Category Archives: Guardian Blind Date

Marion and Will

It’s September. That means everyone who’s been telling you “the nights are drawing in” since mid-July have now moved on to “it’ll be Christmas before you know it”, and the entire public transport system smells of damp washing because everybody’s holding out until 1 October before putting the heating on, so their laundry’s taking six days to dry.

It also means thoughts turn to “cuffing season”, an entirely made-up part of the year coined by dating experts to keep themselves from remembering how irrevocably single they are. Apparently, once the Christmas shop in Liberty opens, we’re supposed to turn into deranged commitment-seekers under some kind of enchantment that means if we’re not coupled-up by the time the first bonfire is lit, we shall spend all winter alone, like Hannah Hauxwell up on those moors.

First cabs off the rank in the quest to be spending summer 2019 arguing about wedding favours and where everyone’s going to sit are Marion, a 24-year-old think tank assistant (I don’t know, but I’m intrigued) and Will, 25, a TV development assistant who, in this photo, looks like he’s just caught sight in the distance of all his enemies being eaten by lions, but is sadly too busy scratching his locust bites to enjoy it properly.

Read what happened on the date (it went well), before I go in there and… well, I don’t know, kill their vibe?

Why, does she wait tables at the restaurant you were going to? I’m all for optimism but only someone who’d never picked up a copy of Weekend magazine in their life could expect this.

Marion looks like a nice person so I’m sure she means well here. Because I am not particularly nice, however, I prefer to imagine she means ill – that she wants to go back to her smug, married and coupled-up pals and, over a below-average Sunday roast in a Dulwich pub with too many children in it, regale them with boozy, saucy tales of a wild night with a gorgeous stud, revelling in their increasingly glassy expressions as they silently knock back their Pinot Grigio Blush, bristling with creeping envy, remembering what it used to be like to wake up next to a mystery guest reeking of sex, and not the person you argued with just before bed about who left that mark on the toilet bowl.

A power coat:

Not a power coat: whatever Marion was wearing.

Marion if you were wearing the Alexis coat above CALL ME and we can go sink oil tankers together.

“Doesn’t take himself too seriously”: dressed like he fell face-first into Dame Edna’s wardrobe covered in Appletiser.

I mean, I don’t know how else you could take that for a first impression. Maybe he turned up in clown shoes or arrived rolling down the hill in a bathtub with the surviving cast members of Last of the Summer Wine.

1. I hear you.
2. OK. Y THO.
3. GOOD first date conversation topic, I find. Bonding over working in customer service of some kind, and finding common ground over how garbage everyone is, whether posh customer in Harrods or salt-of-the-earth pensioner in Asda, the one thing you can rely on if you’ve worked in retail is that people buying stuff from you inexplicably hate you.

I wonder what kind of nerdy kids they were? There’s more than one. Too many to go into here. Misunderstood geeks, perhaps, who read quietly in a corner while everyone else dragged the puberty out of one another through sheer peer pressure. Brainboxes who stuck their hands up every time the teacher asked a question, much to their derision of the baying mobs of effortlessly cool teens, who had hairstyles and wore “fashion” and lovebites like badges of honour. Or maybe they both wore specs, never dropped a consonant and were a bit boring, but otherwise just like every other teenager.

Ryan Gosling again. Yeah, I wouldn’t bring him up too often on a date. It might…well, remind everyone I’m not Ryan Gosling.

A compliment HOW?! What were the ice cream men like where you grew up?

Oh you GUYS it’s just two accident-prone geeks falling in love. Come on, you love this. I cycle past Richard Curtis’s house most weekends – shall I drop in and tell him I’ve got his next blockbuster?

Although Will’s answers seem to have been subedited by Russell Brand, and both these responses seem to be missing key superficial signifiers about attraction or whatever, this is sweet. I can’t really go in on this too hard, tbh; at least they’re not horrible people.

So few pass this test. Not the actual anxiety of passing muster with friends, but the actual willingness to introduce them. It seems a default reaction to think our friends most extraordinary, excluding characters, with endless quirks so wise and weird that no outsider could possibly understand or get to know them. We assume – and perhaps rightly – anyone unaccustomed to their humour would hate them on sight, and are reluctant to let them mix with other, new people we may actually want to keep in our lives.

All friendships are held together by only a few truths: they know too much to let them go, or you haven’t successfully pissed them off enough to drive them away – although you have probably pushed it on more than one occasion. Making friends is hard and dissolving friendships only becomes more traumatic as time moves on, as your shared history and love stretches out in agonising threads like the caramel between two halves of a snapped Twix. The real reason we’re frightened to introduce a new person is we worry it will hold up a mirror to us all, and that like the Wicked Queen in Snow White we’ll realise we’re not the fairest of them all, and that our bonds to these people are flimsier than we thought. But I say bring them in! Give the group new blood! It can revitalised a stagnant social group or, even better case scenario, you have someone new to slag off once you’ve driven them away.

It’s a risk we have to take. Gaze into it. Go on.

Well, not quite.

I’m not sure how I feel about the word “nerd” being reclaimed by people who might not have been that nerdy. I need to see your credentials. Remember that trend a couple of years ago when people started wearing T-shirts that said GEEK and goofy glasses and pretending they weren’t the most popular person in their school but actually a great big DWEEB because a) they had a T-shirt saying so b) their teeth were, like, ever so slightly out of kilter and c) they read a comic once.

You’re a nerd, really? I want to see those diary entries, I want to hear about the loneliness, the shunning by just about everyone who thought they were cooler than you – even the ones who weren’t cooler than you – and I want to hear about your boring obsessions that would have relatives’ eyes glazing over and meant you didn’t leave your bedroom between the ages of 11 and 17. Otherwise, you’re just doing bad nerd drag.

This is natural on a date. I used to see so many couples out on a date sitting rigidly and chatting in excruciating staccato with interrogative stares. I’d think it was strange until my eyes would track down to their table and I’d see a couple of barely sipped glasses of wine or a shared elderflower sodding cordial or something.

I don’t advocate binge-drinking, I’ve seen the devastating effects of alcoholism, and believe you should always keep yourself safe and, importantly, coherent and interesting, BUT if the date is going badly – or well! – have a few drinks. Look, the world is probably going to be blown up by a Fanta-coloured potato in a trucker’s cap or a militarised egg in utility gear ANY DAY NOW. Go to a pub down the road, drink, and kiss.

Like they did.

Save some for the sequel, Hugh Grant; you’re over-egging this now.

Two eights! So, basically shy nines. Unless there was death-breath, a weird, forked tongue, the exchange of remaining food between mouths or a clumsy cough right into the gob (happened to me once) then any date where you kiss should be a 9. So allow me to ignore your eights and reassign them as a 9 each. It’s my car and my hands are closest to the radio.

This has all gone quite well, but will Will chase Marion down Portobello Road and proclaim his undying love for her while the middle-class nibble on their spelt rolls outside Gail’s Bakery (having a refurb at the moment but still open)?

Ummmm, OK, this is a bit muted for someone whose opening answer made Julie Andrews look like Margaret Thatcher in the sentimental stakes.


You two play it cool all you like. I’ll be watching.

Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Note: My first novel, THE LAST ROMEO, is coming out early 2018 and is available for preorder on Amazon, among other places like Waterstones. If you like my writing, it contains LOTS of it, so there is that to consider –plus it would mean a great deal to me if people actually bought it!  Here is a pic of me with the cover. You can order the book at

Note 2: I have a new mailout, The Truth About Everything*, which goes out occasionally. If you’d like the next one, you can sign up here. No news or tastemaker stuff – lots of other people do that much better than I would – it’s just some of my writing, first.

Disclaimer: The comments I make about the couples are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. And please, once more with FEELING for the next date – you kissed FFS.


Jahangir and David

The fag-end of summer seems finally to have been stubbed out. The air no longer smarts with the acrid pong of over-barbecued sausages; posters for a long-gone “street festival” flap, frayed and weathered, in the increasingly autumnal breeze; our legs breathe a sigh of relief to be hidden under trousers again. And, of course, in my cupboard under the eaves, the light scratch against the wood of bristles from my very realistic-looking-thank-you-very-much Christmas tree tells me that soon it will be time to deck the halls.

But while we wait for everything to get interesting again, we have to endure the woozy, “what season am I” of September. Coat on or off? Too early for jumpers? Should I ask for a pumpkin spice latte or will I be laughed out of Starbucks by a crowd of incognito internet tastemakers for being basic and stupid? Can I will autumn into existence simply by wearing lots of orange and pointing at the solitary crimson/brown leaf my nearest tree has deigned to shed?

First, we need to get to Jahangir and David, our first cabs off the rank in quite a while.

Gay men on the first day back. It’s like they knew.

Jahangir, 39, is a lawyer and David, 38, is a public-sector director so I’m already imagining the fascinating mornings in COS in Westfield and weekends away in Whitstable these two could be having as a couple, but let’s see how they get on on the date shall we? Read the Guardian’s write-up before I get busy with the fizzy.


Try that.

Oh God, really? Oh, mate. I know “current affairs” is a big business and there are people falling over themselves to give you opinions on them, but on a date? Don’t you want to keep it light? I guess you can learn a lot about a person from their thoughts on the state of the world today. But what if they’re clued in about all the stuff you ignore – like a highbrow, really interesting-sounding version of one of you watching Strictly while the other prefers X Factor? With opinions and beliefs increasingly weaponised, my long-held view remains that politics should absolutely be banned from a first date unless you are  in a semi-dull romantic comedy about two spunky reporters breaking a big story who fall in love or whatever. I mean, I like Twitter, but I wouldn’t want to date it, live.

Haha I do love how “was smiling as we shook hands” becomes “smiley” in these quick first impression roundups. Like anyone would arrive scowling, or crying, or gurning, or rolling their eyes.

Handsome, though. We’ll have that, won’t we lads?

I hate it when they get this wrong and tell us their overall first impression. David, we are building up to something here; you have shouted out “HE’S DEAD” 18 seconds into The Sixth Sense (which I still haven’t seen so sorry to my self for the spoilers there). Mind you, I have read ahead and it’s very possible Jahangir arrived wearing a Jeremy Corbyn T-shirt so perhaps this *is* a first impression.

Either way, “articulate” is what a teacher who can’t stand you but has to allow for the fact you are a beautiful brainbox would put on your school report.

I wonder if Jahangir is one of those people who really likes the letter J. I am also one of those people. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the first letter of my name – but that’s as good a reason as any – or because it’s relatively rare, but J is a great letter. Looks good; has quite a few variants to keep things “spicy”; can be written with a flourish. I’m a sucker for alliteration – as my book’s copy editor is no doubt about to wearily point out to me very soon – so while Jahangir’s summary ticks a lot of boxes for me, it also sounds very very BORING.

How can David top that? Why, he pulls out the big guns, of course. The ultimate arsenal for sending someone off into the land of nod. The H-bomb of dreary pomposity, clueless reasoning and purely hypothetical and borderline redundant rhetoric that goes round and round in circles like a demented dog chasing a crumb of cracker stuck to its incessant wagging tail. BREXIT.

I leave rooms when Brexit is mentioned. I even put my hand up like I’m hearing unwelcome results of a paternity test on Ricki Lake. I close my eyes in silent mortification and pray for an eagle of some kind to swoop down from above and tear my head clean off with its precise, murdering talons, just so I don’t have to hear people bore on about it. It makes me hate everyone, whatever side they’re on. I… I just can’t anymore. No, you can’t make me. I’m ignoring this like I disregarded This Life +10 or Mutya leaving Sugababes. Bringing up Brexit over a meal on a first date would be the ultimate lusticide. No.

“Oh neither of us is going to eat that. Would you mind taking it away?”


“Please, it’s my son. He is sick. Eat the prosciutto. For him. Please.”

Are you sure? It’s just… that you’re mentioning it under “awkward moments”. So… um.

THOUGHTFUL like the smiley, helpful lad who stays late at college to help set up for tomorrow’s charity fun day, pops in on his aged grandpa to drop off the evening paper and make him a cuppa, nips home to give his siblings their tea, slips a tenner he made from his Saturday job into his mum’s purse because he knows she’s a bit skint, skips up to bed and says his prayers and thanks for all his blessings, before climbing into bed and falling into sweet slumber, dreaming of cocks in every single hole.

CHATTY like someone who talks a lot. I am running out of things to say about this most basic of adjectives. Please, if you are in this column in the future, stop saying this.

CONSIDERATE like the smiley helpful lad above but with straighter teeth.

ARTICULATE like a French teacher asks you to do when you do conversation role-play and slur “pour aller à la gare” into one unintelligible drone.

WELL-MANNERED like Prince George. I mean, seriously, “well-mannered” as a plus point when you’re on a date with them? How sexless does this have to be? Did you bring any knitting with you, just to really set the evening off?

THOUGHTFUL like holy hell this milquetoast compliment is being kept very busy tonight, isn’t it?

Oh, Jahangir. J-Man. Is it because Jeremy’s name begins with J? I have a best friend who is quite tall and she IMMEDIATELY defends the honour of any other tall woman in the public eye. Is it like that? I don’t have much in the way of strong opinions about Jeremy Corbyn (“YOU FILTHY CENTRIST!!!!” – Twitter) but I do have a fairly strong view he should not be the subject of any convo where you are, eventually, hoping to slip your hand up the shirt of the guy you’re on as date with. So I can only assume Jahangir was trying to friend-zone David at a G-force that would tear your skin off or he thought that Dave was hot for Jezza’s manifesto. Who can say?

“Notice I’m not saying whether I did.”

Everyone reading this that ever worked in a restaurant has, I am willing to bet, just felt a surge of rage and fury they didn’t know they were still capable of emoting. GET OUT OF THE RESTAURANT. IT IS SHUT. Look, waiters have got cleaning up to do, things to empty, tables to clear. They’re meeting their other hospitality mates down the one pub that stays open locally in, like, 25 minutes. They’re on a promise with French Hector from La Poncerie. He’s really hot. Don’t fuck this up for them. Yeah, you want to sit and chat about Corbyn and Brexit and all manner of fascinations, but your waiting staff want you out or they want you dead – you decide.

Unsurprisingly, they did not kiss. Next.

According to Kylie Jenner (it might have been Kendall, forgive me) 2016 was “the year of realising stuff”, Jahangir, so you are late to this particular party. There’s a really good way to avoid feeling this particular esprit d’escalier, which I imagine most red wine-fuelled politico-bores feel at some point or another – just don’t start talking about politics at all. Seriously, date 3 is fine for all that stuff, but date 1? Nope.

One thing you can say about Jahangir is you can feel the honesty in his replies. David’s all sound like they were run past a media team or workshopped in a windowless room with a focus group aimed at ensuring any quantum of controversy was airbrushed out. I suppose what David is trying to say here is he arrived at the date sweating like a heifer on a treadmill because he was running late.

I believe these marks. They’re just dull, yet positive, enough to be true.  David marked down Jahangir for that “not awkward at all polities stuff, no it was fine we had lovely conversations really” and Jahangir’s 8 is probably compensation for the very same.

The sexual chemistry has been akin to that of two Ryvitas with a night to themselves at the bottom of a cake tin, but will they converge again to give Article 50 the time and attention it so richly deserves in the romantic arena?

It’s good to be back. Isn’t it?

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Note: No Impeccable next week. I am at a wedding. Blame the happy couple, not me.

Note 2: I have a new mailout, The Truth About Everything*, which goes out occasionally. If you’d like the next one, you can sign up here. No news or tastemaker stuff – lots of other people do that much better than I would – it’s just some of my writing, first.

Disclaimer: The comments I make about the couples are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. But no more Brexit on dates. It’s the anti-boner. Seriously.

Ben and Samantha

Sometimes, when a date is going really badly, you have to stare right into the soul of it to get through. You have to think – as you sit there, or back away from them, or feel their clammy fingers inch up the back of your crop top – this is definitely going to get worse and the only way you can cope is to realise how much fun it will be in, say, an hour, when it’s over, and you’re on the bus home, clawing at your own skin and dreaming of the swarfega shower you’re going to have as soon as you get there.

That said, you can’t let them get away with it. You can’t just allow a bad date to happen to you. You have to make them see it too. The best ways: awkward silences; an exaggerated removal of their hand  from yours; eye-rolling at an imaginary audience like you’re both in a farce in community theatre; the invention of a non-existent deadline, or dog to walk, or ailing mother. In extreme circumstances, a confession you have syphilis.  Obviously you don’t want someone to feel like shit if they’re merely just a bit boring and you’re not into it, but if someone is actively giving you the worst night of your life, almost wilfully, you can’t let them go home in ignorance.

Unless you’re in the Guardian Blind Date column. That’s exactly what you have to do, because this person who was once, blissfully, a stranger, will soon be scoring you like you’re a ploughman’s lunch in a country pub and they’re on TripAdvisor.

Awarding each other three stars for hygiene and two for ambience this week are Ben, 26, an advertising product manager (no idea, let’s never find out) and 21-year-old actor Samantha. Advertising. Acting. In their 20s. I think it’s safe to say we have two people who are very probably slightly too loud at family gatherings and would, if necessary, throw themselves down a short, wide flight of stairs for attention at your wedding reception. Click on the pic for the full date.

OK, my knives are sharp and the turkeys look ready, let’s go.

Have you considered trying the first week of the Edinburgh Fringe? Cheap tickets and the comedians may let you throw fruit at them if you ask.

I didn’t have time to check my watch – that’s how speedy that friendzoning, damage limitation and movement of expectations was. As one guy told me on a date when I said I was on Guardian Soulmates to look for new mates: “I’m not here to make fucking FRIENDS. Join a running club if you want to make friends. I’m here to…” Anyway, you get the idea.

Samantha is allowing us to stare right into the eye of this dating tornado here, she has spoilered us right off the jump, and yet we feel compelled to carry on because we want to see just how catastrophic it all gets.

Haha, why do people say this? “Ooh I like your nose ring.” I had my nose pierced in my 20s – which caused a sensation when I lived in Belgium for a year but that’s a story for another time – and I used to get the odd person leaning in to investigate. Their eyes would widen like they were trying to decide which Quality Street to pick out of the tin, and then they’d tell me how they love “piercings”, like I was absolutely covered in them and not just a dreary cleanshirt trying to look exciting. “Wow a nose ring” is usually the nascent stirrings of kinkiness in the very square. In 20 years’ time it may well develop into an interest in bondage or swinging, but will more than likely plateau with leaving one sock on while they get sucked off in a twin room of a Premier Inn while at a work conference.

Sweet. The emotional fire extinguisher aimed at many a smouldering heart. It’s always a marker for something else. Sweet is like the nicest compliment you can dig out for someone that can’t possibly give them any idea you are sexually interested in them. Any compliment that could equally apply to a baby, a grandparent or a gentle comedy on Radio 4 can never be misconstrued as a come-on.

Imagine sitting behind this conversation on the bus. What do you think would leave you soonest? Your sense of humour? Your dignity? Your will to live?

Yes. You see? How many time have I said this over the years? How many times have I implored you to keep it light – even talk about boxsets and where you get your towels if you have to. The thing is that talking about politics doesn’t just risk betraying your bad opinions – you’re in danger of revealing you don’t think anything. The depressing truth about 2017 is that even your mum’s dog is politicised (Corbyn supporter, but very annoyed with who he chooses to be friends with) and you’re more likely than ever to get into a political argument with your barista while you’re ordering your flat white (because you are forever “super cool in 2003” in your heart). We are living in inescapably political times.

It’s OK to be not sure someone is right, it’s OK to feel you “don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision”, perhaps it’s even OK to believe that Melania Trump is “fabuleux and serving Anna Nicole realness” or whatever (it isn’t) but now, in the age of Teen Vogue as political agitator, it is not OK not to care. Even when you’re 26. Especially, some might say.

Ah, shuddup, the pair of you, let’s get back to the meat on this bone.

I think it’s fine to still feel sad for Ben at this point. You know, he’s probably hypnotised by Samantha’s nose ring or whatever, so can’t quite see how badly this is going – and don’t forget he’s actually on the date and so hasn’t read to the end yet. And maybe Samantha is one of those experts at putting a brave face on it. She is an actor after all. Maybe she should have a night off.  I used to do this. And then I’d get home from a garbage fire of a three-hour date to a text saying “can’t wait to do it again!!!” and I’d be, like, shit.

I mean. Ouch. Well. It’s a funny answer but also, ouuuuuuuuch. He liked her “chat”, while she chartered a plane to travel to the farthest place she could get from giving him a meaningful compliment.

Actors. OK. I have to be careful here because one of my very close friends is an actor and I love them dearly and they are amazing. But when you get a bunch of actors together – oh my God. I must stress here I am not talking about ANY incidents with my own friend but I can tell you: Ben wouldn’t have loads in common with Samantha’s friends because they would make fucking SURE of it.

Like waiters, politicians and estate agents, many groups of actors pride themselves on being utterly impenetrable. I dated an actor briefly back in the day and bloody hell his close coterie of board-treaders did the absolute MOST to make sure I fit in the least. They were pretty, and funny, and friendly, and either marvellously messed-up or incredibly dull and disciplined, but you can never be  any of those things, or one of them, and you will never understand them. A good thing to do is tell them that you acted a bit at school and watch any tiny scrap of fondness they had for you totally disintegrate.

CHATTY, like a child who has just seen the word “sex” written down for the first time.
FUNNY, how some feelings you just can’t deny
And you can’t move on even though you try
Ain’t it strange when you’re feeling things
You shouldn’t feel
Oh, I wish this could be real.

CREATIVE, like an actor, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

FUNNY, like that lyric-based J-Lo joke up there.
SWEET, like candy floss bought from a stall at the Friend Zone’s annual fun day.
SMART, like a cheap suit from a distance.

Look, I know it’s all relative and it isn’t a competition and we’re all entitled to our own feelings, but when a 26-year-old is trying to position himself as some kind of geriatric somehow still tuned into popular culture because he deigned to go on a date with someone a full five years his junior, I just want to smash stuff up. Like, all the stuff. And then when I’m done smashing it up, I want to collect all the shards, smithereens and splinters and I want to pour them into that person’s margarita.

This immediate assumption that ageing is a one-way trip to irrelevance – that we are all complicit in, we knew our killer – is so boring and it is massively untrue. Advancing in years is neither an excuse for tuning out and nor is it compulsory to do so.

It’s like all those gay men on messageboards who can’t understand why Madonna still makes dance music or wants to collaborate with young or popular artists and producers. They assume it is Madge up to her usual vampiric tricks, appropriating everything in reach of her supposedly arthritic, glove-clad fingers, desperate to cling onto youth and stay cool, and be admired by teenagers. They never think for a minute that perhaps she might genuinely still be interested in new music, that these genres and artists excite her, that she still wants to feel a thudding bass pound to the very core of her soul. We have an unhealthy obsession with the idea that everything that is new, and different, and exciting, should only be for the young, that, after a while, older people should pick an era and stick to it and never open their mind and heart to anything new. Staying true to yourself as you age is hard enough; I massively reject the expectation of any generation – below me or above – that I should be acting a certain way or stop living in the here and now merely because it suits them.

Acting your age is just that: acting. Why not just be yourself and not a number? Seriously, free yourself from that sodding birth certificate.

God, Samantha wants to avoid these questions so badly. I wonder how long it took her to get back to the Guardian – they email you the next day, you know. I bet she made them wait a week and deleted some real juicy ones before sending this version.


It is tricky on a date knowing when to go in for the kiss because there’s always the awkwardness, the positioning, the fact they might be shy, or may not want to snog in a public place. There is all of that. But before there is all of that, there is the mutual understanding that a kiss is going to take place. There are the glances from eye to mouth, they move in closer, they pretend to need to hear what you’re saying so badly that they must lean right in and put their ear near your mouth, they will start becoming more tactile. If there is none of that, you need to tastefully withdraw and accept it is not going to be happening that night.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask at al, but usually circumstance will lead you into the kiss, not a formal request. I have asked a couple of times, but only in situations where it has nearly happened so many times that only our mutual propriety or shyness were keeping us apart, or the signals were so strong that the only thing we could logically do next was kiss. And only when I was absolutely sure they their yes would be sincere. But if both of you are up for it and in possession of at least a little confidence, you shouldn’t need to ask. It puts the other person in a horrible position if they’re not interested – once asked, they usually they want to say no. More often than not, they don’t. Nobody wants to be in either situation then, surely. Signals can be easy to misread, yes, but often the best way – especially on a first date – is to ignore them entirely and wait for a follow-up date to confirm them for you.

It is very difficult to get it right, and everybody has their own boundaries, but you are better off missing your chance entirely and going home wanting than taking things to a level that makes you get it absolutely wrong.


She didn’t want to do it. She should’ve said no, but we live in a world where men have to be pandered to, or “let down gently” rather than told a flat no, because otherwise they’ll create a scene – a phenomenon that suddenly becomes the fault of the person saying no. I am not suggesting for a moment that Ben is one of those men, but experience has probably shown Samantha that most men are, so she may have thought it was easier to just go along with it.

I don’t like this world.

You definitely didn’t, Ben. It’s all too easy to turn a party into a circus.

That Ben scored Samantha an 8, even after a kiss, suggests he knew she wasn’t into it. Then, mate, why are you kissing her? It’s not like actual magic – she isn’t Princess Aurora.

Samantha’s 7 is a 1.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Note: Impeccable will be back in September. The first edition of my mailout, The Truth About Everything*, has already gone out, but if you’d like the next one, you can sign up here. It’s just a bit of my writing that you won’t find anywhere else, every now and again. No news or tastemaker stuff – lots of other people do that much better than I would.

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. But don’t kiss people who aren’t into you. It’s not cool. And if someone asks, say no. Let’s make that normal behaviour.


Frankie and Bruce

“Oh goodness, they’re older,” I thought this morning as I scanned  the Guardian Blind Date to make sure it was worth getting up for. I said this as if I forgot the angsty hour I spent in the barber’s chair on Thursday glaring into what I had assumed was a mirror but was in fact a strange Instagram filter that ages you into your forties. One of them is younger than me. I forget I too am older, another box down on the survey. I know a few longer words, but my tiny brain is still the dizzying mess of contradictions and questions it was in my twenties.

And I am sure that Frankie, 47, an education consultant and Bruce, a 40-year-old company director (that should sting a little because I am 41 and not one of these but I guess I could be a company director if I registered myself as one) are exactly the same.

Read what happened and we’ll get busy with the fizzy.

I wish we could do something about this, the tall thing. Why isn’t it OK for a man to be shorter than a woman? In my former life as a heterosexual (hahahahahaha *pause* hahahahahahahahaha) my last ever girlfriend was taller than me to start with, and wore huge heels. Why not? The trouble is both men and women are complicit in this awkwardness. Women aren’t supposed to be interested in short men and men aren’t particularly in being one. And we all go along with it. In the gay world, there is actually a market for shorter gay guys (you may scoff at my saying “a market” but please do open an app and tell me it’s not like a butcher’s window) with some even calling themselves “pocket rockets”. I know. But even that is rare.

Anyway, this ridiculous idea men have to be  taller than any woman in a five-mile radius needs to be dropped. Men go to some ludicrous lengths to conceal their height on dating profiles, and are prone to lying about it. This has always baffled me, because you turn up on the date to discover the “six-footer” you were chatting to (always 6′, don’t ask me why) only comes up to your chest.

(I am 5’9 and a half. I used to say 5’10 on my dating profile.)

Hey Frankie. What a great name Frankie is. Frankie is the kind of name scriptwriters in the ’80s and ’90s used to use for glamorous divorcees or spiky single ladies who wore jumpsuits and big jackets. Frankie. of course, is also that Jason Colby used to call Francesca, American sister of his English wife Sable. Women with troubled pasts, big hair, complicated love lives and an inexhaustible supply of lippy striding into rooms on Howard’s Way – they will always be Frankie to me.

This is the only first impression I ever want to make. Full marks to Bruce here.

Frankie, are you sure he was far away or… well. Bruce says it himself up there, he’s “not the tallest”.

I am wary of “nice smile” or “big smile” because it’s usually printed on the back of a one-way to ticket to the Friend Zone, but I feel Frankie is being sincere here.

What is an actual geek now? I am fascinated by the resurgence of geekdom and how almost everyone is falling over themselves to rebrand as a “geek”. It used to be massively uncool to be a geek, unless you had come out the other side and were now hugely gorgeous and popular. It’s what stunningly attractive supermodels or Hollywood heartthrobs used to say in interviews to make them sound like real people – “Oh I was just an ugly geek” – and you would roll your eyes and go “surrrrrre you were”.

But now being a geek seems to have changed into something else. it is no longer the refuge of the ugly, the friendless, the socially awkward, the bullied and the fanatical. No. Thank GOODNESS, eh, that good-looking people can say with confidence “Hey I’m a geek too; we’re not all lonely weirdos” after being out in the cold for so long. Like there weren’t enough opportunities in literally every other walk of life for the beautiful to dominate absolutely everything. Now you get perfectly toned cuties grabbing a comic, slamming on a pair of Clark Kent specs – £350 Tom Ford ones, though, lol because being a sexy geek costs ££££ – and a T-shirt that says “NERD”, the letters starring against their chest, and claiming geekdom all for themselves.

That’s true equality.

I had to read this bit over a few times. The Guardian hasn’t seen fit to explain what the hell they were doing on a catwalk, and I can’t be bothered Googling but I would say this is an awkward moment, yes.

Can we talk about prosecco?

Like, what is this “drinking proscecco is an adequate replacement for having a personality” trend?

While I find allegiance to a particular alcoholic drink at least more understandable than caring about 11 strange men you’ll never meet kicking a football round a field – booze gets you pissed after all, which is fun – I have never been able to fathom why drinks like gin and prosecco are supposed to tell us anything about you other than the fact you may well be a nasty drunk prone to arguing in kebab shops.

I mean, FFS, prosecco is just WINE. It’s cava with a conservatory and an ensuite. With a bidet. Asti Spumante, but with silver salad tongs instead of wooden. And it’s not even champagne. “Oh I prefer it to champagne,” you hear people say sometimes, before they go on to list some nonsense reason why they prefer a bottle of enamel-eroding, bladder-burning, fizzy migraine to champagne. It is never, strangely, the same answer as mine, i.e. the real one, which would be “I can’t afford it, so £4.99 fizz gives me almost the same buzz and sipping it from a flute allows me to pretend to be Joan Collins”.

“Even during the soup.”

That smile again. Lots of smiling. I have a theory that men say this because it’s the one physical compliment they can give without coming across as  an objectifying, perverted sex dinosaur. In fact, I may just set my phone to autocorrect “nice smile” to “bodacious rack” and see what happens.

I take this answer paired with Bruce’s assertion that Frankie would “blush” at a compliment to mean that Frankie is shy. However, they met on the middle of a catwalk at a festival or something so perhaps she’s not a wallflower all the time. Anyway, Bruce is ballsy enough for the both of them by the sound of it – his very name alone exudes “I will barge past you to get to the bar” – and he’s director of his own company at the age of 40 so he must be doing something right.

ATTRACTIVE, like a fairground attraction, a fatal attraction, or a vase.
FUN, like the idea of going to Alton Towers, rather than the reality.
INTERESTING, like your face when you discover a blond hair on your husband’s sports jacket – yet you are bald.

SMILEY, like fucking hell can’t they think of anything else to say about each other it’s like two people trying to find a way to avoid saying “your teeth are too big”.
CONFIDENT, like the rollerskating woman in the Bodyform adverts years ago.
FUN, like doing half a pill in the queue to get in a LeAnn Rimes concert.

Amazing. This is how you do it.

Oh stop pretending you’re not LOVING it, Bruce.

What? If a person is a 10, score them a 10. Of course someone can score 10 on a first date – why not? There are tonnes of 10s out there – well, tens of 10s, tbh – don’t withhold your top score just because of some weird rule that you just made up that nobody can be absolutely perfect the first time you meet them. In fact, if anything, it’s as perfect as most people are going to get, that all-important first time, when you can see only the good and the exciting – before reality, bad jokes and a habit of leaving towels on the bathroom floor kick in and makes everybody a 5. Call a 10 a 10.

Ha. Touché, Frankie.

So we’ve come to the end, but will brassy Bruce and beaming Frankie meet up again to see how they get on when we’re not looking?

Don’t be SHY, Frankie – YOU could ask. I worry sometimes we spend so long waiting for other people to do something, to approach us, or be there for us, or help us, or enable us, that we waste a lot of time we could’ve spent moving things forward ourselves. Come on, let’s GO.

Don’t think it, Bruce, make it happen. Before someone other than you and her dentist spots how great Frankie’s smile is…

Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy.  Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. Say cheese!


Daniel and Cecily

We all need our comforts in times of trouble. Some of us reach for chocolate bars, our credit card, or even a bottle of vodka. In an uncertain world, when our mother’s knee is not as readily available as it used to be, we grab what we can to make us feel better. My therapy is perhaps one of the strangest of all, kinkier even than getting an Uber to a flat in Fulham and paying £150 to get thrashed with a cat o’ nine tails by a disinterested millennial who stands texting with their other hand. I take an innocent magazine column and dissect it, right here, with only a keyboard, a blank screen and an increasingly dwindling flair for eye-rolling. So here we go again.

Behold Daniel and Cecily, both 23 and far too young to be navigating the desperado tundra that is the Blind date column but that attention won’t grab itself, will it? Read what happened on the date before I dunk my biscuit one time too many and watch as most of it slides off into my Earl Grey.

I’m not being funny, but usually I’d be hoping any date I went on would not be suitable material for the family – if you know what I mean. (Sex.)

I can never decide whether the places the Guardian sends them are vital to the plot of the date or are a distraction. You put two 23-year-olds in a snooty restaurant and surely it can’t do anything but overwhelm them. I realise there’s sponsorship involved, and that’s how the meals are paid for, but I can’t help but think we’d get better results if we started sending daters for a bucket of chicken somewhere and then off to the park to down a bottle of Thunderbird before the gates shut.

Daniel – can I call you Dan, Daniel? Oh, OK, sorry – is clearly a regular reader of the Blind Date column, but why would he be surprised? It’s not as if week after week there’s a lineup of desperate horse-frighteners. Nobody who doesn’t like getting their photo taken has ever applied for this column.

I go out with a guy from just outside Glasgow and one of my favourite things to do is pull up a chair, snacks etc and watch him try to get Siri do something for him. From setting a timer to searching for a TV show on Netflix, it is never less than entertaining. As soon as I hear “Hey Siri”, I know that my abs are going to get a workout from intense belly laughing. That said, Siri is a robot/computer/whatever – you are a person, Cecily. The Glaswegian accent isn’t that hard to understand – it’s just the same words as us with “by the way” inexplicably tacked on to the end of every sentence and “aye” liberally dashed here and there. Oh, and the impenetrable slang, of course. Most of my friends are Scottish and my life is all the richer for it. Seriously, though, try harder – it’s a gorgeous vernacular that you should be bitterly envious you’re not fluent in.

It should be a law that if you’re Glaswegian and an English person asks you about deep-fried Mars bars, you’re allowed to douse them in Irn-Bru until they drown. Honestly. Is that the best you can do?

Cream teas. 23. I have literally never been less excited to scroll down as I have now. I think I’d rather open an envelope saying: “TEST RESULTS: PLEASE TAKE A SEAT BEFORE OPENING” than carry on, but it’s Saturday morning and this is what we do.


I’m not sure how I feel about menial tasks like cleaning the toilet, paying a bill or buying groceries being given this handy buzzword – which sounds like it came from a McDonald’s advert – to kind of jazz them up a bit or suggest they are achievements instead of things you simply have to do. But whatever.

I don’t know what a chocolate scientist is, but as someone whose working life has been plagued by people calling themselves brand guardians, content wizards and social media gurus, pardon me if I don’t have to cover my lap with a cushion in excitement.

Cream teas. This comes up on social media a lot. Like a scary amount.   People really care about this. Except they don’t. Not most of them anyway. In times of intense globalisation, where most of us shop at the same stores, eat the same food, listen to the same music and have very similar Instagram accounts – oh look a funny sign! – we have to grab every chance we can to find our niche, carve out on identity for ourselves. It’s like supporting a football team but requires much less effort. So we pretend to care about which order the – I don’t know what would you call them? Toppings?! I don’t care – are added to a scone. A scone in itself is a pretty contentious baked good, as nobody can quite agree on how to pronounce it (rhymes with “gone”, don’t @ me) but it reaches new level of pointless mutual trolling when a cream tea is brought into the mix. Stop pretending you care about this. I bet most people willing to die on this hill fashioned from jam and cream have eaten a maximum of three cream teas in the life. Honestly, just get a piercing if you want to express yourself.

“I can only imagine the chat after I got out.” I mean, I’ve only read halfway and I can pretty much guess.

I mean unless he was chucked onto the train tracks, this is a story that could use a bit more vim, you know? But I guess if this is awkward as it gets, it can’t be all bad.

Pro tip: if you eat like Donald Trump claiming a discount at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, just prattle on about cream teas – your date will be too spellbound by your stellar chat to notice.

I’m joking, they are SWEET.

I am usually fairly wary of “great smile” because it tends to be a nicer, diplomatic say of avoiding talking about something else. Children who pick their noses and eat them in wedding photos are deemed to have a “nice smile” by horrified aunties. When you’re trying to tell a friend that you don’t fancy the funny, amiable Nosferatu they’ve set you up with, “nice smile” usually gets doled out. Here, however, I feel Daniel is being genuine.

What would clinch it for you in the realm of free stuff? People love it, don’t they? I’ve never been that bothered, because the thing with things that come for free – unless they are given with love – are that they’re usually of inferior quality, someone else doesn’t want them or, more often than not, you’ll have to pay in some other way.

I am not that keen on that chocolate except at Easter so access to free “choccywoo” would leave me cold, I’m afraid. A man who could connect me to free, lifetime supply of T-shirts, salami Milano, moisturiser and haircuts, however, and I would very probably be lapping it up.

CHATTY, comme un chat français.
FUN, like a party always is about three seconds before I arrive.
FRIENDLY, like that French cat a couple of lines up, especially if you offered it some, oh I don’t know, baguette, or an onion.

SCOTTISH, like Ruth Davidson.
POLITE, like Erica Davidson.
RESERVED, like the table across the restaurant, that’s better than yours, farther away from the toilets and, will not be filled the entire time you sit there, staring at it resentfully.

Sorry, what?

How much is too much? Daniel says she was “so easy to talk to” as the best thing about her earlier in the column, but then goes on to describe her as “chatty” in his three words. What’s the magic balance of talking *just* enough not to be seen as awkward but not too much that you’re taking over. It’s a minefield, isn’t it? And women seem to worry about it more than most – you almost never see a man saying this here.

Cecily. Oh. This feels low at first, but then if you read back, Cecily doesn’t say much about Daniel at all other than the fact he’s Scottish and how inexplicably mind-blowing she finds it. Daniel’s 9 looks all the lonelier, curving round at the bottom in that hopeful smile.

Sorry, pal, looks like yer tea’s oot. Unless it all comes together in the final question…

Photographs: Sarah Lee, Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Know what I mean, hen? Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story. 

Katherine and Ella

We all have our own ways of dealing with terrible events, and when they happen closer to home, yet don’t affect us directly, it can be difficult to know how to act for the best.

When bad things happen in the world, we talk of wounds, and healing, and scars. In order to understand it better, we make the Earth flesh, imagine it as a part of us. Instead of bedrest and medicines, we speak of cures as carrying on, and laughter, and being with the people you love. I am not, as regular readers may know, a huge fan of keeping calm and carrying on – I sometimes feel it’s disingenuous and overbearing, and insult to grief, and ignorant of what some might perceive as human fragility. Time is a great healer, they say, but nobody ever seems to know what to do with that time – fill it with stuff and trivia, or take it out, and wait?

There is a tall wound reaching up into the sky not far from my flat – I can see it in the distance, from the window of my living room, and it’s not even close to scarring. It is open and raw. One of my favourite routes if I take a Boris bike anywhere is to cycle round the small quiet streets surrounding Grenfell Tower. Just the odd car, the healthy comforting din of children playing nearby, teenagers screaming in delight at God-knows-what on their smartphones. I could do it with my eyes closed after a while, sweeping left into Treadgold Street like I’d always done it, my nerves of being on the road finally leaving me, knowing I was somewhere familiar, not too far from Shepherd’s Bush – nearly home and pedalling all the faster in anticipation.  I have to confess, I knew the tower was there but hardly ever looked up. We tend not to unless we need to do, do we? It’s one of those buildings which, despite its size and dominance of the skyline, kind of hides from you when you’re on the ground nearby. I must’ve looked out of my window a million times and across the rooftops and, so used to seeing it, merely stared right through its summit for the past two years.  Now, however, it’s all I can see. I don’t think anyone of us will forget what happened there, and the scale and the sight of it, and despite what “keep calm and carry on” enthusiasts might tell you, remembering it for ever – and why it happened, and who let it happen – is exactly the right decision. We owe them that much at least.

That’s just something I wanted to say.

And after careful thought, I decided I would offer up my own pathetic sticking plaster and do a Guardian Blind Date review today. Meet property developer Katherine, 58 and 55-year-old neurological physiotherapist Ella. Click on the pic to see what happened and then we can get forensic.

Well, we could all do with a laugh. You do hope dates will be funny above all else, don’t you? I mean, attractiveness always a big big one, obviously, and kindness, I guess, is a plus, too. But humour, we crave it from others. It’s no wonder stand-up comedians are continually shagging around – it certainly isn’t their looks, is it?

Why does “relaxed” sound like it’s stepping in for “mildly and comfortably boring” here? Relaxing – oh I dunno. I don’t do it often. For something that is supposed to chill you out, it can be rather time-consuming and stressful. Relaxing always feels like it should be spontaneous, rather than the diarised downtime it so often is for people permanently on the go.

As for “the one”, well. There is no “one”. There is just “someone willing to put up with you right now who may well continue to do so in the future but if they decide not to it’s OK – someone else will be along soon enough”. Like, seriously. Stop living in a MOVIE.

Well, there goes “the one”.

I’m sure Ella is very easygoing, and that sounds delightful, but I always laugh myself hoarse when other people describe themselves as easygoing because, you know, 8 times out of 10, they are nothing of the sort. They almost tell you it like it’s a threat, and usually followed by an example of why they are anything but. “Look, I am a very easygoing person but if my STAPLER is not returned to me forthwith, I will drive a TANK through the office until I find it”.

Posh. Ella not into posh birds then. Likes a bit of rough, maybe? or someone real. I feel a but sorry for posh people. When I was young, growing up on a council estate with my mum, I assumed that being posh was the DREAM. People would treat you deferentially wherever you went, I thought, because you spoke nice and had money. What must it be like not to have to queue for a token for your free school lunch, separate from everyone else? How did it feel not to lie about your address? I assumed that having a dining room, nice vowels and a car was the answer to everything. Anyway, I never did manage to get posh and now I’m quite glad because, well, yes, you have the money but very little else that anyone wants, it seems. And yet you rule the world. Go figure.

Always a sign things are going well if the sound of the riotous, joyous laughter of others is getting on your nerves. I am quite sensitive to loud noises, especially in places with terrible acoustics because they’re decorated like a post-apocalyptic branch of Habitat, but laughter? Oh, really? Was it distracting you from the fun-fest happening at your own table?

Well, Ella, I hope you managed to mask “OH MY GOD I THOUGHT YOU WERE OLDER” way better in person than you did in this awkward answer.

This is so icy. Basically, Ella has checked out of this date so hard by this point, Katherine could’ve got on the table and recited the lyrics to “I Love The Nightlife” and then pulled two tickets to Honolulu out of her bra and Ella wouldn’t have noticed.

“Just boring enough.”

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Imagine your best quality being your career. And one you don’t actually do any more. Ella is a savage, a silent assassin. It’s what she doesn’t say that kills you. I mean, I have had quite a few jobs in my time, and if someone said to me that the best thing about me was that I used to work on a cigarette kiosk in a supermarket and do announcements over the PA, I think I would have to look deep into myself and wonder whether it was time to take up an evening class. (Although it is my favourite job I’ve ever had.)

I am honestly quite surprised Ella could be bothered answering the rest of the questions. She’s giving them the due attention you would if you also had a risotto on the stove that stuck to the bottom of the pan last time so you really need to keep watching. Katherine’s optimism in the face of what seems to be slightly disdainful indifference is admirable. I guess she’s been on a few dates starting out in the hope of “the one” and realised quickly that “this one” will probably do until Christmas.

WARM like tea spilled in your lap.
RESPONSIVE like… a website being viewed on a smartphone?
EASYGOING like someone who couldn’t give two shits for a very good reason – they’re not interested.

PLEASANT like a Wednesday in April with only light rain in the morning then sunny internals for the rest of the day and a manageable pollen count.
COMPASSIONATE like an orderly in a hospital drama who is usually killed off in a stunt episode when ratings start looking a bit anaemic.
CULTURED like a 4-pack of Activia.

Thanks for coming, Ella. This is the voice of someone who daren’t say anything in case they actually say the TRUTH.

‘She said “Kitty, do you like fun?”
I said no I don’t.
I had enough of that in 1957 when I got trapped in a lift with a hula hoop salesman.’

I don’t even know what this means. But here’s a lovely gif.

You should have joined the other table, Ella! It sounded like a riot compared to your deluxe boxset of watching paint dry.

Katherine’s 8 feels awarded out of politeness and in appreciation of getting out of the house rather than any actual appreciation of the joyless awkward fiesta she just sat through.

Ella’s 6 is, as all regular Impeccable readers know, a face-saving zero. You don’t give anybody you’ve enjoyed spending time with a 6.

I wonder what made her come to that decision? Perhaps the way Ella disappeared for dessert, wore a false beard all the way to the Tube station and changed her mobile number before she even got back in the house?


Photographs: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Note: There are lot of people here today who will not be around tomorrow, as that’s the way the world works, but everybody who lived in Grenfell Tower *should* be with us today. If you have enjoyed this blog even once over the last three years, please donate anything you can to one of the relief funds currently operating to help those who survived and the families of those who didn’t. This one launched by the Evening Standard (I know, but let’s hold our nose on that for a moment) has already raised over £1m – that might be a good place to start.

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Not my fault you didn’t laugh once. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story.