They come around so fast, don’t they – our second Saturday of 2022 already. This week’s addition to the mille-feuille of mismatches and misery that is the Guardian Blind Date comes in the shape of Ellie and Tom – two names you are literally guaranteed to find in this column every seven weeks or so, or in front of you at the queue for the self-checkouts in Tesco Express moaning – loudly, for effect – that Waitrose was out of nduja paste.
Ellie is 27, and a charity worker, while Tom is 27 and an auditor. I’m already gripping the cushion of my foldaway kitchen chair in anticipation. Here they are from top to toe. In this photo, which differs from the one used in the online version, Ellie looks like she’s just thrown something at you – pint glass, shoe, leftover Christmas decoration – across a crowded Firkin pub and is delighted by your reaction, while Tom appears to be pretending whatever it was came from another direction entirely.
Read what happened on the date – although I think the photo says it all – on the Guardian website before returning for the director’s cut.
Ellie on Tom | Tom on Ellie
What were you hoping for?
Flowing conversation, free food and to meet my future husband.
Flowing conversation? With someone you just met? I’m afraid that only works if at least one of you is getting paid. If you’re looking for flowing conversation with a stranger, phone a double glazing company and time how long it takes them to breathe so you can interrupt.
What were you hoping for?
To meet someone I get on with and have a fun evening.
Fun evenings are overrated, I feel. How about a challenging evening? An arduous evening? An evening spent arguing the case for and against vivisection? Something to really make the conversation flow.
He was smartly dressed and relaxed.
I suppose when you are 27, a jumper and jeans is quite smartly dressed. When I was 27, I wore T-shirts so tight my blood became immobile and turned to Lego.
Really pretty and less nervous than me.
I don’t think we ever really acknowledge the added layer of anxiety that must come with going on this date knowing it will be published in a national newspaper (and to a much lesser extent raked over in several places on the internet, one of which being right here). It must make you terribly, terribly nervous. Nevertheless, it’s not The Hunger Games, you weren’t conscripted, and time machines haven’t been invented yet so I’d suggest ignoring the butterflies and getting on with it. As a character in my next book (out April 2022) says, if you tell yourself you’re excited, rather than nervous – they’re pretty much the same thing – then you might feel a little better.
What did you talk about?
Travelling adventures and the awkwardness of the photoshoot.
Travel stories, Covid, machete-wielding cycle thieves, music festivals, the merits of ballroom dancing vs twerking.
Travel ✅ – Ah, remember travel? Thanks to Instagram, I know lots of people have been going on holiday, but so many people haven’t because of Covid or, spoiler, because they can’t afford it whether there’s a pandemic or not. Anyway, hopefully, we can all soon get away for a week somewhere hot or cold or at least temperate, with 18 hours of access to Bingo and seafood that passes the sniff test.
Awkwardness of the photoshoot – photoshoots are only awkward if you look shit in them. You look fine! Always jarring to see your face in a non-selfie photo, though, isn’t it? There are certainly no travel restrictions on my jawline, that’s for sure – first sign of someone else holding the camera and that carefully curated angular jaw is off, absent, away, unseen, for a week in Turkey.
Ballroom dancing vs twerking – We can have both. Let’s relive Judi Love’s joyous performance on Strictly, dancing the samba to an unforgettable live version of ‘Get Busy’.
Machete-wielding cycle thieves – Sorry to hear about your Brompton.
Any awkward moments?
He said he’s been likened to Jack Grealish and I couldn’t quite hold in my laughter.
I tell you what, I can think of a few people who would like to see Jack Grealish twerk. I’m assuming this is because Tom is wearing the ‘curtains’ hairstyle so celebrated in the mid nineties. I wore my hair like that for exactly one year, when I was 20, but it didn’t really work because I have two crowns, and I looked as little like Jack Grealish as it’s possible to look. It’s just something people say. ‘Oh you look like that footballer, you know with the hair.’ I’ve been told at various points of my life that I look like Gareth Malone, Zac Goldsmith, Keir Starmer, at least three footballers I’ve never heard of, a Big Brother contestant, and David Coulthard. I’ve never understood why people feel compelled to share with you their uninteresting view on your celebrity lookalike, but Coulthard man was the last straw. We look nothing alike. Absolutely nothing. We are both men. That’s it. The conversation certainly flowed that night, in one direction – I gave that complete stranger hell.
Any awkward moments?
I should have gone to the bar with her when we were trying to negotiate free cocktails rather than watching the barman’s look of confusion from afar.
I can only imagine how unspeakably cringe this entire negotiation was. The rules say you get free food and a bottle of wine. That’s it. You’re not in week two of The Apprentice trying to get a deal on washing up liquid so you can throw a retro Ibiza-style foam party to promote your range of walk-in baths for pensioners.
Good table manners?
Faultless. We shared tapas, and when I mentioned I was vegetarian he agreed to go meat-free with me. He didn’t even criticise me when I ended up ordering the chorizo.
We live in a world where labels are less important and I celebrate that, but I was under the impression vegetarianism was not a pashmina to be pulled on or cast off according to whatever’s on the menu. It’s a talking point, though; it feels like something a manic pixie dream girl would’ve done in one of those nineties lads’ novels that were so popular when I was at uni.
Best thing about Thomas?
He was super easy to talk to and has a genuine, warm laugh.
Speaking as someone whose laugh comes in somewhere between ‘witch watching an orphanage burn to the ground’, and ‘dry passive-aggressive, yet tuneful, choking sound to warn somebody their joke wasn’t funny, actually‘, I can say that ‘genuine, warm laugh’ is such a lovely compliment. If I were Tom, I would nurse this praise like it were my first born.
Best thing about Ellie?
She’s a 10/10 storyteller.
Another great compliment! I have a feeling these will be the last tens we’ll be seeing, though.
Would you introduce them to your friends?
Why not. I’m sure they’d get on well.
They were trying to convince me to bring her to a roller disco afterwards. I would have, but not on a first date.
I was talking about roller discos only the other day, with my mum. We were both slagging off ice skating – it’s for show-offs or bizarrely confident people who think that repeatedly falling over in public is character-building – and I was reminiscing about my roller-skating heyday which… is a reach tbh, but here we are. My parents are divorced and for a time during the 80s my dad lived in Nottingham near a huge, state of the art rollerskating ‘experience’ called Rollers. It was basically ice skating, but… not, and it was great. I also used to love going to that rollerskating club up in King’s Cross during what American publications insist on calling ‘the Aughts’. I have always much preferred the ramshackle, ‘just a little thing I’m trying’ grace of the roller booting aesthetic to the starched, sequinned formality and uptight elegance of the ice. No need to write in if you’re an ice skating aficionado – you get enough attention during the winter months as it is.
Describe Tom in three words?
Not Jack Grealish.
This a bit MEAN, Ellie, but… I see no lie.
Describe Ellie in three words?
Funny, smart, engaging.
Oh look, some actual adjectives – although they’ve been pulled from Guardian Blind Date 101 so not our most scintillating selection.
Funny, like someone who makes you order all the meat-free options before plumping for chorizo. I went to have a look at the menu for this place to see whether Jack Grealish-ish was missing out and… honestly the menu looks like it was written by someone who was actually rollerskating through rush hour traffic at the time. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. It appears to be a hotdesking coworking space that serves bowl food and wraps called things like ‘Mykonos’.
Smart, like the watch I got for Christmas that nags me to stand up, reminds me I don’t exercise enough, orders me to breathe deeply so I can ‘relax’ once a day, and allows me to perfectly line up selfies remotely. I actually love it, obviously.
Engaging, like nobody should ever say about a person. Again, it’s Apprentice speak. You sound like a self-checkout machine on Grindr trying to catfish the hot guy who works on the fish counter.
And…. did you kiss?
They did, however, go on somewhere else for tapas and stayed until midnight, which is a sign the evening wasn’t totally wasted. A new connection made in a world where external forces have made them even trickier to find? I’d say that’s a win.
If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
He missed the last train and my tube broke down – so the transport home.
Four years ago, and if those free cocktails had materialised, this would’ve ended up a LOT differently.
But we are where we are.
Marks out of 10?
This seems fair, and I enjoy the little half-point crumb of enthusiasm from Jack Grealishique that he would probably be happy, in the words of En Vogue, to be more than friends.
Would you meet again?
Our paths could definitely cross, but just as friends.
I’d definitely like to.
My new book is out THIS YEAR. If you loved this, or indeed any of the stuff I write, you should buy it! For real! It’s called THE FAKE-UP and it’s a romantic comedy that is actually about a lot of different things. If you preorder it, it might make more people buy it, or booksellers want to stock it, or you might even get it early! FEEL my frenzied promotion energy!
If you enjoyed this post but have no interest in my fiction, guess what? You can still show your appreciation!
About the review and the daters: The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. There has been an increase in readers being quite horrible about the daters – this isn’t what we should be about. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments and will report any abusive tweets. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself or assume I agree with you. 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, so please try not to speculate or fill our feeds with hate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. And do tell me, did either of you two try the ‘Rock Paper Caesar’?!