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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 09:53 GMT
'I didn't believe in love at first sight - but I do now'
Penny and Richard
Penny, 29, and Richard, 39, are now engaged
Last Valentine's Day, Richard Jones got roped into going to the Red Cross blind date ball. He never thought he'd meet his ideal woman there - until he saw Penny McCarthy.

If someone had told me last year that I'd meet my future wife at the Desperate and Dateless Ball, I would never have believed it.

A friend from work had asked all us singles if we'd like to go, and I decided that I had nothing better to do on a cold February night. I wasn't looking for love; I just wanted a chance to get dressed up and have a laugh.

At the Desperate and Dateless Ball, Red Cross photo
Daters fill in a quick questionnaire
Each gets a computer matched blind date
An appeal has gone out for more men
Me and my friends had opted out of being computer matched with blind dates. We hung out together at first, but after several trips to the bar I felt like a bit of a spare part as the girls were being chatted up. So I hit the dance floor.

Just as I was performing one of my moves (don't ask!), there she was, coming towards me - the most gorgeous vision in a tight black corset.

Our eyes met across the crowded dance floor and I uttered the immortal line 'hello'. She stopped and we started to dance. Her date had disappeared; they hadn't got on.

'I was hooked'

I don't think my moves were particularly smooth; the drink had kicked in, I had lost all my inhibitions and was out for a laugh, so when she walked past, I just thought 'Wow' and plucked up the courage to speak to her.

Penny and Richard
Both were working in the City when they met
As I was due to go away on holiday the week after, I didn't want to leave so I arranged to meet her on the Monday, two days after the ball.

By then I was completely hooked so we had lunch on Wednesday and saw her again on Friday. I half scared the poor girl to death, I was that keen to see her. She must have been keen too, because we're getting married in June.

I proposed last October, and soon after that we started planning a round-the-world trip together. Penny left the UK soon after, and I came out to meet her in January.

Cilla Black's wedding in 1969
The Marylebone registry office has long been a favourite for weddings
We'll mark Valentine's Day - and the anniversary of when we first met - in the South Island of New Zealand. We plan to find a nice hotel for the night, and crack open a good bottle of wine we've picked up on our travels. Penny is a Kiwi, which is half the reason we're here.

After New Zealand, we're off to Australia and Africa before heading back to the UK to get married. It's going to be a fairly low-key affair at Marylebone Registry Office [now Westminster Registry Office]. As most of Penny's close friends and family are already in the UK, there won't have to be a mass exodus to London for the wedding.

So as it turned out, going to the ball was the best thing I ever did. I didn't believe in love at first sight before, but I do now.

Some of your comments so far:

I went to the D & D Ball last year and it was brilliant. I'm still going out with the girl I was matched with last year.
John, England

I spent a very long time - well over 3 years - looking for a boyfriend, mainly on the internet. I met lots of interesting people and had a lot of fun. But I had given up on finding the right person for me. Then I met David. He put his ad on a site and sent me a message straight away. It was the only one he sent. An hour later I responded and we met that evening as I was feeling spontaneous. We both knew there was something totally different from our first meeting: After dating an awful lot of people who weren't right for me I was in a position to recognise someone that really was.
Sarah, England

I joined a dating agency and had great fun meeting people but never clicked with anyone. Meanwhile, a friend of a friend suggested a blind date with someone in London (they thought we'd get on because we both went ski-ing). Since I lived in Glasgow, it didn't seem like a match made in heaven... but still! We met just before Valentine's Day and both thought 'Wow!'. We didn't waste any time and married at the beginning of July. Still together after 9 years!
Isabel, Scotland

I joined a computer dating agency and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I could not understand why it took me so long to join. Better still, as a result, I met and married the love of my life, Gill. We've been married 10+ years now with two great kids.
Andy, Sheffield, UK

I was living in Stoke-on-Trent, and got new job in Norfolk. Whilst out celebrating in Blackpool with mates, I stumbled into this girl outside some club toilets. After 4 years driving the length and breadth of the country every week, we're getting married next summer.
Smurf, UK

Signing up to was the best thing I ever did as I met my wife on it. We're both happy and know that given the chances of us meeting any other way the web has proved to a be a fantastic matchmaker.
Sean Hogan, UK

Real Time gives people a chance to tell their own stories in their own words. If you've got something to say, click here.

Richard Jones
"Her date had disappeared - they hadn't got on"


Heart warming
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See also:

14 Feb 02 | UK
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13 Feb 03 | Health
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