I went to a pop festival yesterday. As occasionally documented on this site and elsewhere in my writing, I haven’t drunk alcohol for a number of years, and, boy, does organised fun really hit different when you’re sober. I am just as exhausted as I would’ve been anyway – I am almost 46 and a half – but being one of the few sober people in a field full of those who aren’t is a test of endurance in itself. It was nice to see people having a ball – the young men in front of me during Steps doing ket off a key by torchlight were lovely and very polite and apologised for standing on my toes – but being jostled and shouting and whooping and… kind of everything seems much less adorable when you haven’t been drinking. Indeed, it’s part of it, isn’t it, the tacit agreement you’re all in this together so any squished toes and elbows to the face and induced tinnitus by someone screaming ‘Deeper Shade of Blue’ into your ears is kind of fine because for just one night the boundaries are blurred and nobody needs to be a stranger. Plus, as I remarked to my friend, I have forgotten how to dance. Booze and or/chemicals unlocked movements and gyrations my hips and limbs could only dream about now. Anyway, it was great fun and I was on the same peeing cycle as Jade from Little Mix, queuing up for the loos behind her no fewer than three times. I would also like to extend my middle finger to every weather app that said the weather would be nice, meaning I left the house in shorts cut up to my clavicle and a light T shirt and NOTHING else. It was freezing. And it rained. By 8pm, I was slugging back Sprite draped in my friend’s paper thin scarf looking like I was having some kind of breakdown. I had to run into crowds just to keep warm so at least I’m grateful for the personal space rules being relaxed for one night only.
Anyway, as a result, I feel like I’m just back from quantum leaping into Guy Fawkes’ body while he was on the rack, so today’s review is what I call an Impeccable Lite. I pick just THREE questions not remotely at random, for further discussion, and then we all go home for a nice bath with that Badedas your gran got you for Christmas.
Today we have Emma, a 25-year-old writer, seen here wrapped in a tablecloth from her local trattoria and Sean, 29, a strategy and consulting manager who appears to be wearing a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt. In 2022. I… where would you even…? Never mind. Remarkable. Read the full version of the date on the Guardian website and try not to clench your jaw too hard lest it shatters, then return here for a very small selection of what they said, annotated.
Emma on Sean | Sean on Emma
What were you hoping for?
My first five-star review in the Guardian.
Great food and flirty conversation.
I feel duty-bound to pour salt on the back of this particular slug and say that the Guardian Blind Date marks out of ten – there are no ‘stars’ and certainly not five of them. I imagine getting a five-star review out of the Guardian is famously difficult anyway – they don’t generally have the air of a workforce that’s in a good mood do they, bless them? Not that I’ve ever tried to get one, of course; my books have plots. Anyway, it’s ONE star from me for Emma’s lack of knowledge about the medium her date will be appearing in, but I’m sure five bright shiny ones will come her way one day. (In my view, the ‘3 stars out of 5’ reviews are the ones you have to watch – I wrote about why the are the shark-infested waters of the review world, if you’re interested).
Flirty conversation. What is that? A shiver went up my spine when I read that, I don’t know why. PTSD from the man who poked me in the back no fewer than 16 times while Natalie Imbruglia was on yesterday, maybe. (God, she did Torn two songs before the end and it was a lovely moment when everyone sang along… and then she cleared the place by doing two tracks most of the crowd didn’t know! Although I would like to point out ‘Big Mistake’ was a Number 2 hit! How quickly we forget.) I’m obviously not very good at flirty conversation if I can’t identify it. It’s been a while since I went on a date. All I can imagine is lots of sad innuendos or slowly peeling a banana or winking seductively over the top of a wine glass that’s streaked with Carmex and fingerprints.
What did you talk about?
We ticked off most of the standard first-date Q&A, then we spoke about our favourite type of butter for 10 minutes. I also asked him if he thought a barge made out of cheese would sink or float!
Uni. Work. Holidays. Family. Food. Lockdown hobbies. Her love for the theatre. Emma previously worked for the Labour party’s chief whip, so I got some hilarious insight into how realistic The Thick of It TV show is, and some gossip on the current government. Fascinating and terrifying.
Standard first-date Q&A/Uni. Work. Holidays. Family. ✅ – So far, so DRAB. I used to loathe the job interview part of the date, where you collect data like someone harvesting opinions on yoghurt outside a provincial Asda, and try to work out what their Myers-Briggs type might be, or whether you could really have ‘sexual relations’ with someone who even has a favourite type of butter, let alone spends ten minutes doing a show and tell on it while the waiter hovers with your limoncello.
Her love for the theatre. I really do like going to the theatre a lot (another pleasure denied to me thanks to abstinence: interval drinks – sitting through a torturous second half but drunk out of your mind so you’re not too bothered). But I find a ‘love for theatre’ so hilarious and I can’t really explain why. It’s not the act of loving the theatre, but that description, it’s just… I don’t know. I feel like Janet Suzman and Derek Jacobi have stepped into the daters’ Converse and are going to tell us about their days doing rep in some fleapit in Chichester.
The cheese thing. We’ve all got somewhere to be, haven’t we, so I’ll skip this one.
Politics being like The Thick of It. YEAH NO SHIT. This date makes me want too crush up some Rennies and snort them just to feel something.
[More after this short word from our sponsor –which is me, btw.]
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Any awkward moments?
After convincing me he was a foodie he revealed he didn’t know oranges had segments until he was in his 20s.
I nearly choked to death on my dessert resulting in an intense coughing fit.
Here we have a perfect one-two punch on why I never loved going for food on dates. First, people will talk about food, which I don’t find very fascinating. I mean, I love reading Marina O’Loughlin and even Jay Rayner writing about food and restaurants, but mainly for the emotion they attach to the experience, how they use it to inspire them – not some guy off Guardian Soulmates (RIP) from Whitstable boring me senseless about how he likes his omelettes ‘slightly gluey’, the benefits of putting bone broth in a fruit smoothie, and something involving crayfish that he once tried on a long weekend in Venice. As for ‘foodies’ – they tend to be quite easy to expose as frauds. Usually they mean they abhor junk food but are happy to spend £18 on a burger from a van that has pastel coloured bunting on it and is served to you by someone whose brother was in the next halls over to them at Cambridge, at a festival called Dillyfield, where the headline act is The Gays from the infamous Carrie Johnson text, doing satirical songs round a piano.
Anyway, how on earth can you not know an orange has segments – what did he think was inside the peel? Just juice, like a melted Calippo? I am happy Sean survived his near-death experience with his dessert (which, tantalisingly has not been identified, but on peering at the menu would guess was the stem ginger and rhubarb because it sounds a little tart, or maybe the cheeses, hence the cheese-barge chat). However I cannot condone such blatant attention seeking during a date.
The pair had all the romantic chemistry of two prayer books at the bottom of a trendy vicar’s manbag, scoring each other a 6 and an 8, with a long an unnecessary explanation from Sean about why he gave her the 8 (date was good but didn’t fancy her, or he clocked she didn’t fancy him so was getting this one in first, in short).
And now I have to go back to the real world and get ready for lunch with friends. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and remember: a burger is still a burger.
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Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review: 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.Hope you get to realise your dreams of a cheese barge one day.