"I’m happy, healthy, confident and solvent. So why the problem in finding a new partner? Either I’m introduced to the friend of a friend, and find myself instantly becoming an experiment under a microscope, or I’m exposed to the slings and arrows of the manifold sources of blind dates.

"Then a friend suggested I contact an acquaintance of hers who worked for a dating agency called Ivy. Me and a dating agency? You have to be joking. Pay to find somebody? Do me a favour. But I thought I’d have a bit of fun so I called the contact, who turned out to be the brand ambassador. She immediately arranged a time to visit me at home. That, I reckoned, might prove to be quite entertaining.

"The lady who appeared was not at all what I expected. Elegant and well spoken, she took the measure of me long before I had the measure of her. We spoke for two relaxed and enjoyable hours before going out to lunch together. She promised me that Ivy International only here to help me help myself and, totally against my preconceptions, I believed her sincerity.

"We got straight into the paperwork, and within ten days I was a fully signed-up member of the Ivy International network.

"The brand ambassador passed me onto the matchmaker who, having been given a full briefing on who I am and how I tick, called me with a proposal of two ladies she thought I should consider as possible matches. One based in the UK, where I live, and one in mainland Europe.

"I asked the matchmaker’s advice as to which of the two matches I should try to meet first. Without hesitation she urged me to focus on the European lady who, according to her, should prove to be a match made in heaven.

"What can I say?

The probability of our meeting by chance are one in three hundred million at best

"I duly called the lady at her home in northern Italy, not too far from Milan. We spoke on the phone and discovered the cultural, social and intellectual compatibilities promised by the Ivy representatives had not been exaggerated. We instantly hit it off: both being multilingual, we slipped seamlessly between English and Italian. By the second phone call we agreed on a meeting. The following weekend I flew out to Milan, where we rendezvoused at her chosen hotel. Nothing too expensive, nothing too flashy; just a good and decent place in the centre of town and close to the museums.

"They say that you know within 30 seconds whether you’ll like somebody or not. In our case it didn’t even take that long. Rather than having to tick the “yes” boxes, all we needed to do was to see if there were any “no” boxes to mark. Five months on I still have to find one.

"After a short weekend together in Milan, it was clear we wanted to spend more time in each other’s company. The next meeting brought her to my home in England. Then as soon as it could be arranged, I flew out to see her home in Italy. Now we are planning our time together many months out, and are looking forward to holidays travelling in both England and Italy as we further introduce each other to our respective countries.

"We often have a little giggle that, apart from me finding my match on my first Ivy introduction, the probability of our meeting by chance are one in three hundred million at best. It’s not just the skill of the Ivy International team but the courage it took both of us to admit to ourselves that we were busy but lonely. Had we not had been bold enough to place ourselves in Ivy’s hands, none of this would ever have happened.

"The team, including the company’s principal Inga Verbeeck herself, are in regular touch with both of us to check all is well. Membership of the Ivy International family does not stop with a successful encounter.

"On the back of our experiences, both of us have brought good friends to Ivy International. There is a truth in the observation that nobody really values what is free. Though Ivy’s fees are not modest, they do offer assurance that there are no “chancers” on their books and that the members are serious in their intentions. That alone is worth its weight in gold when dealing with affairs of the heart.

"I cannot thank the members of the team enough for having pushed me when I wavered, and for having so richly rewarded the trust I placed in them."

For information on memberships please go to ivy-relations.eu or contact enquiries@ivy-international.eu