My winter of love: I was not expecting a hot first date. Then I found love in a terrible pub

Ten years after my dad died, I felt rudderless – a manchild still making sense of life. But suddenly, surprisingly, I met someone with whom I had an immediate bond

For most of the winter of 2011-12, I was a slightly reluctant member of the Guardian’sspin-off dating site, Guardian Soulmates. I was still in my 20s, just about, and pouring the energy and naivety of youth into a busy social life, a career as a writer of newsprint ephemera and a room in a shared flat. I think I was also a bit lonely and rudderless – a manchild still making sense of life 10 years after the sudden death of my dad. Whatever it was, something was missing.

By late February, I had been on half a dozen first dates – and no second dates. I was getting tired of the whole thing. It was all so procedural. But I’d agreed to meet a girl called Jess, whose profile handle – “good_grammar_is_hot” – had somehow not entirely put me off.

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