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‘ mixologist Merlin who probes with a knowing eye: “So what kind of a person are you looking for?” “A tall sporty type who loves his mum,” might be the response as in the background looms a 6ft 5ins rugby player approaching the restaurant's door.
With no chance of dinner dates on the horizon, online agencies and apps are the order of the day – from (founded in 1995) to Tinder. A whole range of apps have since followed and now it's commonplace (so I'm told) for people to have at least one dating app on their phone from Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Hinge, Badoo and Bumble, etc.
However, experience has now taught us that you don’t necessarily need to fork out on dates to get to know someone - with the opportunity presented by Zoom, many singles have instead been video calling to work out if there might be a spark and, apparently, many new relationships have blossomed. The usual dating apps have also added a number of functions, including video chat and calls, to connect people while being apart is enforced.
And it seems new apps are now evolving all the time – and some of these help those who don’t necessarily want to communicate via camera, but want to explore if there’s more chemistry than simply swiping through and trying to keep a conversation going through messages. Take Profoundly: this helps open a conversation with interesting questions and entertaining icebreakers;
only when you’ve chatted enough will it unlock your match’s photos - the 2021 edition of Blind Date.
String was launched last year as a way to make dating during self-isolation more personal, rather than sending robotic one- liners, the app lets the user put a voice to your matches’ pictures by sending each other voice-notes. No texting is allowed: reaction is via emoji. While some people think this approach to dating works, others complain that using it is too frustrating and complicated, when technology was supposed to make it easier. However, the use of these apps not surprisingly has soared during the pandemic.
Back to the long-lost clattery restaurant scenario: we're all yearning for the day when we can sit in a crowded busy conversation filled bar or restaurant – and of course restaurant owners are among the first to want this. Maria Broadbent chef-owner of Casa, on Bury’s Risbygate Street, says: “We all know that the lack of human interaction has been so difficult – and many now simply will be just looking to connect in future days when meeting up is possible once more. Who knows we might host some evenings for those simply wanting company, to find a space that they can feel comfy in, eat, drink, chat and meet - and at Casa anything goes from ballgowns to flip flops and Hawaiian shirts. Strict, rigid dating isn't necessarily for everyone, so a format where people can meet dine and socialise would be a good starting point.” Today's dating world is certainly a maze, but
  Beware of Tinder bots
Tinder bots are scripts written to imitate human conversations intended to spam or scam users. There are several ways to identify Tinder bots: 1) they respond immediately, 2) their photos look too perfect, 3) their bio section looks fishy, 4) the person’s Tinder profile isn’t linked to external social media accounts.
Trust your gut feeling
Dating fraudsters are usually into you too much and too quickly. Watch out for matches who confess their love after a short period of interaction.
When online looking for love
 Low carbon love
Recalling Culford’s green dating agency
Back in the late eighties the Culford-based dating agency, Natural Friends, was probably the leading contact point for non-
smokers, people with interests in environmental issues, vegetarianism and alternative therapies.
Says Barbara Bradshaw, who founded the agency with her late husband James: “Green issues were just beginning to be talked about. As far as I know, no other agency was aimed at a specific interest group at that time.” Part of the reasoning behind the launch was summed up in their introductory letter. “Sincere, caring people – those who might shun the rat-race mentality – are still finding it difficult to meet like-minded partners. The simple aim of Natural Friends is to concentrate such people in one place so it becomes easier to make contact.”
As pioneers in the dating industry the Bradshaws (both ex-biology teachers at Culford School) saw their home-based business attracting dozens of regional and national newspaper articles, though as matchmakers the
couple kept a low profile. Perhaps it’s because Natural Friends ‘introduced’ rather than ‘matched up’. Subscribers (who paid around £30-£40 for a year’s membership) were asked to write about themselves in a 100-word paragraph which went into a bi- monthly newsletter distributed to all members. That membership grew to well over 2,000 at one stage.
Does Barbara recall any of the dates blossoming into marriages? “Sorry, I’ve no idea,” she says. “Unless people told us about it, we had no means of knowing, though we once heard one of our members was going to marry so we got a little gift but then it was called
  Former teachers James and Barbara Bradshaw

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