Who’ll find love on our blind date?

Who’ll find love on our blind date? This week it’s Mandy, 54, and James, 53,… but will romance be on the cards?

  • Every week FEMAIL sends a couple on a blind date and asks them to report back 
  • This week Mandy, 54, and James, 53, had dinner at The Beeches Restaurant
  • Are you a singleton who is keen to go on a blind date? Email: [email protected] 
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Every week, we send a couple on a blind date and report back. This time, James Hopley, 53, had dinner at The Beeches Restaurant in Solihull, in the West Midlands, with Mandy O’Boyle, 54.

James, a business development manager, lives in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Mandy is a school office manager who lives in Solihull. Both are divorced.


Mandy O’Boyle, 54, (pictured) is a school office manager from Solihull

When I arrived at the restaurant, I wasn’t nervous — I was terrified! I needn’t have been, though, because my date was waiting by the door and looking out for me.

From the start, James was an absolute gentleman, and well turned out in smart casual clothes. After ten minutes I realised that actually, I quite liked him. It’s hard not to as he is a warm and genuine guy.

James is one of those people with a lovely infectious smile. You can’t help smiling back. I’m not good at maintaining eye contact but he often held my gaze across the table. I found myself not wanting to turn away.

Funnily enough, we both ordered the same food. Chicken skewers to start, followed by fish and chips. We laughed as we discovered we’d both looked up the menu online beforehand. In my case, I had planned on wearing a shirt with dangly sleeves and I wanted to ensure there was nothing that would make me dip my hem into the dish.

We had so much in common it was surprising. James and I share similar views when it comes to family and children.

While my two daughters are excited for me to meet someone else after my divorce nine years ago, I really value my independence. I don’t need a man, but it would be nice to meet someone to enhance my life, and to do the same for him.

It was my mum who wrote in on my behalf for the blind date. She only told me after she had done it! It’s been difficult to meet someone because all my friends are married. Since my divorce, I’ve had one relationship that didn’t work out, and been on four dates with people I met online. During one spectacularly bad evening, my date’s tooth fell out! I’m afraid I went to the loo and walked out.

I must admit that if I had seen James on a dating app I would probably not have taken it further. He isn’t my usual type, but I appreciate now how short-sighted it is judge a book by its cover.

I think James has just the right amount of confidence without being arrogant — he was self-assured enough to wait by the door and ask if I was Mandy when I walked in, which I wouldn’t have dared to do. He also suggested we go straight to the table rather than have a drink first but he didn’t say it in a bossy way — he was assertive and polite.

How can you spark chemistry on a date?

Remembering to have fun on your date is one sure way to help with chemistry, says our Dating Doctor ALANA KIRK.

  • Nerves are natural. They don’t mean you won’t have a good time.
  • Be considerate, kind, approachable — and laugh.
  • Being open about your feelings is best for a connection.

At the end of the evening, I couldn’t judge what he thought about me. I took a deep breath and told him I’d had a lovely evening. I said if he wanted to exchange numbers then I was happy to.

When I got home I received a text message from him saying he’d had a lovely night, and since the date I catch myself smiling every time I think about our evening.

I’m at a stage where I am willing to give a relationship a go again. Is James dating material? Yes! We’re going out again this week. I’m really looking forward to it and hope we get on as well as on our first date.

LIKED? James’s text after the date.

REGRETS? Being absolutely petrified beforehand.


VERDICT: 10/10


James Hopley, 53, (pictured) is a a business development manager from Warwickshire

I made sure I was there before my date arrived. I hadn’t been on a blind date before, but I wanted to do what I could to put Mandy at ease.

My first impression of her was that she was quite nervous, but a lovely lady. She looked beautiful and was wearing a pretty blouse. She is attractive and in good shape — it’s obvious she goes to the gym regularly.

She’d also made an effort with her hair. Even if we don’t always say it, we men do notice and appreciate these things!

Chatting with her was easy. She talked about bad experiences on previous dates and how her mum had set her up on this occasion. She made me laugh when she told me that she isn’t into flirting, and her friends accuse her of being too fussy.

A lot of the values that are important to Mandy resonated with me, too. She is a strong woman, and close to her family, which made me warm to her. I admired her when she explained how she dealt with the end of her relationship with her ex.

She is lucky in that she still keeps in touch with her extended family — I miss that about mine, as it doesn’t always work that way when you split.

My ex and I divorced five years ago — we have three children, who are at college and university now. Once the idea of me being in a relationship would have upset them, but now they’re keen for me to be happy.

I was seeing someone I’d met via a dating website, but that finished at the end of last year. Since then I haven’t been on any dates. Even my barber is keen for me to get romantically involved and is always on the look out to fix me up with someone!

In the past I was much more open-minded about who I saw, but today I’m cautious about getting involved with someone who has younger children. I’ve given it a go previously and it is hard on everyone emotionally. Fortunately Mandy and I are at a similar stage with our children.

Most of all, I genuinely do want to meet someone who I can call my soulmate. Yes, I want someone I can be passionate about, but nowadays finding someone kind-hearted and caring is just as important.

The restaurant closed at 11pm and while the bar was still full, we were the last diners to leave. Mandy lives nearby and called her daughter to pick her up. While we waited we had a coffee together, and I settled the bill after she left.

It was a lovely evening, with good company in a picturesque gastropub. And luckily we’re going to do it again — I gave Mandy my number and we’ve been in touch and plan to meet this week.

I drove to the restaurant last time but Mandy doesn’t live far from me, so next time I’ll take the train. I think we’ll both be more relaxed and feel more at ease.

When you get to a certain age you aren’t expecting fireworks, but I am looking for a bit of chemistry.

Mandy ticks so many boxes that I want to give things a chance. I’ll know if there’s a spark when we next meet.

LIKED? Everything!

REGRETS? There weren’t the initial fireworks — but that could be nerves.



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