Florrie and James header image
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Florrie and James

As we slide on the very final skid mark of many toward the end of possibly one of the worst years in a generation, what are we looking for from the Guardian Blind Date column? Social distancing and the threat of imminent respiratory failure means we’re unlikely to see a repeat of last Christmas’s bonk-fest from Jonathan and Matt, and as our dates now take place virtually and not in an empty West End restaurant, we’re even denied the usual waiter mess-ups, clumsy flirtation over wine-pouring and, of course, that awkward amble to the Tube station.

Two adults grappling with Deliveroo over Zoom and trying not to slurp ramen over an internet connection so weak, you’d think their router was a potato doesn’t even lend itself that well to the usual snark, or the delicious feeling of watching two people who loathe each other try not to say so in a national magazine. So the best we can hope for, as 2020 packs up the last of its things and gets ready to curl out one final turd in the airing cupboard for 2021 to discover, is a bit of old-fashioned romance from afar. A Darcy and Lizzie de nos jours maybe. Or, better still, two middle-aged romantics getting horny on main.

Et voilà, mission accomplished, thanks to Florrie, a 47-year-old makeup artist who looks so effortlessly glamorous that I imagine she purrs as she flashes her Waitrose card to get her free coffee while she shops, and James, 47, a singer/songwriter who carries on the rapidly emerging trend of posing for a photo so blurry that it could literally be anyone, of any age. But don’t they both have lovely houses, from what we can see? So tastefully decorated. This adds a new element to Blind Date, and quite an exciting one, for you can imagine, if things go well and our Zoom-crossed lovers move in together, exactly which bits of furniture will make it into the new shared love nest. My guess would be that it’s bad news for that clock thing behind James.

Florrie and James
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

Read the full date on the Guardian website – warning, you may get toothache from all the syrup – and return, rejuvenated and hopeful, in order for me to go full 2020 and destroy everything.

Florrie on JamesJames on Florrie

What were you hoping for?
To meet Prince Charming, be rescued from my loveless life and live happily ever after. I grew up on fairytales.

Florrie’s answers tonight will be taken from Dolly Parton’s songbook and Adele’s post-breakup diary.

What were you hoping for?
Someone who’d have an amazing soul, an interesting mind and be really attractive.

“An amazing soul.” I don’t really know what that means. Is a nice person? Will not be dead? I guess James is talking about warmth and natural joie de vivre here, which you could probably replicate in an emergency with an electric blanket and a battery-operated hand massager from the Innovations catalogue.

“Be really attractive.” The second week in a row that the man dater has said he hopes for someone really fit! Over Zoom! Nobody is fit over Zoom! Read as many pieces in glossy mags about the perfect Zoom look or how to be Skype-ready all you like – you’re at the mercy of a laptop or phone camera, destined to make you look like a rat peering into a soufflé. Just make sure you stack the camera high, get your ring-light right (BUY ONE) and hope for the best.

First impressions?
Friendly, handsome and familiar – we realised we had mixed in the same circles a few decades ago.

Friendly and handsome is an excellent first impression to be on the receiving end of. Familiar… not so much, depending on the circumstances. Like, what if years earlier you’d served them in a shop and been really rude to them (or vice versa, which is much more likely). What if they remember you as being a really bad dancer from these so-called ‘same circles’ (a terrifying prospect) or having bad breath? What if you’re “familiar” to them because they saw you on Crimewatch, or you remind them of John Prescott? Hmmm?

First impressions?
I got all of the above. No question.

If James were any smoother he’d be a swipe of Nutella expertly spread over a glass table-top by Roger Moore himself, with a Barry White record playing in the background.

What did you talk about?
Snoop Dogg, kinesiology, exes, addiction and recovery, the 90s and the 00s, Ibiza – and we sang together.
So many things. The craziest thing was how much we had in common and how many mutual people we knew. How she loves being an aunt, how I love being a father.

No matches at all ❌ but that doesn’t mean they weren’t having a good time. I had to google kinesiology. I’m none the wiser.

I don’t want to speculate too much on their conversation topics because this feels like a very personal and open conversation and, bizarrely, I feel like it would be an intrusion to analyse, even though they’re laying it all bare in a magazine. What I would say is that some of the topics here definitely explain their outlooks and are probably why the date was such a success.

We sang together – OK, well, if it was during the Ibiza part of the conversation I hope it was at least something good like De’Lacy’s Hideaway or Make the World Go Round by Sandy B. Or maybe they sat there trilling Darude’s Sandstorm at each other like two self-checkout machines on the fritz.

How many mutual people we knew made my heart sink for some reason. I kind of think going into these things fresh, with history unrevealed, canvas unblemished is for the better. Friends always mean well, and they can keep you out of some sticky situations, but the chances are by the time you hit 47, you have some friends who are absolute arseholes and can ruin things for you. We’ve seen all those polite BBC dramas, haven’t we? Also it would be nice if we could all bond, or find love or success, or get jobs without it being down to knowing the same people, or the right ones. Equal opportunities for strangers too, please.

Any awkward moments?
I felt bashful when I discovered James applied to Blind Date only last week. I’ve been applying regularly since 2015!

Knowing how the matchmaking works at the Guardian – which they take very seriously – I can only assume no other men who’d applied were anywhere near hot or amazing enough to be paired with Florrie – or perhaps her criteria were very specific. “I want a James, who’s never knowingly walked past a white piece of furniture in his life, who knows my friends already because I’m not very fond of introductions or small talk at dinner parties. Internet connection weaker than a seven-day-old kitten trying a biceps curl for the first time preferable, but not essential.”

When I realised the food I’d ordered had to be collected, so I had to run into town and come back. She couldn’t have been nicer about it.

Why can none of these GROWN UPS ever work out how to get food delivered to their houses? Week after week of people who, I assume, use smartphones every day of their lives and yet ask them to order a vongole over Deliveroo and they suddenly act like they’ve been asked to drive a spaceship through Tower Bridge.

Good table manners?
I wasn’t particularly interested in eating as the chat was so engaging.
We just ate while we talked.

I wonder what they had? I can imagine them both sitting there eating perfect little parcels of dim sum or elegant squares of sushi, expertly using chopsticks like they were born brandishing them, politely laughing and commenting on the flavours and reminiscing about the first time they tried okonomiyaki or lampredotto. I can’t really picture Florrie chomping into an Honest burger and giggling as the various fillings tumbled from her bap and onto her tasteful furnishings, or James shovelling a Domino’s into his mouth and burping the chorus of ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’, can you? This is DAINTY and PROPER and ROMCOM but not gross-out romcom – more sweeping strings and mild peril in the form of a bitchy ex who herself will find love in the arms of someone else’s horrible, yet reformed, ex.

How long did you stay on the call?
Nearly four hours – and we probably could have chewed the fat for many more. But I had scheduled a call with my best friend so I could dish the dirt.
Almost four hours.
Sally from Corrie listens at a wall
ITV Studios

Four hours on a video call. Doing that is hard enough with someone you know, and even care about, but a (kind of) stranger? Magical. I suppose it helps that they’re both in their forties so, apparently, you should be less awkward about this kind of thing, and the fact that they’re both what you might euphemistically describe as “easy on the eye” (I hate that expression) but four hours staring at one another in the same position, and the conversation still flowing and remaining interesting, is nothing short of miraculous. I mean, five hours on a video call and you’re practically married. I’d have definitely taken my shirt off after three hours, just for something to do. Let’s face it, a video date is basically trying to make a grainy passport photo horny for you and it appears, on this occasion, that it worked.

The “scheduled a call with a best friend” is terrifying, though.

Best thing about James?
He is so open and honest, thus a very great conversationalist.

I mean, this has been looking encouraging since the second question but now I think we can safely assume it is on. Unless James is about to serve us a curveball.

Best thing about Florrie?
Her sense of humour, her passion for life, her gentle soul, her voice, her eyes, her interior design, her way of seeing the world, how fascinating she is to listen and talk to.

Gillian Anderson in Sex Education saying let me get you some condoms

Nope, no curveball, just a… cheese one. James doesn’t leave much room for interpretation here, he likes everything – but it all boils down to “I fancied her”. Even her interior design got a mention – it makes me feel this was actually edited for space. I wonder what else he liked. “The way she ate; the way she opened her living room door; the small, alluring eye movement as she reacted to the sound of the doorbell when her Double Quarter Pounder arrived; the melodic tinkle of laughter whenever I told her a joke; her favourite tracks from the Retrospective of House CDs that we both owned at university; the way she perfectly mimicked the voice of Yootha Joyce when we recited George and Mildred dialogue back to one another; the way she breathed slowly, sometimes through her mouth, but more often her nose, a tender sigh as her sweet, perky, nostrils searched for the enriching air, welcoming it with grace and poise before sucking it up and down, down, down her bronchial tubes and into her gorgeous, spongy lungs where her cute-as-a-button alveoli…. [That’s quite enough of that – Ed.]

Describe James in three words
Attractive, curious, kind.

Attractive, like a man in his mid to late forties who still has all his own hair, doesn’t seem too bitter about the divorce, and, crucially, takes his decorating inspiration from the lobby of the La Mirage hotel in Dynasty.
Curious, like a cat watching you decorate your Christmas tree and calculating the weight of each bauble and whether it could be used to kill you.
Kind, like a benevolent stranger who comes up to you in Tesco while you desperately assemble your festive meal, and wishes you a Merry Christmas, before telling you that you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe, the tag of your jumper is showing and that if you’re interested, Boots are doing a 3 for 2 on anti-wrinkle treatments.

Describe Florrie in three words
Gorgeous, intelligent, hilarious.

Gorgeous, like you would say a child’s school-baked Swiss roll was, even if it wasn’t.
Intelligent, like this same child obviously is, given he manages to get you to do his homework while he goes outside and flies his drone over the neighbours’ gardens.
Hilarious, like no TV programme featuring Michael McIntyre could ever honestly claim to be.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
The ones he doesn’t know already.

kylie minogue doing the ooooh finger

I don’t know why this unsettles me so much. This is obviously great, and they’ve both been around enough to quite legitimately know a lot of the same people I guess, but this feels a bit like… oh I don’t know. Like Charles and Diana getting set up. Just putting together two people of the same set. One more to add to the gang!

Would you introduce her to your friends?
With so much pleasure.

andrew garfield emma stone snog

This is nice, though! I do love how keen they both are. I suppose you’re willing to give it a go when you get to that age – If you feel it, then you feel it, so why not act on it?

They are both barely three years older than me FYI, but they feel about three generations my senior for some reason.

What do you think he made of you?
Hopefully kind, funny, intelligent and beguiling, albeit a little blurry due to the video streaming quality.
I hope good things. It felt that way.

You can tell James is a lyricist – his answers are dripping in honey. This is like one of those Christmas movies where the perfect little town is about to be demolished and the friendly and gorgeous chocolatier will lose her shop that she opened as the last wish of her dying [whoever] and the man driving the biggest bulldozer is her old high school boyfriend and even though his entire career and financial stability rely on his driving a JCB right through her pralines, he simply can’t ignore that irresistible attraction and warming festive glow that tells him they belong together. So they get married ON the bulldozer, which they convert into a quaint little tea shop that he can park outside the chocolate shop and sell perfect little steaming cups of Earl Grey to go with her ferret and diesel-flavoured truffles. Delightful.

How did the call end?
We said goodbye on the fourth try.
How did the call end?
She had to sign off for a call with a friend who has recently moved and needs support.

Nicole Kidman on the phone

Haha I do hope this great romance doesn’t become unstuck because Florrie told James her friend “needed support” when really they’d booked in a full dissection of the date including whether you could see the outline of any pecs through his baffling hoodie and which, if any, of their mutual friends had banged him and had any girth stats they wanted to share.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That we had met in person and seen where the whole night led us.
That I could have been with her. For a week!

Translation:

Nigells makes a crude motion with her hands

Marks out of 10?
9.
9.

A double-nine without being in the same room?! This is very encouraging but also disconcertingly forward for a Saturday morning. They exchanged numbers, followed each other on Instagram, scored nines, you name it – they certainly weren’t taking any chances here, were they? The bag was always going to be secured – this ride was not going unridden.

Would you meet again in person?
Yes, absolutely, if he comes to London before he returns to LA.

LA?!? What?!

Sharon in EastEnders, with wine
BBC
Would you meet again in person?
I hope we do. I think she’s amazing.

Good. We’ll gloss over the dark shadow of “returns to LA” because it doesn’t quite fit our narrative – and wish them both all the luck in the world.

Merry Christmas!


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About the review and the daters: 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. Most of the things I say are merely 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. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. 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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. I hope you and your beautiful furniture will all be very happy together.

• Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com.

14 Comments

  1. “Amazing soul”. “Kinesiology” WTF? “Returns to LA” IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

    Once when I was a teenager my mum’s friend invited me to a dinner party (because my mum was off on a dirty weekend) and aside from me it was all thin Californian vegetarians hanging on the words of a Guru who looked like Laurence Llewellyn Bowen in a white caftan. It’s given me a very particular view of LA.

  2. And it was all going so well… until we find out he applied to be in Blind Date literally weeks before he’s due to move back to a city thousands of miles away. What was the point of that?

  3. Is it lame that this ray of sunshine and joyful randiness of a date has actually made my day…nay, my weekend?! (I was nearly going to say my Christmas but let’s not be hyperbolic).

    A big warm thank you for your fab writing this year Justin; I counted 4 actual laugh out louds from this week’s dissection (I’m stingy with my audible appreciation so that’s very good going) and it has been a weekly treat to read your blog this year.

    I know it can’t always have been easy to find the motivation to do so, and I hope you have a well deserved festive time, and huge congratulations on the new book deal x

  4. I wish them well, and I don’t mean to piss on anyone’s bonfire, but… men just aren’t like this. He reminds me of that creepy man off Flog It. Paul Martin.

    Maybe they’ll have a brief, passionate romance. Maybe they’ll live happily ever after. Maybe he will gradually pick holes in her when she doesn’t quite match up to the goddess in his mind. Maybe it’s just me.

  5. The swipe of Nutella analogy, oh my! Had to read it out loud husband as I needed to share. Adding smoother than a swipe of Nutella to my personal lexicon and will use it regularly.

  6. Love your writing, Justin, completely agree with what Ange said – thank you! This couple sound like they had a fabulous time, and had potential if they didn’t live in different continents during a pandemic! However, when I first saw the pictures, I would never have guessed that it went so well, as he facial expression seems to me to say “WTF?!” But you should never judge a book by it’s cover, and they hadca great time, which is the lovely news I always hope for.

  7. Oh my… that part when Florrie says she’s had to leave because she’s booked in a dissection with a friend… and then later we discover she has told him that she needed to give her friend emotional support.

    We don’t know what’s true by the way and both of them might be the case- her friend needs emotional support and she’s booked in a full in dissection too. In any case that’s also totally ok in my book we can all do what we like.

    And

    There is something so fascinating to me about my reaction to this though. So many questions and feelings came up when I read that.

    This is all about me expressing my own curiosity about my reaction and questions now. No one needs to explain anything. I’m fully with Florrie’s right to do and say what she likes wants and needs to.

    I connect to something curatorial about saying you’re leaving to give a friend emotional support and missing out the part that you’ve booked in a juicy gossip sesh with a friend to go through all the gory details. But then saying you’ve booked in a juicy gossip session in a national paper that you know the person is going to read totally undermines that curatorial aspect. A question that comes is why not just say it to his face since he’s going to find out? I’m so curious about that. And I wonder how how James felt reading that? Did he think “yeah you go girl”? For me it was a gut punch and I felt myself say to myself “What?” And then “hang on, slow down, wait”. Did Florrie fall off the pedestal a bit when James read that? I agree with the previous person who mentioned something related that. There is an incredible energy here and it’s all so so good. That sets off alarm bells for me.

    So I feel relieved that a fuller side of both of them is visible too, the one that is moving to LA soon, the one that books in a gossip session, the one that has to go off and get some food.

    Your observation about cats is absolutely correct. I too have seen that particular calculating look.

  8. That part of the Blind Date also made me laugh too before everything else came.

    I had a strong reaction at that moment!

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