Alun Pepper should be the last man to have trouble finding someone special.
With a beautiful four-bedroom, three-storey house in a picturesque village in Lincolnshire and a £70,000 Top Gun-style job flying fast jets around the world, on paper he’s the definition of a good catch.
He’s 6ft, with blue eyes and cropped dark hair, and works out most days — in his own boxing gym. His look is more rugged Daniel Craig than pretty Leonardo DiCaprio — although, at 46, he is three years younger than the current James Bond.
He’s studied kickboxing in Thailand and swordship in Japan, skydived and bungee-jumped, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and dived the Great Barrier Reef, to list just a few of his exploits.
In case it impresses you too, Alun has eight medals and has served in conflict zones around the world.
Alun Pepper (pictured), 46, from Lincolnshire asked FEMAIL to help him find The One
To top it off, for the past three years, he’s been crowned Britain’s Manliest Man. But he has a softer side, too — as a trained masseur who’s studying for a Master’s in emotional intelligence and practises yoga and mindfulness . . .
And yet, Alun admits he’s now been on well over 100 dates without finding The One. So he asked Femail to help him find the perfect woman.
Read on and decide: would you date Britain’s Manliest Man?
ALUN, 46, SAYS:
You may think the title would impress women. But, actually, it makes them worry I might be some stunted Neanderthal, which I assure you I’m not! In fact, I’d say I rate well on the metrosexual barometer. I do my own washing and make a mean Thai curry!
Still, I’ve now had three longish relationships and more than 100 dates without finding someone to settle down with. So I’ve decided to open my heart to Femail and find out if my Miss Right is out there somewhere.
I don’t do this lightly — manly or not, my heart is not immune to breakages.
Alun says his first relationship ended after one year and was with a barmaid from his local pub
I had my first relationship at 19, with the barmaid from my local pub. She was vivacious, with flame-coloured hair, but I barely knew anything about the world, let alone love.
She ended things after a year, which was my first heartbreak.
Then, through my 20s, I dated a sporty geography student. I was learning to fly as an RAF flight lieutenant and travelling the world, so it was more of a weekend relationship. We were together for five years until, returning from a tour of Northern Ireland, I realised I wasn’t ready to settle. I am not a cheat, and so thought it was best we split.
So in my 30s, when friends were settling down, I was living what you could call the life of a lothario. And yes, I did enjoy the flings in exotic countries.
But don’t let that put you off: I’ve got all that out of my system. I have also always believed in the heart-stopping, can’t-take-my-eyes-off-her moment — what I call ‘It’. That sensation has eluded me all but once in my life.
During his forties he attempted a grand gesture to save a relationship
It came when I was least expecting it.
Despite my upbringing as a working-class ‘lad’ from Cheshire, for the past few years I have been on a mission to broaden my horizons. My latest venture was taking a sports massage course.
One of the students tumbled into the room late, a flurry of bags and apologies. And that was ‘It’. That sledgehammer blow through the chest I had been waiting for all those years.
She was a slim, dark-haired yoga instructor in her late 20s; I was 40. Of course, I am attracted by looks, but that has to be followed by a connection.
Luckily, she seemed impressed that I flew a Tornado — although at first, she didn’t believe me.
The yoga instructor and I had an intense few months, before I was posted abroad on active duty. When I arrived home, there had been a shift — despite us being in touch every day for the three months I was away.
I loved her and did everything to make it work, but things weren’t right. Then she said the inevitable: ‘It’s not going to work, Al.’
Rather arrogantly, in retrospect, I believed a grand gesture from me would solve everything.
So I turned up on her doorstep and re-enacted a romantic scene from Love Actually. There I was, holding up some plane tickets and cards, which said: ‘If you think we’ve got a chance, come away with me to Venice.’ The next day, we flew to Italy.
But I was trying to paper over the cracks. A few months later, we split. I still don’t know why. She said we were too different. I thought we were a good match.
He believes the label ‘The Manliest Man’ hasn’t helped his quest for love. He received the title for surviving cancer
Again rather arrogantly, I had assumed I could choose when and with whom I wanted to settle. The time was right for me, but the woman I loved didn’t want to. I was in shock. I think because I put so much into that relationship — it was the first time I had fully committed — I have been scared to do it again.
And ironically, the Manliest Man ‘label’ hasn’t helped. The truth is I haven’t dated anyone properly since I won it in 2014.
The reason I won was because I had survived cancer. In 2006, I found a lump on my right testicle and went straight to the doctor — I had it removed and a short dose of chemotherapy. Thankfully, because I caught it early, I am now completely clear.
It’s a ridiculous-sounding title, and I expect most women to laugh when I tell them, but it has given me a platform, via charity work, to show you aren’t less of a man if you have one testicle.
My boss kindly wrote in my annual report that the determination I showed to beat the cancer was the bravest thing they had seen outside of combat. I disagree — but that support from the RAF meant a great deal.
Alun is looking for someone with a sense of humour and girl-next-door charm
It hasn’t affected my sex life; in fact, no woman has even noticed. I could still have children, my sperm is good, and I decided to have some frozen just in case.
I think cancer has made me less inclined to ‘settle’ for second best. Friends say I’m fussy, but I watched with a degree of schadenfreude as they fell into what I call ‘practice marriages’ that ultimately failed.
So much has changed in my long history of dating. In recent years, I have learnt to navigate internet dating. And I am now in the habit of FaceTiming someone before we meet, to make sure we have things in common. Women have become a lot more assertive since I started dating in the Eighties. I am not averse to that; I want a partner who will hold their own in a discussion.
I am not intimidated by someone who earns five times my salary: I’ve been out with doctors, lawyers, veterinary surgeons. Nor would I mind if someone wanted to be a homemaker like my mother and raise a child.
So, if you feel you are my type (whatever that is), I want to hear from you. I’m looking for someone attractive and down-to-earth, with a wicked sense of humour and the girl-next-door charm of Strictly’s Gemma Atkinson.
I’d love to meet someone who will go on long country walks on a wintry day, ideally with a black labrador. And, yes, having children would be nice, but I know time is not on my side.
Still, I am ready to face my fears and take the leap into a relationship again, and hopefully this time fall in love once and for all.
Alun is November in the Macmillan Awareness Calendar 2018. It costs £5 from merrymacs.co.uk