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Computer dating? It worked for me!

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She had been the last of four names on the computer printout. A computer run normally produced six names with addresses and telephone numbers, but my strict selection of criteria had severely limited the range of the memory banks! I'd written the same first letter to each of the women, telling them (tongue in cheek!) how carefully they'd been selected. It omitted nothing of importance, informing the selected and elected candidates even of my commitment to Christ, my involvement in lay preaching, and of my university degrees. To say the least, the letter was presumptuous!

Only two of the women replied - Pat, from the south of England, and Hilda, from the north of Wales. I paid for a second run, this time adjusting only one criterion: I cancelled my elimination of non-smoking women, and received a second printout with more names. All these received the same letter, and out of these only one replied - a very unlikely candidate ten years younger than me: Carol, in North Yorkshire, who warned me one could only expect to find someone one could 'gel' with if one were completely honest in filling out the form.

I knew, naturally, that a computer couldn't select a woman with what I called the golden key. But I felt pleased I had prayed. It made the adventure all the more exciting because now I had really committed myself to something that was more than a game. It was like having signed an agreement. It was daring and therefore, perhaps, exciting - and dangerous! Did I really want a marriage partner? Be careful when you pray! The Lord looks deep into the heart. If he sees an earnest desire there - a visualised goal - he's bound to take you seriously!

He certainly took me seriously.

But I didn't think so when I met Pat!

She flounced towards me as I emerged from customs at Heathrow, implanting a kiss on my cheek like the passing lick of a puppy.

'Hello!' she said in an accent that rang oddly in my ears. 'Told yer ah'd kiss yer, din' ah?!'

My reflex smile was like the outward mask of happiness.

I took in her soft milk-white skin, her rich auburn hair, the flecks of gold in her smiling brown eyes. And I took in her more then ample figure. The red slacks did nothing to diminish the impression of size, stretched around sturdy thighs and ending in flared bottoms.

'Hello, Pat,' I said as my mental vision of her dissolved. I added insincerely: 'Nice to see you.'

Though I spent a week seeing Pat - out of politeness - I had, in fact, eliminated her from that moment of meeting her at the airport. I really don't want to be unkind to her. Naturally, I'm not using her real name. And I'm sure that, by now, she has made someone a wonderful and loving wife. After all, she was a super cook. She was a bank clerk, and stored and catalogued all her pre-prepared meals, ticking off each one with meticulous care when she removed it from the freezer. She was incredibly organised. When we left for a picnic outing, she would remember everything, including my car keys, and the picnic would be packed with love and precision.

When I brought myself to tell her I would be moving on, she was heartbroken.

'What am I doing wrong?' she asked tearfully.

How could I tell her she didn't have the golden key?

She was trying too hard, perhaps. She was possessive and I felt smothered by her. Watching television with her on the sofa, I had felt quite compressed by her presence.

In some measure, I thought, Pat did complement me in a statistical sort of way. I was an absent-minded academic, out of touch with reality, while she was a practical, down-to-earth homemaker. In many respects the computer had come up trumps. She could cook, she could sew, and she was forever cheerful and went into raptures about babies. She was a ready-made housewife. And she didn't smoke.

A research project in the United States intervened and it was only after a month that I had the opportunity to look up Hilda in North Wales. And it was clear, from the outset, that she had been strictly honest about her personal data, for I had expected someone slim and tall.

She was the most elegant scarecrow I'd ever seen. No, I mean this quite sincerely. At five feet and eight inches, she was tall, and just short of thin. She made her own clothes and looked charmingly elegant in whatever she wore. She had her own house. Her antique furniture and tidy home radiated exquisite taste. She didn't smoke, of course. With her soft and sad eyes, she was a little self-effacing. She was also so gentle and so caring - a district nurse, and a lovely Christian. I'll always remember how, when we went to her village church together, she spent a long time on her knees praying. I felt she was praying for me. In retrospect I wonder, now, if she was an angel. She radiated peace.

I've never understood why I didn't fall in love with her. After all, she exactly matched all the details I'd specified. I recall how pleasantly surprised I was when she drew up in her little red car - when I glimpsed her gentle face framed by a mass of auburn hair. When she got out of the car I saw she was slender, very tall - perhaps a little ungainly - but immaculately dressed in a pale yellow wool suit. 'I'm a Welsh leek, you see,' she smiled. 'Long and thin!'

She was home-loving, too. The following evening I watched her with admiration as she prepared supper in her compact kitchen.

'Here,' she said, handing me a bowl and a whisk. 'Perhaps you could whisk this into some nice fluffy cream?'

'Certainly,' I said, and took the bowl to the worktop.

'Watch it doesn't turn into butter, now,' she lilted, smiling.

I watched her as I whisked the cream. I recalled how meticulously she pronounced the Welsh names as she drove me through the countryside, getting me to repeat the names and correcting me gently if I mispronounced them! As I whisked the cream I saw her again, in the church, on her knees, her auburn hair falling forward and over the high collar of her blouse. She looked thin and vulnerable, and my heart went out to her.

'How's it going?' she asked musically. Her faraway eyes smiled as she looked at me through the strands of her hair.

'Oh... yes.' My mind came back to my task. I looked into the bowl and there were lumpy yellow specks in the turgid texture of the cream. 'Well, I don't know. I think you'd better look at this.'

She came over. She looked taller than ever in a brown skirt and blouse that emphasised her slender figure.

'Oh!' she gasped. She put her hand to her mouth, her knees sagging a little under the effect of amusement. 'I've never actually seen anyone turn cream into butter. How did you do it?'

'You know, I'm not really fussy,' I apologised.

'Well,' she said, testing the thick mixture with her finger, 'it was supposed to float on top of the Irish coffee. If you don't mind it sinking to the bottom...' She smiled as she looked askance at me.

It's a moment that has remained with me - her relaxed manner and gentle sense of fun.

She would have made a superb companion. Though I was unaware of anything like a golden key, she was pleasant to be with. I might even have revisited her, had I not gone on to North Yorkshire and met Carol.

I might as well, I thought. After all, I had gone to the trouble of that second printout! So I took the train to Harrogate where I booked into a guesthouse just across Montpellier gardens where Carol shared a flat with three other girls. She was a secretary and, unlike Pat and Hilda, didn't have her own house. But then, she was only twenty-five. Pat and Hilda had both reached thirty. I knew that Carol couldn't fit my visualised ideal. For one thing, with the only letter I had received from her, she had enclosed a photograph of herself. It revealed a willowy girl in jeans seated on a motorcycle. The dark glasses she wore obliterated the eyes. She was hardly the helpmeet for an academic.

Nevertheless, I must confess, she was the girl that intrigued me most. There was something about her letter - a lively style with a bright and quick sense of humour. When I phoned her from London to make a date for meeting her, I was intrigued by the laughter that rippled through her speech. The Yorkshire accent was just detectable.

I felt I needed to impress this young lady. I made reservations for dinner at the Old Swan in Harrogate. No expenses spared. At least I would enjoy the evening. It was dark when she emerged from the door of her flat. I was aware of long straight hair with a nose that pointed through it, and a tall body with willowy arms ending in tapering fingers. 'Do you like curry?' she asked briskly. I said yes, but I'd booked a table at the Old Swan - and at once found myself marching vigorously to keep up with her long loose strides. We circumnavigated the Rolls Royce parked in the front of the hotel and before long were seated in one of the bar lounges.

'Do you really have a motorcycle?' I asked her.

'No!' She dug into her handbag and extracted a packet of cigarettes. 'In the photo I sent you I was posing on someone else's. But I do have a sewing machine.'

This was my first clear picture of her - lighting a cigarette and exhaling smoke. It went with her image of sophistication: the high cheekbones, the arched brows, the nonchalant smile. I took in the long dark hair, the snug-fitting black blouse and floral skirt. She had an air of a woman of the world. I distinctly remember thinking she was very attractive, in her worldly way, and an impossible catch for a fuddy-duddy like me.

'You must have a swarm of handsome young men after you,' I ventured. 'I'm amazed you're still single, even at twenty-five.'

'Oh,' she laughed, flicking her hair back. 'I'll never get married. There's so much to do.' She laughed. 'I didn't join Compudate for marriage, you know. I wanted a fresh range of friends.'

A warning? Or was it the old hard-to-get game?

All I know is that, by the end of the evening, I had fallen in love with her. The mere contact of her lips, when I kissed her goodnight, made my head spin. Her breath was smoky sweet from the cigarettes. All at once the ground dissolved. I fell and fell, through fathoms of space. Then I was dimly aware of her fingertips on my chest, pressuring my away, gently.

'Goodnight.' She smiled her amused smile.

I had found the golden key!

She turned out to be everything I was seeking, in spite of my first reaction. She is certainly home-loving. She has been a wonderful mother to our children. She is understanding, gentle, yet independent, too. She doesn't smoke anymore, either. And she is a devoted Christian, having accepted the Lord as her saviour. She has became the perfect 'helpmeet.' In everything we do, we work together. We've written two novels in which we've collaborated as authors. In running our hotel in the Scottish Borders, we worked as a team. We're either constantly talking to each other, or simply being sustained by each other's silent presence.

I had visualised a goal. That goal had become deeply embedded in my subconscious. That's why, for me, Carol had the golden key even though, at first, I didn't realise it. She had the physical and personality specifications that fitted my ideal. Subconsciously, if not consciously, I was seeking for a specific ideal. How often, when we meet our partner, we say, 'I feel I've known you all my life!' In a sense, we've already conditioned ourselves for that woman - or that man - before we've met her, or him. And the Lord knows it. Seek, and you shall find your heart's desire!

I hope I've conveyed something of the magic and wonder of our computer-assisted meeting. It was magical and wonderful only because we had taken a positive initiative - even if that initiative was in the subconscious! For me it's evidence of the power of clear goal visualisation combined with the power of faith. It might be cynical to say nothing wonderful ever comes to us out of the blue. It rarely does. Wonders happen - but usually we have to go forward, sometimes towards doors that appear closed, to find them, and have them happen to us. (Extract from Have Anything You Really Really Want by Charles Muller. Further information at Diadem Books )

About the author:

Charles Humphrey Muller, MA (Wales), PhD (London), DLitt (OFS), DEd (SA), was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of the North in South Africa for ten years. In 1988 he left his academic career to move to Scotland where he runs his editing and publishing business, Diadem Books

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