Aaron and Alice

2016, we barely we knew you. And what we did know, we weren’t all that keen on. Whether you’re going to spend tonight banging shots, or swaying alone in a brightly lit kitchen, crying, to Dina Carroll’s version of The Perfect Year, I hope you have as good a time as you’re prepared to allow in 2016’s honour.

But before we hand the year its marching orders, there’s one more Guardian Blind Date to squeeze in. Will Aaron, 30 and 31-year-old Alice be in keeping with 2016’s general air of face-clutching horror and disbelief and be a couple of egotistical nightmares? Or will they set a new positive tone for 2017?

Well, I don’t want to worry you, but they’re both project managers – that well-known, knockabout, LOL-central profession – so don’t get your hopes up. Read what happened on the date before I let off my assigned party popper precisely 3 seconds too early and ruin New Year for everyone. I’ll be brisk – I’ve got vol au vents in the oven.

aaron-hoping

Zest was the name of a really quite unpleasant soap that my nana used to insist on buying in the ’80s. It smelled, unsurprisingly, of lemons, but not the kind of lemons you actually find in your local friendly organic greengrocer, but synthetic, weapons-grade, government issue lemons. “Lemon-shaped foodstuff with lemony-flavoured taste.”

Anyway, I guess a zest for life is better than someone who sits opposite you smelling of old blankets, stirring a warm margarita with a chewed straw and telling you they can’t go on.

alice-hope

Why are people so afraid of silence? We get so little of it. There is good silence and bad silence of course. Good: sitting on a veranda in the countryside staring out into the lush green next to someone at least three handsomeness levels above you; the peace and quiet 25 minutes after a toddler has given in to sleep; comfortable silence people-watching with a strong gin and tonic and the knowledge you’ll be at it like rabbits within 10 minutes of getting home. Bad: he just told you his style icon was Nigel Farage and you don’t know what to say; you just broke a priceless heirloom in a museum; you’re stuck in a lift with IBS and three dour cast members of a recently axed ITV comedy.

alice-first

“Can you please describe the man who took your purse, madam?”

aaron-first

This is good. Nobody wants to arrive at a date to find a miserable old leg of lamb sitting there scowling into the abyss. I went on a lot of dates with a lot of different men back in the day when I wasn’t quite so arthritic, and you’d be amazed how many of them thought that “mean and moody” was an actual thing that suited anyone other than the supermodels from George Michael’s Freedom ’90 video. It may well be that they were horrified at the sight of me and this affected their demeanour, of course. But seriously: smile. Nobody is that desperate.

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I always give travelling a very bad rap when it comes up as a conversation topic but thank GOD two travel nuts have found each other, because it means they can’t ruin anyone else’s dates.

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Ooh, really? Pictures of the food? Hmmm. I mean, I know people do this – I’m a huge fan of endless pictures of hearts drawn in the froth of a cappuccino, for example – but on a date? Naturally, I couldn’t wait to see just how fancy this nosh actually was to warrant having its portrait done on a first date, so nipped over to the restaurant website to see what they served. Here you go:

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Tapas. On a bit of slate.

Groundbreaking.

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alice-table

That final twist of the Kitchen Devil in your colon: one last “impeccable” for 2016.

Beryl Reid Blankety Blank

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ENERGY? Alice. By day, project manager. By night, lightbulb, or convection heater.

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I get very nervous friendzoning vibes when someone mentions a “nice smile”. It’s more a ruffle of a choirboy’s bowl haircut than a “come hither” sweep of the fringe out of the eyes, isn’t it?

Mind you, a man once leant over to me on a date and said I had lovely teeth, and after three more glasses of wine I told him they tasted even better than they looked and asked him if he’d like to try and, reader, he did.

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Oooooh I think Aaron really likes her, never mind these friends he can’t wait to introduce her to. Amazing.

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I know Alice is probably joking – this would definitely get all the team creased up laughing in the morning stand-up around the Post-It-laden project board – but whenever people say this I do wonder why people surround themselves with friends you wouldn’t actually want anyone to meet. I always imagine a terrifying gang of chardonnay-swilling, unlucky in love onesie-wearers, “setting the world to rights” in the All Bar One in Kettering, or a group of bantz-lads in stonewash  jeans, flannel shirts and shoes the colour of suicide, talking about tits and gaming, in Revolution in Clapham.

Get better friends in 2017. You deserve it.

aaron-three

Fun like 2016 has not been in any way whatsoever.
Outgoing like that guy in Accounts who shocked everyone with his beat-perfect rendition of the Macarena at the office Christmas party.
Enthusiastic like my mouth around a glass of “fizz” at midnight.

alice-three

Friendly like a dog you meet in the street that’s slightly lame and a bit smelly but gives you its paw and responds when you rub its belly.
Interesting like a three-hour conversation about backpacking and all the places you’ve had food poisoning could never be.
Intelligent like a self-checkout machine that KNOWS you’ve got three croissants, not the two you claimed when you typed in the amount.

aaron-made

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This is lovely that she told him this on the date (I assume). I am pleased. However, “snappy dresser” – I didn’t think anyone under 70 actually said that out loud. Is that Alice’s quote or is Aaron just being ironic? I can’t tell. Like, I like these two but I kind of feel like I’m watching two robots in a simulation – and some rogue coding by a retiring professor has brought “snappy dresser” back out of the air raid shelter and into our modern world.

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anne hathwaway look

OK.

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Come on, guys, this is kind of sweet. He REALLY likes her. I am sure we’re all praying for Aaron that she likes him back. Alice has held back a bit on her answers so far. It’s the dying days of 2016 – we need this, Alice. We need this.

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Cat hits toddler

Alice. Alice. Don’t let us down, Alice. Please.

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harry air punch 2

YES. Alice came through. YES. Interesting how Alice saved up her enthusiasm until the end, while Aaron has been slowly hinting at it all the way through. Alice is very PRINCE2 and Aaron is much more Agile (niche project manager joke, sorry).

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This is a 10. I know a shy 10 when I see one. This is one. T E N.

alice-ascore

Ooh.

Um.

Perhaps this is caution. Look, you need to forgive Alice for this one. 2016 has been a tough year. She’s seen hopes dashed and the enthusiasm drain away like cheap soup through a slotted spoon the whole year through. So she’s saying 7 because even though everything went well and she liked him, she’s half expecting to go home, Google him, and discover he’s actually a murderer, or a Ukip supporter, or Piers Morgan.

This 7 is a 7 that’s seen the world for what it is in 2016 and knows that the only thing you can count on for certain is disappointment – and the likelihood of someone telling you how great the coffee is at Monmouth in Borough Market before the day is out.

Will we break that curse, and do it again in 2017? Just to see?

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aaron-meet

You bet your arse we will.

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Happy New Year.

Photograph: Sarah Lee; Christian Sinibaldi, both for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. I do this live on a Saturday morning and my attention keeps wandering because I can’t believe how lovely my Christmas tree is. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

Note 2: Thank you so much for reading and commenting and sharing and tweeting about this weird blog throughout 2016. I couldn’t do it without you and I wouldn’t. I cannot promise a post every week in 2017 but I *will* be carrying on. Thank you again. x

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David and James

It was my birthday yesterday. 41. Christ. Because my sado-masochism knows no bounds, I drank for the first time in six weeks. This was a mistake. I feel like I’ve been coughed up by an asthmatic stegosaurus. With that in mind, here’s a review of this week’s Guardian Blind Date.

Come on. It’s gays. It’s Christmas. I couldn’t not.

I think we know how this is going to go, thanks to our eyes and mildly curdled life experience, but let’s play along.

David (beard) is a 24-year-old journalist and is in pink, while James, a 29-year-old PR (hand on chin, for some bizarre reason) is in blue.

david-hope

hey
how r u
love ur profile
any more pics
no not face
tho they r nice
like full body ones
nice
hehe
hehehe
nice

james-hope

Chatty. Only two queens could see “chatty” as a plus, and actively encourage it. Yearn for it, even. Thank God for gays. We’re not just good with colours, hair and crying at Bette Midler concerts, you know.

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Charming and warm. Candles are charming and warm, David. Watch yourself.

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That “super” at the beginning is the velvet glove around a fist of pure iron.

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What’s worse? A date who has read all the Harry Potter books – they bought the ones with the “adult” cover, though, so they wouldn’t look stupid on the Tube – or a date who purses their lips. carefully puts their G&T down on the table, and proudly tells you they’ve never read anything JK Rowling has done? (It’s the second one.)

Plans for the future. Wow. I don’t know what I’m doing in the next two hours (I do, I’m getting dressed and going to the Jupiter-sized Tesco on Canal Road) let alone “the future”. How far into the future are they talking? Were they showing each other retirement villages?

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I’m sorry but every time I read James’s answers, I imagine him saying it with his hand on his chin.

HOBBIES. Literally nobody has hobbies anymore. It is 2016. Just.

david-awks

Oh my goodness. Coffee people. Are you one? Do you know one? They are the worst. The actual worst. Worse than murderers or people who wait until they’re at the barrier in the Tube station to get their Oyster card out.

Years ago, I wrote this about dating a coffee enthusiast:

“It’s hard to say exactly when coffee became a fetish. It seems like only yesterday it was perfectly acceptable to drink endless cups of watery slop made from claggy granules, topped up with hip-expanding white sugar. Since the arrival of big coffee chains, of course, we have turned to lattes and espressos and are asking for types of coffee by name. Moldovan Wheelbarrow Roast? Why, certainly. And that’s fine; it gives us something to think about while we queue patiently behind the man ordering a very specialised frappuccino. But for some men this isn’t enough – for them coffee isn’t just a means of keeping your eyes open and your belly warm, it’s a way of life. They caress their espresso machine with the fervour of a closeted teenager finding Zac Efron’s wang in their hands. They tell you about the beans. You find yourself nipping to Starbucks in secret, because the mere sight of that mermaid on your paper cup sends the Coffee Snob into paroxysms of horror. “How can you drink that stuff?” he’ll wince. “That’s not proper coffee!” The more he bangs on and on about how special this latest blend of coffee is, and how he’s going to get up really early to enjoy an authentic cortado at the farmer’s market, the more you crave the ordinary. You find yourself sweating like a junkie in your local supermarket aisle, grabbing jars of instant own-brand coffee called things like ‘Whoops Mum! Super Value Coffee-Flavoured Powder”’. The word ‘artisan’ starts to make you nervous. You come to dread the pong of freshly brewed coffee, holding your nose like you’re driving by a field full of cow dung in a convertible.”

So you like coffee. Great. Not much use if you can’t fuck like a train, though. Just saying.

james-awks

YES JAMES WE GET THE PICTURE THANKS.

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james-table

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DAMN that man never shut the hell up.

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You have your hand on your chin. Explain.

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I love that David has certain social echelons he feels he could introduce James to. Presumably he has an entire sect of cohorts who would be totally fine with talking to someone who agreed to be photographed with their hand on their chin, like they were in a Russian wedding photo. Others, however, would frown on this. James couldn’t meet them.

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Erudite like a word you never, ever say out loud, but often write. (Although you do know how to pronounce it, you are worried that someone not quite as, oh shall we say erudite, as you won’t know what it means and ask you to explain.)
Pleasant like the most boring day in your life where it didn’t rain.
Groomed like a man with his hand on his chin.

james-three

Intelligent like a man you don’t fancy, who you would perhaps describe as erudite had you ever heard the word in your life.
Polite like, guys, I honestly don’t fancy him and I want to make that absolutely crystal.
Friendly like a DOG you might come across tied up outside an off-licence. Christ.

david-made

helena

james-made

That is not an answer to this question. It just isn’t. “What did he think of you?” “Oh we had a lot of common and he liked that.” I mean, they’d ask you to qualify if this was a normal conversation.

What James really wanted to say is that he knew David thought he was “easy on the eye” – #NotAllEyes – but it wasn’t reciprocated.

james-hand-on-chin

david-go-on

harry-styles-1

Dessert in this case does not, I assume, mean a quick beej in the loos.  Gay men in 2016, eh? What’s even the point of them?

david-kiss

Oh, David. Perhaps that hand that perma-rests on James’s chin got in the way.

david-change

Other things that are solid: rock; gold; opinions; impacted faeces.

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jame-score

monkey puppet omg shock gif

6. Six. SIX.

A “pretty solid night” that elicited only a six from each of them? Just goes to show: gay men – even cuddly avuncular ones with beards and coffee addictions in lieu of any bite – are brutal bitches unless they get to see the D.

james-meet

Oh, whatever. Your hand is on your chin. Talk me through this.

david-meet

bow_down1

OOH. This kitty’s got CLAWS. I bet David also looks forward to picking apart the typos in those press releases, rolling his eyes at the sad clichés and marvelling at how PRs always sign off with “best”, when the material preceding it is anything but. And then deleting them.

See you in 2017.

Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. I do this live on a Saturday morning and today I feel delicate to say the least. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Jen and Jeremy

December. A month of too-soon nostalgia, everybody winding down, sore throats, and retail panic only made more bearable because there are pretty lights everywhere and there’s at least one roast dinner guaranteed near the end of it if we’re lucky.

The trouble with being surrounded by year-end reviews and people staring misty-eyed into Christmas trees while they sip thoughtfully on eggnog is you start to look back upon your own year and what you’ve done, especially if you’re single. That guy I kissed and then walked away from in July, hoping he’d follow – did I try too hard to be mysterious? The woman who texted me keenly three times during the Olympics but I was too busy to reply – was she the one? December brings it all: gold, frankincense, myrrh, and regret. Don’t be fooled by memories and should’ve-beens scented with cinnamon and pine needles, however – you were probably right first time.

Nervously looking at each other over a polystyrene cup of mulled cider in a woeful popup in Southwark this week are 26-year-old lawyer Jen and Jeremy, 29, a chartered surveyor. Well.

jeremy-jen-full

Jeremy does not appear to be looking into the lens of the camera which I always take to be a very bad omen, but perhaps he muddles through. Read the date and find out, before I lean in to inspect a bauble and somehow “accidentally” bring the whole tree crashing down.

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I was talking about this the other day, how important it is to be with someone who make you laugh. I totally agree, but it depends how they’re doing it. If they’re the kind of person who can’t take anything seriously, ever, then no thank you – it would be like dating Mr Blobby. Similarly, if all their laughs come from waspish humour and pithy putdowns, this can get old very quickly – just ask my boyfriend. No, if you’re going to hang on to someone, your comedy routine has to be varied, the perfect mix of highs and lows, pathos and bathos, sleaze and wit, gallows and end-of-the-pier ready. No pressure.

jem-hope

Outgoing. You don’t hear this much anymore, do you? I suppose it can be interpreted as a bit of a diss these days – nobody likes a show-off. Well, not the old-fashioned kind of show-off anyway. It’s perfectly OK to photograph yourself on an hourly basis (clothing optional) and document every single moment of your life on social media, but be a bit outré in polite company for more than five minutes and your companions will be drawing their fingers across their throats and dragging you on WhatsApp the next morning.

So I’m pleased to see “outgoing” make a comeback, right at the fag-end of 2016. Let’s be a bit more of that for the rest of the year, in whichever way you like; we’ve earned it.

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elijah

jen-talk

“His course on how to cook Christmas dinner on a barbecue” – can anyone else smell that? No, it’s not the faint aroma of burning turkey or the distinct whiff of pigs in blankets rolling off a fatty grill into powdery ash, never to be seen again. It’s… well, let’s look at the evidence. A Christmas dinner on a “BBQ” – where would you do such a thing? Yes, that slightly malodorous pong assaulting your nostrils is the hot air of someone chatting about their gap year Down Under, isn’t it? Just hold your nose until it passes.

“My friends are running out of interest.”

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They were never, ever interested. Unless we have some kind of blood or emotional connection to the infant, or are longing for a child ourselves, or are casting an am-dram production of Bugsy Malone, you may as well show us pictures of teapots, or drawer knobs, or dead senators. We don’t care.

jem-talk

New on BuzzFeed: Five Conversation Topics You Didn’t Know Were the Perfect Catalyst For Finally Getting Round to Doing Yourself In.

jen-awks

jem-awks

Cecelia Ahern couldn’t have written it any better.

But, seriously, how does this happen? Table booked under a certain name, you arrive at restaurant, give name, are seated at table by waiter who takes an instant dislike to you for no reason, you wait, other person turns up and gives the name and is seated opposite by said same miserable waiter. How hard can it be?

“I arrived first” is hanging in the air like a champagne glass about to shatter, isn’t it? Jen is not happy about arriving first.

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The best thing. Did you ever imagine a world where a pair humans  could say the best thing about each other was “New Zealand”? Nothing else, no other flutter of the heart, except the palpitations brought on by the mere mention of New Zealand?

This, of course, is an answer given when there is nothing else to say, or don’t want to give anything away. If there is nothing to say about someone, and you don’t want to throw your head back in fury and start typing about the stupefying conversations, the basic anecdotes and dreary attempts at quirkiness, then FINE. Whatever. But if you’re playing your cards close to your chest, you’re in the wrong place. The chaste PG double-feature is in the auditorium next door – we’re here for the blood and gore, and my popcorn is getting cold.

Being from or living in New Zealand the best thing about someone?  The very best? The zenith? The summit of excellence? Don’t be ridiculous. You’ll be telling me you connected with your soulmate over a shared interest in the big Nando’s in Centenary Square, Bradford, next. Get out.

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cruel-intentions

jeremy-intro

Why not? Why. Not. “Sure.”

I think I could be in a room with Jeremy where the temperature was 55°C and I still wouldn’t undo the top button of my blouse.

You can’t go through your life shrugging your way into social situations, Jeremy – it’s bad for your posture.

jen-three

Kind, like a relative who brings grapes to your hospital bedside and doesn’t spit the stalks back into the bag.
Funny, like that smell.
Enthusiastic, like the person who finished last in a sack race but is still wildly excited to be offered a funsize Mars bar as consolation.

jem-three

Smart, like a lovely two-piece (mauve) in the window at C&A in Leicester in 1983. (If there was no C&A in Leicester in 1983, please do not write in; I don’t give a fuck. But I think that’s where Adrian Mole got his school trousers so there very probably was, thank you.)
Funny, again. I don’t have another simile for this one, sorry.
Attractive, like oh so you’re not actually dead in the crotch area, Jeremy – I was beginning to wonder.

jen-made

Confident, great, yes I imagine you could say Jeremy’s “smart” alluded to confidence, but here we are again with the “scatty”. I don’t have a photographic recall of all the Blind Dates but I am almost positive that the guy on the date NEVER says he thought the woman was scatty, or a chatterbox, or a bit mad. And yet here it is, week after week.

Men never have to check their behaviour. I mean, see Jeremy’s answer below. “Who knows?” He doesn’t give a fuck. And why should he? He’s never been taught that he must. Women, however, there isn’t one thing they do that isn’t scrutinised and pulled apart and fretted over by everyone male and female – whether it’s how they behave in public, what they wear, who they have sex with and how often, their cooking skills, their fertility, their marital status, their hair, everything. Everything.

And this is why, almost every single week, when the woman on the date is asked to stop reviewing the other person and consider instead how she came across, she instantly looks for the negative. Even if it is nonsense, she will hunt it out. There is absolutely nothing about Jen’s answers that could be considered remotely scatty; she is from New Zealand FFS, and most of those women do not take ANY shit.

The worst thing about this use of “scatty” is that it immediately follows a “confident”, something women hardly EVER say in this column, and you’re like YAY and unfurling the ticker tape – before you see the door isn’t actually closed and there’s someone else coming in. Oh, look, it’s good old “scatty”.

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Anyway, we need to stop making women think that they’re in some way awful or annoying, or have to invent ridiculous characteristics for themselves just so men won’t think they’re too big for their boots. It is bullshit. It hurts us all.

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See? Maybe he doesn’t even want to guess. Why would he?

jremy-go-on

woman-throat-action

Imagine being in your 20s and even having any concept of “late”. You have plenty of time to be in bed by midnight when you have no other option. Stay out, have another drink, sweep your fringe out of your eyes, flirt with a barman. (Full disclosure: I left a Christmas party at 6:30 pm the other day.)

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Why? It sounds like the most exhilarating thing to have happened to you all evening.

jem-change

cbb_gemmaa

Regular readers will know I am not fond of using food as deflection. At least Jen was honest; the chat about cows made her want to dress in a turkey costume and go dancing at Bernard Matthews’ largest abattoir. If the evening was a fucking dud, then say so. Don’t blame your bad menu choices.

jen-score

cher-clueless

Fackin’ ‘ell. Six point five. There’s brusque Kiwi, and there’s Kiwi who won’t just be not taking your calls, she’ll be setting fire to her mobile phone to make sure she doesn’t answer by mistake.

jem-scores

chrissy teigen hold head 2

Oh just get out. Enough enough enough. What a waste of all our time.

Will you meet again? God, I couldn’t care less but we’re here now. I’m guessing Jen is already in witness protection and Jeremy’s going to let us know his true feelings in a couple of hundred years, just as soon as he’s cleared his threat and found the camera lens.

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Empire wine throw punch Cookie

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isak-reeling

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Note 1: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re great. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally; I don’t see the date in advance so my reactions are my first ones. I do this live on a Saturday morning. My dad went to New Zealand and said it was marvellous. If you want to give your side of the story,  get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Note 2: The Impeccable blog is now taking a break.