Chris and Tania
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian/Paul Lang/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Chris and Tania

The samey sameness of 2020 lumbers on, humans left catatonic and unshockable as what would once have been life-changing stuff happens before our eyes, so much competition for future history books that there’ll have to be an X Factor-style showdown – judged by four aged white men, probably – to decide what gets recorded for posterity and what gets swept under the carpet.

Rolling news was invented for this barrage of information, and as the apocalypse is spelled out on digital tickers that trundle across the bottom of the screen, all we can do is turn to the familiar and hope it will give us comfort. Whether it’s a packet of mini shortbread Christmas trees (only one left now, shit), a bobbly old blanket that our childhood dog once gave birth on, or ten absinthe shots all lined up in a row, nobody can blame you for wanting to blot out the world. My chosen balm is to gently skewer the answers given by two strangers filling in a very rigid questionnaire – well, at least I’m not going out and killing anyone. Yet.

Thirty-two-year-old Chris, a freelance motion designer (sits watching screens that say ‘Rendering…’ all day, I imagine) is on the left, and his date is Tania, 25, a PhD student in History – the capital H on History there is the Guardian’s and not mine. And here they are:

 

Chris and Tania
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

Well, they are both attractive and these are pretty decent date outfits although I would say they do look a little bit like they typed ‘AUTUMNAL’ into the search bar on ASOS and bought the first five things that came up in the results. Read the full length version of the date on the Guardian website before I pick out some highlights to gaslight.

Chris on TaniaTania on Chris

What were you hoping for?
Some interesting, easy-going and engaging conversation, with good grub.

GRUB. The second appearance of ‘grub’ in this column in a month. What’s going on?

What were you hoping for?
An exciting night out in the middle of a global pandemic.

Uh-oh, she said ‘global pandemic’, which is bound to send people who play along at home with Countdown into a bit of of a tizz. ‘TAUTOLOGY!’ they might even shout, while their spouses mentally divide up all their belongings and estimate how many van loads it will take to carry away their share when the inevitable divorce happens. The word ‘pandemic’ means a widespread outbreak of a disease, usually over many countries, and sometimes, but not always, the entire world. The World Health Organisation – who decides when something is and isn’t a pandemic, for some reason, probably so you can decide how much to panic – calls it a ‘world-wide spread of a new disease’. So the WHO say one thing and dictionaries say another, so it’s fine to say ‘global pandemic’ if you really want to, but beware those wannabe Countdown contestants, and other people with nothing better to do than fiddle the moonlight sonata while Rome burns, will probably judge you. If you can live with that, use as many adjectives as you like to describe this bastard of a pandemic.

First impressions?
Reet petite, warm smile, very present and super cute.

First ‘grub’, now ‘reet petite’ – I think Chris has been possessed by the ghost of every working men’s club-based wedding reception I went to as a child. Chris is not just northern, he is THE NORTH, an envoy sent by committee to inject a little bit of beef dripping and mill chimney into our otherwise dull existences.

I’m not sure where he’s going with the ‘very present’ – kind of sounds like he’s auditioning her for the swing cast of an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical – but the ‘super cute’ is a very good sign, isn’t it?

First impressions?
Lovely smile. Great scouse accent.

A lovely smile is very important, I’ve read. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t smiled unprompted since Can’t Get You out of My Head went to number 1. And as we can see, I was right, Chris is indeed from The North, thanks to his ‘great Scouse accent’. Accents, accents, accents. I’ve done this bit before, but as a Yorkshireman ‘born and bred’ whose accent fades in and out depending on how close I am to a whippet, or a Bradford cab driver, or a branch of Fortnum & Mason, or someone about to give me bad customer service in a department store, I have never really understood the sexual fascination with accents. I like different accents but I’ve never been attracted to someone because of one.

Irish ones tend to do well, don’t they? Why is that, I wonder? I don’t know what the term for this is, but if you grow up with someone who has a different accent from you, you don’t necessarily notice. My nana, for example: I only realised she spoke differently on certain words – film, and mushroom, since you ask – and didn’t even know she had an Irish accent until someone told me they couldn’t understand what she was saying. ‘Nana, are you from IRELAND?! Also: what is Ireland?!!’ What a day. I was quite small, to be fair.

What did you talk about?
Not knowing what half the things on the menu were, Thailand prisons, the pyramids, mushy vegetables (non-restaurant-related), leftwing bantz, Richard Curtis films, university and, of course, dogs.
Our best travel anecdotes, suffragette sex-strikes (the topic of my research), our favourite books.

Oh goodness there’s so much here; it’s like Twitter’s trending topics was sick on me. And yet no matches. ❌

Menu confusion – they sent them somewhere really posh in Belgravia, probably one of those places where all the men look like Michael Winner (RIP) and the women are all twenty-seven years younger than every single man in the room who isn’t in a waiter’s uniform. The menu seems nice and doesn’t look that confusing – just loads of dishes with too many ingredients listed and ten words where two will do – but I’ve had to google pretty basic menu stuff before so no judgement.

Leftwing bantz – Can of BANTA LIMÓN for table five, my good man!

Our best travel anecdotes – a contradiction in terms.

Oh I can’t be arsed with the rest; we’ve all got places to be. Okay, well, we haven’t got places to be but seriously.

Any awkward moments?
When the waiter did that outdated thing of letting the man taste the wine first.

Okay, so I wasn’t there and this might be sexism but also if you were the one to choose the wine, like actually physically say, ‘We’ll have a bottle of the Plonk du Gonk, please, bar-keep’, then they will let you taste it first, whoever you are. In my experience of ordering wine, anyway – which is a vast experience.

Any awkward moments?
Chris suggested we share mains, which I was keen to do, but when the food arrived we realised we hadn’t thought how to make it Covid-safe. We worked it out, though.

Ugh ffs. Sharing MAINS?! With someone you don’t know? In a gLoBaL pAnDeMiC?! All those bloody couples who blighted your ‘buy one get one free’ meal deals in Bella Pasta in the nineties by insisting they get a pizza and a pasta and then splitting each, making an absolutely huge mess everywhere – well, guess what, their children saw this behaviour, have normalised it, and are doing it here, in 2020. Tapas, I get. Sharing platters, sure. A selection of dishes that we’re not calling tapas, but a tasting menu, because everything is inexplicably £13, yep, fine, I understand this concept of sharing. I wouldn’t want a tapas date, tbh, but yes, I accept this happens. But sawing through a chicken Milanese and slapping great big spoonfuls of risotto on each other’s plates like you’re through to the next round of the Generation Game? Come on!

Anyway, despite my horror, I suppose this is a sweet thing to do and gave them something else to talk about – not that they needed any encouragement.

Right, here we go. Table manners.

Good table manners?
Better than mine, but she did manage to majestically flip her fork off the table. And she ate her main with a spoon, so call it a draw.

Ariana sips from bottle, wide eyed in horror

Good table manners?
Impeccable.

Marion Cotillard fake smile

Best thing about Tania?
She has amazing eyes and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

I went back up the page to look at Tania’s eyes but can’t really see. I don’t really understand the eye fetish thing either – I know, I have to check for a pulse hourly – but as I’ve said before, the men in this column can’t really compliment anything else so that’s what they tend to go for when they want to say someone is hot. So, my official verdict on this is: Chris thinks Tania is HOT.

And isn’t it nice to have someone actually interested in what you say and not just waiting for the next silence so they can start talking about themselves again. Although in the current climate of seeing absolutely nobody for however long it’s been, I’d even take a solid twenty minutes of breathless self-promo from someone with nothing to say other than ‘and it was, like…me

Best thing about Chris?
His laugh, his stories and the way he made me feel at ease.

So she was genuinely interested in what he had to say! Yay! Sometimes you have to fake it, don’t you? All that nodding, and saying ‘right’ – exhausting. And good that he made her feel at ease too – this is possibly one of the hardest eras to feel at ease, you can’t move for people reminding you of ‘uncertain times’ and when they’re not bullying people or having internecine spats that make then look like children squabbling over a dog that’s somehow got into the playground, the government are doing their best to keep us very much not at ease. Please vote out these grasping, jelly-bollocked ghouls the first chance you get.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
For sure.
Sure! He has an anecdote about finding a lost drone that it would be impossible not to find compelling.

Drag queen says 'is that shade?'

Like, we have just heard how much she enjoys listening to his stories but that response makes him sound like a total clichéd ‘dad who is forced to take the phone from mum and talk to their child, who is at university or boarding school or something, I don’t know’. I am sure the lost drone story was Hollywood-gripping, Chris.

Did you go on somewhere?
10pm curfew meant no chance either way.
No, but we stayed at the restaurant until nearly the 10pm curfew.

Grease, Sandy singing we stayed out till 10 o'clock

CUTE!

What do you think he made of you?
That I am a little too obsessed with both the suffragettes and Love Actually which, to be fair, is true.

Boris holding up a sign like Andrew Lincoln did in Love Actually

I’ve never seen it. Don’t worry, I don’t think it makes me interesting not to have seen a film that so many others have, like people who’ve never seen Star Wars do, and love to tell you so, usually at parties, or weddings, or on the third thrust.

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
Maybe not that evening, after the amount of truffle we both had!

But this isn’t an eternal no.

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
We said goodbye in the unromantic glare of fluorescent lighting on the tube, so I don’t think so.

Nor is this.

Marks out of 10?
9.

Okay, this is good, Very good for a date that had no kisses. A nine with no skin-to-skin contact is a ten. Nervous now, though.

Andrew Garfield covers his eyes

Marks out of 10?
8.5.

Now, I could hear the deflation from here, but 8.5 is actually a very good score and we cannot live our romantic lives vicariously through two strangers who wear a lot of brown and share mains. This is their life, their choice. They do not belong to us.

That said, we like it when they get on, don’t we? And it wouldn’t be unreasonable to hope for a little bright spark of something in there somewhere?

Would you meet again?
Would love to.

Harry Styles winks

Okay…

You never know – our main shared interest was travelling, so maybe in a post-Covid world we’ll bump into each other on top of a mountain.

Princess Leia screaming what

This seems a little noncommittal… a bit of a ‘no’? Well, like we’re always being told – these are uncertain times. Maybe they’ll surprise us. Stay safe.


About the review and the daters: 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. Most of the things I say are merely 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. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. 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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. And please do let me know if it turns out to be love, actually, okay?

Please buy my books as I have this bizarre fascination with things I write actually being read. Help your local bookshop too! Anyone who buys a copy of one or both of my books from a high street bookshop or an indie between now and 2 December 2020 can get a free signed bookplate as part of the #SignForOurBookshops campaign. More info here

• Chris and Tania ate at Chucs Belgravia, London SW1, before lockdown 2. They were photographed separately for this image. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com

Boris image from here

6 Comments

  1. Would dearly love to hear back from the datees(?), does that happen often? Or ever? These two sound lihe they would really get on. Adored your Autumnal comments, I was thinking their outfits were a bit similar, but your description made me laugh (as did timing of Princess Leia gif! ) Thank you again, you made my weekend!

  2. This made me laugh a lot … I won’t say I but the Saturday guardian just for blind date but let’s just say I buy the guardian just for blind date. Have a great weekend!

  3. Justin, I just want you to know what a joy it is to read your blind date reviews <3 I wish the Guardian will stay ambiguous on wether and for how long GBD will keep going, I am very much enjoying this long unbroken run of reviews 🙂

  4. Thank you so much, this is the funniest thing that I read all week. OK it was a slow week but this was very funny. I always love this column, but this one made me laugh out loud over and over.

  5. I’m Australian but never had a really heavy accent and I’ve been living in the UK for long enough that it’s no longer the first thing people comment on when they meet me, but I am currently obsessed with this youtuber who has the most incredible Australian accent – she’s like the youthful version of Irene from Home & Away. Just superb. Not in any way sexually attractive. But I saw a stupid poll this week saying Americans find the “British” accent the sexiest and entertained myself for a bit imagining them getting turned on by a broad West Country voice.

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