Impeccable Table Manners

Ella and Matthew

I look at men a lot. Well, depending on which scientific journal you believe, it’s in my DNA, after all. I don’t necessarily look at men because I fancy them, but instead I try to weigh up their potential. If I were them staring at myself in the mirror every morning, what would I do differently?

Obviously good-looking men are all well and good, but I can’t tell you how much hotter it is – and so much more exciting – to have a date turn up who’s not immediately drop-dead gorgeous but has ‘something about them’. Working out what that something is, and plotting how to get it all over you and then making it yours for ever, never gets old.

Half the time, of course, the understated guys turn out to be as exciting as an entire weekend spent hanging socks on a washing line between two orange tents in Ambleside in a force-10 gale, but occasionally, they turn out to be the sexiest man you’ve ever met. Reason enough to keep on trying. Charm is addictive, intoxicating.

Ella and Matthew

With that in mind, behold today’s Guardian Blind Daters. Ella, 26, is a publishing sales manager (why can’t they just say what type of work they do rather than the granular, LinkedIn-style, appraisal-ready job title?!) and 27-year-old Matthew, who’s a solicitor and dresses like he fell face-forward into the sale rack at Debenhams, covered in superglue. But he has ‘something’, doesn’t he? Oh yes.

Read what happened on the date before I leap in with a pricing gun and mark them reduced to clear with a bright yellow “WHOOPS!” sticker.

Ella is first and her comments are in pink. Matthew’s are in blue.

ella hoping

matt hope

It seems a little early in the day for a pre-agreed answer, but here we are. I’m guessing that they both said this to themselves on the bus – definitely bus people, aren’t they? – as they made their way to the date.

“Well, if they’re beastly, at least I’ll have a good story to tell the other people in my miserable flatshare where nobody washes up and one of my flatmates is obsessed with having sex in the lounge while Call of Duty 4 plays in the background.”

Two angels who took a wrong turn and ended up with Satan for a landlord, on their way to find each other.

ella first

It is very rare for someone to use up the first impressions question to say the date was good-looking.


matt first

I am a seasoned hater of using physical attributes as a first impression – it started when one date said her first impression of a guy was that he was “ginger” – and saying “Ooh aren’t you tall” is like [800 gun emojis]. I’m going to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt and assume he said this in a bumbling, “Hollywood remake of the Harold Bishop from Neighbours Story way, and that he’s just a bit awkward.

ella talk

From Wikipedia: “In Power Grid, players compete to build up electrical networks from scratch and be the player to power the most cities at game end.” Fucking hell.

Brunch isn’t really a meal, it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s God’s way of making eggs look exciting. Ooh nom nom nom bacon ooooh sossidges oooooh lovely bidda toast n maybe a mushroom looooooovely. Brunch. I bet they queue up outside The Breakfast Club.

I have nothing to say about Milton Keynes.


matt talk

Well, they can agree on brunch, so we know they were both listening at that point.

Travelling always comes out as a conversation topic on a date, doesn’t it? I find it quite remarkable people talk about this, because the first thing I want to do when someone starts to tell me about the majesty of some bullshit mountain range they once saw is get up and walk over to the bar and stick my head under the gin optic until I pass out.

No-platforming anyone who talks about Jennifer Lawrence on a date, by the way.

This is Ella’s “gauche heroine from a rom-com who eats Philadelphia on Ryvita on her lunch break and dreams of taking her lecherous boss to a tribunal” world and we just live in it, guys.

Nah, this is sweet. And we know how awkward it can be when you go in for a handshake and they decide to reciprocate with chest-to-chest contact, don’t we?


matt awks

And he didn’t even notice! What a hero! Or just a typical man. You decide.

Table manners next! I’m guessing unless the waiters slipped something in their drink we are not about to see fireworks. Somehow that is strangely comforting.

ella table

matt table

is that all you've got

ella best thing

Attentive. People underestimate how important this is.

We are all so used to bigging up our own brand now, I think, and curating ourselves and making sure all our experiences are the best they can possibly be – either for our own enjoyment or progression – we forget that, usually, to be the best we can be, we need a little something else. And that something else is at least one other person who you can make feel great.

It can be a small thing, like taking a picture of somebody else (have you noticed nobody really does this anymore unless they are IN the photo themselves), or pouring a drink for them, or asking what they think of something, or keeping your eyes locked on them, even when a door slams shut behind you and you’re dying to turn round and see why.

matt bst

Clearly. Or not, as the case may be. I feel like I’ve slept through a key scene. Excellent taste in what? Men? Easy tiger.

matt friends


If there’s one thing that turns my blood to lava in this column it’s when someone reckons their friends are too cool to meet this random they’ve gone on a date with. Matthew and Ella pass this section with flying colours.

Nobody’s too special to meet your ‘squad’.

ella three

Usually I am deeply suspicious when not a single physical attribute is mentioned in these three words but that’s because I’m a vain old dog who needs their ego stroked on an almost hourly basis. And is there a greater compliment than being called ‘clever’? Apart from someone shaking and crying and screaming that they have to have you because you are so beautiful, of course. These two feel like they mean it.

“Thoughtful” – I’m here for this. It does sound a bit like Ella is a schoolteacher doing an an end-of-term report and trying to find nice things to say about the child who sits and eats crayons all day, but thinking of others is sexy – unless you are thinking of others while having sex.

matthew three

Outgoing makes me roll my eyes right to the back of my bonce but he too has praised Ella’s intelligence so at least they can agree they are both super-clever.

Unpretentious, though. Hmmm. Like a jam sandwich? Not being afraid to scratch your arse in the Wolseley? Do not be afraid to be pretentious – keeping it real is vastly overrated. Leave that to the famously grounded Jenny from the Block.

ella mad eof you

I love how quaint these two are. They’re like two charming bedside tables you’d see in an antiques shop that’s run by a gnarly old man with halitosis (and very probably from Lancashire) who doesn’t think they’re of any value. And you, middle-class and middle-aged and with just enough disposable income that you can afford to buy yourself butter, cream and jam for your scone in the adjoining tea room, decide to rescue them both and take them home with you.

matt made of you


Matthew! Don’t do this. Don’t get to near the end of the column and start doubting. Don’t prepare to mark down your score just in case you read the signs wrong. Say no to being pretty much every straight man who ever appeared in the Blind Date column.

We all have a “thing for guys in bands” at some point. Then we realise they’ve all got that super-strain of gonorrhoea and the social skills of a cat trying to climb out of a colander full of quinoa. Fuck guys in bands – which we tend to do, at least once, sorry – they’ve got nothing on you.

ella go on

He may look like a geography teacher trying desperately to get through his marking, but Matthew is smoother than Nutella.

ella kiss

Kissing and telling? it’s like Ella and Matthew were created in a lab just to give me everything I love about these dates. YES, if you snog on the blind date, let us know – our lives are empty and you’re all we’ve got.

matt kiss


Neither of them would change a thing about the evening, which is adorkable, so we move on to scores.

ella scores

This is the most honest positive score I have ever seen. And I love it.

matt score

You mean 9. You do. You totally do. I’ve just read this whole thing TWICE and there is no way, save for your wobble that you’re not Brandon Flowers, that this is an ‘8’ date. I see you.

You can rescue this, Matthew, with the last question. Don’t let me down.

mtt meet


Ella? You want to do this again and see if you can get that hug hello right this time?

ella meet



Note: 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 editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are dicks – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally.  If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian

Execrable GIF of Owen Jones and Olly Alexander hugging: @kidd_kong78


  1. “…the social skills of a cat trying to climb out of a colander full of quinoa.” How could anyone who can come up with a line like this be accused of losing their edge? I liked this couple’s answers & — as usual — I loved your Guyliner review.

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