Struck by a thunderbolt

Observations on romance

A long e-mail in confused English has been doing the rounds of the arts organisations. It's from a Frenchman called BenoIt.

Condensed and tidied up, the message reads something like this: "I was in London at the Piccadilly Circus Hotel one evening at the end of May. There I met a beautiful and nice girl who is studying performing arts.

"I must see this girl again because meeting her was a coup de foudre [a thunderbolt]. She was wearing a white dress which had red wine stains on it. I didn't get her name but I must see her again, because it is impossible to live without this beautiful girl."

No, it's not me - I don't own a white dress, for the very reason that I might spill red wine on it. But should we see this BenoIt as an incurable romantic or as a sinister stalker? The line between the two can be a fine one. I once received a letter saying: "I followed you home on Saturday." It described me accurately before saying: "I would like you to come to Uganda with me and be my wife."

It is possible that the sender had also been hit by a coup de foudre. But since I was 14 at the time, my parents decided not to let me find out, and took the letter to the police instead.

Now my admirer, as well as the eloquent BenoIt, can try where you can leave a message if you see someone you fancy, on public transport, for example, or in a park.

If someone had spotted me on the bus, for example, the message might read: "Number 43 bus, Monday, 9pm. You: curly hair, beautiful smile, amazing eyes. Me: couldn't stop looking at you. Actor, respond to name of Brad. Please e-mail me on" Being an optimist, I often check this website, though no such message has ever appeared.

So am I right to publicise the love-struck BenoIt's message? Even if I'm not encouraging a stalker, I may be getting the white-dress girl into trouble with a jealous boyfriend who doesn't like her talking to strange men in hotel bars. However, I feel a duty to all the other romantics around to spread the message.

White-dress girl, whoever you are, if you too feel you have been hit by a thunderbolt, contact me through the New Statesman and, after a few security questions, I will pass on the details of the man who might just change your life.

This article first appeared in the 14 June 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Escape from UKIP