Impeccable Table Manners

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

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  1. I’m a project manager and I got the joke *swoon*. We don’t get that much attention. It felt nice. Thank you.

  2. Guyliner, we need your comments on this weeks blind date (7th Jan)
    . The man actually did think the woman was too bubbly and talkative. It’s not a paranoid delusion of women that men want them to shut up but often the sad truth!

  3. Dear Guyliner, I hope you do a thing on this weeks blind date because it seems to show that women have good reason to fear that men want them to be quiet. I hope you don’t let that pass without comment!

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