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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
'Girlfriend wanted: Apply here'
By Emma Griffiths
BBC News, London

Jeremy's flier
Jeremy Butler seems like a nice sort of chap. At 6ft 5in tall and more than 17 stone, he's built like a rugby player but prefers cricket and tennis.

Blue-eyed, dark hair, a professional guy, he says he is good company, quite articulate and not "particularly unattractive".

He is also single and "utterly sick of the whole speed dating genre going on at the moment".

So Jeremy, 32, is taking matters into his own hands. This weekend he is setting up his stall on a busy spot on Crouch End Broadway, in north London.

He has asked the council for permission, and has handed out more than 200 fliers advertising the "vacant position of his girlfriend" (Experience an advantage but not essential).

Application forms

There is also a 3m-tall banner reading: "Girlfriend wanted, apply here".

For those prepared to give it a shot, there will also be application forms.

He sees it as an opportunity to get talking and tell people "what I'm about, face to face".

He is hoping to meet a variety of women who like his idea and want to find out what he's doing.

I find people very unapproachable
Jeremy Butler

"If I get a long-term partner out of it, fantastic," said Jeremy, a corporate account manager with aspirations to be a professional comedy writer.

"But I'm intrigued to see people's reactions - whether they treat it with utter suspicion, that's the reason I'm doing it for two days."

He has lived in the Scilly Isles and Sydney and never had a problem finding a girlfriend, but that has changed since he came back to London four years ago.

"I find people very unapproachable," he said.

'Quite distressing'

"I travel to and from work on public transport and the amount of people going out of their way to avoid eye contact - I find it quite distressing."

"I look back to other places where I have lived, in Devon where I grew up, and I wouldn't think twice about approaching people when I was out.

"But in London I find it so difficult and so frustrating."

He is not the only one determined not to leave meeting Mr or Ms Right to chance.

500,000 singletons

The humble lonely hearts column has long since been left behind by the likes of speed dating, dating agencies and text services to events such as Dinner in the Dark.

A BBC News investigation found an estimated 500,000 singletons in London had signed up for internet dating.

Last month two Welsh people were persuaded to advertise their love for sale on giant billboards on a busy high street in Newport.

Peter Spalton, whose workshops on dating and flirting have earned him his "Dating Doctor" nickname, thinks singletons are looking for different ways to meet people.

Jeremy is onto a good thing, he's standing out from the crowd and trying to be different - and good luck to him
'Dating doctor' Peter Spalton

"We all have time limits and that's the problem. If you work, you don't necessarily want to socialise with the people you work with," he told BBC News.

"We seem to be very short on time [outside work] - so Jeremy is onto a good thing, he's standing out from the crowd and trying to be different - and good luck to him."

He advises Jeremy to build confidence by striking up conversations with people in bookshops and music stores or anywhere else he might find someone with a shared interest.

Also, practising smiling is important - although not on the Tube, which is apparently a bit of a romance-killer ("people don't respond").

Just don't appear to be desperate - nobody likes someone who is desperate
'Dating doctor' Peter Spalton

"London's so busy, people tend to rush a lot more. They don't have time, so they tend to steam along looking at the floor - it's difficult to approach people in that situation," he said.

"Just don't appear to be desperate - nobody likes someone who is desperate".

Jeremy is threatening to return the following weekend if his approach is not taken seriously.

"I'm not blasť enough to say I wouldn't really like to meet someone out of it - imagine talking about that to your grandkids," he added.

Making friends in lonely London
02 Jul 04 |  London
Looking for fast love?
17 Feb 04 |  Hampshire/Dorset
Dating in the dark
11 Sep 03 |  London

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