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In fact, despite Stella's unhappiness, the couple remained married for 14 years, during which time Stella fell pregnant, aged 38, with the couple's daughter, Emma.By then working as a journalist on her local newspaper in Sheffield, where the couple had settled, Stella knew she would be unable to continue with her career but, with a stultifying marriage, was aware she needed something else to distract her."I was fortunate that I had encountered them during my work as a journalist. Stella relied on word of mouth to get her business off the ground and by the end of 1962 she had amassed her first clients, who paid 15 guineas each (£15.75) for a year's membership.Each came for a personal interview, with Stella carefully jotting down their age, hobbies and preferences into a notebook.They hit it off immediately, moved in together, married, and had a baby of their own, which made nine.They live in a raucous household just a few miles away."Another lady came to see Stella after escaping her violent former husband. I get a Christmas card from them every year, and postcards from their travels," Stella recalls."Old men always want a young dolly bird, and the plainest girls still like to think they can get themselves a millionaire," says Stella waspishly.

"I found her someone and she married shortly afterwards," she recalls.In almost half a century of romantic busybodying, nearly 20,000 people have passed through her books - from Bluebell girls and businessmen to beauty queens and barristers.There have been hundreds of weddings and, today, in a world of speeddating and internet romance, she still has around 400 clients of all ages hoping Stella's personal touch can help find them their Mr or Miss Right.In the process, her work has become a fascinating barometer of social change: when Stella first started her agency in the early Sixties, newspapers refused to carry her adverts for fear of causing a scandal.But some things remain comfortingly constant, among them people's expectations - which are, she says, on the whole, generally unrealistic.

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