The country side of dating

OPINION: JAMES WILKINSON

The course of true love never did run smooth, especially when marooned in the countryside. In his latest column, James Wilkinson asks if dating rurally is all it's cracked up to be, or if guys in the city are the ultimate winners in love?

I've been thinking recently about whether it’s easier to find love in the countryside, or in the city. Having left behind the bright lights of London to settle in enchanting Wiltshire, the opportunities for dating are unsurprisingly lacking. I’ve sadly concluded that the big country romance might always elude me.

As we know, turn on any geosocial networking apps in the city, or any big town, and we’re bombarded with an array of totty seductively tempting us for a date, or a mere leg-over! London was like a candy shop of boys, in which I could date with ease and optimism. There was also no end to the horny encounters on offer. I could have a coffee date with someone on my lunch break from work, or even some nookie on the way to Sainsbury's later on.

Unfortunately, my cup does not runneth over here in my village. Turn on any of the apps and the nearest guy might be, if I'm lucky, 3km away - but more often that not, he'll still be a teenager, a bit tubby, and living with his parents and kid sister.

As 30 approaches, it’s all somewhat depressing. I’m glaringly aware it’s usually guys who have already met their soulmate who decide to move from the city to the countryside. But I do like a challenge.

After champagne and a serious case of ‘loose lips’ I introduced him to all as the boyfriend. I never heard from him again.

My dating life in the country didn’t start well. He was a handsome cow farmer - yes, there are some! Dates at country pubs in front of roaring fires were followed by nights in at his barn conversion in Malmesbury, his two gorgeous black labradors at our side. We’d cuddle the night away watching Countryfile and the Antiques Roadshow. I thought it was love, that is until I invited him to a friend’s party. After several glasses of champagne and a serious case of ‘loose lips’ I decided to introduce him to all as the ‘boyfriend’. Of course I never heard from him again!

Mr Rebound was a hot carpenter from Hampshire. My initial excitement soured though when he announced he too was wallowing in the ashes of a failed affair and it wasn’t long before we’d cooled to being ‘just friends’. Speaking of which, my small coterie of pals in nearby towns have tantalised me with tales from a wooded area just off Junction 18 of the M4.

Of course, outdoor cruising isn’t for everyone, least of all me. But after hearing about handsome truckers, sexy labourers and enigmatic business men in suits, I must admit I’m tempted. Although realistically I’d rather stick to the old faithful - match.com. I hear it has the highest success rate for long-term gay relationships.

So, so much for country dating. Yes, I know location isn’t the only factor in meeting the love of your life, and I do cast my net far and wide, believe me. But being in the right place in the first place certainly helps you cross paths with someone who is a) compatible with you b) fancies you like mad, and c) ready for something more meaningful.

There’s more single guys in cities and towns so more likelihood of finding him there. The downside is people are less willing to commit. Love fights to stay afloat in the sea of sexual choice. In the countryside, on the plus side, less availability means that dates might be more willing to meet for a second or third date, which seldom happens in the capital. Excluding numbers, perhaps the dating scene is no different here to that in the metropolis. Maybe it’s all just down to luck, or lack thereof.

(In the city) love fights to stay afloat in the sea of sexual choice.

The writer Edmund White said of relationships: “Love is a source of anxiety until it is a source of boredom. Only friendship feeds the spirit. Love raises great expectations in us that it never satisfies. The hopes based on friendship are milder and in the present.” It’s true. Removing myself from the frantic pace of city living and online dating though has meant I’ve had more time to spend with the people I actually like. In London I had to book so-called friends weeks in advance. Here, I’ve cultivated proper friendships and deeper connections.

I also do more volunteering which feeds my soul as well as fills my days. I’ve just finished another run in the local village panto and it was a hoot. Sometimes it’s great being the only gay in the village. Moving to the country has provided ample time for me to, cliche as it may sound, escape the rat race, find myself, and enjoy activities which are more meaningful and valuable to me than clubbing every weekend and getting up to mischief - though the option is still there.

Oh and did I say moving to the country inspired, and provided time to create this very online magazine you’re reading - Queen and Country. So I don’t want to be entirely preoccupied with relationships and finding someone. I want instead to focus on having a life rich with social possibilities, especially as I enter my thirties. I hope to focus less on technology as a means to meeting a life partner, and instead continue building strong friendships and developing a career to be proud of. If someone joins me for the journey, all the better.

Could it be this weekend’s date I’ve booked in - a gourmet chef with whom I crossed paths on Q&C business? I put my cards on the table from the off, telling him it would be nice to find something meaningful, and to that he appeared delighted. So sit tight folks - this might be the one. Country dating may never taste so good again.

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