Photographs: Sonja Horsman and David Levene/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Ashleigh and Mike

As Céline Dion once epically sang: “There were moments of gold, and there were flashes of light”. And that’s the very least we should expect from the Blind Date column in the Guardian Weekend magazine, isn’t it? Mind you, in the very next line of that song (It’s All Coming Back to Me Now for the shamefully non-Céline-fluent among you), Céline goes on to trill, “There were things we’d never do again” and that, dear readers, is what we have here.

Those nights you wish you could recall somehow, go back in time, stop the inevitable – the evenings spent with the weapons-grade dullard, or the woman who kept her jacket on during dinner because she “mightn’t be staying”. The thrown-back glasses of rapidly souring “vino” (their words, not yours), the congealing pasta in your throat, the half-hearted street-lit canoodling that no amount of Listerine could help you forget. These are the nights that make us who we are.

Which is my way of saying to today’s Blind Daters that perhaps this unadulterated woodchip-peeling, full body cringe, borefest of a date is character-building.

This week we have Ashleigh, a 29-year-old press executive (is paid an annual salary to moan about journalists who don’t print exactly what she wants them to print) and Mike, 26, a weighbridge operative (OMG a job I would actually ask questions about! Look, at least he’s not in PR or sales like they usually are). I would say buckle in but this is honestly the tamest, most milquetoast white-knuckle ride since you last rode the little spinning tea-cups at the summer fete of whichever vaguely middle-class, immigration-suspicious village you grew up in.

Here they are in full. And, yes, the fact that Mike seems to be zipping up his coat to leave is indeed prophetic.  before I dissect accordingly.



Photographs: Sonja Horsman and David Levene/The Guardian

Ashleigh on MikeMike on Ashleigh
What were you hoping for?
Finding astrological perfection, or at the very least an evening of lol moments.

I have been reading a lot recently about people trying to “manifest” things for themselves. At first I thought I’d stumbled upon a very bland, wellness-related strand if witchcraft – all the people saying it seemed to live in yoga pants and be crystals-adjacent – but apparently it is not about conjuring up a demon to rip out your enemies’ throats, but about visualising the things you want and apparently it will happen, and it is in some way linked to astrology. Well I have spent many a night staring at the stars wishing I was six-foot-one with hips like a lone chopstick but sadly this didn’t manifest itself at all. The thing about “astrological perfection” is that it is, in my view, a load of bollocks.

As for “an evening of lol moments” – sadly Miss LOL Moments is away, but here is her understudy, Mr OMG Awks.

What were you hoping for?
To have a nice date and maybe make a friend.

Mike, I think on any other given week you can usually expect to walk away from a Guardian Blind Date with either one of these two. “Lovely guy, but not for me,” they say, or “A solid 7, but just friends”, their gentle, relaxed laughter reverberating off the phone screen like the distant sound of a thousand mirrors shattering. Unfortunately, Mike, you have turned up *this* week, which will be devoid of both your aspirations here.

First impressions?
He seemed a bit nervous.
Nice and friendly, quite direct, pretty confident.

She thought he seemed nervous, he thought she was pretty confident. He also mentioned that she was quite direct. I wonder what she said to him straightaway to give him that first impression. I’m guessing it was, “You seem a bit nervous!”

What did you talk about?
His ex-girlfriend, our jobs, what we do in our spare time, and what we are looking for in a partner.
What music she liked, her job, what she wants in the future, her interests, what she likes in a man.

This is interesting. No, it is. I mean, not the topic, no. All daily standard first-date drivel – except for the “his ex-girlfriend” patter which should always be left in the cloakroom – although, spoiler, we see why this comes up later on. What is actually interesting is that while Ashleigh talks about “our jobs”, and “what we do in our spare time”, “what we are looking for in a partner” all of Mike’s answers relate to just her: “her job,” “her interests”, “what she likes in a man”.

So either Mike is gaslighting us into believing that Ashleigh just sat there and talked about herself all night – except for that “his ex-girlfriend” zinger that really won’t go away, will it – or… that’s exactly what she did. I don’t necessarily blame her – perhaps Mike was monosyllabic, or wandered off for lengthy periods – because if you’re on a date that is going badly, what else are you going to do but unload a press kit’s worth of information on a stranger?

Any awkward moments?
Most of the evening.


Any awkward moments?
Probably when I asked her for her number and she said no.

Lordy. This is already “chewing a full bag of Tangfastics against the clock” levels of shuddering death-cringe.

Yeah, I guess this would be pretty awkward. I wonder when he asked. Right after the starter? Anyway, it is Ashleigh’s right to say no and, just in case you were wondering, nobody is under any obligation to let anyone else down gently – mainly because it doesn’t really work, rejection is rejection. And even if you are nice during the no, some people take this as a “maybe”. You don’t have to explain yourself either, but if you get stuck, why not invoke some kind of “didn’t feel a spark” or “there was no chemistry” and pray they delete your phone number in a fit of pique on the way home.

Good table manners?
They were good.

There seems to be a trace of regret in Ashleigh’s answer here. Maybe she was hoping for a bit of verve to enter the evening by way of Mike dashing his starter across the restaurant.

Good table manners?
Yeah. She ate really quickly – I didn’t expect that.

Interesting that Mike says he didn’t expect that because… I don’t know, why wouldn’t you? I eat quite fast but it’s usually because I’m hungry. That’s OK, isn’t it? Anyway, Ashleigh is clearly trying to get through the date as quickly as possible so she can catch the last ten minutes of The One Show and Mike still hasn’t managed to get the head off his second prawn.

Best thing about Mike?
He seemed sweet.


Best thing about Ashleigh?
She had good eye contact and pretty eyes.

“She stared straight forward, unblinking, all night – until the bill came.”

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I’m not sure he would find that enjoyable.

If I half-close my eyes, I can see Ashleigh’s friends now: five blond women all with names ending in “a” and one or two token gay men called Tom or Jamie – they are always called Tom or Jamie. Witness them taking over the table next to yours, bellowing job-related jargon at each other, clicking their fingers at the waiter for another round of espresso martinis, posing for Insta-selfies, and collapsing into the raucous laughter of ten pterodactyls as each of them take it in turns reading out a line of Coleen Rooney’s Wagatha Christie statement in a funny voice. It’s …………..a terrifying account.

And yet as you watch them from your own seat where nobody has said anything unrelated to a loft conversion for twenty whole minutes, you kind of want to sit with them somehow, don’t you?

Would you introduce her to your friends?

Can I just say this date is relentlessly grim and I wish I’d stayed in bed? Thanks.

What do you think he made of you?
I was very surprised when he asked to swap numbers and see each other again. I’m not sure we were on the same date.

Reading it back, I can see you were both definitely on the same date. And neither of you wanted to be on it. I am actually quite surprised that Ashleigh is surprised because, in my experience, you could actually drop DEAD in front of a man on a date and he would prod your lifeless corpse for a good half hour saying, “so do you want to do this again”. Men are trained not to give up, it is exhausting. They are conditioned to see, even in the hugest pile of dung ever, the nugget of gold. Think of all these pickup artists, those roll-necked, oleaginous grifters who convince men to keep trying, or to come up with increasingly ridiculous ways to impart their halitosis on unsuspecting, and thus usually very quickly unaccommodating, women.

The depressing “might as well” mindset has been rewritten as some kind of plucky chancer’s manifesto, when really it is the art of settling for whatever – or whoever – is in front of you, whether they are right for you or not. A free drink that you don’t actually like but drink anyway because it was free is the second-worst drink you will ever have in your life. (The first-worst is a glass of champagne bought for you by someone breaking up with you, which you cannot drink as your throat is constricted by racking sobs and you just realised you can’t afford to rent a flat on your own.)

Anyway, people on dates: look up from your lap, decode a signal or two, exit with dignity.

What do you think she made of you?
Not too much. I got rejected: she probably thought she could do better.

How will this end? And more importantly, WHEN?

The “she probably thought she could do better” could either be interpreted as Mike being quite hard on himself or perhaps he is perfecting his jokey shrug as he regales his mates about it in the pub. Or maybe good old direct Ashleigh leaned over the table, dangled Mike’s clip-on tie in her soup and said, “I think I can do better”. Who can tell in this horrific mashup of 20 “cars running a red light” crash videos.

Did you go on somewhere?
After she didn’t give me her number, I didn’t see the point in trying to carry on.

And on it goes.

And… did you kiss?

We are still here, reading this. Eyelids yanked back off our faces with piano wire. Praying for darkness, or our phone battery to run out.

And… did you kiss?
No, just a hug and goodbye.

And on it goes. Civilisation crumbles all around us, skyscrapers tumble into the sea, we gargle the gritty tang of the melted polar ice caps – and keep reading this date because, inexplicably, it is deathless. Ashleigh and Mike will forever haunt the last star in the universe.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’m not sure we were very well matched, so maybe we’d have had more fun separately.

You and us both, Ashleigh.

Seriously, this date is a bloodied pulp. Any more of a kicking and it will disintegrate under our eager boot.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
For it not to have been so soon after breaking up with a girlfriend. I wasn’t really in the mood for it.

Oh, Mike. No. Do not listen ever again to the friends who told you this would be a good way of moving on. These are silly friends, Mike.

Marks out of 10?
Marks out of 10?

This is the lowest combined score I have ever seen in all my years or reviewing these dates. And yet… I actually think… they are TOO HIGH.

Would you meet again?
We haven’t planned to.

Can someone, please, just… stun me with a brick or something? Just make all this go away? This is having the most corrosive effect on my mental health since the credits rolled on the This Life 10-year anniversary special.

Would you meet again? 
Probably not. I don’t think she wants to anyway.

And thank goodness for that.

Ashleigh and Mike ate at Chez Antoinette, London SW1. 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. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. But, come on, this was really miserable for all of us. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

BOOKS: Did you like this? It was FREE, how exciting! Please buy my existing novel THE LAST ROMEO and preorder my next one THE MAGNIFICENT SONS. You won’t believe how hard it is to be a writer and make money. I don’t know how to do anything else.

ANOTHER NOTE: I’m on holiday for the next two Saturdays.


  1. oh THANK GOD – the horror of reading this at the Graun was matched only by the horror that you might not review it.

    There should be a mandatory quarantine for Blind Daters. No-one who’s inside four months of a major breakup.

  2. Oh my… that really hurt! I didn’t know how bad I could feel just reading first their date write-up and then yours – and you were right on every count. What a terrible dinner they must have had (and they both look really nice!). This is murder…

  3. How dare you? How bloody dare you? Most of us had managed to recover from the This Life 10th anniversary special and you just swan in and prod the scars until they are open, weeping wounds again.
    It’s people like you what cause unrest.

  4. I’ve never wanted to hear from either dater more!
    Also never laughed so much, while reading this out to my partner who is driving. Will gladly pay to read your books.

  5. Even the choice of restaurant seems prophetic… I’m imagining the guillotine in the corner, right next to the basket of bread …

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