Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make Mine a Single

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make Mine a Single

Article excerpt


A tiny island off the coast of Co Mayo has emerged as for romantics in search of a perfect partner.

Alan Bestic reports

SURELY it is time singles weekending,a sport requiring skill,judgment and valour,joined synchronised swimming on the Olympic scene.And when it receives the international recognition it deserves,may I suggest the inaugural event should take place on Clare Island,five miles long,three miles wide and four miles off the coast of County Mayo,next stop Boston?

Too remote?Nonsense.Upmarket singles weekends have been held there twice a year since 1996,packing a fortnight 's action into three days.

And I know what I am talking about.

I 'm just back from one,exhausted, but triumphant.

What gives Clare an edge over the rest of the world?Crispy clean air, and water gallons of it.The Atlantic,indeed,guaranteed to wash away the most stubborn inhibition.

Then there is Donal O 'Shea,the island 's manager a singles week grand master who has been organising them all these years.

His skill and flair for the outrageous attracts the world 's finest:the likes of Mark,an urbane Dublin psychologist,for instance.I watched in awe as he embarked on three embryonic partnerships simultaneously.Did any reach maturity?Who cares?It is the taking part that counts.

These topflight performers train hard,of course.As soon as we arrived,they were sitting down to a getting-to-know-you supper in the Bayview,Clare Island 's only hotel.

Within minutes they were fighting for word space,an ancient Irish blood sport.

After that they occupied the bar-cum-dance floor where we jigged and reeled to fiddle and melodeon.And they were still at it when I retired early no later than 2.30am because a heavy day 's work loomed.

I woke to the bleating of a waggly-tailed lamb outside my bedroom window and straight after breakfast went walking round the island with the other singles,another getting-to-know-you exercise in case jigging and reeling had interfered with the memory process.After that it was back to the Bayview for a Donal O 'Shea briefing.

There was to be computer dating, he said,with a matchmaker standing by in case of hackers or crash.We would be tagged,too,each with one name from famous couples Adam and Eve,Victoria and Albert,Bill and Hillary and so on.Then we had to seek out our better or worse halves,a lapel-nuzzling exercise.

The major event,however,designed to sift the stars from the rest,was Blind Date,played according to the time-honoured rules of Cilla (Gorra Lorra)Black,the sport 's Marchioness of Queensbury.Drinks at the bar,rather than world cruises, were the prizes,but competition,nevertheless,was ferocious.

To limber up for it we repaired to the dance floor,renamed Ballroom of Romance for the night,and gyrated a while with controlled frenzy to the music of Twice as Nice,an experienced group well used to the sight of blood. …

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