Eleanor and Charlie

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After last week’s brief, and mildly disastrous, foray into mature dating, we’re back to the young this week. The really young.

I don’t understand what young people are doing in this column. Have you really already exhausted every avenue available to you? Surely you don’t need to appear in a magazine? You’re young. Opportunities for sex, love and romance must be hurling themselves at you.

Run some product through your hair, squirt on a bit of Tom Ford – or Chanel if you’re on a graduate trainee scheme – do some shots, stand around in a bar long enough and you’ll be scraping them off you. Seriously.

Anyway, for whatever reason Eleanor, 26, and Charlie, 23, have decided to be in the Blind Date column this week. Perhaps they are doing it “for a laugh” – I hear that is very popular with the youth these days. Read what happened before I cast my arthritic eye over it.

Charlie, on his awkward moment:

awkward_charlie

I didn’t really get this, so glanced down to Eleanor:

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There is nothing sexier than two people on a date acting like estate agents. “Hey, here’s my card.”

You’re already on the date with each other, I assume you know how to programme a telephone number into your mobile, so what do you need to swap cards for? All out of conversation topics? Wanted to show off the embossing? Got a ‘funky’ job title you want to impress each other with, like ‘GIF Guru’ or ‘Social Media Cosmonaut’?

I don’t get it. Business cards sit in wallets and purses and the bottom of handbags, only to be transferred to worktops or bookshelves or desks, where they sit again for untold millennia, either totally unnoticed or menacingly in the way. And then, during a ‘clear-out’, they’re flung into the bin and never thought of again. What a waste of embossing.

Anyway, these two are clearly ridiculous, but we’ve started now, so let’s carry on. Table manners! Charlie:

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Charlie is clearly being a gentleman here, readers, as we will now see. Spoiler: if you are on medication for any kind of heart condition, please look away now, because the next screenshot contains scenes of a distressing nature.

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Keep. Your. Hands. Out. Of. My. Dinner. This seems to be on the increase in the Blind Date column. Why do they do it? Why do we allow them to do it?

When somebody “orders better” than you, the protocol is to sulk a bit, maybe look at their plate wistfully – perhaps compose a short blog or Instagram post for later, lamenting your bad decision – and then get on with eating your own dinner.

When your date, who has noticed your bottom lip scraping the edge of your plate, asks if you would like some of their food, you smile brightly, like you’ve just seen all your family killed in the Blitz but have been handed an ice cream to make it all better, and refuse. You say no. They are only being polite. You have to live with the consequences of your actions. You ordered badly. Your fault.

The rest of their answers are dull and awkward and safe, in a way that I imagine some people would find cute and endearing, but only made my heart of ice dip a few more degrees. They only really come alive when food is being discussed.

Charlie:

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I don’t ever want to go for dinner with these people. I would have to be stretchered out. “Shall we go on for a drink somewhere else so we can be dead young and exciting, or shall we sit here and wait for the chef – who probably really wants to go home – to steam us a plum sponge?”

Last word goes to Eleanor, who I think still has valuable lessons to learn when it comes to ordering in a restaurant.

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Here’s a tip for you, Eleanor: in life, when you do eventually order béarnaise, you’ll realise you should have stuck with peppercorn all along.

Now get your bloody fork out of my plate.

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Oliver and Irina

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And so we carry on with the third of our video dates – the Guardian still hasn’t worked out how to deinterlace the footage so it feels like we’re watching it on soviet-era CCTV, but never mind.

Watch the video

Today’s inexplicably willing victims are 37-year-old Oliver from Hong Kong and Irina, who gives her age, only for it to be bleeped out.  All she’ll say is that she’s at an age where she “should be married with children”. Anyone who has watched everyone take Madonna apart for the last 20 years will understand why Irina is reluctant to fess up to her real age. Whatever her age, she looks great and has excellent teeth so I’m already a fan.

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Before we even see a millisecond of the date, alarm bells deafen when Oliver confirms all Irina’s insecurities and admits in his VT that he will have to settle for someone his own age, even though he’d rather be with someone in their mid-20s. If this date doesn’t end with Irina walking out of it with Oliver’s head in her handbag, I’ll be disappointed. “I’m just being honest,” he says, like every terrible Big Brother contestant ever.

“I’m hoping for a spark and some chemistry,” beams Irina, just before it cuts to Oliver asking her that most wonderful of icebreakers beloved of all mixed race people, I’m sure: “So what nationality are you?”

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Irina is half-Russian and half-Ghanian, and just after Oliver has told the most cringeworthy right-on story about a Vietnamese child, Irina thanks the waitress in Russian, which prompts Oliver to do his ‘best’ impression of Joey from Friends speaking French.

On VT, Oliver launches into an impassioned speech about how great the “foreign” waitress was. Oliver does seem rather taken with her, acting out what I imagine he thinks his flirting by saying the word “magnifique” to her a few times.

Perhaps as revenge, Irina talks about cleaning up some cat poo. There’s some cliched old bollocks about single girls and cats that she is surely better than, before Irina admits she can tell the difference between types of animal poo and quite a good joke about Shazam from Oliver.

As they leave the date, with Oliver walking ahead like he’s leading a group of Spanish schoolchildren around Oxford in August, Irina asks him what aftershave he’s got on, which is a question I love being asked, because I don’t wear any old shite.

Oliver’s wearing Gucci No. 6 (whatever that is – the Gucci site doesn’t mention it and Google wasn’t helping) and then ruins everything by saying in summer he wears Issey Miyake, the signature scent of any awful meathead barging you out of the way of the bar back in 1996.

Scoring, Oliver has a real issue. After much deliberating, he scores Irina an 8, before immediately changing it to a 7.5, before clarifying, “Sexually, she’s an 8”.

I don’t really get this kind of thing. Obviously, it makes for good ‘content’, but I don’t get why you would want to act like such a tool on camera. Showing off? Nervous? Dunno. Weird. On the date, he was much the same. I have yawned, I have made excuses and I have drunk too much, but I have never intentionally acted like a massive tit on a date.

Irina scores him an 8 too, and sticks to it, and there is a brilliant part at the end where the two say their goodbyes and Irina chirps “All the best” repeatedly, to make it clear there’ll be no snogging.
“I had a really nice time,” says Oliver.
“Oh, good,” burns Irina.

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No shit.

David and Alex

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As a companion to their popular – well, I like it anyway – Blind Date series, the Guardian has launched Watch Me Date, a video series that allows you a gonzo view of two people on a date.

This week, it’s gays! Oh, thank goodness. These are no ordinary gays, though – they’re intellectual and all politicky or something. Can we not just have two massive stereotypes with frosted tips and vest tops? Just once? These people do exist.

Watch the video – have some strong black coffee handy – before we unnecessarily dissect absolutely everything they have to say.

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David is a journalist – you’ll probably recognise him if you live in Scotland and/or read the Herald. He’s actually an old hand at the Guardian Blind Date thing – he went on one in 2013. Imagine coming back for more. He does realise there are other ways to meet men, right? Surely one of his friends can help him download Tinder?

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Alex works at the Treasury. I tell you what, if there’s one thing Guardian Soulmates isn’t short of, it’s men called Alex who work at the Treasury. Of all the dates I went on, about 1 in 5 was an Alex. Reader, I did not marry him.

David’s first impression of Alex? “He was relatively attractive.” Now, that may seem like he’s not that keen, but I should point out David is from Edinburgh – they’re not one for throwing compliments about. “Relatively attractive” means he really fancied him – he can challenge that if he likes, but I won’t listen because I am right.

Alex says David has “perfect hair”. It’s quite common on Guardian Blind Dates for hair to be talked up to a staggering degree, usually in the absence of anything else to say, but I have to say if Alex thinks David’s hair is perfect, he should come and get a shot of mine; it’ll blow his fucking mind.

They were both “really into politics”. It’s what they do for a living, so fair enough, but I have aways found dates where politics has been the main topic of conversation to be the dreariest, most frustrating red-in-the-face-argument-tastic of them all.

David is a serious name-dropper, the list of people he has interviewed reading like the pages of The Sunday Times I always skip. He is currently writing a biography of Nicola Sturgeon.

It’s all going fairly well until the pair talk about hometowns. David gets rather ahead of himself when Alex talks about his idyllic childhood growing up on a farm in Devon, dreaming of the day they’ll walk hand-in-hand around it, watching lambs being born. David himself however, grew up in Lochend, Edinburgh. As David puts it, “It’s not Marchmont”. It certainly isn’t; Marchmont is terminally boring and everyone who lives there either talks like the cast of Made In Chelsea or is a crotchety old rich lady called Fiona.

Alex makes a grim mistake when he makes a joke that hasn’t been culturally relevant for a generation: “How Trainspotting was your upbringing?”

*eye roll*

David laughs in the post-date VT when recalling the incident, but it’s the kind of strangled laugh usually accompanied by a fork pressed into the back of the wrist and followed by the upending of a table and the snapping of every neck in sight. I think David has been asked that question before.

Alex is very complimentary about David and his achievements, but it does feel the entire date isn’t about him at all. Beyond his Trainspotting comment and references to his Elysian childhood, Alex hasn’t made much of an impact. It feels a little like he was so in awe of David’s career – which David was only too happy to talk about – that he forgot to, y’know, make an impression himself. I get the feeling any potential relationship between them would carry on in that vein.

They swap numbers, and there is ‘kiss confusion’, which is interesting because almost exactly the same thing happened when David did his last Guardian Blind Date. *raised eyebrow*

Alex reveals they have already been on another date, but the video ends with this screen – a dull thud to the head if ever I saw one.

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Hardly surprising, but still 😦

Silvia and Ed

Silvia and Ed

Saturdays. They come around awfully quickly, don’t they? Today’s contestants are Silvia, a 50-year-old performance artist who looks like she could have been in the original cast of EastEnders and Ed, 57, a driving instructor. Older people tend to be fantastically frank in the Blind Date column, so I’m hoping for some zingers today.

Read what happened on the date before we have a closer look at their answers. First up, Ed:

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“…” Thanks for coming, Ed. Silvia, help me out here.

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I had a mild panic attack when I saw that “Nah” – I thought we were hurtling toward an “Impeccable”for the next question.

Thank goodness, then, that Silvia remembers what she says is going to be in an actual magazine that people will read. “He ate his steak medium, he smiled rarely” would probably get a groan if someone said it in real life, but I quite like it, as it says so much, despite the laboured pun. Silvia’s not having fun on this date. Not only is her date a bit miserable, he has also committed this cardinal sin:

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Dates who don’t ask questions are a strange breed. Sometimes it is because they think they are so fascinating they don’t have time to break off from actually being so fascinating to ask you any questions about your life. Occasionally, of course, they cannot get a word in because of the barrage of questions coming their way. Usually, however, it’s because they’re not interested in what anyone else thinks. Simple as that. Meeting someone like this is always a challenge because nothing will persuade them otherwise. You could have the most wonderful career, a treasure chest of scintillating facts and trivia about all manner of things, or be the brightest person in all Christendom. It doesn’t matter. Not interested in you. Who cares what you think? They know their own mind. They know what they like. Your approval is neither relevant nor welcome. And so on.

You should never date someone who doesn’t question, or wonder why, or take an interest – you might as well be alone. Curiosity may well have killed that cat but it has definitely helped remove my underwear from time to time. Remember that one next time you’re on a date. Ask something, anything. Even if it’s “Is that a coldsore on your lip?” (Someone has actually asked me this. Don’t ask that.) Onward.

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Oh Ed. Is it a cliché to say that Ed sounds a bit lonely, or world-weary? It seems like he’s gone off on a bit of a rant. Men who do this tend not to have anyone else to talk to. I guess when you have spent your working day watching 17-year-olds sit trembling at junctions, scream at roundabouts and reverse park into a skip, you’re going to crave a receptive ear.

While Ed may come across as a slightly more morose Sad Sack from Raggy Dolls, it doesn’t appear to have put Silvia off, as she explains in quite possibly my most favourite last answer in a Guardian Blind Date of all time.

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Again: oh Ed. Back to the reject bin.

Sad Sack from Raggy Dolls

Photograph: Sarah Lee; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

Andy and Flo

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As a companion to their popular – well, I like it anyway – Blind Date series, the Guardian has launched Watch Me Date, a televisual feast that lets you, well, watch two people go on a date.

Each hapless romantic, or freeloader on a wine recharge, is kitted out with a pair of Google Glass, er, glasses. And we get to see what happens. It’s bit like gonzo porn except there’s more sweating.

For reasons best known to themselves, out of the two Watch Me Date videos, the Guardian has chosen to put  Andy & Flo’s date in the magazine. It was, without question, the most boring of the two. Perhaps they thought readers wouldn’t believe Sarah and Ian’s date if they saw it written down. It was quite something. You should read that one.

Anyway, Andy & Flo is what we’ve got so let’s go. Read what happened on the date first, if you can bear it.

Andy’s a stand-up comic/supervisor (not at the same time, as we will see later) and Flo works for a recipe-kit company, which sounds totally made up.

WordPress is an old dog so I cannot embed the video, so please do watch along as I deliver my verdict.

The whole thing is generally on the awks side of romantic. Andy beats himself up over use of the word “welcoming” and Flo can’t seem to get beyond three syllables without dissolving into bantzy laughter.

Andy’s revelation that he temporarily became a vegetarian because of Morrissey (about 1:00 in) isn’t all that embarrassing – I started drinking Earl Grey at 12 because I read Madonna had some in her dressing room or something. Or was it because I used to be a precocious brat? I can’t remember.

When we get to what our pair are hoping for, they’re on similar lines, Andy is after a girl that likes to have a laugh and is into music and film, someone quite creative. I assume he doesn’t mean *all* music, because some people like Black Lace and Crazy Frog and you can’t be having that.

Flo is also up for someone who likes a laugh. Where are the people who go on a date and actively seek out someone who is dour and miserable, who will laugh at none of your jokes and instead plan their funeral as you awkwardly broach the subject of dessert? They’re missing out on a niche, there.

“It’s weird meeting a stranger for the first time,” says Flo.  Erm. That’s usually how meeting a stranger works, Flo. That’s why they’re strangers.

Andy says he is usually a rebound kind of guy. “So many times, I have been the person after the person,” he chirps. Poor Andy. Maybe he should stop wearing rubber trousers. (Note: Andy actually got in touch with me on Twitter to question this comment. I explained the ‘joke’ but he wasn’t impressed. Ah well, it seemed like a good idea at the time – much like going on this date must have done to Andy, eh?)

Andy orders a cocktail that is made of beetroot and looks like toilet cleaner and – shock, horror – doesn’t like it. He has a taste of Flo’s and prefers hers. “It’s so delicious, isn’t it?” grins Flo. She’s heartless. I like it. “I’d be really disappointed if I chose that,” continues Flo. Is this… an analogy? Again, poor Andy.

Andy thinks he’s dropped a clanger when Flo asks him to re-enacts his day job as a call centre supervisor. He does, and it’s a bit rubbish, but Flo actually admires him for having a go, saying it’s “the best thing about him”. Aw. And also: what?

I won’t give away the scoring – it’s pretty safe, anyway – but Flo does say “he’s a catch”, which is usually the kiss of death. After a LOT of awkward laughing that probably got Flo sent out of many maths lessons by exasperated teachers, she does eventually say she’d like to see him again. So awkward. Why? Admit you like someone; it’s fine. Nobody’s watching this anyway. Except me and the other people who are going to be on it. For now.

Anyway, they both seem very nice or whatever but you don’t need me to tell you that – you can just watch them instead. (Have a can of Red Bull handy.)

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Sarah and Ian

Sarah and Ian

As a companion to their popular – well, I like it anyway – Blind Date series, the Guardian has launched Watch Me Date, a televisual feast that lets you, well, watch two people go on a date.

Each hapless romantic, or freeloader on a wine recharge, is kitted out with a pair of Google Glass, er, glasses. And we get to see what happens. It’s bit like gonzo porn except there’s more sweating.

I can’t embed because WordPress is useless, but why not watch the video while you read my ‘expert commentary’? Watch the video

Next up we have Sarah, who works in music PR and Ian, who has a starring role in his own life, with a digital marketing job on the side.

Ian is after a “bubbly, happy, smiley” lady – he basically wants the Churchill’s Insurance nodding dog in slingbacks.

Sarah says that she doesn’t go on dates thinking “I’m going to marry this man” and then there is a “BUT…” and the ground starts to shake and the skies darken and she ultimately admits she’s after somebody to settle down with. Run, men! Run for your lives! (I joke, of course. Why is it such a passion-killer to admit you are looking for, y’know, the real deal?)

Ian dribbles on a bit about liking a woman who is “driven” and “lovely” – all very interesting. When I came to, Sarah was back on the screen, being *very* specific about the types of trainers her man should be wearing. Like, obsessive-level. Hmm, why are you still single, Sarah?

Ian says he doesn’t normally dress the way he has done for his date. When he describes his usual outfit, it sounds a bit like Taylor Swift going on about Harry Styles’ daydream James Dean look in his eye. A white T-shirt and jeans, Ian? Wooo! I’m so excited.

Sarah asks what his trainer selection is like (?!?!) and Ian instantly fails the test. He likes Converse (high five!) and Redwing boots – what Ian is telling us with these footwear choices is that he knows how to code HTML, that age-old aphrodisiac. Sarah’s face falls and I know – I absolutely know for sure – that it is over for her at this point. Ian’s trusty Redwings will not be slung in the corner of Sarah’s bedroom any time soon.

This goes on and on until I end up wishing that huge Converse that’s the side of that shoe shop in Camden would fall out of the sky and crush them both – just so we can stop hearing about shoes.

Camden Town Market giant Converse shoe

Finally, they move on.

Ian’s top tip about putting your jacket in a BIN BAG when you go to an Indian restaurant is probably well-intentioned, but first of all, it is a totally bullshit, impractical tip and, secondly, it’s delivered like a teacher telling you off for not writing out your homework neatly enough.

You’d think Ian’s grave would be dug deep enough, but he decides to plough on and turn it into foundations for a family mausoleum. Clearly on the wrong end of a few ales, Ian admits he has posted some Instagram selfies during the date, with captions that are hardly going to get him a seat at the Algonquin Round Table.

“Every time I came back from the loo, he was taking a picture of himself,” confirms an incredulous Sarah, before the footage from his Google Glass damns him for ever.

Sarah moans she has dropped her dinner all down herself (mainly, I think, because she cannot think of anything else to say)  and Ian says it doesn’t matter as she’ll be in a dark nightclub later. The world leans in a little closer to the screen awaiting Sarah’s response. When the “Am I?” comes, hands are clasped to eyes, exclamations of horror reverberate around every corner of the land.

This date is the cringe equivalent of eating 10 bags of Tangfastics at once. And there’s still a minute to go. Why would you do this? What is wrong with you?

Sarah eventually asks the question on everybody’s lips, when, after Ian has droned on about his dancing prowess for what feels like aeons, she blurts out: “Are you a real person?”

It looks like all is lost, as Ian flounders while Sarah rips him a new one and the date staggers to its natural conclusion.

When the couple are asked, separately, whether they kissed, I expected snorts of derisive laughter from Sarah and a sheepish head in hands from Ian. However, never underestimate the power of atrocious banta and woeful advice – they snogged. AND to put the tin hat on it, Sarah said she would see him again, but that he hasn’t asked. Incredible.

Boys, you’re doing it all wrong.

Sarah and Pete

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We’re back! No gays this week, sadly, but we do have Sarah, 30, a comedian and Pete, 32, professional beard owner who also has a sideline as an occupational therapy assistant.  Read what happened on the date before we take a closer look at the all-important answers to the not-very-important questions.

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Here, Sarah falls foul of the silent killer that has destroyed many of my food-based dates – hunger fear. Perhaps, like me, she’d rather order too much and not eat it all than stare longingly at her dining partner’s plate, wishing some of his cauliflower would float over to hers. We’ve all been there, Sarah, you were right to check. No points deducted. I’m with you.

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*rolls eyes along fence and back* Thanks for dropping by, Pete. What, nothing? No awkward moments at all? Not even when Sarah appeared to have an unhealthy obsession over the vegetables? You didn’t think that was weird? Not one cringeworthy moment? If you were in the Celebrity Big Brother house, Katie Hopkins would be calling you “magnolia” and telling you to “own it” and all sorts of other phrases she read in a business management book from 1987. Disappointing.

OK, never mind, because it’s table manners time. Sarah’s a comedian, remember, so I hope she at least put some cheese up her nose.

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I know that Sarah probably meant this as a joke, but did anyone else get a whiff of…Margo Leadbetter

My only hope is that Sarah is in some subtle way telling us that Pete ate his meal with all the grace of a JCB trying to pick up a maki roll.

pete_table manners

Pete, are you trying to tell me that you had three of the most difficult, inelegant, irritating things to eat – pretty much all the things you would avoid if you wanted to have any hope of someone kissing you at the end of the night – and there were NO awkward moments? Not one AWFUL joke about oysters being aphrodisiacs? Not a single stray lobster claw twanged across the room and into the lap of a diner sitting five tables away? Not a solitary cringe at your crab, which smells like a baby’s nappy at the best of times? Nothing? No? Can we get someone to check this man’s pulse?

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Sarah sounds bored out of her fucking mind. I expected her answers to be a bit funnier than this. Perhaps she didn’t have much to work with. Waiter, the bill, please. Oh, hang on…

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No. NO. You’re on a date, you shouldn’t… Why do people do this? “Oh, it’s January, I’m on a detox; I’ll just have a little sip of your wine.”
“Well, I’m supposed to be on a diet, really, but I can just nick a couple of your spuds, I guess.”
And on and on it goes. Why can’t you just order some chips and, if you only want to eat seven, leave the rest or perhaps donate them to charity? Because now Pete is seven chips down and that’s a big thing to recover from. Just. Keep. Your. Fingers. To. Your. Side. Of. The. Table. No wonder Pete marked Sarah a 7 and slung a “platonically, sure” at her in his last answer.

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Get out. That’s not how it works. Cop-out. No way. One more humdinger from Sarah:

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“From taking public transport, then eating with my hands” – not only is Sarah a comedian, she’s a doctor too. I’m sure there are a million other ways you get norovirus, but if it makes you feel better that it was an innocent old handrail, that gave you the Technicolor squits, so be it.

This means that not only did Sarah steal some of Pete’s hard-earned chips, she did it with fingers absolutely leaping with norovirus. Has anyone been round to Pete’s to see whether he’s still got his stomach lining?

Pete, with your refusal to say anything was awkward – you didn’t even complain about the chip theft – despite everything, you win this one, because at least you know how to score. Sarah, I’m disappointed.

Apparently, these two go to the same comedy club. Sadly, they don’t say which one, but I imagine it will be the one where nobody ever laughs. Not even at an airborne lobster claw.

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian