At £100 an hour, my knight didn’t come cheap – but he was perfect!

It has all the potential to be a humiliating disaster. Indeed I’m absolutely convinced it will be. I have been invited to the Laurent-Perrier annual pink party, a glitzy celebrity bash at the Sanderson hotel in London, which is in aid of the Princes Trust, and not only am I about to attend with a man I’ve never clapped eyes on before, but I also intend to try and pass him off as my boyfriend.

All I know about him is that he’s 37, called mark and is a Sagittarius, so this seems a long shot.

Since my most recent liaison – with quite possibly the dullest man in Christendom – ended the week before with the words “sorry, but we’re not on the same page” (I know, bit I was desperate) and none of my male chums is free, I’ve decided to hire a male escort. I hasten to add this is not some seedy gigolo type who offers “extras”, but a Cavendish knight.

The name is absurdly corny, but this nation wide agency is the only one that proclaims itself to be “strictly non-sexual”. The owner, Tony Perry, is a former A&R man who discovered the boy band Bros (but we’ll let that pass). He established the company five years ago after his divorced mother-in-law complained that she didn’t’t know anybody who could accompany her Ascot.

In the past year, he estimates that the number of professional women over 35 using his service has risen fivefold.

They include doctors, barristers, and businesswomen – all of them too busy to find a partner or thoroughly disenchanted with the poor calibre of chaps they meet. “For years,” says Tony, “women thought it was inappropriate to hire an escort. Now, with a rise in their disposable income, they think, ‘why not?’” I have just been to see the film the wedding date, a comedy on this very theme. Debra Messing, single and to embarrassed to pitch up to her sisters wedding alone, hires an escort, Dermot Mulroney. In true Hollywood fashion, they fool everybody they’re an item, and after two days they fall in love. What nonsense; surly nobody I know will fall for the even the first part? Tony’s advice is: keep it simple and I won’t be rumbled.

I arrange to meet Mark in a bar round the corner from the party to get our story straight. Although I’ve been assured that he is well educated and 5ft 11in, I’m still worried that I’ll find someone incapable of joined up speech and the size of a Chihuahua.

I am in for a pleasant surprise. Mark, a Canadian songwriter whose current ambition is to flog one of his songs to Kylie Minogue, Is exactly as billed.

Thoroughly charming, he has a glass of champagne waiting for me (all the escorts buy the first drink) and we briefly swap interests and anecdotes. There’s no shortage of conversation, especially when Mark volunteers that he has just been mugged (welcome to Britain) and had a tooth knocked out at a bus stop in south London. We decide our story will be that we met each other at a house party a month ago and have been dating ever since.

Half an hour later, we arrive at the party, where we immediately bump into two of my former colleagues from a Sunday newspaper: Jane, a showbiz columnist, and Andrea, a crime reporter. Its time to test the story.

Andrea is a tough cookie, quite capable of intimidating a strangeways inmate. “So how did you say you met him?” she inquires suspiciously. Mark is solicitous, a guiding and here, another glass of champagne there, it surely can’t be long before she guesses.

“Oh, he’s lovely,” says Jane as mark continues to ask interested questions. Even for £100 an hour, this really is a bravura performance.

We move on to speak to an old chum of mine, publicist Ghislain Pascal. Convince him and I can convince anybody. “So that’s really your boyfriend?” he says, eyebrows shooting up, skeptically.” You haven’t told me about him.”

I think we’re in danger of over-egging our month-long affection, but five minutes later, we’ve duped Ghislain, too. “You’ve done well for yourself, darling,” he says.

The party has been enormous fun, the company has been marvellous and I cannot in all honesty offer not one shred of journalistic cynicism. It appears that the wedding date was not so far-fetched after all. Despite my grave reservations, I couldn’t’t have knitted a better “boyfriend” for the evening. Perhaps I struck incredibly lucky, but ladies, this escort comes with my kite mark.

Janie Lawrence

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