Impeccable Table Manners

Faris and Alexandra

In life, you can either be a hard act to follow or… the act that follows. This week, 25-year-old trainee lawyer Faris and Alexandra, 30, and a garden and landscape designer, find themselves on a date together in the afterglow of a viral sensation, but can they handle the pressure?

Judge for yourself. I certainly will.


Photograph: Alicia Cater and Jill Mead for the Guardian

Read what happened on the date and then we can go in there and get pathetically forensic in the name of a click or two.

Faris on AlexandraAlexandra on Faris
What were you hoping for?
A fun and relaxed evening with a potential love interest.

OMG I love the phrase “love interest”. It’s so excellently detached – it’s a casting call looking for someone who will have only three lines in a mid-series episode of Grantchester, before dying off-screen in an industrial accident. A “love interest” is a distraction, like getting a dumb but rich boyfriend during “cuffing season” or spending the summer half-heartedly shagging that floaty, ethereal girl who works in a coffee shop and ends every text message with the ? emoji.

What were you hoping for?
Someone to make me laugh (failing that, yet another dating anecdote to add to the increasing pile).

One summer, long ago, I sat on a sunny rooftop, rearranging my testicles in my too-tight shorts on an uncomfortable bench, while a man who should’ve stopped drinking two cocktails ago and should’ve stopped talking one cocktail before that asked me if I was a serial dater. Obviously your correspondent was still anonymous and worried about being unmasked (for reasons now unclear tbh) so I lied and said no. Luckily, he wasn’t that bothered; he was only asking me because he wanted to share some of his dating anecdotes. The term “You had to be there” was invented for his laboured narrating style and, to be honest, his tales were so dull, they made my humble blog sound like 10 series of Doctor Foster playing at once. Anyway, the truth about serial daters is when you get caught up in it, you forget that perhaps the fact the anecdotes are piling up is more depressing than entertaining and, maybe, a reflection on… you. But at least wine exists to give you the mind-wipe you need at the end of the date.

First impressions?
Pretty, confident and interested in what I had to say.
Tall, attractive and somewhat nervous.

These are so positive – nervousness aside but it is a first date, in a national newspaper – that all my cynical soul can see is absolute disaster ahead.

What did you talk about?
Garden design, Filipino cuisine, rogue housemates and Alex’s book club.
Dating in London, living in the West Country, running, the recent Guardian blind date that went viral, New Year’s resolutions.

No matches, sadly ❌ but at least they covered a wide range of subjects.
Rogue housemates is quite a good one actually, although you must be careful your date doesn’t feel more of an affinity with the villains of the piece. On one date with a particularly boring, pompous prig of a man, I observed the following:

“The general gist I’m getting from this guy is he’s a joyless, deluded, bitter bore who can’t get on with anybody. He tells me how he shared a flat with two younger entertainers who worked in the West End who would come home after shows and have a few drinks and this would enrage him. He says the work they were doing “wasn’t important” (they were both dancers in major blockbuster musicals) and you could get that kind of work anywhere (although he doesn’t seem to have managed it), so the “binge drinking” wasn’t a big deal to them, but he hated coming down in the morning for breakfast and finding a VODKA BOTTLE in the kitchen. After just a month, he tells me, the two flatmates got together and told him they didn’t like him, and that he had to move out. I silently raise a glass to them both and hope they go on to have stellar careers.”

Ooh, what a nasty cow I was. Am. Was. Not sure.

The recent Guardian Blind Date that went viral = ah the queens Joanne and Morgan, who caught the imagination of the entire country when they went, uh, wild and free. Wasn’t it strange to see the rest of the world catch up and become clued in to what we have known all along – that the Blind Date column is one of the best content formats going. Oh yeah, I’m sure we were all thinking as the comment pieces piled up, you love the Guardian Blind Date column so much? NAME THREE OF THEIR ALBUMS.

New Year’s resolutions/Dating in London

Any awkward moments?
Waiting on opposite train platforms after saying goodbye.
The table was minuscule (about the size of a large pizza) so my menu kept falling off the table.

Good table manners?
Very. Alex graciously accepted a doggy bag of leftovers.

From you? Or the waiter? Did she ask for them, or were they forced upon her? I have no qualms taking leftovers away with me but tbh it is such a rare occurrence because I have such a huge aversion to waste I will even finish a meal I’m not that keen on. It would have to be disgusting – or my second main meal in the last twenty minutes – for me to leave it.

Good table manners?
I didn’t notice. 

Oh, I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. STOP PRETENDING THIS ISN’T THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION ALEXANDRA!

Best thing about Alexandra?
Her proactive approach to life and unfettered passion for garden design.
His ambition was admirable.

Honestly these two are giving this as much lustre as LinkedIn entries being read out by a self-checkout machine. “His ambition was admirable” is the kind of thing you would say after your five-year-old son tried to memorise a poem for school assembly but bottled it at the last minute and read out the only other thing he knew off by heart: the satnav navigating your Mondeo from your house to the nearest Bargain Booze that you’re not barred from. Ambition is a funny old thing because to outsiders it’s only worth having (or talking about) if you’ve got a chance of achieving it. Otherwise, it’s fantasy, and sadly we live in a world where that is not generally encouraged, unless you are a Trump.

“Unfettered passion for garden design” is a fucking brilliant line and I can imagine Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne having a full-on scrap over who gets to use it.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Yes, she’s very personable.

You see, while this is a nice answer, personable is almost so bland a compliment that it could, in a way, be rip-roaring shade. It’s like the most weak of kill-shots, but will end you all the same. Personable. On paper, positive, you’d happily see it on your personal statement when applying for university, or in your annual appraisal at work. But in a sex arena – as the dating world is, let’s be real – I don’t think anyone wants to be called personable. Maybe I’m wrong, but as pluses go, it’s up there with a weatherless afternoon, the white noise from a supermarket tannoy that you hope is about to announce that the bread is now half-price, or Alexa playing the karaoke version of …Baby One More Time because just as you requested the song, the microwave pinged to let you know your carbonara was ready.

Describe her in three words
Funny, passionate, straight-talking.

FUNNY, like the strange frisson of excitement you get when imagining your nemesis trapping their hand in a car door.
PASSIONATE, like a kiss from anyone not on this date.
STRAIGHT-TALKING, like a columnist who thinks honesty, directness and logical thinking means you just shout insults at people until one or both of you dies.

Describe Faris in three words?
Serious, inquisitive and infallibly polite.

SERIOUS, like, baby this is serious. Are you thinking ’bout you, or us? Don’t say what you’re about to say – NO NO NO etc etc (Google it if you’re a flop fan and do not know this Céline Dion opus.)
INQUISITIVE, like a toddler who will not confuse mud with chocolate again.
INFALLIBLY POLITE, like two fucking words, Alexandra, which makes four words altogether, can I get you an abacus?

Did you go on somewhere?
No, though we stayed at the restaurant until we were politely asked to leave.
Not together – I headed to Camden to join friends at a bar.

What? Alexandra made plans after the date? I don’t understand why people do this. Maybe it was a safety thing or perhaps they were a longstanding arrangement she couldn’t break, but what hope happenstance and the natural laws of attraction if you “have to be somewhere”?! This gets even weirder in a subsequent answer by the way, so stay tuned.

No kisses, quelle sur-bastard-preeeeeez.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I think we could have been a bit sillier, and made fun of the whole situation a little more.

If you want silliness, hire clowns, or a bouncy castle, or drop acid twenty minutes before you arrive.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
The restaurant closing time! We’d just ordered more drinks when the manager came over to say they were closing.

Then… why… didn’t… you… just… go… for… another… drink… somewhere… else…? You know, instead of, uh, sodding off to meet your mates.
“Such a shame the restaurant closed so soon!”
“Well, there are still places…”
“Such a shame that was the only place in London still open to serve drinks otherwise, ah well, goodnight.”
“But there’s a pub right here…”
“Sorry I didn’t catch that, bye!”
“Careful, there’s a car coming!”
“Oh, it’s fine, goodb—”

Alexandra would rather take a doggy bag to the pub to meet her friends than her friendly young date! Wonder how Faris feels about that “personable” now?

Marks out of 10?

That six is savage. Alexandra! Was it really that bad? I’m no expert – just kidding – but I cannot help but think this might have been a 7 if Alexandra hadn’t gone straight to her friends to slug back a few… oh let me go back and look at the picture again… um, snakebites and given the date a bit of a roasting. Hang on, is this… an epiphany? Am I becoming self-aware like the robot in that film? The one with Will Smith? The one where the robot has a face like someone on an information desk in a shopping centre? Can’t remember the name. Anyway, does forensically dissecting the Guardian Blind Date actually… spoil the whole thing?

Would you meet again?
Yes, I would.
As friends, for sure.

Would you meet up with someone, even as friends, who said you were a six? A SIX? The gentleman’s zero?! Just as Alexandra admired Faris’s ambition, I admire her optimism. But come on, that two-point gap will always be there at the heart of any future friendship, and years down the line, when Faris and Alexandra are married to other people, godparents to each other’s children, and their families meet up for a regular brunch – in which the rest of the cafe’s customers wish for a soundproof box to come down from the heavens and land around them – it will come up. The 6. There is no escape.


Alexandra and Faris ate at Kinilaw & Buko, 104 Hoxton Street, London N1, 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. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. But we all know what a six is. And as for “personable” – I just can’t.

AND FINALLY: Please . It has a fantastic line in about John Lewis gift cards.

1 Comment

  1. In the 70’s on a Sunday morning the papers were delivered. We would clamber into bed together, put on a Max Boyce album (no idea) and read the papers. Mother would read, my, Jackie magazine. Lil sis would read The guardian and I would read The Beano. Within 3 mins Lil sis would have reached the Blind Date column and it would be read it out loud, always and forever the best.

Leave a Response