WHEN silver surfers go online dating, hold on to the rails. It could be a bumpy ride and you don’t know where it will lead.

A friend of mine tried it in her 60s and her friends said: “You’ll want to watch out, Barbara, or you’ll end up in somebody’s freezer.”

Barbara Lorna Hudson, a retired lecturer of Oxford University and former psychiatric social worker and sex counsellor, has written a novel about her experiences called Timed Out. It will hit the bookshops in Oxford on April 16.

Internet dating is a timely topic. There are now over 1,400 sites in the UK and six million Brits visit a dating site each month – 40 per cent of them are over 55 and those aged 60-plus are the fastest growing part of the online dating population.

Barbara decided to join in: “Seeking love has no expiry date, or so they say... but I’m not so sure about that.

“I married early, divorced in my mid-20s and then threw myself into an academic career and social work. When I retired as a lecturer at Oxford I looked up from my books to see single men who found me interesting, who fancied me, and I realised it wasn’t too late.

“When I hit 60, it felt different than I expected. I had bags of energy. I judged what it would be like to be 60 with reference to my mother and her sister who were both old at 60. They looked and dressed differently. My aunt was a widow in her thirties and didn’t want to marry again, in fact she disapproved of it and said ‘I won’t let another person do that to me’.

“I hate it when people say internet daters must be losers, psychopaths or fraudsters. The only bad experience I had was when a man called and said he was from Cumbria and going to move to the Oxford area, Witney, to a big house with a stable block that he hoped a family with a horse could use. Remember on my profile I put I was a vegetarian and respected animal rights.

“He said he was currently living in a hotel in Cumbria because he had to give vacant possession of his house which he had just sold and asked me to send a photograph of myself to him at the hotel.

“A few days later he rang again, said he had received the photo and had put it on his bedside table because I was just the sort of person he would like to date.

“After that he rang again and wanted to have phone sex. I hung up. Three days later I received an envelope in the post which was my letter and photo to him saying ‘Return to sender, address unknown’.”

Apart from that, Barbara enjoyed the adventure of internet dating and met many people she warmed to, wanted as friends, found them interesting, amusing and pleasant and probably fell in love two or three times in 10 years. She told me, “I realised the world is full of really nice people who should be with someone.”

Barbara recommends internet dating but warns that “the hardest part of the experience is to meet physically. The telephone conversations are okay, but when you actually come face to face, they look you up and down. You feel you are being assessed… and you are. You also need to assess them. But wasn’t it always that way since your teens?

“Rejection is part of the price you pay. You need to be able to take rejection and to reject others. I never felt like I was disliked, although it’s hard to accept that not everyone will fall in love with you.

Oxford Mail:

  • Timed Out by Barbara Lorna Hudson is based on her experiences of internet dating

“Rejection letters do hurt if you liked the person very much, but they are manageable. The most considerate rejection letter I received said ‘I don’t think we were made for each other, do you?’”

One thing is clear, there are far more single women like Barbara out in the internet date-o-sphere than men. The author of the internet dating novel Timed Out said, “There are not many men left standing in their 60s and 70s. Men say they are inundated with replies. I was not, but you need only one that works.

“Some of the men’s fantasies can be distressing. A number of men who, despite being no oil painting or Greek god, wanted only women at least 10 years younger than themselves. They can have a terrible nerve – an 80-year-old advertising for 40-year-old women.

“But here’s a tip if a woman has a choice between a widower and a divorced man. Widowers sometimes have the picture of their idealised wife in the back of their vision and they may compare you with that idea unfavourably. Some divorced men may have split from nasty women so they tend to think you are lovely.”

I asked Barbara about the sex. She was coy.

“You have to read the novel if you want to find out about the sex; and you also have to decide if this fiction relates to the real life of the author. But I have been a sex therapist, for all generations, so I know whereof I speak in the book. And you also have to remember this is fiction, not autobiography.”

There is one drawback. You may hook up with someone on internet dating and later when friends ask you how you met, you may wish the answer could be more romantic. But what’s wrong with telling them ‘it was by the click of a mouse’? We don’t all live in a Richard Curtis film.