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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 09:56 GMT
Love in a bold climate
By John Hand
BBC News

The thought of spending Valentine's Day alone can drive some folk to irrational extremes... like advertising for a mate on a billboard. Such pranks are guaranteed to get attention, but do they work?

Over the past year the BBC News website has featured the stories of five singletons who resorted to unusual steps in the quest to find love, from marketing their wares on eBay to advertising in the High Street.

As 14 February - an ominous day in the diary of all lovelorn folk - rolls around again, which, if any of these brave souls, can expect a Valentine's card to drop through their letter box?

LOVE ME, LOVE MY FIXTURES AND FITTINGS

Deborah Hale

Highly desirable with some unique features... and that was just the house.

American businesswoman Deborah Hale had little idea of the impact she would make when - weary of her search for a perfect husband to share her perfect home - she decided to put the latter on the market in the hope of meeting the former.

The 48-year-old marketed her lovingly remodelled 330,000 three-bedroom home in Denver, Colorado, on eBay with a twist - marriage with her came as part of the bargain.

There were some ground rules. Her Mr Right needed to be between 40 and 60, well-educated, fond of travel, kind and generous. And the deal was a non-binding transaction, meaning neither side had to go through with it if they weren't 100% compatible.

That wasn't enough to satisfy eBay, which banned the sale for breaking its rules. But, undaunted, Deborah continued the sale through her own website - housewithbride.com - which allowed prospective husbands and house-buyers to peruse the property and its owner.

Deborah had hoped to seal the deal by Valentine's Day but after being "overwhelmed" with 4,000 responses, she says she needs more time to narrow the field.

Father figure

"I had to rope in some girlfriends to help to sift through the replies and the latest situation is that I've narrowed it down to the final 50," she says.

"I've already had a couple of dates and I'm planning on meeting several of the others. Ideally I'd like to meet them all and I'm hopeful of a good outcome.

"Some of them were just interested in the house and some just wanted to meet me. But that isn't such a problem - my main goal out of this is to meet my life mate."

Does she have any advice for the final 50, all hoping to carry her over the threshold?

"If we're compatible, it doesn't need to be complicated.

"My beliefs regarding love, relationships and marriage were born out of the examples set by my father and mother, who were married for 35 years. I guess that, like most women, I'm looking for someone who is a bit like my dad."

GIRLFRIEND WANTED: APPLY HERE

Jeremy Butler's flyer

Successful businessman Jeremy Butler decided the answer to finding his dream girlfriend was to apply some of his finely-honed vocational skills to his search.

So, at the height of last year's glorious summer, the corporate accounts manager set up a stall on a busy spot in north London, marketing his own wares with a 3m-tall banner reading "Girlfriend wanted: apply here".

Prospective candidates for the "vacant position of girlfriend - experience not essential" were invited to fill in an application form.

So did Jeremy seal the deal?

"It was a fantastic couple of days. I met so many lovely people, not just potential girlfriends but people - male and female, young and old - offering advice and congratulating me on my courage in trying something different," he says.

"I ended up with 93 phone numbers after the two days. I went on quite a few dates - about half a dozen - but none of them worked out long-term. There was one person that I really did like but it was the wrong time, wrong place for us."

So Jeremy remains single but definitely still looking for "The One".

"I have great belief that, when love comes, it will come out of the blue. I will speak to anyone in any circumstance, on the Tube or wherever, so I remain hopeful."

POSTER BOY... AND GIRL

Chris and Anna's billboard

Sometimes if you want people to notice you, you need to make an impact.

Welsh singletons Chris Seal and Anna Gardner did just that when they signed up for a TV experiment last year for the BBC Wales show Week In Week Out. The programme was investigating new methods of dating and paid to have the pair's faces plastered on a massive advertising billboard on a busy street in Newport.

Any passers-by who took a fancy to either Chris or Anna were invited to log on to a website and make their amorous feelings known.

Eight months on, neither has any regrets about their time as roadside romantics, even though Chris - a 32-year-old who promotes recycling for Newport Council - failed to attract a single response.

"But I didn't go in expecting too much from it, that's the best way to approach these things," says Chris.

"I've had a few dates since then but they've been with women I've met in bars or through work. But I'm still single. I think the best way to find a long-term partner is through friends rather than through a billboard."

'Old-fashioned way'

Anna, however, is now happily in a relationship, but says it has nothing to do with the many motorists who gazed upon her image.

"I had a couple of e-mails sent through to me but I didn't pursue any of them because they weren't my sort of thing," she says.

Instead the 27-year-old sales and marketing executive met her boyfriend of seven months in a pub.

"It was the old-fashioned way. I literally bumped into him and as we gradually got to know each other, we just got more interested.

"But I'm pleased I took part in the programme. I was single at that time and it was a bit of fun. When you're single, anything that gets you to meet new people is good, as long as you don't take it too seriously."

MOTHER KNOWS BEST

How the North Devon Journal reported the plea

Charming and impressing a potential mother-in-law is a vital task for many a boyfriend. So when Sabina O'Connor was seeking her dream man, her mother, Linda Adams, came up with an impressive game plan.

Linda wrote to her local newspaper, The North Devon Journal, inviting potential beaux to write a 500-word essay explaining why they should be allowed to date 24-year-old student Sabina.

The ensuing spread in the weekly paper attracted attention from far and wide - with newspapers around the world following up the story.

But it was the Journal that had the trusted role of passing on the applications to Linda and Sabina and checking a month later on how things had progressed.

Editor Richard Best said at the time that it was an ideal story for his newspaper - "a nice, light-hearted fun story which might have a happy outcome".

His paper went on to tell its readers the heartening news that Sabina had indeed found her man - although it was a suitor who wooed her through an internet chat site, rather than a Journal reader who poured his heart out on to the page.

However, Best and his paper reported one final romantic twist to the story. A businessman who saw the tale reported in the Times of India wrote to the Journal asking if Linda, rather than her daughter, would consider a relationship. But Linda, who was also single, declined the offer.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Love is like a butterfly, the more you chase it the more it will elude you. If, however, you ignore it, it will softly settle on your shoulder. This has proved so true for me. There is somebody for everybody out there. I wasn't looking for my soul mate but fate played its hand. We married last September.
Glen, Runcorn

After trying all the contrived methods of finding a soulmate, I have reluctantly concluded that serendipity is the only answer.
Philip Triebwasser, London

Sabina and Linda's story reminds me of my own mother. She teaches high school, and when I was that age she had a picture of me on her desk. Her students would always joke around and ask her if they could date me. She replied only if they got at least a 1500 on the SATs!
AS, Massachusetts, USA

Having met my boyfriend 11 years ago via an online bulletin board, I can say online romance works - I've always been a fairly shy person but I got to know him without any preconceptions before we met face to face for the first time. While there's always the chance of people pretending to be something they're not, you can get lucky! By the way, I wasn't looking for romance at the time - we just clicked and things blossomed from there...
Mary, Perth, Scotland

I think it's extreme to put ads in papers and on billboards, but I do understand it's more difficult to meet people these days because everyone seems to live in their own little bubbles. I met my boyfriend on the internet even though he lives just across the city. It was a great way to meet him because we chatted for ages, exchange pics and got to know each other a bit before we met. That made the both of us less nervous when we had our first date.
Mandi, Cardiff, Wales

Just one advice about Love.... DON'T LISTEN TO ADVICES....:)
Oliver, Paris

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