Impeccable Table Manners

Anya and Ben

It was Pride this weekend. LGBTQ Pride that is – a celebration of all that is great and good about what people like to call the LGBTQ community. To mark this event, Impeccable is BACK for a one-off before it returns properly  later in the year, because what is Pride without an ageing, bitchy gay man pulling straight people apart?

This week, it’s Anya and Ben! Anya is 26 and an artist, while Ben is a 24-year-old policy adviser, if you can imagine such a thing. John Craven’s Newsround springs to mind. Anyway, read the date and judge for yourself before I wade in and judge judge judge for MYself.

Anya on Ben | Ben on Anya
What were you hoping for?
To meet a fun, open-minded person.

Open-mindedness. You’d think it was a given in 2018, wouldn’t you? But as politics, social media and… bad tattoos have shown us, bigotry is still alive and well and ordering a second dessert. I’m not too bothered about meeting “fun” people because in my experience people who are outwardly “fun” usually have some tragic backstory, which they will delight in telling you as they trap you in a corner and shakily refill their wine glass, which is dulled and greasy with their own smeared fingerprints.

What were you hoping for?
A deep and special partnership.

Just to warn you I’ve read ahead and every single one of Ben’s answers is an audition for a pilot of an arch, quick-fire panel show that Channel 5 have no intention of ever commissioning.

First impressions?
Mad. I asked what he had been up to and he said, “No, no no, we look at the menu first.”

If Anya thinks this is mad I suggest she sits on the 283 on a Wednesday afternoon when every schoolchild in Shepherd’s Bush tries to get on – their live vocals are extraordinary. I don’t know what to say about this except that vaguely awkward rudeness as a quirk hasn’t been in fashion since Rain Man won all those Oscars.

First impressions?
Bold, vibrant hair and an unconventional fringe.

I worked in Shoreditch for years during the Noughties and Anya’s fringe could only be considered unconventional by someone who had been brought up in a windowless shack in Utah.

Fringes can be a controversial thing. One of my many delights about having lots of female friends is watching them having a fringe cut in – they always regret this – and then remarking how long it’s taken them to grow out. When they finally do, they have another one cut in – why do they do this?! I had a fringe for around three years from 2005. I looked like Alex Kapranos, in a bad way, and immediately got rid of it when someone told me I looked years younger with my head swept off my (huge) forehead.

What did you talk about?
Brexit, chips, my lazy eye, his numb foot.
Whether I’m allowed to identify as a non-practising vegan; her inspiring school visit from Theresa May.

I don’t know about you but I’m knackered already. Whenever Brexit is mentioned in my company, I reach for the air-horn I have inexplicably forgotten to buy in the hope of blasting it, and all mention of it, out of existence.

One of my very first schoolfriends was a girl called Suzanne who had a lazy eye. She was having corrective surgery and explained that to do this they would have to TAKE HER EYE OUT OF HER HEAD and reposition. I don’t know if this was true. Suzanne died when we were 21 and I think about her a lot. I can still hear her voice now. Memories are strange, aren’t they?

I don’t care about Theresa May – a carrier bag half-filled with water brought to life by a drunk wizard.

Any awkward moments?
When I tried to show him my tattoo and ended up flashing half my bra.

Something happens to men when they see bras. Perhaps it is a hangover from Victorian times, where the sight of an ankle would send the menfolk into convulsions, but really there is nothing to be frightened of when it comes to bras. They’re just like socks, but for boobs.

Any awkward moments?
A re-acquaintance at the bus stop having already parted ways, but we styled it out with another hug.

“Styled it out” is one of my most loathed expressions and I don’t care who knows it.

Table manners!

Good table manners?
Yes – he let me try his burger and shared desserts. He ate the tail of my prawn; he said they were “nature’s crisps”.

We’ll gloss over the sharing because it’s just wilful attention-seeking and move on to Ben and “nature’s crisps”. I think there are easier ways to look quirkier. Wear a loud shirt maybe. Stand up in meetings and claim to have a radio inside your head that predicts the World Cup finalists. Move to Cheam and say you like it. Eating the tails of a prawn to impress a girl whose fringe blows your mind probably isn’t the one.

Good table manners?
It was a relaxed burger and sushi place.

What does this mean? What does that have to do with anything? It was relaxed. Great. So did she have her feet on the table and was cracking open a langoustine with one of her piercings?! Come on, “Ben”.

Best thing about Ben?
He’s not afraid to question things.

Best thing about Anya?
Her correct stance on chips: chip-shop chips are a wholesome, considered life experience. McDonald’s fries are an impulsive, fleeting moment of lust.

I find the fetishising of food a bit weird. Maybe it’s me. It’s almost always done by middle-class people taking a wee tour of what it’s like to be an oik, isn’t it? Nobody ever fetishises chateaubriand or quail’s eggs do they? It’s always chips, kebabs, fish fingers or cereal. The foods of your childhood gentrified before your very eyes by someone who pronounces “hello” like David Cameron being surprised in a lift.

It’s just a bloody chip.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Yeah. I told him my friend does research into under-filled supermarket sandwiches, and he was really into it.

Anya, I have intel on this that could blow the industry wide open – especially when it comes to cheese and onion sandwiches, the underrated pop diva of the sandwich world.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
She’s always welcome in my pub quiz team.

Describe him in three words
Fun, chatty, clever.

FUN, like a slide in the park that you don’t realise has pigeon poo on it until it’s too late.
CHATTY, like Alan Carr trying to talk himself out of being nervous for his driving test.
CLEVER, like someone who manages to get to the end of Fear of Flying without wanting to douse the heroine in Merlot.

Describe her in three words
Warm, free-spirited, creative.

WARM, like the weather right now. It’s warm, did you know? Warm now. V warm. Let’s talk about it for ever. Love to be warm. Love feeling guilty about moaning at the summer when winter was so awful. Love arriving everywhere looking like I’ve just been cut out of a whale’ stomach. Warm.
FREE-SPIRITED, like vodka you didn’t pay for.
CREATIVE, like a lie told in a supermarket so you can get a free sample of Activia.

What do you think he made of you?
He said his face hurt from smiling, so I reckon he thought I was fun.

What do you think she made of you?
I’m going for “cool, eloquent intellectual”.

Well, not too far off I guess.

Did you go on somewhere?
We went for a couple of drinks in one of my favourite pubs nearby.
We knocked back 1.5 pints each in a Sam Smith’s.

The “1.5” really annoys me and I don’t know why. I do like a Sam Smith’s though. Looking at the restaurant they ate at I am guessing they went to the White Horse on Rupert Street which is my VERY FAVOURITE Sam Smith’s pub – but only when upstairs is open, which it hardly ever is now. Please if you are ever in London go and sit up there and have a pint; it is the most effortlessly London-y place to sit and I adore it. The highs and lows of my twenties and thirties are all there, echoing off the walls.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That he had worried less about what I thought of him.

We should all worry less what people think of us. Obviously this isn’t a licence to go around acting like a piece of shit, but dismissing the uncontrollable thoughts of another is quite freeing. I just wish I could take my own advice.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
She was reluctant to join me in building a cutlery-and-napkin sculpture.

Ben is very guarded and while it’s understandable because this is a public arena, it is difficult to take him seriously or get a handle on what he’s like as a person because every answer is just a line from a screenplay. Ben, Hugh Grant is already very good at being Hugh Grant and the market is not crying out for a replacement – show us who you are.

Marks out of 10?

Hahaha Ben, thank you for showing us exactly who you are. Quick response.

Would you meet again?
Yes, I had a really fun evening.
A museum as friends would be lovely.

Ben and Anya ate at Ichibuns, London W1.
Fancy a blind date? Email
If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit

NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants and not what they may actually be like in real life. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits it to suit the column. Get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll publish whatever you say.

NOTE 2: Please buy my book; I’m hungry.












  1. I am a massive food sharer but I draw the line at burgers. Unless they were eating them with a knife and fork, which surely someone would have commented on.

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