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Alone? Lonely ? Read on... Whether its love you're after, someone to see the world with, or just a friend to talk to help, is at hand.

Byline: Gareth Bicknell

Search for a friendly face

LLANELIDAN man Nick Woodcock recognises that while many of us are happy to be free and single sometimes we need a soul mate - and they aren't always easy to find. So he has set up Sole Solutions for single people from their late 20s to 50s to meet up and strike up friendships at organised events across the region.

He says it is not a dating agency so much as an opportunity to make new friends - although he admits there is no reason why new-found friendship may not lead to ``something else''.

``Being single myself, I think about where I live in Llanelidan, '' says Nick. ``There's a few single people, and if you are single very often most of the people you know are married or in relationships. ''

With a working background including running a travel business, catering and running a pub, as well as being a lecturer at Deeside College, Nick was struck with the idea of using his skills to help others in the same situation as himself.

``The idea was to create a sort of singles community where people could make friends in an enjoyable, safe and non-threatening environment, '' he says.

He is looking into venues such as Ruthin Castle to hold an inaugural Sole Solutions gathering, and hopes for a positive response so he can carry on organising several events a month.

``The idea is to have at least four or five events a month. One or two would be for everybody, with smaller satellite events on a regional level as well so that people don't have to travel long distances.

``Anything you can do in North Wales, we'll be able to do - whether its going walking in hills and stopping for a pub lunch, white water rafting in Bala or salsa dancing. Anything people want to do, basically.

``Hopefully, as we get more members we'll be able to organise more and more activities, '' he says. ``I'm hoping this will give people the opportunity to grow, both socially and within themselves. ''

n www. solesolutions. co. uk or call Nick Woodcock on 01824 750653 Looking for love

CATRIN Williams' life has been transformed since she signed up with Welsh-language dating web site Pishyn. The teacher from Caernarfon is engaged to the man of her dreams after joining the agency led to a whirlwind romance.

Pishyn was set up by Ruthin journalist Sioned Wyn Morys, who says: ``There's nowhere else that Welsh speakers can go to get this kind of service. Everybody on the web site has got something in common, and that's language. It means they feel part of a community. ''

Catrin, 33, signed up with Pishyn in June last year on the recommendation of a friend. After entering her personal profile on the web site she received numerous ``e-kisses'' - internal e-mail from other subscribers searching for a soulmate. But cupid's arrows never hit until web technician Aran, 36, contacted her early in July.

When they met for the first time, they shared drink on the waterfront in Caernarfon on a warm summer's evening. ``What struck me about him was the way we could communicate. We'd chatted prolifically bye-mail, and we were chatting as if we'd always been best friends. ''

Another couple who found love were Eifion ap Llwyd Dafydd and Eleri Darkins. Eleri, 29, says she was sceptical at first and played hard to get with Eifion, but was impressed by his perserverance in contacting her.

``I was going to be very tough to anybody who showed any interest, ask them 20 questions (or more) and put as many obstacles as possible in the way of meeting up, '' she says.

``So that's what I did with Eifion - and my reticence and probing questions paid off as he showed more and more interest in meeting me face to face. We must have sent over 30 e-mails to each other before we met. ''

Eifion, 34, says he can recommend the site as an experience even if finding love isn't necessarily the end result. ``It's just another avenue of getting in touch with people, and it's exciting getting in touch with these people you don't know. If you're a people person it's a lot of fun - there's somebody out there for everyone, and Eleri's and my experience has proven that. ''

n www. pishyn. orgJourney of discovery

IMAGINE standing transfixed by the beauty of the Taj Mahal, or climbing Maccu Picchu and wondering about the civillisations that had lived nearby centuries before. Then imagine having nobody to share those adventures with.

``If you see a beautiful vista you want to turn to someone and say, `Wow, look at that, that's cool', '' says Nathan Green, a 35-year-old web site developer from Cynwyd, who has hit on an innovative idea to match travellers looking for companions to explore the world together.

Nathan and his business partner Vicky Hutt, 29, from Llantysilio, have both travelled extensively on their own in Europe and Asia. They have experienced first hand the problems single travellers can face - both have been robbed in foreign countries, while Nathan found himself a victim of racist bullying when he worked as a club DJ in China for three months. ``It was awful, '' he says. ``It was the first time I had ever experienced being on the receiving end of racism. ''

So, together with web expert Rhys Taylor they have set up Companions 2 Travel, an internet forum where people with itchy feet can get to know each other on line before deciding whether they have found their perfect partner for holidays, backpacking or any other sort of trip. Vicky says single travelling can be daunting for numerous reasons, including cost implications and safety ``As a female travelling alone, things like waiting for a bus or a train at three o' clock in the morning can be quite intimidating, '' she says. ``You've got to be vigilant at all times anyway, but if there's two or three of you you're more comfortable with it. You look out for each other and you feel less of a target for anything untoward. ''

Nathan agrees. ``That goes for blokes as well. I've been in the position where I could have done with someone to ponce around with - especially if things go wrong and you've got nobody to talk to, nobody you can trust.

``If you're a young professional, the chances of meeting someone your own age, who wants to go to the same places as you at the same time are pretty slim, '' he says. ``Or, let's say if you're in your 50s, you've been through a divorce or the death of a partner and you've always wanted to go away but maybe your partner didn't want to. ``It's an ideal opportunity to do something new. But if you're on your own it can be quite scary, and you want someone to share the experience with. '' Companions 2 Travel lets members get to know each bye-mail, hopefully striking up friendships with potential travelling companions who they can then arrange to meet up with. Members of the site are asked to fill in a series about blanks about themselves - from age, marital status and occupation to hobbies and preferred travel destinations. They can then search the site for people who might have similar interests or have the same destinations in mind. It's secure, so only members can use it and personal contact details are never revealed unless members choose to do so privately after building up a rapport with each other. There is a chat room on the site, a weekly newsletter sent to all members via e-mail, and a real-life person known as The Guide, whose job is to look after the site and help with any queries.

The site has just welcomed its 2000th member since its launch in October last year, and in the first week of January a record 300 members joined up. And just in case Vicky, Nathan and Rhys were in doubt they were on the right lines, they were reassured after receiving feedback from people who have already had positive experiences through Companions 2 Travel. One married user whose partner didn't want to travel wrote to Vicky: ``I have been contacted by a lovely lady on the site and we have hit it off. We are now going to the USA together next year.

Thank you for making it possible for me to travel again - and with a nice friend. ''

Nathan says it's that sort of response that gives him the biggest satisfaction.

``It's taken off and it's great to see people happily interacting with each other, '' he says. ``That's the biggest buzz. ''

n www. companions2travel. co. uk


(From left) Nick Woodcock of Sole Solutions; Vicky Hutt and Nathan Green of Companions 2 Travel; Sioned Wyn Morys of Pishyn
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 19, 2005
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