Ah, the second half of January, the traditional time of year when self-employed people are vibrating with anxiety over doing their tax return – note to ‘Not me! I did mine in September!’ tryhards, go tell it to your diary – and you decide that if there’s still tinsel in place anywhere round the flat it might as well stay there until next Christmas.
What could possibly brighten this ‘vegetarian option: celeriac risotto’ weekend? What could raise early 2022 from an overly moist half-smoked cigarette begrudgingly passed to you outside a Tiger Tiger into a caramel latte flavoured Vogue all to yourself in the luxe confines of the champagne bar in the Westfield? Well, how about a dog? Look:
In an effort to bring back readers to what has been something of a sickly franchise in the last few months, the daters are bringing out the big guns. Meet Carlos, a 29-year-old doctor standing on the left of the photo and checking his collars for razor blades, and Tegwen the dog, who is being chaperoned by Tom, 32, and a property investor. I can’t tell you how many of my old dates would’ve been improved if someone had brought a dog along – in fact, in many cases I’d have rather they left the dog with me for the date and sodded off.
Anyway, read what happened on the date in full on the Guardian website to see whether Tegwen (we will hear that name a lot) was the only one doing it doggy that evening, before returning here so we can make a dog’s dinner out of everything. Oh, btw, we are in LIVERPOOL this week – will going regional inject some life force into the column?
Carlos on Tom | Tom on Carlos
What were you hoping for?
Someone fun, ambitious and interesting.
Someone kind, open and passionate.
You will note both of them both use three adjectives there, each to describe the person they’d like to meet. Nobody ever does this. It’s always ‘good food and good company’, or ‘the man of my dreams or at least a good story to tell’. I’m excited by this new approach but concerned they’ve both done it – are they part of a hive mind? Autons? Beyoncé stans?
Well dressed. Great smile. Tall.
I’m not sure how much of an authority Carlos is on ‘well dressed’, given he’s wearing Veja trainers, the jackboot of gentrification, but ‘great smile’ is a nice compliment and ‘tall’ is a fact, blurted out in surprise, perhaps.
Tall, handsome and a little nervous.
A double ‘tall’! We don’t often get that. When height is raised (lol), it’s usually in a comparative lament, so this is quite exciting to have two dandelions on a date together. No height hangups, we can breathe. Although, of course, tall people don’t necessarily fancy each other. I have a couple of tall friends, and nether of them have particularly tall partners and one (the gay one) once told me he wasn’t particularly interested in other tall men. So there you go. Makes sense, really; you’d never assume redheads all fancy each other, just as all gay men won’t automatically be interested in that ‘great guy from work that I know you’d absolutely adore’ that straight people used to love introducing us to before Grindr.
What did you talk about?
Careers. We talked about our travel stories – he is very well travelled and talked about his time in South America. Gay pride.
Learning languages, our travels, my dog, Tegwen, Carlos’s passion for plants and the quirky gigs he goes to.
Travel/languages ✅ – I am happy for them but travel is just the worst thing you could ever talk to me about on a date. I could pretend to be interested, but it’s like being tortured with someone’s holiday snaps, political opinions or interior design ideas.
Tegwen – I am fascinated by Tegwen and would love to know what they think of all this. Did Tegwen sit under the table hoping for a few scraps, or were they let loose round the restaurant getting tangled up with the waiters who pretended it was fun and charming? I don’t know. Am also fascinated by the name. My deep research – right-click, copy, paste into Google – tells me it’s a Welsh name, so maybe it’s a family thing or something. But I like to think Tegwen is a slight variation of Tecwen, and that the dog is named after Tecwen Whittock, whose bronchial outbursts allegedly helped Major Charles Ingram cheat his way to a million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? A fitting tribute. (Can I make clear that even if it’s true that he did cheat – which I choose not to believe because I’m subversive – I reckon they should’ve just given Charles the money anyway, because the cheating scandal was the most interesting thing ever to happen to that dullsville, overwrought, pub bore’s favourite of a gameshow anyway. That the nation was hooked on this dreary, endless round of Trivial Pursuit in the nineties should be a stark reminder of just how dull Britain can be when it really tries.)
Passion for plants – Ten succulents he’s managed to keep alive during lockdown
Quirky gigs – Quirky? At a guess I’d say, a Saturday night at Duckie when they have that woman on who removes things from within herself? Or are we talking an acoustic comedy slamdown above a curtain shop on Mare Street?
Any awkward moments?
Our mutual lactose-intolerance status. It made for a great topic of conversation when we were browsing the dessert menu. I don’t think the waiter fully understood when Tom said he couldn’t have dairy – he was presented with scoops of ice-cream.
The dessert menu was not very lactose-intolerant friendly. My only choice was sorbet – and they still put in balls of ice-cream!
‘Can she have wafer-thin ham, Barbara?’
Good table manners?
He holds his wine glass by the stem and shared his food, so it’s a yes from me. I wouldn’t say the same for myself – I dropped my steak knife in my lap after almost stabbing myself with it.
‘Holds his wine glass by the stem!’ You really can be judged for anything and everything these days! I remember when I got to hold the first ever copy of my first ever novel, and posed for a photo with a glass of champagne, excited, and a bit lost in the moment, I latched onto my flute like it was a tankard – half the comments were congratulating me on my book, the other half were dinner guests of Lord sodding Delfont, slagging me off for how I was holding the glass. It’s the little things.
Good table manners?
Impeccable. We talked a lot, so our food went cold, but it was worth it.
Was it? I’ve read ahead, you know.
Would you introduce him to your friends?
I’m not too sure they’d have much in common, but why not?
Would you introduce him to your friends?
Sure! But he’s the type of person I’d prefer to spend time with in a more chilled setting.
This feels like code for ‘my friends would immediately cockblock me’. I suppose we should all expect to be judged by the company we keep. I wonder what nights out with a property developer and his friends might be like. I’ve spent half my ‘literary career’ joking about people who willingly talk about loft conversions, but there’s actually a good chance they will. Lots of chat about ‘the build’, ‘completion dates’ and whether to engrave ‘live laugh love’ over the living room door to appeal to the kind of potential homeowner who buys scented candles but doesn’t light them, and believes in ‘be kind’ but has also drunk-Facebooked a vague threat to kill a refugee should they ever meet one.
Describe Tom in three words?
Ambitious, chilled and a traveller.
Ambitious, like plans to eat three steak bakes before 1pm instead of your usual two.
Chilled, like the crémant you wash them down with while you watch Carol McGiffin talk about how much she misses Opal Fruits on Loose Women.
A traveller, like… Judith Chalmers? I don’t know.
Describe Carlos in three words?
Kind, caring and modest.
Kind, like a doctor’s receptionist in Call the Midwife, and not the doctor’s receptionist in [REDACTED] (practice now closed) who used to greet you with ‘What do you want?’ and would sit playing solitaire on a phone older than God’s dog while the phone rang and rang and rang.
Caring, like a… hang on, Carlos is actually a doctor, isn’t he? Is Tom at home now trying to fill in this questionnaire thinking, ‘God I was so drunk, what was he actually like? Ugh, he was a doctor, so I’ll go for… “kind”, um, “not available at the moment”, no, hang on, how about “reachable by pager”, no, okay, I’ll say he’s “caring” and… last one… um, “smoking outside the renal unit doing Joel Dommett impressions for the student nurses”? No, well, how about…’
Modest, like you should only be if you’re being paid to be.
What do you think he made of you?
That I didn’t shut up! This was my first night out in a while due to illness, and I was glad to engage with someone new.
Ah, this is sweet – that first time back out there, whether you’ve been laid up with yellow fever or have had three consecutive days of Uluru-sized tonsils, is always quite nervy and thrilling. People! Outside! Bars! Restaurants! The clink of glasses and chatter of lovers! It was all there waiting while you were ailing. Life goes on, and it’s a comfort.
Did you go on somewhere?
The restaurant asked if we wanted to go to the sky bar, but it was already 11 – I was on call the next day and he had a PT session in the morning.
They didn’t kiss, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
Marks out of 10?
7/10. We have stuff in common but want different things out of life.
Not just seven. But a 7/10, with extra content. The EMPHASIS. The TAUTOLOGY. The DETAIL. The CONTRADICTION. I would love to know what these different things are.
‘He saw himself sticking it in me. I didn’t.’
Marks out of 10?
10, a perfect gentleman.
Oh. A ten against a seven. I am guessing Carlos is not a dog person. It was a risky tactic on Tom’s part. Unless Carlos slipped Tegwen his number and asked him not to mention it to Tom? But, look, as I have now begun to stress more often: a friendship is better than nothing.
Would you meet again?
Yeah, for sure, as friends.
As friends, yes. He’s already promised to take me to a gig sometime.
Well, I hope that lovely lady at the RVT pulls out something extra special and lactose-free just for you, boys. Have fun.
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About the review and the daters: 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, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. There has been an increase in readers being quite horrible about the daters – this isn’t what we should be about. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments and will report any abusive tweets. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself or assume I agree with you. 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. I would also like to know the breed of your dog, the age of your dog, and whether I can borrow your dog. Thanks.