Emily has long brown hair and is wearing glasses and a greenish cardigan. Shivani has short dyed blond hair and is wearing a checked shirt
Photograph: Martin Godwin and Graeme Robertson/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Emily and Shivani

Mid-February looms, pink hearts and helium balloons festoon shop windows and Moonpig have cancelled all staff leave – Valentine’s Week is upon us. What are you doing for it? Sitting in a Frankie & Benny’s ordering a spaghetti so you can do the Lady and the Tramp pasta slurp kiss? Yeah, same.

Anyway, baby, turn the lights down low, get Barry White on your tinny bluetooth speaker, and pour that £2.99 Blossom Hill vinegar you panic-bought on the way home from work, it’s another Blind Date. This week, Emily, 30, a videographer, meets Shivani, 28, a journalist and presenter. Disclosure: I follow Shivani on Twitter and was once at an event they presented but as regular readers will know, I don’t play favourites and sometimes it’s quite the opposite!, before returning here for my barbed commentary.

Emily | Shivani
What were you hoping for?
A fun evening, meeting someone new.

‘Hoping to meet someone new’ sounds quite natural and innocent but in a world where you’re on a bus and spend ages wondering where you know that random guy from and then realise you’ve watched all their TikToks about flavoured water, meeting someone you have never laid eyes on before is the ultimate ideal.

What were you hoping for?
Fun. And a good story for group chat.

I’m even worse on group chat than I am in large groups in person. It’s just not for me. Too many bad jokes to wade through, too much guilt at not replying so that it looks like one friend has killed the conversation stone-dead, too many notifications – I have never had any notifications switched on, ever, aside from texts, I am practically a digital hermit – and, generally, a sense that this would all be much better in person, in a low-rent beer garden or round a table in a crap burger joint. It feels like a lot of admin that never gets anywhere – like shuffling papers to look busy.

First impressions?
Shivani was cut with a sarcastic sense of humour, which I could appreciate. The conversation was easy, which is always a plus.

An overall first impression. And a good one. I feel like sarcasm is going out of fashion, which is GREAT news for someone like me, obviously.

First impressions?
She doesn’t look like a serial killer, but if she was she’d be a fit one.

What do serial killers look like these days? I tend to avoid reading about them. I do know that I have a certain pair of specs which, when worn with my unsettled and wild lockdown hair and a certain green jacket, made me look like Jeffrey Dahmer.

BTW, THE FAKE-UP is only 99p on ebook!

Just a quick pause to say my most recent comedy THE FAKE-UP is in a special 99p deal for the whole of February, so whack it onto your Kindle or your e-reader now. It’s about two idiots who stage a breakup to make life easier for themselves because their friends are interfering in their relationship but it actually makes everything much harder. It’s good! And less than £1! Please buy it so I look popular! Thank you! BUY NOW, REGRET NEVER (perhaps)

The cover of my novel the fake up and a sticker saying 99p

What did you talk about?
Our jobs. Hobbies. How I worked for a certain government department I try to forget about. It was interesting to hear about Shivani’s job and journalistic background.
The Tories. Near-death experiences. France. Going to the same university.

No matches as such but this could simply mean they were listening more intently to what the other was saying.

How I worked for a certain government department I try to forget about. We all have that job. That one we leave off the CV, or tell people in hushed tones, clutching the collar of our T-shirt like a safety blanket. I have several, in fact, I truly do have one of the most miserable employment histories. I’m like the least interesting character in a Douglas Coupland novel. So much hot-desking and dreary ‘treats in the usual place’ emails in my back catalogue.

The Tories. Please, pals, not on a date. Life is terrible enough. I find I can’t talk about them at all now, it does something to my blood.

Going to the same university. Can I just say… while this would be quite an interesting thing to discover, it’s also terrifying. Did they see how bad your clothes were? Did they see you eat nothing but chips and beans every. single. day in the refectory? Do they know what you did after a series of 50p shots in the university nightclub RAZRZ?

Most awkward moment?
When the waiter asked if I wanted to try the wine first and I had to pretend I knew what I was doing.

Ooh first time, Emily? You never forget it. Even though you’ve seen Ken Masters try the chablis on Howard’s Way, trying to impress Jan (very ’80s reference, sorry), and you kind of know what you’re supposed to do, being asked to test the wine is hell for those not naturally drawn to attention-seeking. I was once with someone who tasted the wine and SENT IT BACK. Can you imagine? I was both mortified and strangely excited.

Most awkward moment?
I couldn’t tell if she was serious about fancying Priti Patel, or was trying to cover up a genuine desire.

I once wrote a satirical piece about fancying a former (Labour) foreign secretary and people thought I was insane. Remember in the early days of lockdown when columnists had F all to say because their lives are so fantastically unrelatable and there’s only so much ‘I never realised how hard my Aga was to clean until my help had to isolate in the basement’ a reader can take before they start googling guillotines, so there was a wave of ‘Dishy Rishi’ clogging up the column inches? It was not funny. Also: fancying a government minister – especially in this pack of ghouls – is like getting the horn over a fatberg, or an aneurysm, or a dead fox in a ditch.

Good table manners?
Yeah, no red flags!
She topped up my glass of wine when it was low, so I’d say impeccable.
Moira Dingle in Emmerdale pouring a large glass of wine

? I’m not into having my glass topped up – as regular readers may remember – but I haven’t drunk wine in over four years so I guess it doesn’t matter what I think.

Best thing about them?
I loved Shivani’s dry sense of humour. And the fact they said let’s get cocktails to finish the meal.
Emily’s humour, intellect and alcohol tolerance.

A ✅ for humour – that’s good, isn’t it? And a ✅ of being booze enjoyers too. What’s this? Two Guardian Blind Daters having something in common that isn’t an urge to flee and catch the next Tube out of there? A modern miracle!

Describe Shivani in three words.
Sarcastic, cute, passionate.

Sarcastic, like that museum tour guide who says they’re LOVING all the interjections from the (usually American, sorry) tourist who’s read three pages of Wikipedia and now knows everything. “Keep ’em coming, guys!”
Cute, like those bikes with trailers on the front so parents can ferry their children round like they’re a flower delivery, even though the children look mildly terrified as Daddy swerves across four lanes of traffic on the A501.
Passionate, like Yvette in ‘Allo Allo.

Yvette in BBC comedy Allo Allo waving at somebody, while standing next to another waitress whose name I can't remember at the moment.
Describe Emily in three words.
Future wine connoisseur.

Future wine connoisseur, like… oh I don’t know. Does wine expertise have nepo-babies? If so, like Jancis Robinson’s grandchildren. (In constructing this answer I was surprised to learn I knew FOUR wine critics without googling. The power of growing up with only four TV channels to watch.)

And … did you kiss?
The saying goes “A lady doesn’t kiss and tell.” But I’m not a lady, so yes.

Meghan Markle applauding at Wimbledon

We love to see it.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
As we walked past the Admiral Duncan pub, I mentioned that a neo-Nazi bombed it in the 1990s, killing three people. That was a bit of a conversation killer.

Olly Alexander in Its a Sin

God I do this too, whenever anyone comes to visit. Why? Why?!? Is it because I remember that happening so clearly? Is it because when it happened I was still closeted so I felt some kind of strange connection to it and also a guilt that I wasn’t living my true self but people who were had been targeted?  I have only been to the Admiral Duncan once. On a date. It’s always a bit too busy for me but I am very glad it’s there. Anyway, my sympathies to both Shivani and Emily on this – I can practically taste the awkward silence.

Marks out of 10?

Madonna going WHAT

Hmm, seems on the low side after those glowing comments – but it’s good to have somewhere to go, right?

Would you meet again?
Yeah, I would be happy to.
She said she would take me to the south of France.

Mariah going yaaaaas

Bonjour, baby! Bonne chance et bon vin! ❤️

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My next novel Leading Man, is out 9 May 2024 and is apparently the best thing I’ve ever written according to quite a few early readers! Amazing right? Pre-orders are everything because they literally dictate how well a book will do, how much shelf space it is given, how much attention critics will pay to it, how many copies bookshops will order, that kind of thing. I don’t care where you get it from – support an indie if you can! – but here are links to , Bert’s Books, Lighthouse Books (which has it at a lower price at the moment) and Amazon. Look how BRIGHT the cover is:

The cover of my fourth novel Leading Man which features an illustration of the main character on the cover and the title in large pink lettering plus my name underneath, and the caption "dependable sidekick of romantic hero? Who will Leo decide to be."

Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every post

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, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. 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. Which university?!

Shivani and Emily ate at Jackson Boxer at The Corner in Selfridges, London W1.



  1. Yes, Shivani and Emily! I have a rare Saturday off and lazying around reading Blind Dates then your take on them is my favourite. Never underestimate how appreciated your reviews are ?? Fingers crossed for them! ??❤️

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