Photograph: Graeme Robertson; Alicia Canter/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

David and Ollie

I’m unwell so let’s crack open yet another blister-pack of generic cold and flu medication and plough straight into what, at first glance, looks like the queue for the loo at a young vicars’ convention.

Today’s trusting souls are both 23. On the left we have communications executive David, and on the right, civil servant Ollie. SpecSavers’ 2 for 1 on all frames deal found rotting.

Photograph: Graeme Robertson; Alicia Canter/The Guardian

– make sure you do because I always leave a question or two out, plus the clicks keep us all in existence – and then I’ll be back with my probing.

David on OllieOllie on David
What were you hoping for?
I’ve kind of lost faith with gay dating, so I was hoping to have my faith in humanity (even just partially) restored.

David’s answers have been filled out by a world-weary Judy Garland drag act on the eve of their 60th birthday. I assume it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you will be “over it” by the age of 23 – if you calculate that David was an early starter and scrolling the apps in the back row of double chemistry – but I’m not sure it’s “gay dating” in particular that’s the problem. Or so my straight friends tell me when I remember to tune into their frequency – it seems all dating is terrible. Anyway, yes, best idea when feeling somewhat disillusioned is chuck yourself bodily into the pages of a national newspaper’s well-read weekend supplement.

What were you hoping for?
To avoid being publicly shamed.

First impressions?
Handsome. I went in for a handshake. He hugged me.
Well-dressed, friendly and very attentive.

HANDSOME! Someone called me handsome on Thursday night – I jotted down the exact time and place in my Notes app on my way home as I am won’t to do with any compliments about my physical attributes, such is their rarity. It was a woman, too, so I know it to be true. As I have said many many times before, being called handsome is such a great compliment because it isn’t just about being good-looking, is it? Beauty alone cannot make you handsome – it’s an air.

I can’t comment on whether Ollie is handsome because I can’t *tell*. He has camera lights obscuring his eyes and he’s looking to the side, and I’m afraid very few people look good in profile – the main exceptions are Agnetha and Frida from ABBA, which is why they always did that thing they did in their music videos.

What did you talk about?
From current affairs to Kim Woodburn, no stone was left unturned.
Masculinity, Grindr, the appropriate number of shirt buttons to undo on a first date.

No stone left unturned and no button left undone. I have talked about this at length before – I will be quite surprised if these two aren’t regular readers tbh – but I used to wear a polo shirt to most of my dates because you can, if things are going well, pretend you’re a bit too warm and go to undo a button and your date’s eyes automatically track to your neck and they immediately think about kissing your throat (tenderly at first) and undoing the rest of the buttons. I don’t make the rules, but I certainly made the most of them.

Any awkward moments?
He talked at length about Fleabag, which I had heard of but knew nothing about. I must have looked like a glazed, uncultured potato.

I have talked about this before too. I am/was a big fan of Fleabag but it’s not quite as big a cultural phenomenon as people who talk about it very loudly would have you believe. I’ve had many a blank look from people – straight and gay – when mentioning I was going to see it etc. It was the same for me with Breaking Bad. People were practically throwing themselves into the path of juggernauts trying to get across dual carriageways to ask me if I’d watched it yet. And now it is so with Peaky Blinders – even my mother!

Am intrigued by the “glazed, uncultured potato” remark. Why would it be glazed?

Any awkward moments?
Trying to fleece a second free bottle of wine from a very lovely waiter – not our best moment.

will know, you’re allowed one bottle of wine only, unless you pay for any extra yourself. But you should at least try. It’s no skin off the restaurant’s nose. Well, a bit of skin, depending on the wine, which is already marked up higher than a ten-square-foot studio off the Kings Road.

Good table manners?
He dropped a bit of sweet-and-sour sauce on the table, but he’s veggie, too, so he was forgiven.

Not sweet-and-sour sauce?! On the table?!?! Burn the witch!! But hang on – don’t drop the ducking stool just yet! He’s vegetarian! (This is quite a chaotic thought process; I’ve no idea what’s going on.)

Good table manners?
We were both outshone by Kelly Holmes on the table next to us, who lent us some chopsticks.

It is DAME Kelly Holmes to you, young men. I was thinking about Dame Kelly the other day, weirdly, just out of nowhere. Remember that tattoo a fan got on their back after Athens 2004? I’m not posting a pic because it’s too much – I’d need two or three huffs on my First Defence and it’s not on the same floor as me.

Best thing about Ollie?
His energy. He encouraged me to ask for a second bottle of free wine – a good quality in a person.

Just a tip for anyone in their dotage: when David talks here about “energy” he doesn’t mean strength or vitality or ability to hare about like…  well, Dame Kelly Holmes. No, he means his general… oh what would you have called it while you frotted yourself blind wit your blue passports? Vibe? Maybe that, yes. Anyway, Ollie’s energy here is to get someone else to do your dirty work for you and I am very much here for it.

As I often say when asked (repeatedly) why I never learned to drive: why have a dog and bark yourself?

Best thing about David?
A great conversationalist and a lot of fun. He asked interesting questions.

This is an answer from someone who has just spent the last seventeen minutes gazing at a man’s throat and wondering what it smells like. One more drink should do it.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Yeah, I think so. Turns out we have a few mutuals already.
For sure.


The true sign you’re from a different generation is hearing that you have friends in common and not being absolutely fucking terrified. Twenty years ago, this would need to be followed up by: “Whatever they said about me is untrue, trust me.” Now? “Oh yeah I saw that on Insta. Loved that coat you wore on holiday to Mykonos back in 2016.”

Describe him in three words
Bourgeois. Intellectual. Handsome.
Thoughtful, warm, handsome.

All I can see here is a double-handsome and you know what that means:

What do you think he made of you?
He hinted I undo more buttons on my shirt. I think he thought I was sex on legs, to be honest.

Can I *just* say, aside from the fact this is obviously GREAT – rely on the LGTBQ crew to get things done as ever – who on EARTH still says “sex on legs”?!? Where the hell has David heard that from? I am assuming he is either very close to his grandmother or is actually secretly two very short seventies comedians – Dick Emery and Ronnie Corbett, perhaps – hiding under a raincoat.

Am cutting out the question which results in an answer about a well-known pub chain because the man who owns them is a migraine given corporeal form by a vengeful witch who had to wait too long at a bar in a nice boozer, and he loves attention. And his pubs are horrible, cynical dives.

And… did you kiss?
Multiple times. For quite a while, tbh.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
We wouldn’t have moved on to beer. Bad idea.

Sounds like it was an absolutely brilliant idea, tbh, “Dave”. (You’re definitely not a Dave, are you?)

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
For him not to have the same name as my dad. And probably to have drunk a bit less.

THANKfully my father has a fairly unusual name so I have been spared this. I do know quite a lot of straight people whose spouse or partner has the same name as a sibling, though. WEIRD, eh. Stop calling your children basic names challenge, I guess.

Marks out of 10?

Double. Eight. Sixteen? A kiss, many of them, and we’re only getting eights? This isn’t the first week of Strictly, you know. Sure, there’s room for improvement but there’s not that much room. You’re 23, have your whole lives in front of you and, fingers crossed, Topman vouchers coming your way for Christmas: embrace life. Make every kiss a nine, at least.

Would you meet again?
Why not?
I hope so!

Get on with it, boys. Life is a blink.

Ollie and David ate at The Banana Tree Soho, London W1. Fancy a blind date? Email If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit soulmates.theguardian.

NOTE: 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, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. Don’t even talk to me if you haven’t shagged yet.


    1. I too was hoping for some dissection of the Bud & Georgia date. (They kissed! He gave her 8.5 and hoped for a second date! She gave him 9 and then ruled out a romance because he was five years younger! WTF?)

  1. Lost faith with gay dating at 23? Geez. Try it when you’re in your 40s and recently single after a LTR breakup, boys!

    Glad the LGBTQ daters got things done as ever though. And no lame “it was a school night” bollocks, too!

    And two guys kissing a lot in a branch of that pub chain that shall remain nameless seems pretty brave, considering. With all of Soho to choose from, not sure why they chose there, but whatever. Hopefully just because it’s cheap and they’re 23.

  2. Despite what you had to say, you were overall kind compared with the infernal roasting David and Ollie received in my mind.

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