Before we begin, time to shill for… myself. The pandemic has, to put it lightly, somewhat hampered my promotional campaign for The Magnificent Sons. It’s a shame – it’s a pretty good book. It’s out 6 August – please preorder it, here is a list of retailers and links.
Speaking of things the pandemic has destroyed in its path… A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Weekend magazine, which is the Guardian supplement that’s featured the Blind Date column for eleven years, will be closing, along with other sections of the Saturday paper, like the Guide, Review, and Travel. This is terrible news for both readers and journalists at the Guardian. Writing for Weekend was a dream come true – impostor syndrome means I tend not to pitch to anyone at all and they were always receptive to my ideas, and would also email me out of the blue to say they wanted something from me, which is amazing and has basically dug me out of many a financial hole. I was on the cover once too. I mean, this was probably, like, a life highlight?! Seriously.
What happens to the Blind Date, I don’t know – and no closing date for Weekend has been announced – but it’s six years since I started reviewing them and it’s been so much fun and has allowed to reach more readers than I’d ever imagined. The lockdown-era dates have struggled, I think, to connect (no pun intended) with the Guardian’s readers, given they take place virtually, over video calling. We’re all sick to absolute death of everything happening through a screen. Straying from the formula of two nervous, lovable idiots making cow-eyes at each other over a restaurant table has never worked – they tried filming them via Google Glass a few years ago and it was disastrous and boring – so if this is the end, it’s a shame to go out like this. Hopefully, before Weekend ceases publication, we’ll get at least one last face-to-face love match. As ever, thank you for reading. It’s been a blast!
This week we have Anushrut, a 26-year-old doctor student in film history and Eleanor, 25, an environmentalist. Read the date before we nick the highlights under fair use (satire/parody).
Eleanor on Anushrut | Anushrut on Eleanor
What were you hoping for?
Someone outdoorsy and intelligent. My friends say I should date a geography teacher.
Outdoorsy. That word always fills me with dread, even though I quite like being outdoors. Because it’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s not just about getting a breath of fresh air, walking in the park, maybe getting an ice cream. Outdoorsy is waterproof jackets; heating up tinned ravioli in an enamel beaker over a Clipper lighter; arguing next to a roaring stream; defecating into a stray KFC bucket; climbing stuff; rain, but pretending you like it; smelling slightly ‘off’ because you’ve been camping three days; eschewing any form of deep-moisture hair conditioner; more rain. Anyway, outdoorsy-ness can absolutely get RIGHT outdoors and stay there, for me.
As for dating a geography teacher… the two I remember were your standard nineties’ educational system sadists. The guy was obviously a former athlete of some kind and perhaps even a halls of residence heart throb – I could imagine him opening pickle jars for hapless first-years from Matlock – but by the time he was teaching me about weather systems he was an embittered old man (late 30s) in a bad tie and M&S businessman slacks. The woman was a Miss – she would correct anyone saying Mrs, which the simpler classmates always did – and was TERRIFYING which also means she was brilliant. She smoked a lot of cigarettes – she would practically paraglide to the staff room at break – had a biting sense of humour and was, I now realise, very likely a lesbian. A well-meaning, but creeping, student once asked her kindly, “Miss, have you had a haircut?” to which she replied, witheringly, “No, Jonathan, I put in the wash and it shrank”, and I laughed so loudly I was sent outside.
What were you hoping for?
Nothing much, I was keen to see how things went.
“Nothing much.” I stan my normcore king. This is 2020. Expect nothing much, open up Zoom to find Hazell Dean or Jared Kushner sitting there. Fall down a well. Standard.
Easy to get along with and I liked how she had done her hair.
Is this the most PERFECT answer?!? A hair compliment goes a long way! Not getting my hair cut for four months during lockdown was… well, it was quite emotionally draining tbh. I used to get my hair cut once a month, I don’t feel right if my hair doesn’t look good. It was probably quite a good exercise in teaching me that I can’t control everything, even something as simple as my hair. So it just grew and grew, up and up and out. So for Anushrut to come straight in here with a hair compliment is a big YES from me.
What did you talk about?
Film, food, books, dating, philosophy, activism and our parallel experiences of living in Scotland, London and New Delhi.
Climate change, colonialism, our respective research areas. At one point we discussed geography teachers as good date options. Which was a bizarre coincidence, as geography enters my research a lot.
There is a lot here, but not many matches; not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. I do like how Anushrut is turning the geography teacher fetish – yeah, fetish, I’m going with that – to his advantage.
Any awkward moments?
It took us both a while to figure out how to order the food.
Almost EVERY week, these people – who I assume manage to pay bills, get jobs, commute, buy wine from a supermarket, and get through at least one Guardian longread a month – struggle to order food on an app. What is that confuses them about Deliveroo, do you think? Discount codes? “Does this come with chips?” I don’t get it.
Any awkward moments?
None that I can really think of, other than me trying for a few minutes to find a slightly embarrassing video of mine.
I would take this as sign, Anushrut, that you shouldn’t actually ever locate that video. Never.
Good table manners?
I assume so. I was more focused on my own dinner.
She was sharp at reminding us to get dinner and a drink. Surprisingly our orders arrived at exactly the same time.
What did you eat?!? I never care what they get in a restaurant, but I think this is one chance for the Zoom dates to shine – someone’s choice of takeaway is very revealing. Especially in London where you can have 20 dessert wines, a tub of Roses, and a paraffin heater delivered within half an hour if you really want. Anushrut saying Eleanor was “sharp at reminding us” really stood out, but in a good way. “This is going great, Anushrut, but I want a DRINK and some vegetable gyoza, can we push on with the ordering?!”
The orders arriving at the same time is rom-comulous magic so watch this space.
Best thing about Anushrut?
The number of weird coincidences we had in common, including having oil stains on our hands from rogue bike chains earlier in the day.
Here for this. It could only be improved by happening in an actual restaurant with pristine, white tablecloths, upon which our young romantics accidentally smear oil at exactly the same time, laugh, then smudge it on each other’s faces and laugh louder and more maniacally, before it descends into a food fight while the snobby Maitre D’ – who was VERY cold and rude to them as they arrived – finally breaks and falls in love with our adorable pair and laughs along, ripping off his starchy jacket and plugging back a full pint of sherry. His name is Jean-Baptiste and they name their first child Jay-Bap after him.
Describe Anushrut in three words?
Intellectual, relaxed, enthusiastic.
Intellectual, like Adrian Mole writing odes to his acne, on parchment.
Relaxed, like a teenager on a beanbag pretending they’re not stoned.
Enthusiastic, like an anti-masker who suddenly spotted a TV camera.
Describe Eleanor in three words?
Passionate. Biker. Podcasts.
Passionate, like I am about graphic design.
Biker, like… hang on have we switched to nouns? Um. Biker. Biker? Biker, like… Byker Grove?
Podcasts, like… jeez, Anushrut, you’re kind of ruining this part for me, I… you’re describing Eleanor with the word “podcasts”?!?! Like, she resembles a podcast to you? Is she badly edited, goes on a bit too long, a heavy breather, a bit too nerdy for the general public, largely ignored by most people, but every man you know has one?! OK.
I will never start a podcast, don’t worry. I have nothing to say. (One of my favourite podcasts is this one, Inside The Groove, which analyses a different Madonna song every episode. I am gay, I am 44, I don’t like glorifying real-life murder as entertainment. What can I say?)
And… did you swap numbers?
Yes, potentially to arrange a bike ride.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Possibly talking more about our hobbies.
In all honesty, Anushrut, I think that’s the last thing you two should’ve been doing. Save the revelation of your weird hobbies – all hobbies are weird FYI – for another date, preferable five dates in when they’ve already decided they fancy you. Nobody needs to know that you’re into the classification of voles, or ultimate frisbee, or playing the German-language version of Cranium every second Friday of the month in a pub in Canonbury.
Marks out of 10?
A good 9.
Looking good guys! Are we pedalling our way to an IRL connection?!
Would you meet again in-person?
Lockdown permitting, yes.
I would like to.
YES! Grab it.
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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, 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; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. And seriously, what did you order? TELL ME.
• Fancy a blind date? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.