Callum is wearing glasses and a sweatshirt that says 'J Wills'. Ciarán is wearing a blue striped Oxford shirt
Photo: Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Calum and Ciarán

The GBD is enjoying something of a rainbow renaissance, thank goodness – always slightly more fun to read about a couple of lesbians or a brace of bisexuals rather than a pair of cleanshirts whose dating personalities have been shaped and set in stone by the dreary heterosexual frotting rituals of high school in Godalming, or Cheadle, or a part of Bristol you’ve never heard of but is often in ‘Top 10 places to buy a second home’ articles in right-wing newspapers. Today we have two cute Celts – I said Celts – the alliterative duo of Callum and Ciarán. Alliteration is a lazy trick in writing – apparently – which is probably why I love it so much. I like adverbs too. And using adjectives in sets of three. Apologies to Serious Writer Substack if they’ve made it this far.

So, as I was saying, meet Callum, 30, a civil servant, and Ciarán, a 27-year-old media professional. What does that mean? What is a media professional? Does that mean he stands on step-and-repeat boards at premieres for episodes of House of Dragons in a Boohoo Man suit, or am I thinking of media personality? Anyway, whatever he does, I’m sure he makes a great round of tea. Here they are wearing what you might politely call fashions:

 

Callum is wearing glasses and a sweatshirt that says 'J Wills'. Ciarán is wearing a blue striped Oxford shirt
Photo: Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian

Read the full extent of the date on the Guardian website (and see the selfie they took which is much nicer than the above photo) before returning here to see if I can’t whip these two Celts into shape.

Calum on Ciarán | Ciarán on Calum

What were you hoping for?
A rich, handsome future husband whose salary I could retire on at 30 and devote myself to fun stuff. More realistically, a fun evening with some nice company.

Sadly, Calum is already 30, so he’d have to work fast. Luckily, he’s gay (or bi)! And working fast is exactly what we do.

What were you hoping for?
To meet someone different, and get a 10 rating on my dating skills.

Well, we know what you usually have to do to get a 10 in the GBD column so… unbutton your Oxford and pucker up, Ciarán.

What did you talk about?
Our trips to Colombia. Using Scottish/Irish slang in England. Our love of This Is My House. Our mutual distrust of anyone who eats green bananas.
Celtic roots (I’m Irish, he’s Scottish). How Greggs is overrated. Coming-out stories (the gay date staple). Perfect banana ripeness.

Colombia – Oh good, travel stories. At least on dates in the 90s and early 00s, you’d only have to listen to your date’s engrossing stories about chucking up half his spine and having a one-to-one with Bernie Clifton’s ostrich while whacked out on ayahuasca in the middle of the jungle. Now, thanks to smartphones, you get the photos too. Look, me and some people you’ll never meet, smiling by a tree. Look, a beach. Oh, I went to that one too! Cool! Cool. Cool.

Celtic roots/Scottish and Irish slang ✅ – My best friend was from Derry and I lived in Edinburgh a few years so have lots of Scottish friends (and my boyfriend is Scottish), which means I have plenty of experience lapping up their slang and other language quirks and I love them. My favourite Scottish word is ‘stramash’. I think I used it in one of my books, I can’t remember which one. My favourite Derry slang word is ‘bars’, which means gossip.

Greggs is overrated – I can feel the flesh goosing up on people who wish they were still students all over the country. I’ve been eating Greggs since before it was even Greggs (RIP Thurston’s neva forget), but I have to concede it’s really not as good as the internet seems determined to claim. I hate to be all northern about this – as the date is very regional today I feel I’m in a safe space – but local bakeries up there shit on Greggs from Mars and are just as cheap. Seriously. I’m always a bit suss, especially, of southern middle class people who wang on about how great Greggs is because it feels a bit like working class tourism. I’m not sure I can explain it. Greggs is acceptable for you when you’re hungover or whatever but you would probably look down on someone who are a steak bake, chips and (Branston) beans for dinner. Greggs is reliable, affordable, and one of their sausage rolls right out of the oven would be a great chemical weapon. It’s perfectly fine! But, darling, you can do so much better. Get yourself up north for a meat and potato pie (no longer available at Greggs) from a kindly yet strangely brusque woman who calls you ‘sweetheart’ in a local bakery and taste the difference.

Coming out stories – We all have one. In fact, we don’t just have one. We have multiple coming out stories. They still happen, day in, day out. Oh, sure, they get less dramatic as time goes on, people tend to shout and/or cry less, but they’re still a part of daily life. Pausing slightly when someone asks about your ‘girlfriend’, wondering whether you should correct them with ‘boyfriend’ or play safer with ‘partner’; clocking someone’s stare linger on you a bit because two men your age in a supermarket together usually means you’re brothers or you’re gay and you don’t look alike – maybe this is why the boyfriend twin is such a popular trope, as a form of protection; that little frisson of… what is it, nerves maybe, as the barman in the pub works you out; the doctor faltering slightly when they ask about your sexual history; the one uncle who hasn’t been told yet because ‘Why do they need to be told, what do you always have to go on about it, we get it, you’re gay, can’t we just have one Christmas…’ etc etc. Ask anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum and they’ll tell you. Anyway, I hope they had good, fun coming out stories involving glitter and a revolving stage.

Bananas ✅ – Like avocados, bananas have a very brief sweet spot where they’re edible. I have one every day, sliced, over my bran flakes, with blueberries sprinkled over the top and I can say that both green bananas and overripe bananas are the instruments of Beelzebub. That sickening rip as the peel deconstructs before your eyes because the banana isn’t ripe enough, so you must claw away at its stringy hide to separate it from the fruit within. The unsatisfying falter of the knife trying to slice it but it’s slightly too hard. The bitter taste of the unripe banana. Or, the other side, the horrifying squidginess, the dusty peel sliding easily off the slightly crumbly flesh beneath. That extreme banana taste that almost tastes like a weird liqueur. THOSE F*CKING HORRIBLE STRINGY BITS YOU HAVE TO GENTLY PEEL AWAY WITHOUT HEAVING. God, bananas. I’m glad I only eat one a day – monkeys from cartoons must be exhausted.

Most awkward moment?
I’m dyspraxic, so eating in a taco restaurant on a date could have led to more carnage than it did.

Eating tacos is a horrible job at the best of times – I become less inclined to eat with my hands as I age, I reckon I’ll be cutlery-free by my retirement, I’m just going to have food catapulted into my mouth – so full marks to Callum for not letting the messy little suckers win.

Good table manners?
He didn’t make a hint of mess eating tacos, so I’d say they were magisterial.

Magisterial. Always reminds me of Adrian Mole and his terrible writing:

“Sunday, 30 August:. My thoughts on Scotland written on the M6 at 120 mph: The hallowed mist rolls away leaving Scotland’s majestic peaks revealed in all their majesty. A shape in the translucent sky reveals itself to be an eagle, that majestic bird of prey. Talons clawing, it lands on a loch, rippling the quiet majesty of the turbulent waters. The eagle pauses only to dip its majestic beak into the aqua before spreading its majestic wings and flying away to its magisterial nest high in the barren, arid, grassless hills. The Highland cattle. Majestic horned beast of the glens lowers its brown-eyed shaggy-haired majestic head as it ruminates on the mysteries of Glencoe.”

Sue Townsend. What an icon. Every slightly nerdy, ugly writer lives in fear of turning into Adrian Mole. I reckon I’m two thirds Adrian (he lies trios of adjectives too), one sixth Rebecca de Winter, and one sixth Julie Walters in the infamous café sketch (which is no longer on YouTube and I can’t post a picture from because of copyright, but it’s the one where she says ‘Can I thrust by, I’m a diabetic?’)

Good table manners?
Perfect, but it was a judgment-free zone because of the tacos.

woman eating a taco

I fear they may be making a little too much of this. Just have a couple of sheets of Plenty Thirst Pockets handy and check your face in your phone screen in case any pork pibil has leaked out into the corners of your mouth.

Best thing about them?
He is a charming, warm person who seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me.
His hilarious impersonations, and his ability to chat about anything without sounding like a know-it-all.

If dear Cilla were still with us now, once she’d stuck ‘RESERVED’ signs on every chair in her vicinity, and clicked her fingers at any cabin crew in her eyeline, she’d be up out of her seat and phoning her very favourite milliner.

‘Ability to chat about anything without sounding like a know-it-all’ – no mean feat for a man!

Charming AND warm – everybody, Ciarán is apparently a brightly coloured Snoodie.

Describe Ciarán in three words.
Charming, funny, gregarious.

CHARMING, like the prince out of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and… Bel Air.
FUNNY, like the opposite of a Christmas cracker joke that you start reading out before you realise your grandad ordered these crackers off GBNews.
GREGARIOUS, like someone called Greg, or someone who works in Greggs, or someone who actually doesn’t know what this word means but likes going out with their friends.

Describe Calum in three words.
Bubbly, fun, intelligent.

BUBBLY, like the stuff in the fridge.

Zoe Lucker as Tanya Gold in EastEnders doing the bubbly in the fridge routine
BBC

FUN, like Pat Sharp’s house, which is a whole lot of fun, with prizes to be won, a real crazy show where anything goes, a quiz, a race, a real wacky place, where you must use your body and your brain if you wanna play the game. (A reference Calum and Ciarán will almost certainly not get.)
INTELLIGENT, like a pig that just graduated with a first class (honours) in computer sciences.

Would you introduce them to your friends?
Absolutely. They too are welcoming of fans of non-green bananas.
Definitely, we Celts must stick together.

It would be tempting to say here that nothing unites non-English people more than a mutual dislike, and distrust, of the English, but in my experience, it’s just general apathy, and a shared annoyance that it takes a few more goes on the Alexa to set a timer unless you impersonate that guy you were in halls with at uni who was from Oxfordshire and did a BA in Fine Art Valuation even though there was a job waiting for him at Daddy’s company (registered in Liechtenstein for tax reasons).

Did you go on somewhere?
No, but we were there for hours fleecing the place of their avocado-and-passion-fruit cocktails.
We stayed at the bar beyond some of the waiting staff to sample nearly every margarita on the menu, if that counts.

AVOCADO AND PASSIONFRUIT? TOGETHER? This is one of the strangest pairings since one of the Cheeky Girls dated Lembit Opik or Sinitta got it on with Brad Pitt, or Pete Davidson and your auntie Janice (probably, give it time).

And … did you kiss?
Alas, ’twas not to be.

Alas, alack, and crivvens. Young Calum has been spirited away to medieval times, thus the anticipated sweet union of the tongues was thwarted. (Let’s never say ’twas, thanks.)

And … did you kiss?
No, but Jesus, even if we did, our mutual Catholic guilt would never allow us to reveal it to the world.

CATHOLICISM – the ultimate cockblocker. Unless you’re actually a… [REDACTED FOR REASONS OF TASTE AND PROPRIETY]

Marks out of 10?
A strong 8.
9, couldn’t fault him.

These rainbow boyz know the rules: no full marks unless it went at least some of the way in.

Would you meet again?
As friends, absolutely.
I didn’t feel a romantic spark, but we agreed over text afterwards to be pals.

Delightful that they’ve each made a new friend they can bang on about celtishness, catholicism, and coming out with – but I will say: sparks do not always immediately fly, and if they ignite, they don’t always stay aflame that long. Sometimes it’s worth sticking around for the slow burn – by which I mean, get drunk one night and do it once, see how you get on.


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Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review

The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. Daters are under no obligation to get along for our benefit, or explain why they do, or don’t, want to see each other again, so please try not to speculate or fill our feeds with hate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. Or at least let me know what’s in your Greggs order.

Calum and Ciarán ate at El Pastor, London SE1. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com

6 Comments

  1. I mean, you say the local Northern pasty is superior But my local bakery, on the outskirts of Leeds, sold 50p cheese & onion pasties, which I’m utterly convinced were made with powdered onion, potato and cheese. They just put the kettle on and mixed-up that badboy. TBF, wrap anything in pastry and it’ll basically taste fine – at 6am on a hangover, you could almost convince yourself, it was proper food.

  2. I always love reading your GBD write ups! What do you think was going on with the change in logo on Calum’s jumper between the Guardian photo and the selfie???

    1. Haha. Photoshoot must have been on a different day – or the sweatshirt has a wipe clean panel on the front and Calum draws the logos on himself

  3. 1. Doesn’t Gosforth, Newcastle (Greggs ground zero) count as “Northern”, then? (In my Edinburgh schooldays, we always considered that the Deep South began at Durham, so maybe…)

    2. I rather liked “magisterial”, though perhaps “masterly” would have been marginally less pretentious. Best of all would, of course, have been, “Impeccable”.

    3. Thank you.

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