Photographs: James Drew Turner and Alicia Canter, both for the Guardian.
Impeccable Table Manners

Essa and Steffi

It’s only fitting we should have a second all-female Guardian Blind Date review in a row (I missed last week as I was ill). Men are great in general – I have heard tell – but it’s not been a brilliant week to be around them, especially when they’re being consummate shits as seen in the US at the moment. And everywhere else.

So, timely as ever, we find ourselves dude-free and bro-less, ready to embark on another week of broken promises, bad starter choices and, I guess, less than impeccable table manners.

This week, Essa and Steffi, who sound like secondary characters in a Tracy Beaker sequel. Essa is a 22-year-old musician and Steffi is 20 and a student. I have older cutlery in my drawer. Christ. Anyway, read what happened on the date before I launch in.

Essa on Steffi | Steffi on Essa
What were you hoping for?
A fun evening of good food and conversation.
Someone to make me laugh and to surprise me a bit. Also, a good romantic attraction.

I had a quick look at the menu of the eatery our fave ladies frequented. It does something called “bottomless charcuterie” which I couldn’t help think would’ve a better option for two gay guys but here we are. A good cocktail menu though.

Steffi’s “surprise me a bit” is good because THIS is what you want. You want a surprise. Not the humdrum, or a re-run, or yet another sexist or racist, but a surprise. A flutter of the heart, someone not usually your type you can look at in a certain light after just two drinks and think, “Good God, I just saw the future. And you were in it. And I am glad.”.

What did you talk about?
Sylvia Plath, existentialism, performance art, my unusual degree in the recorder.
I spoke a lot about Sarah Kane, which I’m sure made her think I’m a deranged superfan, which is only sort of true.

Absolutely NO matches! And yet I do not feel all is lost. I have something to say about fandoms further down so shan’t elaborate here.

However, can you actually have a degree in the recorder?!? How? From where? To whose ears is the recorder ever pleasant? The ugly stepchild of every Christmas concert, an eternal and tuneless Frère Jacques played on Satan’s favourite whistle. The musical equivalent of a Judge Jules remix of Dr Crippin’s death rattle. Spare us!

EDIT: Quite a few people have got in touch to say there are many beautiful pieces of music played on a recorder. It’s just a joke!

Any awkward moments?
I probably shouldn’t have tried to explain the plot arc of Doctor Who season 6 with quite so much enthusiasm.

I don’t want to make any assumptions about these daters’ sexualities and how they define it, but I feel I can talk about why those within the LGBTQ spectrum attach themselves to a fandom. Doctor Who in particular, seems to draw people in, like a lot of sci-fi, or seemingly glamorous, unapproachable pop or movie divas. And do you know why? It’s hardly groundbreaking to reveal – but all you long for when you feel like nobody else you know is to find something or someone you can relate to, be it a space alien, or a ballsy popstar with an incredible ponytail. You are taught – encouraged – to be less, be quieter, never to rock the boat, avoid standing out. You are so lacking glamour, adventure, or attention in your own life, you concentrate your efforts on overblown, theatrical set pieces, the kind of stuff nobody could avert their gaze from. You want it big, glam, other-worldly; as far away from the truth as you can get without a spaceship. So if you want to know why that gay guy you know watches Madonna’s 1990 MTV Awards performance of Vogue once a month, or your queer girl pal has viewed the new Doctor Who trailer over 1000 times, it’s because we want to watch the icons we feel we deserve.

I jumped out of my chair and screamed when a waiter appeared behind me. It might have been nerves.

Oh Steffi. Maybe he had a Vincent Price voice too! That would’ve finished me off.

Describe her in three words
Intelligent, thoughtful, funny.

INTELLIGENT, like a Roomba that has realised, HANG ON, I do all the cleaning round here yet never get to go out anywhere. I just spend all day, trundling round the downstairs like some kinda c*nt-on-wheels cleaning up your mess. It’s a disgrace.
THOUGHTFUL, like the Wicked Queen serving Snow White’s poisoned apple in biodegradable packaging.
FUNNY, like that smell on the Bakerloo platforms at Waterloo. Seriously I need to know. What is it?

Describe her in three words
Funny, generous, kind.

FUNNY, again, like the fact the remix to Jennifer Lopez’s seminal track Ain’t it Funny bore no resemblance to the original and yet was considered the same song. I told you, gay people are geeks. Deal.
GENEROUS, like Daddy Warbucks in the hairpiece department at Selfridges.
KIND, like a stranger in a movie.

What do you think she made of you?
Apart from being worryingly enthusiastic about Doctor Who, I’m not entirely sure. Hopefully she found me entertaining.

Hopefully, that I was polite and funny and maybe cute?

Did you go on somewhere?
No, I had to get home because I had work the next day. We walked back to the station together, though.
And… did you kiss?
Nope, just a long hug.

WHAT. You are both very, very young women. With zero to lose, except an Oyster fare’s worth of regret when you find yourself waking up somewhere unfamiliar. Bite the cherry, take the shot, pull the lever, open the envelope, scratch the surface. There will never, ever, be another tonight.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have accidentally knocked over a bowl of olives so that they spilled all across the table. Not my finest moment.

This is not the thing you would change, is it? It’s just olives, not PETROL.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
A romantic spark.

Marks out of 10?

I mean this is good, right? A nine and a ten? Imagine Charles and Diana going on a Guardian Blind Date and coming out with scores of 10 and 9? Even Meghan and Harry would’ve been little more than “a strong 7” each. This is so promising that I can only assume it is a Bodyguard-style twist and my hopes and dreams (played here by Keeley Hawes) are about to fine themselves on the business end of a Semtex sandwich.

Would you meet again?
As friends, definitely. We’ve followed each other on Twitter and promised to come to each other’s theatre shows.


Would you meet again?
Yes. I’m hopefully going to her one-woman show.

But we were hoping for a TWO woman show, Steffi!! Gabrielle was wrong – dreams do not come true.

Essa and Steffi ate at TraTra, London E2. No idea. I went on a date in this building once. No thanks.

Fancy a blind date? Email

If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit

NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants and not what they may actually be like in real life. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll publish whatever you say.


NOTE 3: The Impeccable blog is now published on Sundays.


  1. I was told by a Tfl Waterloo worker that the vomit/rancid bad breath smell on the Bakerloo line area is something to do with the clay soil at the depth of the tunnel – no idea if it’s true though

  2. Love the blog as always! I was in the column a while ago (sadly during your hiatus – we even talked on the date about missing your comments!), and the editor took out a bunch of my ‘what we talked about’ responses so that they didn’t match – I’d actually listed almost all the same topics he did. So I’m very sceptical now of the ones that seem way off in case it’s editorial shenanigans…

    1. Oh that’s interesting! I guess they don’t want the answers to look too similar. I never thought of that. Will beat that in mind in figure.

Leave a Response