Impeccable Table Manners

Damola and Karen

Something we hardly ever get to talk about is where the daters are sent. Not that it’s not fascinating – which it almost always is – but because the daters themselves usually hog the limelight with ridiculous tales or personal beliefs about who should be pouring the wine (yourself, always).

Anyway, today’s duo went to Exmouth Market Grind, part of a small chain beginning to make its presence felt across the capital. I have been a couple of times, but if you haven’t, here is a delicious testimonial from the homepage of their website that should give you an idea:


I could write 1,800 words on this quote alone, I reckon, but that is not what you’re here for. Is it? No.


Today’s participants are Damola, 25, a content writer – which seems an oddly granular and slightly superfluous description but perhaps that’s what it says on his business card – and 28-year-old researcher Karen. Let’s get going.



Abraham Lincoln?


I have some bad news on line 2.


WHOA. No messing with the formula, Damola. I know you like to write your content and all that, but three words and shoehorned alliteration belongs to the “Describe her in three words” question. Here, you’re supposed to misunderstand what a first impression actually is and instead drop a massive spoiler and give your overall impression of the evening. Allow Karen to show you:


She’d have got away with it if it hadn’t have been for that “dynamic”, too, wouldn’t she? “Dynamic” is the fairground owner with a pillowcase over his head scaring away the customers for an insurance scam.


So much to unpack here. So much content, you could say.

“How much we both like Jamiroquai” is the doozy, though. I mean, aren’t they a bit young to even remember Jamiroquai at their (his) peak? Or maybe they heard the new single, which isn’t too bad (Automaton, not the other one), and they’re getting into them (him) in a kind of ironic retro way, much like a 21-year-old hearing Kim Wilde’s Cambodia for the first time might do. Either way, I didn’t think this was the kind of thing people actually said out loud. Not any more.

As for who would win between a giant spider and giant octopus, this depends on a) where they are, because water tends to favour one, while land the other and b) what exactly they’re competing in. A fight? A beauty contest? A stock car rally? A sponsored climb up the side of a giant bath for charity?

Anyway, it’s a nice try, but I have always found baboon vs badger a much more compelling idea for a fight to the death within the animal kingdom.


“Life’s zigzags” sounds like something you’d hear in a meeting about potential new Radio 4 comedies, describing Moira, a 40-something divorcee who’s toiling through the choices, challenges and chancers that come her way when her eldest son goes off to university, decides to retrain as a barista and gets pregnant by a colleague 20 years her junior. Working title: The Immacchiato Conception.


Meanwhile, over at ITV, commissioners are hammering out casting details for The Power Of Love, a six-part comedy about Peter Power and Lucy Love, two confirmed singletons who, after a disastrous first date where they’re actually seated at different tables and end up on dates with the wrong people, get together and set up a dating agency to make sure other lovelorn characters – to be stunt-casted and  make only one appearance – have a much smoother path to true love. The main characters’ marriage is pencilled in for the series finale of the third season when the actress becomes massively popular and decides she wants to star in hard-hitting dramas that Suranne Jones and Sarah Lancashire haven’t got time to do. (If you would like to commission this script from me, do get in touch.)


Staff. Forever building their part. I hope he was shouting, “Please say nice things about us and tell them we keep meaning to take down that Sam Smith quote but our web editor is off with RSI at the moment and none of us know the passwords”.



Bet they shared. They look like sharers. Octopus, probably.



Here come the eyes! The compliment you dole out when you can’t think of anything to say because if you hang around any longer you’ll miss your train to the Friend Zone.



Thank you for not telling us about a single one of them.




Ooh, that “sure”. It’s back. It’s non-committal. Purely hypothetical. “I would” is missing only “if my life depended on it in a hostage situation” at the end of it. Sure, they would introduce the other to their friends, but there’s no way on earth that’s ever going to be a situation they’ll find themselves in.


You’d worry Damola had used up all his best adjectives earlier on in “the show” but don’t worry, here he is with three more. He has the CONTENT you need, at all times.

REBELLIOUS like Betty Boo says in probably one of the very best pop records of all time. “Hoodlum, that’s what you you called me. Rebellious, you can’t ignore me.” Yes I still know the rap.
STREETWISE like the secondary character in a “very special episode” of your favourite teen comedy who will suffer a terrible breakdown or sudden lack of confidence according to the laws of issue-driven television.
KIND like sensitive handwash.


SHARP like a sheet of A4 just waiting to slice the tenderest part of your thumb.
POSITIVE like a team leader on an away-day.
SPARKLY EYES like—hang on…


That’s… four words altogether. You… you can’t do that. You can, if you must, make the three words a sentence and, if you’re the kind of troll who loves to be both lazy and extra af, make “a” one of the words, just to make your crap sentence work. But you must never, ever, use four words here. Could you not, oh I don’t know, have conjured up an adjective, slung in a hyphen, if you really must cram more stuff into your little word suitcase here? Hmmm? Sparkly-eyed, maybe? This is why the world needs more Damolas – people just don’t respect the words enough.



Like hemlines, bum bags and Taylor Swift, the questions in the Blind Date column slip in and out of vogue, and relevance, quite regularly. One of the most telling at the moment is the “change one thing” question. It could, in a way, replace the scores quite happily and I wouldn’t mind. As with most of the date, it’s all about what they don’t say and, here, when given  the opportunity of a virtual, textual time machine, if they squander it then you KNOW there is more than meets the eye.

“Nothing at all” is, of course, a boring answer, but quite sweet. An even more awful – yet revelatory – answer is what we have here today, in duplicate to boot. They make it about the food. This means they certainly do have things about the evening they’d have changed, but they don’t want to look like garbage people in a magazine column and they’re worried they’ll get recognised on the Tube, so play safe and pretend the only thing that could’ve made the evening any better is to have eaten something else, or, more usually and depressingly, to have ordered MORE of it. It means “The evening was such a waste of time I wish I’d just eaten myself to death instead of allowed myself to be bored into it”.

Yes it does.


One for every leg of your giant spider, Damola.


Sadly, Karen bit off one of her delicious octopus’s tentacles so could only manage a 7. Giant spider wins after all.

So, after a night of lightning conversation, perched in Sam Smith’s favourite hostelry, will our media-trained pair ever see each other again? Prepare yourself for carefully worded statements now:



It’s traditional, it’s brief, it’s optimised. Damola knows less is more here. It means no.



It’s a no.

Photograph: Linda Nylind; James Drew Turner, both for the Guardian

Disclaimer: The comments I make are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy – Lord knows they need it sometimes. Anyone participating in the date would usually be made aware of this editing process before taking part. If you are the couple in this date, please don’t take this personally, or if you do, at least just shrug it off in public. It’s about what you say, not who you are. If you want to give your side of the story,  or send in your original answers, just get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have.

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  1. Ha! Amazing as always but with a bit of Betty Boo lyrics thrown in for good measure to make me love this even more. Forget this though, I can’t wait to read Immachiato Conception and watch The Power of Love. When are these out???

    1. Oh, “The Power of Love”. There will be a very differing fanbase, depending upon which theme tune is used.

      FGTH, of course, wins this.

      Oh, and Betty Boo reminds me of the halcyon days of “The White Swan” when I were but a lad, doing stupid dances to Bananarama.

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