Impeccable Table Manners

Aidan and Padraig


What’s the worst thing about going on holiday? Is it having to clear all your emails before you go, or the dread of knowing how many will await you upon your return? Is it getting food poisoning on the first night and spending the rest of your break doubled up in agony and not leaving your apartment? Arriving to find your accommodation looks like somewhere they’d send a family of rats in witness protection? No.

The worst thing about being somewhere else for a week or two, away from home comforts and, let’s face it,  strains and struggles, is the familiar creeping in. It’s popping down to breakfast in your brand new shorts and, as you deliberate over whether to have one half of grapefruit or two, hearing a familiar accent piping across the dining room, like an incessant vuvuzela. They have found you, you didn’t go far enough. It’s someone from home.

Meeting another person from, say, Bradford (I was born there) on your holidays is the worst. If you’re one of those amazing inverted snobs that nobody admits to being anymore, you will try your utmost to distance yourself from them and their point of view on just about everything. Your stomach will churn at their boring talk of the closure of various fish and chip shops on Sunbridge Road, how there’s nothing good on at St George’s Hall anymore, and how you won’t believe what they’ve done up at the Interchange now. They, of course, will think you crave this familiarity because you’re so far from home, and will latch onto you, grimacing at you across the pool, searching for solidarity over the price of the cocktails, dragging their chair over to you and telling you why they’re Brexit. And holidaymakers from other countries – lithe and elegant French people, or chiselled, staring Swedes – will glance at you with a mixture of amusement, pity and suspicion, thinking you are as one. “The British” they might mouth to one another, over their meals that are, by the very state of not being anywhere near you, a  thousand times more sophisticated, nutritious and tasty.

The exception to this, however, seems to be Irish people. I am from an Irish family on my mum’s side, and believe me, this lot LOVE to bump into one another wherever they go. Go anywhere with an Irish person and they will actually have a cold sweat if, within half an hour of arrival, they are not tapped on the shoulder with considerable force and greeted with a “Sure, don’t I know you – don’t you work in the off-licence in Altnagelvin?” The only exception to this was my nana, who would cross seven lanes of motorway traffic if she saw one of her sisters coming the other way along the pavement. As she once told me, while she sliced a Mars bar for me and heated the milk for my bedtime Corn Flakes, “I didn’t cross on that boat and spend hours chucking up over the side to spend all my time chatting in the street to Mary Flaherty”. So there you go.

aidan padraig

Anyway, this week, it’s two guys – GAYS! 🌈 – called Aidan and Padraig, so you don’t exactly need a team of scientists, or even a quick Google, to work out where they’re from. Read what happened on the date between Aidan, a 23-year-old primary school teacher and Padraig, 27, a journalist, before I tap each of them on the shoulder and say, “Sure, aren’t you the two fellas I’m about to destroy in my blog?”

Aidan kicks us off and is in blue. Padraig is in green.

aid hope

pad hope

Nobody ever says “sex” do they? Do people really go on dates to “meet an interesting new person”? Is that why the entire world sits glued to Tinder, swiping their way into the void? To meet someone you might come across in a supermarket checkout queue?

“The one.” I find this mythical search for “the one” quite depressing. If you do have a “one”, I have a cold, hard fact for you: he’s married to someone else, and he’s not looking for you. Never mind “the one” – just find “someone” and make do, like everybody else.

aid first


Incredible. Masterful.

pad first

A smile that sounds like it didn’t travel far – I bet his Irish eyes weren’t smiling etc etc etc.

aid talk

These are the most “two lads from Ireland in their 20s living away from home” conversation topics I have ever heard in my life. I love this. Something something roast dinners; something something BREAD.

pad talk

Oh God, not that Piers Morgan style of questioning. It’s so lazy. Your last supper if you were on death row – a big cake with a file in it? Something poisoned? A meal from McDonald’s so once you’d finished you could use the paper bag it came in to scream and hyperventilate into, crushed by the inevitability of what was about to happen to you?

“Twitter and why he should join it.” I think anyone who’s made it all the way to 23 and not joined Twitter should probably stay off it for their own sanity – and I say that as someone who massively defends Twitter in the face of naysayers. It’s… well, it’s a Pandora’s box you probably don’t want to open in 2016, isn’t it?

aid awkward


Oh no. This is awful. Imagine this terrible scenario. You are 23 – 23! – but someone mistook you for a 25-year-old. How could the evening recover?

I bet Aidan is the type of person who fist-pumps when he gets asked for ID as he buys beer – Harp, of course – from the supermarket. If someone adding two years onto your age – especially when you’re basically an EMBRYO – is as awkward as your night is going to get, you’re off to the races, Aidan.

pad awks

oprah bread

I don’t really eat bread anymore. Once your metabolism takes off its sneakers and slows to a stumble, it’s not something that’s really available to you if you want that beach body that people pretend not to strive for. Plus, it makes me feel ill. I’ll tell you what my death row meal, would be, you basics – it would be a mountain of bread. Ficelle, baguette feuilletée, a tiger tail, three loaves of Warburton Toastie. The lot.

There is no greater sign on a date, however, that you don’t want to ‘seal the deal’ than eating loads of bread. Try eating half a baguette and then trying to snog or have sex. Ugh. It’s horrible. Get off me, I’m full. I taste of bread. No.

aid taBLE

pad table

Empire wine throw punch Cookie

What’s the most bored you’ve ever been? Think back to all those school holidays when your friends were away, there was nothing on TV, the sun was burning hot and you would sit at your window, glaring out at it all, at Earth, and wondering if you’d ever have fun again. Is this more boring than that? I think it might be.

aid best thing

Engaging is the new “impeccable”, isn’t it? It’s a non-compliment. If someone said it about you, you’d be aware that it was positive, and that you might be interesting or funny or clever or attractive, but you would not know which. Engaging robs you of your personality; it’s a “one accolade fits all” kind of nothing. If someone is hilarious and sexy and fascinating and intriguing SAY SO. You’re on a date, not filling out an online feedback form about your sodding dentist.

pad best thing

fake wow

aid three

“Smiley” is actually Gaelic for “his dick will never touch mine”.
“Inquisitive” is “nosey”.
And “driven”? By the Uber, at breakneck speed, in the opposite direction, at the end of this date, I predict.

Notice not one single word that, on hearing them, would make you think, wow I sound pretty cool. I don’t know what I’d do if someone described me as “smiley”. Luckily this is not a maze I’m ever likely to find myself lost in.

pad three


Wow, I’d really feel like someone wanted to bang my brains out if they read this out to me, wouldn’t you?

If you mean optimistic, just say so. Sanguine has slightly different connotations, so either Padraig is being VERY clever here and sending out a flare telling us all is not as it seems – or he isn’t quite clever enough. oprah_what_is_the_truth.gif indeed.

I think Padraig may be “showing off because we have guests”.

aid made

Well, he thought you were 25, so that’s a start, I guess.

There is a magic age, I think, where you forget about being a try-hard and stop wanting people to think you are more “mature and sorted” than your peers and just feel totally comfortable to be who and where you are at that exact moment. It’s the number that fits you and you’re fine with it. Sadly, it very quickly gives way to the flip side of all that nonsense, which is wanting people to think you are younger and still relevant and pawing at your face in the mirror wondering if these ridges beneath your eyes are permanent. I don’t know what the magic age is – we must never know, that is the whole point – but we seem to blink and miss it.

It is only when you are about 15 years past being 23 that you realise you have never been so powerful, and desirable, and faceable as you were then*. Don’t sleep, Aidan.

*not strictly true

pad made

Oh Jesus, two lads in their 20s having a pissing contest about who is the most mature and grown up.

Life experience? What is that exactly? Bills and disappointment and rejection and fake orgasms and pregnancy scares and clap clinics and dashed hopes and the withering of dreams and breakups and diets and trying being vegan for a month when you’re 30 and recycling and arguing and regretting all your debt and terrible sex and awful kissing and unrequited love and embarrassing passes at men you don’t really want who don’t want you either and giving up bread and switching to Coke Zero and agonising over how big a tip to leave and IBS and true love that isn’t and worry and spite and losing touch and car insurance and finally having enough money to buy your lunch from Pret every day, not just Fridays. That’s life experience, mate. Keep it. Keep. It.


Stay green, it’s better that way.

aid go on

Aidan, you have just spent a good portion of this column telling us how grown up you are for a 23-year-old, only to button your cardigan all the way to the top and say that it was a “school night”. I mean, I know you’re a teacher, and it’s probably your running joke to say “It’s a school night” whenever you’re leaving yet another poor desperate fool with a half-hearted lob-on gagging to press you up against the doorbell, but COME ON.

pad go on


That’s the spirit.


aid scores

pad scopres

Sometimes it’s not about the score itself, it’s the marks they knock off. What two things do you reckon stopped Aidan giving Padraig a 10? And which three made Padraig dock Aidan’s points to give him what I like to call a “Gentleman’s One”?

How much is it worth, to fancy someone, to want them? Can you put a value on it? Apparently, you can, and today it’s worth 2 points for Aidan and 3 for Padraig. One of Aidan’s deducted points is for the bread, isn’t it?

Anyway. Somehow we dragged ourselves all the way here to the finish line. We’re tired, we’re limping, and all we want is a Lucozade Cherry, a crisp sandwich, Fair City on the box and a nice chat about our mammies’ roast potatoes. But will our two Irish boys meet again for more bread and anxiety over who’s the most grown up? Or is this the very end, with their Irish brogue destined for some other ear?

aid meet

beyonce blows up car 2

pad meet

dog hits man in face

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. And my Irish stereotyping is borne of experience from my family and one of my best friends who is from Derry and will back up EVERY SINGLE thing I have said here. 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. 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.

Another note: There will be no Blind Date blog on 16th July. Like, for real, I’m out of the country.

Yet another note: Bonus points to anyone who noticed Aidan didn’t say “I found a herb in my teeth” in the column at all. I wonder why they cut it?

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

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  1. This is absolutely hilarious, I love it. On a side note, the herb in my teeth was my awkward moment but they asked me for another one and I was clutching at straws… I think it shows! Also another side note, I’m not actually Irish.

  2. It wasn’t until the recent and untimely passing of Victoria Wood, when you admitted to being greatly inspired by her in a blog post that I saw the connection, but I love your use of phrases like “I think Padraig may be “showing off because we have guests”.” So perfect, haha

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