I feel as though I'm about to sit my A-levels all over again. Mairead phones to tell me about M, who is 46, in wealth management, whatever that is, and a divorced father of two grown-up boys. We agree to meet the following night in the bar at Claridges. I buy a black lace skirt and silver platforms from Prada, and get my hair done.I tell him I have dark hair, and will be wearing purple Burberry platforms. I invest in a Hollywood wax, and an all-over light sheen of fake tan.
'She was great eye candy,' he says, confirming that all men would like you to believe the women in their lives are great beauties.
He tells me she spent £500,000 of his money on the divorce and that they now barely speak.
I hobble off into the night on my shoes and text Mairead: 'Am V depressed. I find this hard to believe, having watched a great many episodes of Sex And The City, but I valiantly call skirt and shoes into service yet again (wearing the same outfit acts, I as a sort of scientific control), meet Christie, from Mairead's sister agency, Premier Matchmaking, who is hand to arrange everything.
Our chat reveals straight away how different the dating scene is in the U. She tells me where my prospective date went to school and college, lists his many degrees, tells me he is 6ft 2in, divrced with no children, and is the CEO of a bank. I agree to meet P at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. He arrives, and although he is indeed tall and dark, resembling none other than Mr Big, I know in less than five seconds that I will never fancy him. The test is what they look like straight out of the shower.' Oh dear.
Irish by birth, and having made a fortune in hotels, she now divides her time between Cannes and London.
Five years ago, with an address book positively bulging with successful but often lonely men and women, she decided to set up a dating agency.We say our goodbyes and I go to freeze in the snow, trying to hail a cab.After about ten minutes, a man asks if I need help.Berkeley International's membership fee of £6,000 per year guarantees her clients - hundreds of singletons from all over the world, at a ratio of 50/50 men and women - are solvent, but I'm surprised when she tells me how many are multi-millionaires.Surely, I ask her, rich men have no trouble attracting women? These men - actors, plastic surgeons, bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs - not only don't have time to meet women, they've had enough of dating model types who are just after their money.' That's what I like to hear, but I'm still dubious.'You need someone generous,' she said, my husband's name unspoken between us, 'with a bank account, not a piggy bank'.