for three minutes before they are moved on by the bell. Pamela from Belfast was in London for Wimbledon and thought she could squeeze in a few toy boys before her day out at Centre Court. Alison, who ran her own nursery school, was newly divorced and had been inspired by a television comedy about a woman in her forties "getting her life together". She flashed a conspiratorial smile before becoming unduly interested in meeting my 27-year-old brother. Younger men are much more in tune with women, more open-minded." (Strangely enough, I agree wholeheartedly with Emily's theory.) I returned to the bar to stand with the outnumbered "spare" men. I have a date for Friday." He was, I discovered, about to start at a City law firm; he had just completed a Masters degree. How will the story stack up against the greatest films about business?
Well, somehow, over the years, a succession of attractive teachers and French assistants had managed to resist my schoolboy charms.
Even more bafflingly, when I went to babysit, well-to-do, fragrant mothers had made it clear - very clear - that they really did want me only for my babysitting.