Impeccable Table Manners

Darryl and James


The older you get, the more rituals you seem to observe. I have inexplicably picked up a terribly grasping middle-class habit of making sure my first cup of tea of the day (first two at the weekend) is from one of two cute china cups I own. I am determined to become as much like my two grandmothers as it’s possible to be without being oppressed or dead.

Another ritual of mine – and now yours, I assume, if you’re reading this – is poring over the Guardian Blind Date and hoping there’ll be some kind of verbal annihilation. When they get on, it’s lovely, and we can all make that old Cilla joke about buying a hat etc, but really, all we want is blood.

So can 51-year-old local government manager Darryl and James, 40 and a production manager, provide us with all the gore we deserve on Halloween? Click on through to have a read of the actual date before I deal out the trick or the treat.

Darryl | James
What were you hoping for?
A good rapport, and if we clicked, who knows?

‘Click’, in northern, means to ‘pull’ somebody while you’re out. On dissecting a night out, it would not be uncommon for my mum’s friends to utter the killer question “So, did you click?”, to which the answer would sometimes be a doleful “Only me tights”.

Anyway, Darryl takes an astonishing nine words here to say what he really meant to say in one. That word being “sex”. Look, it’s a gay couple – these typing fingers have seen a lot.

What were you hoping for?
That it wouldn’t be someone I already knew.

See? There’s nothing so disturbing as queuing up for a self-checkout in your local retail misery dungeon and recognising at least half the line as pouting seductroids from Grindr or Tinder or whichever app you’re using that you tell yourself isn’t as bad as Grindr.

First impressions?
Very good. James is handsome and elegant.

Whenever I hear the word ‘elegant’,  I always imagine Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life running her finger along the top of a grand piano and wincing at the dust upon it. I don’t know why.

Anyway, ‘elegant’. It’s a compliment, I guess.

First impressions?
Very friendly and smiley. We were gassing away in no time.


wilting rose

If someone compliments your smiley face, it usually means they’re not interested in seeing your sex face. It’s the new ‘calling a fat person jolly’.

What did you talk about?
We couldn’t stop talking at first. We forgot to order the wine, we were so engrossed.

Years from now, when my bones creak and my hair is paler than a child queuing for a tetanus jab, I know for a fact  one thing my aged mind will remember to do will be to order wine.

I can’t believe anyone’s conversation is that interesting it involves forgetting about wine, but let’s see what they were talking about, as only James actually properly answers this question.

Movies, travels and our varied medical histories.

who wants wine?

You know you’re on a date with someone over 35 when ‘medical histories’ gets a nod. “Allow me to charm the pants off you with my torrid tales of undiagnosed osteoarthritis and an interactive map of my psoriasis coverage.”

It’s cocktail hour somewhere, right? I need a drink.

Any awkward moments?
There were, as the evening went on, inevitable gaps in the conversation.

Were these inevitable gaps before or after “MRI machines I have known and loved: A retrospective” and “A guided walking tour of all my health scares”?

When he said he loved football and I said, “Er, I don’t like football at all.”

This is, ladies and gentlemen, a very early spoiler that we are careering toward the friend zone.

How do I know? Well, when you really fancy someone, you won’t diss their hobbies on a first date. You’ll nod along politely, or say “Oh I don’t really follow it” and smile. Why? So you can get sex.

Dating is as much about looking for “the one” as it is just finding someone you can bear to have sex with at least twice. And if you have to sit through three double Tia Maria and Lucozades and an encyclopaedic walkthrough of every episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians to get it, then, usually, you will.

To get my end away, I have pretended to like football, opera, radio comedies and actual PEOPLE. If you dismiss something someone likes so quickly on a first date, you’re not into them. It’s very simple. Unless you are one of those bellends who think flirtation means disagreeing with everything your date says all night and then bending over to tie your shoelace as you leave the pub. In which case: I see you.

Table manners!
Kept my glass full and always waited for me to order.

Some might call this marriage material, but I hate having my glass filled for me – when waiters pour chilled wine into a glass that already has warmish wine in it I start to go into anaphylactic shock. But it’s nice to be nice so I’m happy if Darryl is. Maybe it was red. They look like red wine drinkers, don’t they?

No plate-licking to report.


Best thing about James?
Intelligent and very open. We have similar politics, which is the most important thing for me. I could never kiss a Tory.

Lucille Bluth rolls her eyes

I don’t agree with Tory policies at all and if I look at David Cameron’s face too long I start to have an existential crisis, but there are few things as hyper-boring as an autopilot anti-Tory. You just know these people would have argued over who had the last scoop of Maxwell House in the sixth-form common room.

Anyway, after a gushing tribute like that, what’s James got to say in return?

Best thing about Darryl?
Twinkly eyes.

Ferris Bueller saying "go home"

Describe him in three words.
Articulate, friendly, chatty.
Funny, chatty, sweet.

It’s a double chatty! If balloons fell from the ceiling every time a Guardian Blind Dater used chatty as one of their three words or a “best thing”, I’d be forever popping them. Imagine the tinnitus.

Remember these dudes have a mere THREE words to spare here. Just a trio of plaudits to dish out. Only three. If a date wasted two of them – that’s two thirds of the answer, the majority – on calling me ‘sweet’ and ‘chatty’, I would be ringing round all my local plastic surgeons begging for help, before texting all my friends and asking them if I really was so dull, so unattractive, so NOTHING that they would ever call me ‘sweet’. And then I’d go to the shop, buy seven baguettes, a large Warburtons Toastie loaf, some Lurpak and maybe some ham, and I’d sit and eat the lot in 25 minutes flat, pausing only to choke on my tears.

Think calling someone sweet is anything other than a copout? I don’t need three words to tell you where you need to go.

Did you go on somewhere?
He walked me to his bus stop, which was not the most direct way home for me, but I was happy to follow
Just to my bus stop.

Darryl’s “I was happy to follow” breaks my heart because it says so much, whereas James’s clipped response to this seminal moment of the date gives it even more meaning.

When you go out of your way, you are hopeful, you are trying. You wonder. I’ve walked to bus stops, waved taxis by and crossed roads, parks and marshland out of my way in the hope that maybe tonight will be the start of a million nights.

I was wrong, like, 100% of the time.

Obviously I don’t know the full story with Darryl and James here, but experience has shown me if someone is willing to let you walk out of your way to their bus stop – and no further – without protest, they’re probably not worth the journey.

And… did you kiss?
Yes, we did kiss and hug – the natural thing to do.

Spock raises eyebrow

A quick peck goodbye but not a full-on pashing.

Hahaha. “We’re gay but we’re not ANIMALS. God!”

If you could change one thing, what would it be?
We both said too much at the beginning, owing to nerves. I would like to have paced myself better.

A date’s not a date unless you’ve managed to talk yourself in and out of their bed at least seven times over the course of the evening. Darryl appears to blame himself here for the date not being the start of a great romance, but the truth is sometimes, heartbreakingly, they really are just not that into you.

Anyway there appears to be something in my eye so here are the scores.


Anyone giving a “point-five” as a score should have to stand up in front of the class and explain exactly why they didn’t deserve a whole number. And to make sure their explanation isn’t a load of bullshit, they should be attached to electrodes and perhaps standing on a very small, ever decreasing, island in the middle of a pool of sharks wearing, you’ve guessed it, laser beams.

What I’m saying here is a point-five score, unless it is a 9.5, is a diss and an attempt to look, oh I don’t know, something, and you need the balls to back it up if you’re going to try it.

I think we both know how this song goes but let’s stick it out until the third chorus – the lyrics might change unexpectedly.


Would you meet again?
As friends. There was a spark at the beginning but it had fizzled out by the end.

If Darryl is beating himself up about this, I’ll be very cross. The Catherine wheel was out of your control, Dazza – they have to burn out eventually.

I hope he’ll become a friend. We got on like a house on fire, but there was no spark.

No spark but the house was on fire? James wouldn’t be a very good witness in court at an arson trial, would he?

But I think we have our answer.

Haley from Modern Family walks away, sadly

Photograph: James Drew Turner and Graham Turner for the Guardian

Note: I generally don’t take sides, and all the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 



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