I’d rather bathe in Harpic than have an affair


’I got an iPhone about a decade after the rest of the country.’ Photograph: Daniel Law/PA Wire

’I got an iPhone about a decade after the rest of the country.’ Photograph: Daniel Law/PA Wire


I got an iPhone about a decade after the rest of the country, and I’m gobsmacked. As you doubtless already know, at the merest tap of an app you can read the tides, lasso a cab, check the temperature in Ballygosideways, download the ingredients for a puttanesca sauce, peruse a fresco, or send snaps of the poodle in a pinny to your niece in Nova Scotia.

You can also, if you’re so inclined, organise an extramarital affair. I know this because an ambassador (in a pair of very nice nylons) to the world’s
number-one dating site for discreet encounters told the nation all about it in a recent television interview. I didn’t see the programme; I read about it on my iPhone while I was waiting for the rain to stop.

For the record, I’d rather bathe in Harpic than have an affair. There are things I yearn for, certainly: I’d like to see India and have bony knees, but the thought of having to negotiate someone else’s tetchy spouse would not be high on my list of priorities.

Anyway, the nylon-clad ambassador was enlightening the viewers on the work of a married dating service (which, when you think about it, is a bit like an undertaker offering an awfully lively death package); apparently, you join the agency if you’re married and want a fling, or if you’re feeling – as the agency’s website so delicately puts it – “neglected and in need of excitement”.

Categorising and introducing prospective adulterers based on location and personal preferences, the dating service has a website packed with images of leggy girls in elasticated holdups and uncomfortable shoes, who don’t look one bit neglected or in need of excitement. And, underlining the discreet nature of the service, there’s an image of a well-manicured finger covering some provocatively fissured and rounded lips. “Shush,” the website seems to be saying, “don’t tell anyone.”

Presumably the enterprise is making somebody somewhere very rich and tanned. It’s a riot, communication gone mad, a clandestine service that’s about as circumspect as a hippopotamus in a deckchair.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought affairs were, by their nature, suffuse with caution. I thought affairs were supposed to skulk around nylon-carpeted hotel bedrooms under the protective gauze of cloak and dagger. Affairs happen in staffrooms and boardrooms and committee rooms. They begin over photocopiers and hospital trolleys, and under the tender gaze of borrowed lawnmowers and trembling knitting needles, don’t they?

Affairs are messy and disorganised, with a lot of weeping in bathrooms and changing passwords and buying new underwear and developing a sudden interest in weekend fly-fishing courses, aren’t they? Affairs lie. Affairs are cagey.

Since when do affairs advertise themselves? Why in the name of God would you stick a great big mooing photo of yourself on a dating website to broadcast your inclination towards infidelity?

And what if two people in the same marriage signed up to the website? Based on past predilections and that all-important postal code, you could end up shelling out your readies to shag your spouse.

It’s like a cyber version of that awful song where a couple answer an ad in a personal column because “you like making love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape, and you’re not into yoga, you are into champagne” and they end up on a blind date with each other.

The song will make you throw up quicker than a pint of saline and a banana sandwich; it’s another ditty telling us that Prince Charming is actually that eejit sitting opposite you at the breakfast table, drinking out of the Sex Pistols mug, with his elbow in the porridge.

Oh, what do I know about dating sites for the itchy attached? I’m still suspicious of online supermarket shopping, I dither about special offers on the cat food. What’s more, I remember when a telephone used to be the size of a small calf and sat on the hall table next to the artificial roses and porcelain ballerina, readying itself for a ring. If you’d asked one of those old Bakelites to organise a bit on the side, it would have spat brimstones at you.

However, if you are tempted, let me warn you, you’ll be asked to tick a box to describe your body type: fit, slim, carrying a few pounds, cuddly, or “Zaftig”.

Zaftig? Zaftig? What’s Zaftig? Has language become entirely random? Do people ask “Does my bum look zaftig in this?”

I gave up, pressed the little bin button on my iPhone, and the entire enterprise poured into my delete box like molten wax. God, I love technology.