I didn’t set out to bag a millionaire. I wasn’t one of those women: the ones to whom snagging a rich man is The End Game. Although naturally I’d make jokes about meeting my millionaire and living happily ever after; the kind of wistful remarks and sighs shared with other girls when imagining a life without bills.
It’s not to say that meeting a man wasn’t my plan. In typically random style, I concocted my flimsy meet-a-man plan while riding my bike one summer night in August. Living in Mallorca but at my parents’ in County Durham for the summer (Spain never felt like home, home, not really) I was seized by an impulse to cycle from their house in town out to the pretty North Yorkshire village where I’d previously lived.
Past the dull suburbia of Darlington, England was lovely. Sunset streaking pink-orange though a wide sky; hedgerows loaded with hemlock and burdock; the smell of cow parsley on grass verges reminding me of the pony I rode as a kid stopping stubbornly to eat.
Aldbrough St John was just the same, in that timeless way of Yorkshire villages. Stopping at The Stanwick to gulp a pint of water, ravenously thirsty and lacking the forethought to bring some, I was greeted by the same smiling barmaid, familiar faces at the bar, the same hearty pub grub being set onto wooden tables.
It’s a curious thing that when you’re in a place, you don’t see how special it is. It takes a phenomenally life changing and expensive move thousands of miles away to realise it is to be missed. The place you lived when you were a kid works its way into your bones, and there it remains.
If only, I thought, I could meet a farmer – a solvent one, with some land and a large-yet-cosy stone farmhouse, a couple of friendly sheepdogs, large hands and a lonely heart – I would be happy. I would return to the country of my birth and settle in Yorkshire and then I would never feel homesick again. I would be here for the misty mornings and the mellow sunsets; feel the crunch of frost under my wellies and breathe air scented with all the familiar smells of my childhood.
Within 20 minutes of arriving back at my parents’ place, I was on my laptop searching for single farmers. I registered with singlefarmer.co.uk for all of 10 minutes before realising, with some horror, that some of the candidates I recognised as true townies. The looks of the rest did not bode well. So that’s when I found Muddy Matches.
Ah, Muddy Matches. Without you, I would not have chatted with a jolly livestock auctioneer from Hexham; met a fit shooting instructor in Barnard Castle; enjoyed frenzied sex with a salad entrepreneur from York; fallen temporarily head over heels with a cashmere king from (actually can’t say – he’s still married) and, of course, met the man I thought would top all the rest: the one I was sure I would marry.