Roddy L’Estrange: Things start to look up for Vinny on Passion Sunday

Lonely separated dad gets a quick response to his ad on a dating online website

With a tingling in his fingertips akin to the sensation he felt when he placed a bet, Vinny Fitzpatrick opened his gmail account on Sunday night to check for a message.

Not just any message mind, but one related to the advertisement he had placed earlier that day on a website, for a fee.

It wasn’t a site he was familiar with, unlike Done Deal or Adverts which he scanned occasionally for second hand golf clubs or a half-decent Raleigh.

This was an online dating agency called ‘Game, Set And Match’ and Vinny was one of its newest customers. His conversion to the road of cyber-dating had arrived in a Pauline moment over his cornflakes that morning.


Scanning the papers – he had more time on his hands these days – he had come across the story of Robin Rinaldi, the San Francisco woman who had taken 12 months off her marriage to sleep around.

Rinaldi had placed an ad on a website, seeking help to “explore her sexuality”, sat back and was nearly galloped under by the replies.

Rinaldi was “a 44-year-old professional, educated, attractive woman in an open marriage” who was “seeking single men 35-50”.

As milk dribbled down his stubbly chin, Vinny thought for a moment. Here he was, middle-aged, free and single.

His wife had deserted him, taken their kids, and he was left to pick up the pieces.

At 57, what was ahead of him? Gargle with the lads, the odd golf outing with the Soiled And Ancient, a few more years behind the wheel of the 130, and a raft of bets that were bound to go belly-up, that’s what.

Predictable lifestyle

It was a safe, predictable, lifestyle but there was room, he knew, for a supplement of what he liked to call “a bit of how’s your father”’.

Not that Vinny was akin to a dog in heat. He was your steady twice-a-week man, Sunday afternoons after dinner, and a midweek rattle was sufficient to keep his creaky hinges oiled. If Vinny was more splash and dash under the blankets these days than a marathon man, he was in deep into his 58th year and not as nimble as before.

He pondered his predicament, considered the potential journey ahead. Do I pay a €10 fine or take a chance, he thought? With that, he reached for his mobile.

Fran, his oldest friend, had been through a messy divorce before falling on his feet with a Lithuanian lovely half his age who kept his launderette business spinning, and a bit more besides.

For matters of the heart, there was no more reliable sounding board.

An hour later, the first draft for the ad on ‘Game, Set And Match’ had been cobbled together and an A4 sized piece of paper lay on the kitchen table in Vinny’s home on Causeway Avenue.

It read: “Whether you’re a headstrong filly or a brood mare, back a winner with Vinny F from Clontarf. Ruggedly handsome, extremely social, I’m always game for a sporting chance.”

Fran, who fancied himself as a wordsmith, was chuffed at his handiwork.

“They’ll be beating a path to your door, Vinny. You’ll be like the Pied Piper to all those lonely hearts out there, a Yummy-Mummy magnet!”

But Vinny wasn’t so sure. “Isn’t it a bit over the top? If I saw that, I might be inclined to turn the other cheek,” he said.

"Why not say it as it is; that I'm plump, plain, like a pint and a punt. At least anyone who responds will know what to expect. I'm not bleedin' Richard Chamberlain. "

After a wee nip here, and tuck there, the compromise was reached and Vinny Fitzpatrick became a member of the fastest category of online global daters – the over 55s.

His ad was as straight as Michael Clarke’s bat. “Hi, I’m a genuine 57-year-old guy, separated, professional and living on Dublin’s northside. I’d like to meet a lady for friendship, socialising, maybe more. Genuine replies only. Thanks for reading this.’

Eyes shone

Along with his ad, he uploaded a photo of himself, taken the September before last in Foley’s after the Dubs reclaimed Sam – his cheeks were ruddy, his eyes shone and his hand was wrapped around a pint of Uncle Arthur.

“That’s you alright,” grinned Fran. “Wish you well, me ol’ mucker.”

Vinny made a promise not to check for any replies until that night, as he had much to do, especially his duties at St Gabriel’s Church. It was Passion Sunday, which he felt was appropriate for the day that was in it, and Vinny was needed for the 11.30 Mass.

At Leo Lavelle’s request, his duties in his local church had expanded. On this day, on top of being the oldest altar boy in the parish, Vinny had to place palm fronds in the pews, and take responsibility for the collection baskets when Mass was over.

With First Communion coming up, and Easter Week about to kick off, there was a larger than usual congregation, many of them excitable nippers.

For Vinny, the service went smoothly. He didn’t spill anything from the cruets, donged his bell firmly and loudly, and scooped up the baskets without any mishaps.

Afterwards, in the sacristy, he diligently counted the collection and noted among the fivers and tenners a small brown envelope.

White card

It wasn’t unusual, as some parishioners gave more generously than others, but what was unexpected was the name, written on black ink, on the flap. ‘FAO Vinny,’ it read.

Curious, Vinny’s fat fingers flipped open the envelope. Inside was a plain white card upon which was written, “Liked what I saw online this morning. Sent you a reply”.

Instantly, Vinny looked about him, even though he was alone in the sacristy. “Good God,” he said aloud.

Distracted, Vinny rushed through his remaining jobs, blowing out the candles, locking the tabernacle, and placing the collection in the sacristy’s safe ahead of the Monday morning bank deposit. Vinny was due to meet the lads in Foley’s for a loosener ahead of the Ireland – Poland game but he gave the hostelry a swerve and headed home. After all, he’d got mail.