Emma and Gervase

I once knew someone who approached dating with the mantra “What would Madonna do?” It served her quite well for a while. Madonna wouldn’t go for second best (baby), Madonna wouldn’t let them bore her to death, Madonna would make sure the conversation was at the very least 70% about her, Madonna would not get hysterical about splitting the bill. Adopting the virtues or channelling the spirit of someone you admire when on the lonely treadmill of dating can be quite empowering, until you realise the ultimate truth: Madonna would not, under any circumstances, be sitting in the Royal Oak on Columbia Road, waiting for a 7.5 who’s “running a bit late because of the buses”, nursing a flat gin and tonic (Gordon’s as well, your cup runneth over). No, she’s in Hollywood, or unpacking her Ocado delivery in Marylebone, adopting someone, ordering her next toy boy off the internet.

Goodness knows which celebrity mottos have driven Emma, a 27-year-old social enterprise events coordinator (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) and Gervase, 28, civil servant, together, but let’s hope it’s more early-era ABBA than latter stages of All Saints when someone says the word “jacket”.


Read what happened on the date before we pull up a chair and stare at them both really intensely until they squirm.



“A good time with a nice guy” sounds like an advert in the back of Boyz. “A good time with a nice guy” has a veneer-perfect smile and his Aussiebum briefs pulled right up his… anyway, never mind. I doubt this is where Emma is going with this one. “A fancy meal” – almost a surefire sign you’re going to be sent to make romantic overtures at the worst table in Islington Wagamama.


Values. I have got to the grand old age of 41 without knowing what my values actually are, so congratulations to Gervase for working this out already, at 13 years my junior. Although, somehow, I’m not sure this is something to celebrate. What should my values be? Do I really not have any? Are they just bland statements of things I vaguely believe in? Let me try come up with a few values:

– Crisps are acceptable in an emergency only.
– Don’t ever patronise – it means “talk down to”, in case you were wondering.
– I believe wifi passwords should be all lower-case with NO numbers or stupid symbols.



WHAT was he reading, though? I guess in every perfect romcom – which this answer would suggest we’re heading for – it would be her favourite book, or something classic and beautiful. Or perhaps, because it’s 2017, something powerful and political. But I would have way more respect for Gervase if it were something like The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, or a book about emojis, or the latest Andy McNab.

“Pretty cute.” We’ll take it. Let’s stop things here. Just get married so we can all go home.



Oh good. A bike. My favourite. Cockblocker-in-chief, not just a third wheel, but an extra two, leaving tyre marks all over your wretched body as it speeds off into the night, carrying our last hope of a first-date shag with it.

At least she wasn’t doing dry January. But with a bike outside, waiting – that’s assuming she left it outside and didn’t have it on a seat next to her, suggestively feeding it oil and cooing into its spokes – she may as well have been.




Sounds wild.


This is nice. I love those excruciating brief exchanges with the waiter when you very, very obviously haven’t so much as glanced at the menu and yet they’re over to your table every verse-end asking if you’re ready.

“Or would you like a few more minutes?” they say, not meaning it at ALL, because the longer you take to order, the longer you’ll take to eat it which means they’ll be very pointedly polishing glasses and dropping cutlery all around you at the end of the night to get you to leave.


It’s not often the waiters get a cameo in the column but when they do it’s usually because they’ve quite actively tried to build up their part. I’ve recently read quite a few listicles and explainers about what you should NEVER say or do to a waiter – there is obviously a trend of being rude to them or something, because I don’t remember these handy guides being a thing when I was a waiter. You can tell a lot about someone by how they treat staff in any service environment, really, although restaurants are certainly the most revealing.

Be polite, be respectful, appreciate they have a lot of work to do, that it’s unlikely they’re going to be very well paid, don’t use it as an opportunity to see what it might be like to be a junior member of the Royal Family, be calm and reasonable if you need to complain about the food and, generally, mind your Ps and Qs. All solid advice.

HOWEVER, let’s not forget that occasionally waiters can be the biggest wankers on Earth, often for no reason, and it works both ways. If anything, a rude waiter can be a bonding experience on a date, as it will give you something to talk about in the pub after when you’re wondering whether you should kiss them or not. So just endure the server’s barbs and eye rolls and bitch about them later. Needlessly sassing a waiter is usually a boner-killer; no good can come of it.



I’m always amazed by how excited people get at someone pouring wine for them. If it’s white, they’re pouring chilled into tepid and killing the joy. If it’s red, they’re pouring fresh wine into that claggy, horrible soup-like residue that’s already in the glass. And if it’s rosé, everyone’s gay so it doesn’t matter.

Please don’t pour my wine. I don’t like it. And that also goes for waiters. Posh restaurants that insist on squirrelling away the bottle and then reappearing with it when my wine falls below a certain level are my WORST nightmare.


Oh whatever.



Look, we may well be painting our ears shut and clutching our stomachs in boredom at the thought of conversations like this but do you know how BRILLIANT, and UNEXPECTED, and INVIGORATING it is to meet someone interested in what you have to say? It hardly ever happens on dates, especially in London, that great big casserole of ME ME ME where all anyone can talk about is the cost of travel, pubs that have shut down, how much they hate luxury apartment developments (that they actually secretly want to live in), East Dulwich, bad drugs and popups.

Dating in London – which is another subject lots of people like to talk about when actually on dates in London, bafflingly – is usually just two people in haircuts they can’t afford pushing their specs back up their nose and reciting the last issue of Time Out they read at each other. So THIS development makes my heart sing and you can’t take it away from me.


KIND like a stranger on a train who hands you a tissue to blow your nose. Although they’re not actually being kind as such; they just can’t listen to you Dysoning up snot through your throbbing sinuses for a minute longer.
CONSIDERED like the Cryptic in The Times.
INTELLIGENT like a self-checkout machine that somehow knows that Creme Egg you placed in the bag was not dried apricot.


SMART like the dress code at a funeral.
ALTERNATIVE like nobody who claimed they were ever turned out to be.
OPEN-MINDED like your wokest of woke baes with all the best memes.



I’m going to be honest here, Emma, and say the whole date sound light on LOLs, but better to be a bit serious and interesting than three hours of endless fucking bantz bantz bantz bantz bantz with mind-bending jokes and witless negging, like you’re in the audience for a male comedy duo’s test show for the Edinburgh Fringe.

I am dour as hell and it never did me any harm or kept my sheets empty.











OK, well this isn’t the slightly salacious or hopelessly romantic answer I was expecting. Why does it matter you ordered the same thing?

People who go on like this in restaurants do my head in.
“Oh we can’t order the same thing; it will look stupid.”
“Hey, do you mind if I order the same thing as you?”
Know what? I don’t care. Order what you like. Don’t spend an extra 20 minutes desperately scanning the menu for something else you like so that we’re not “matchy matchy”. Who cares? The waiter? They just want you to eat up and get out. And if you’re thinking of getting something different from me so we can both try a little of each other’s THINK AGAIN. Your fork stays on your half of the table – don’t be dangling it over my linguine like a dick over a urinal.

“You can’t order that, I’m having it” – yes this fills me full of hope for our future if you’re already dictating what I can eat on our first date. I can tell this is going to be a very tranquil and easygoing forever.



Maybe he wanted to take her number or something. I don’t know. She could’ve emailed it to him. People still do that, don’t they? Or, I don’t know, found a pen? Do they still make pens?



These are hopeful. I… I feel something. Thing is, these two have ostensibly been very keen and yet they are quite hard to read – almost as difficult to crack as that novella Gervase was pretending to be engrossed in when Emma arrived – so I’m not sure if these pretty good scores mean anything.

Often people mark down when they don’t want to appear too eager, but sometimes they mark up, to somehow disguise their lack of interest. Thank goodness, then, for the last question – possibly the only one most participants answer truthfully and directly.

Emma, after that  9 – a NINE – how are you feeling?



See? That nine was a nothing. There are some people who can’t tell if there’s a spark until they snog, which I find a bit odd because surely it’s the general feeling that there’s this mythical spark that gets you to snog them in the first place, but for Emma true love’s kiss was not waiting for her at the back of Gervase’s meat-free throat.

And Gervase? Would you? Could you?



More: No blog next week.

Photograph: Linda Nylind, Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers  Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy – Lord knows they need it sometimes. Anyone participating in the date would usually be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally. It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

Jonny and Kit

The trouble with a first date is that while it can be the beginning of something, it’s also very definitely the end of something exciting.

It brings a close to the anticipation, the build-up obliterated by a simple handshake. As any yule-o-phile will tell you, the best part of Christmas is the preamble – so October, November and December to us hardcore Christmas fans – and while the day itself is a joy, it can never live up to the suspense that comes before it.

A date is a mini-Christmas, then. You’ve had texts or WhatsApps, you’ve seen carefully chosen snapshots, they wooed you and charmed you with jokes and stories. But now the big reveal – the face to the name, a voice to the words, a close-up of that skin, and those eyes, and that hair. And the wrinkles. Will anything ever be the same again? Will you ever get that rush you had in the last 25 minuets before you met them, before you knew, before the secret was out once and for all? No. You won’t. That first feeling is gone. Toothpaste never goes back in the tube.

Saying goodbye to their hopes and dreams today are 26-year-old graphic designer Jonny, and programme manager Kit, also 26, who have swapped their day job working somewhere with stripped floorboards where 6 Music blares out on the office stereo all day (in east London I imagine) for a restaurant in W1, and the pages of the Guardian Blind Date.


Read what happened on the date – and marvel at this restaurant because good heavens – before I arrive on set with some really big script changes that I’m sure everyone’s just gonna love.



The good thing about life in the 21st century is even if you have a terrible time somewhere, or with someone, it can be a good story. It’s nicer if you get a story out of having a great time, of course, but not compulsory. We have audiences everywhere taking an interest in our lives like never before, on our social media networks.

Whereas before your incredibantz about a bad date you went on would take years to trickle down to everyone you knew or met, now it can be published as content and, for a brief moment, you’re a big news story among the 400 or so people poring over your Facebook feed. People might say this is a bad thing and that we’re all becoming narcissists and as soon as I’ve taken this selfie I will rebut that argument very strongly. Oh, that’s not right. Let me take another.


Small talk. So boring. Rent, where do you go out, what do you do, any brothers or sisters, music that you’re into, been to any gigs, favourite restaurant, prefer east or west, wow isn’t the Tube awful, I don’t really watch TV, boxsets, last film I saw, where I went to uni, yeah wasn’t 2016 the worst.

Mind you, with big talk being so terrifying these days, perhaps there’s something comforting about regressing to insipid niceties while Trump and May get handsy for the cameras.


“Pretty girl” on its own would’ve been enough, I reckon. Not sure why you’d want to dull its shine with two qualifiers that sound like apologies or excuses. “Down to earth”, I know, is supposed to be a compliment, but it depends who’s saying it. Usually, when middle-class people are wheeling it out amid chat about house prices, it means “common, but not so bad that you couldn’t sit her next to grandmother at dinner”.


Like a… dog that just woke up?



A total lack of a match on conversation topics would usually have alarm bells ringing, but here it seems quite charming. Cute, even.

I, too, am sickened by the “PDA going on at table six” – which is a very nice Victoria Wood-level of detail there – but the restaurant looks like the kind of anything goes, “credit card debt dressed up as wild hedonism” place that people who love PDAs would really like to go.

We’ll brush dry January aside because nobody cares nobody cares nobody cares and move on to the winking. I like it. I like to give  a cheeky wink, and sometimes make a clicking sound with my tongue as I do it. I used to wink at my boyfriend a lot in the early days. It’s not necessarily always salacious, but reassuring, a bonding thing. My dad used to wink at me a lot when I was a child – and still does very occasionally if we catch each other’s eye out in public. “I’m here,” it says, “I get it”, or “We’re not like the others”.

So if you can’t wink, you must learn immediately. It is code.


That’s not awkward – that’s what you’re supposed to do. Better that than chewing on and on until you start to gag.


Hmmm. Cigarette? Phone call? A deep breath to stave off a panic attack? Who knows. Maybe he’s like the guy I knew a long long time ago who, if a night was going well, would excuse himself to go to the loo and put a condom on there and then. Maybe he was doing that. But outside.



I’m not sure if it’s the same for anyone else who lived through the 1990s, but I’m quite amazed at the contempt levelled at vegetarianism now. It’s labelled a weakness, as a massively inferior lifestyle. For all the hand-wringing about #eatclean and everything being gluten-free, you can’t move in London now for restaurants that fetishise and celebrate meat, that advertise great big hog-roasts and bring huge hunks of animal to your table. Burgers, once the scourge of nutrition, are now back and bigger than ever, dripping in cheese and bacon and sauces and onion rings and another level of cheese and welded to a brioche bun.

When I was younger, being a veggie was the ultimate lifestyle choice. Everyone was doing it. You were mocked by your parents, sure, but revered by your peers. Apart from a brief flirtation with Linda McCartney’s veggie lasagne during my teenage years, I have always eaten meat. But I have noticed a definite shift from going veggie being something people either admired about you or let you get on with, to a thing people actively take the piss out of you for, and obsess over, like it’s a character flaw. No wonder we’re all turning ourselves inside out with worry about our diets and our bodies – nobody can mind their own sodding business about our dinner.


What, he got up and served you? Or did me mansplain the positioning of the knives and forks to you? The hours must’ve zoomed by.




I see.


FUNNY like a comedian, that you fancy.
CHEERFUL like an avuncular postman, who you also fancy.
HANDSOME like Jonny, who you fancy.

Being called handsome never stops being a buzz. And if it does, and you think you’ve heard the word too often, how dare you – take the compliment and realise how lucky you are to hear it. Some people, like Plug from the Bash Street Kids, or Eric Trump, or Ken Dodd, or the guy out of Simply Red (#TeamMartine) have probably never heard that word in the direction in their lives. Can you imagine?


A like A dickhead who doesn’t do this right so I can’t do my “three words like” thing that I always do.
GOOD like it would’ve been for Jonny to actually say three distinct words rather than a statement, especially when you consider the fact that “A” isn’t really a word, as such, I mean it is, but taken out of context, it is meaningless. Anyway, thanks for this Jonny.
LAUGH like I’m sure we all will, about this, one day.

I’m not sure how I feel about Jonny saying Kit was “a good laugh” while he got a “handsome”. It smacks of playing it cool or, more worryingly, feeling rather cool and playing it exactly as it should be. I think we could’ve done with the “pretty” down here rather than all the way up there if we’re going to be taking this to an 8+ today.



Hard to tell. Hard to tell. We waste a lot of time by being hard to read, I think. So many things left unsaid. We are worried, perhaps, about getting hurt if we reveal too much of ourselves. We don’t trust others not to use it to their own advantage. And there’s something irritating about those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, isn’t there?

But if there’s one time you need to show your hand and let the Botox crack, it’s on a first date. Whether it’s bad news and you’re never going to see them again, or a small spark with inferno potential, don’t leave each other wondering. Don’t consign each other to days of staring expectantly at the phone, agonising over whether to make the first move. Yes, it’s part of the thrill, or the chase, if you like, but really it’s a waste of time. And we don’t have too much of that – especially if Tiny Hands finds that big red button.


See? Cards so close to her chest, the print from the Jack of Diamonds has rubbed off on her bra.




Good sign. Very good sign. A pub next door, for a conspiratorial chat about the date, in more relaxed surroundings, maybe jostling a little for space among the other dry January deniers. Things happen when you go on to other pubs. If you get past the first venue, you’ve pretty much made it beyond a story to tell your friends.




Attagirl. You’ve got to be direct. You have to steer things toward the result you want. You have to try. On dates, if I felt something between me and the guy, I’d be pretty upfront about this kind of thing. I’d either press them to get on with it – as my boyfriend will testify – or run my intention to get on with it myself by them. If they don’t want to do it, they can say no. Nothing ventured and all that, so long as you take your rejection gracefully.

Not that anyone has ever said no to kissing me, but I have read it’s a thing that can genuinely happen to others.



“Not my type.” “Down to earth.” “A good laugh.” “I did as I was told.” And now a 7. You could argue that all the evidence points to Jonny not really fancying Kit and you may well be right, but I instead choose to believe that this is a shy 8 from Jonny, because the most telling answer of all, ironically, is Jonny’s “hard to tell” when asked what he thinks she made of him. Jonny doesn’t want to gush in case Kit wasn’t interested, nor does he want to be too harsh on her or humiliate her in a magazine. So he keeps his answers cool but complimentary.

Nobody really cares, I know, but it can be very hard to be a man in tis column and not say the wrong thing. And I should know, because I jump on them often enough. Too keen, too standoffish, too cool, too aggressive, too bitchy, too dismissive, too much. Jonny’s answers here get it right on nearly every single one. Except this one. This should be an 8. And he knows it. I hope Kit does too.


And it’s equally hard to be a woman in this column because you get so accustomed to the men behaving like absolute arseholes that you worry anything you say might make you look like a tragic heroine of a terrible romcom.

You’re not just flattering his ego, Kit, you’re boosting your own. You deserve the freedom to give a man an 8 if you think he deserves it. Also: this is a 9. I didn’t come down in the last shower, you know.

It’s kind of beautiful this awkward little dance of a possible romance, isn’t it? If this were the 19th century, I bet their diaries would fizz with excited prose about the evening. Sadly, it’s 2017 and this is all we’ve got.

So here we are with our shy 8 and a timid 9 in fancy dress, but will they get the chance to upgrade to 10s? Heeeeeeere’s the big one.





Oh, we will.

More: No blog next week.

Photograph: 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  Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. Anyone participating in the date should be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally. It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

Emma and Eddie

“It’s just like riding a bike,” people say, don’t they? Often. Annoyingly. “You never forget.” But as anyone who’s ever seen me trying to clamber onto a Boris bike will tell you, you can forget even the simplest of things, sometimes within an hour of last doing it. How to ride a bike, how to be polite, how to behave on a date. Let’s hope I can remember how to do this.

Gamely stepping forward with a huge target on their T-shirts this week are 29-year-old festival booker Emma – just imagining the amount of band T-shirts strewn across her floordrobe is making me heave a little – and Eddie, also 29, who is a plumber. A plumber is one of those professions that always makes slightly older female relatives purse their lips in approval and say things like “Well, that’s a good trade; you’ll never be short of money with a plumber in the family”. The date takes place in Manchester this week, which is very exciting for it not be in London. It’s like when someone from my hometown would phone in to the Gary Davies show on Radio 1. How odd it used to feel to hear a famous person say it out loud.


Read what happened on the date (spoiler: nothing except a vague movement of air in the room) before I deconstruct almost everything they’ve said, out of sheer spite,  like your mother-in-law undoubtedly will on your wedding day.



I know this is a JOKE but I doubt very much any court would convict Emma if she were to lose her mind temporarily and tip a bowl of custard over her dad’s head. I know there is this thing about biological clocks etc but “nearly 30” is quite depressing here.

Getting married looks and sounds very boring indeed – it’s just government-approved arguing that starts with a huge party and descends hellward at breakneck speed. Why waste your 30s on that? Wait until you’re, oh I don’t know, 47 and too old to row.


I know what you’re thinking: this is a good answer. But if I wanted to learn something new, I’d take up an evening class at a former polytechnic or read a thesaurus cover to cover. I would not go on a date with a stranger and appear in a magazine.



I know this is Emma’s personal 1997 rom-com and we’re all merely living in it, but making the first impression question all about you says at least one of the following:
– It was a bad first impression.
– I have forgotten what I thought at this moment.
– I think the camera’s on me during that line isn’t it? Yes? Good.


I tried to find a gif of Shanice doing I Love Your Smile but to no avail so let’s just imagine it here.



OK, so you may be rolling your eyes very far in the back of your head re the conversation topics, but at least they seem to match up, so they were listening to each other. And they got to talk about their jobs, which people really seem to like.

I can’t go to festivals. I’ve been to day festivals, and I believe I have slept in a tent at least three times in my life, but I would never stay over at a weekend festival. Oh, I’m not afraid of the cold or the rain, and I wouldn’t be one of those people who claims they can’t go anywhere without a plug socket for my straighteners, or wifi. No, the main reason I don’t want to go to a festival is because many of my friends have, and they’ve all come back irreparably scarred in some way. One friend still talks in haunted tones, her eyes planet-sized in horror at the memory, about a Glastonbury she went to about eight years ago.

Also, I hear that once you start going to festivals you become addicted, and you also begin another obsession, which is talking about them all the time. I’m sure they’re a great experience and perhaps I’m low-key envious that I don’t have it in me, but they seem like a really weird way to shed £500 and do lots of standing up. Near Muse.



Sharing food. Some people see this as a bonding exercise, while I think it’s only fated to set you apart for ever. It’s almost worth doing, because you really get the measure of what a person is like when you watch how they behave around a food sharing scenario.

I met a friend at a very nice restaurant the other day and it was one of those ones where the waiting staff repeatedly tell you that their dishes are “to share” even though you have no intention of doing so. In the end I had to say I was an only child and wouldn’t be sharing and they immediately understood.



Hahahahahahaha. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

The date would’ve been over for me right there. First of all, what kind of absolute try-hard irono-nightmare of a restaurant is serving you a fried egg, and secondly, why would you try to split it? I am perhaps one of a small majority who thinks the “best” part of an egg – which in itself is a bit of a reach – is the white. I hate yolks. They cause me a lot of problems in restaurants because I have to ask for the eggs “not runny” – I am a waiter’s ideal customer – solely because I don’t want to accidentally “interrupt” one while I’m eating my eggs benedict or whatever. I can just about cope with boiled eggs but the window for the yolk to go from disgusting to acceptable and back to disgusting again is a very tiny porthole indeed.

I would rather cut my own head in half and ask for “two spoons please” than share a fried egg, let alone one with a runny yolk. I’d have to burn the restaurant down. I feel ill. No. Nooooo.


Haha. I wonder how impressive your table manners have to be to get a “top drawer”? I mean, this implies a skill set, something to admire. Was she doing magic tricks as she twirled a rubbery fried egg, split crudely in two, around her fork? Oh well, at least he didn’t say… oh, lookit.





I think this is great that they find each other so interesting, and I’m sure they had a lot to talk about, because music people always tend to, but if you think the best thing about someone is their job, then you’re fucked romantically.

To me, someone calling out my job, the way I make my money – be it something I do just to pay the bills or a true vocation – would make me feel my personality was failing. Sure, it might make my chat more interesting (mine doesn’t btw) and I may get to do loads of cool stuff, but one you’re not at work, which most of us aren’t a lot of the time, then what. I’d always thought the phrase “married to the job” applied to the person doing the job only – to attract a partner based on it is another thing entirely.

My interesting stories, my taste in clothes, my filthy language, the shape of my shoulders, the glint in my eye,  my attitude to life, my HAIR – love me for anything, anything other than what I do for a living.

That said, someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do and makes you love it too is quite attractive, so ignore everything I said before. I’d delete it but it’s written now, isn’t it?


Genuine, like I don’t really fancy him, to be perfectly candid.
Honest, like no, not even a little bit, although he’s a nice guy I’ll just say things like this until the question’s over and done with.
Open, like no seriously that’s all I’m saying and I think I’ve got away with it.


Fun, like a FESTIVAL I would like free tickets for (VIP bit with full showers and actual seating only, hit me up)
Hot, like a fried egg is for only about 13 seconds after it comes out of the pan, before congealing into a woeful play-doh memorial to good taste.
Sharp, like an Ariana Grande high-note.

(I am actually a VERY big fan of Eddie’s use of “sharp” here – what a great thing to be described as. I would love that. Sharp. You bet your fucking arse I am. Bring bandages.)




Actually, here’s a hot tip for you: northerners don’t think southerners are soft and poncey, because we literally never think about you at all.


Some people actively crave lunatics, don’t they? They like a bit of spice, and say things like “it keeps me on my toes” – yeah, well, so does the floor being on fire.



Oh, she brought a bike. Bikes on dates. Boner death. Sex destroyers. Mood killers. Mojo suppressants. Passion assassins.

Whenever I’d turn up on a date and see the guy had brought a bike, I would hear a heavy, metallic clunk and look down at both our crotches to see that huge padlocks had suddenly appeared from nowhere, over each. There are no keys.




Using this question to talk about food is a very, very boring old tactic and a waste of an answer, but it is also handy code for a nuclear-strength friendzoning, with the wind power of your breath after 10 packs of Trebor Extra Strong, so hang on to your hat. Although  these will not be wedding hats, more like festival flower-crowns that you stop to adjust in between snogs with some guy from Fulham (Toby, Dan, Tom, Felix, whoever) during Coldplay’s set.




Seven. A 7 is a 1 with a backstage pass and a cool-box full of beer. But the beer is Miller Lite.


I always wonder what people mean when they say a score is “solid” – it’s going in a magazine, you’re not holding it up on a paddle like a Strictly judge. It is already solid, printed, right there, look.

Anyway, 8 – a hopeful, realistic 9 I imagine. An off-chance 9. A 9 who’s just come off shift and doesn’t stop to get milk on the way home because there’s bound to be some in the fridge. There isn’t any.





Photograph: Christopher Thomond; Christian Sinibaldi, both for the Guardian

Note: I am away next weekend, so no blog – but there will be something else instead. 

Note 2: 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. Imagine that. 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.

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.


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.


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.


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


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.




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.




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:


Tapas. On a bit of slate.




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

Beryl Reid Blankety Blank


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


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.



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


chrissy teigen hold head 2

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.


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.


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.



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.


anne hathwaway look




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.


Cat hits toddler

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


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).


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




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?



You bet your arse we will.


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

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.


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


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.


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


little girl runs over brother 2 power wheel

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


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?


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.


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.








DAMN that man never shut the hell up.


You have your hand on your chin. Explain.


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.




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.


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.




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.




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?


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


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





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.


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



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 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.



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.


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.




“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.”


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.


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



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.






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.




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.


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.


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.


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”.


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.


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



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.)


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



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.



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.


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.


Empire wine throw punch Cookie



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.



A weekly roast of the splendid, stupid or sexless things said by participants in the Guardian Blind Date column.

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