Impeccable Table Manners

Gareth and Alice

There are some headlines you just don’t want to click on, aren’t there?

“Man finds maggot in bar of Wispa Gold – what happened next will surprise you”, perhaps, or “That woman from Big Brother (a later series you didn’t watch) flaunts her shapely pins on the beach at Southsea following her dramatic facelift”. This morning, for me, it was this one:

But the devil makes work for idle hands and mine are idler than most so with that in mind, let’s have a read of what happened on this very definition of “two cardboard boxes rolling down a bin chute to music” and then I shall start carving up the turkey – or, uh, nut roast or whatever.

Here are Gareth, 32 and a marketing manager, and 25-year-old Alice, who is a digital strategist. This means they each work in an office with a pingpong table and a fridge full of a fizzy drink they tried to launch in 2011 but contains an ingredient banned by the EU – so they’re hanging on for Brexit.

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

This reads like someone filling out a survey after their first trip to a theme pub, doesn’t it? “We especially liked the Statue of Liberty wall decorations, free #MAGA hat on arrival and steak that tasted like it had been cooked at gunpoint by someone with Black & Decker dust-busters for hands.”


Alice, you’re on. What were you hoping for?

It’s blank. Alice’s response is unrecorded. They missed it out. But I need to know. This is where I make up my mind about you. How can I carry on if I don’t understand Alice’s hopes and dreams for the evening? I can’t believe she’s been silenced in this way. Maybe she hoped for unicorns and ice cream and Prince Charming. Or perhaps she hoped for a trucker with tattoos and a criminal record. Let’s have a look at her and make up an answer for ourselves.

I’m going to go with “That he doesn’t mention I kind of look like Bjork if she got Urban Outfitters’ vouchers for Christmas.”

It seems Gareth’s heart is made of chocolate and Alice’s “lovely blue eyes” are actually camping-gaz stoves.

Nose? Noooooooose? I am all for being honest, but you did NOT just comment on someone’s nose in a national newspaper column. No, you didn’t. I’ve read this wrong. I must get to an optician. I must have cataracts en route because I read that last word as “nose” and there’s no way you would’ve done that so excuse me while I make haste to SpecSavers (translation for gay people: it’s like David Clulow but the assistants smile).

Ooh a live episode of Question Time while you’re trying to pick up a piece of salmon nigiri with chopsticks and dislodge a sesame seed from your front teeth without the other person noticing – what a treat.

If the afternoon schedule of Radio 4 on a Tuesday became sentient, this is what it would say.

I’m not really sure why people talk about veganism like it’s scientology, or devil worshipping or something. Yes, vegans do tend to bang on a bit but it’s usually in response to some carnivore – who logs on to to Instagram every time he eats a pulled pork sandwich and tags it #foodporn #nomnom #getinmybelly – being rude and dismissive about them.

I am not a vegan and I eat meat, but perhaps the cult of meat-eating and fetishising food that is unarguably very very fucking bad for you is a way more harmful cult than someone who doesn’t eat cheese. And do you know what, I have a really good friend who is a vegan and he looks fucking amazing and if I were that slim I would take out full page ads saying “LOOK AT THIS YOU BASTARD” and never wear shirts. So enough with the “ooh isn’t being a vegan weird and why would you do that?” because it’s very dull.

Hey it’s your boy The Guyliner here with a pro-tip – if you look like a dickhead while using chopsticks (news just in: you do) then ask for a fork or use your hands. It’s that easy.

Why add even more stress to an already quite laborious evening by stabbing at sticky rice with a piece of wood when you could be shovelling that tasty stuff right in your mouth? I saw a headline of an article the other day that said it was “disrespectful” to eat Japanese food with your hands and I thought, well, I don’t even need to click on that because I couldn’t give two avocado maki rolls what anyone else thinks about the way I eat sushi because I am not in Tokyo. When I go to Japan, which I would love to do one day, I will fumble my way through my holiday using chopsticks but until then, nobody is going to care that you pick stuff up with your hands. All they care about is that you pay the bill and don’t make thinly-veiled racist comments about their country or heritage. Have you seen how fucked the planet is? Use your hands.

Yeah that’s because it’s way easier to use your sodding hands what the hell is wrong with you?

I can’t with these two. I just can’t.

I mean this is fine, isn’t it? Gareth let her pick the wine, didn’t “steal” any sashimi… Hang on, is it stealing if you take some food you’re supposed to be sharing? Does this mean Alice sat and ate all of the sashimi to herself, or are we saying here that they, say, had two pieces allocated to each and Gareth took only his share? I need clarification as this is the most in-depth answer Alice has been allowed so I am trying to latch onto something here.

EDIT: As a reader has pointed out, of course he didn’t steal the sashimi: he’s vegan, as has been mentioned a couple of hundred times. What a WEIRD thing to say, then.

Um. Is Alice not from the UK, maybe? This is the best thing? Does she use long words? Clever words? Did she, perhaps, tell him all about her early years in an Icelandic lexicographical circus where she was known as “The Human Thesaurus (English Edition)”?

Me: Alice, if Gareth’s jumper caught fire, would you attempt to put out the flames?
Alice: Well… I wouldn’t add petrol.

Gareth. Gaz. Can I call you, Gaz? No, don’t speak; don’t ruin the moment. Gaz, I think something is happening here, and it is… she’s not interested but doesn’t want to say. Surprising, really, given that she’s so shit-hot at using English but space in a magazine is scant and life’s too short to read a 15,000-word summary of the ins and outs of two bright young things taking eight hours to eat firecracker rice with two slivers of bamboo.

I love the phrase “a good egg”. I say it. I got it from my friend Neil who, coincidentally, could be described as a good egg, but only by someone who doesn’t know him very well, because he is actually great. Because, you see, “good egg” is what you call someone who is perfectly nice and OK and maybe even a little “whatever”, but you have no strong feelings about. A good egg is you basically saying, well, he’s not a terrible person like a murderer or a mugger or someone who would go to a self-checkout and set off the “assistance required” alarm every time they scanned something. But it isn’t you saying they’re wonderful either, is it? You’re just acknowledging that they exist and haven’t offended you. They are magnolia, flavoured Volvic, Skipton.

PLUS you don’t answer this question like this FFS – why don’t you want me to be happy, Alice?

Intelligent, like a super-computer.
Personable, like your auntie would say about the trainee on the pizza counter in Asda.
Friendly, like a dog that thinks you have a roast dinner in your coat pocket.

I told you: enough.

Oh ‘ere we go.

Perhaps this date happened in July and the Guardian has been saving it up. Or, maybe, just maybe, people have really weirdly strong opinions about when Christmas decorations go up. I put my tree up in early November and, honestly, the reaction I get from people is just so odd. Sometimes I feel like filming them and playing it back, or printing out their tweets and popping them in the post, so they can see themselves and relive just how bizarre it is to give TWO FUCKS when I decide to put a Christmas tree up in my own house.

Too early for Christmas decorations? Yeah, maybe. But what do you care? If the pub has dug out its scraggy tinsel and scratched baubles and shoved them on its dilapidated plastic tree – seriously, all pubs: go to Argos and sort this – then what of it? Are you worried it will make December less “special” for you? Why? Are you three years old? Concerned you will get sick of the sight of them? Sick of the sight of bright, shiny lights and beautiful baubles and joyous sparkling trimmings? You sound great.

If Christmas reminds you of sad times, or happier times that seem so far away, then I understand it must be tough for you and you have my sympathy – for you, I will allow your dislike, 100%. But if you’re just a moaning old drongo who complains about Christmas because society has inexplicably programmed you that you should, then why don’t you give me the only Christmas present I will ever ask from you, and fuck off for ever?


I don’t care.

*Meghan Trainor’s ‘No’ starts playing at full blast as a train to the Friend Zone pulls in at King’s Cross*

Disclaimer: The comments I make about the couples are meant to be playful and humorous and are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which are usually edited for space, brevity and drama. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story.

Another note: I’ve got a novel coming out. Find out more or buy it, maybe!


  1. So he was a vegan, and they sent him on a date to a sushi restaurant? Were all the steakhouses busy? I don’t believe the Guardian of all places wouldn’t have checked that?

    And who the eff tries to shell edamame beans using chopsticks?! These two apparently…

    “Bjork if she got Urban Outfitters vouchers for Christmas” – spot-on description!

  2. I am with Alice on the vegan burger thing. There seems to be whole food sections of pretend meat, why? They are full of hydrated fat and imported gunk neither healthy or tasty. Properly cooked vegan meals are lovely.
    Oh no I do my decorations on the 23rd Dec( I think we share a birthday?) it makes it more fun. Also I carve radishes as is traditional in mexico the night of the radishes.

  3. Bjork?

    She’s Anna Friel’s daughter conceived by Anna Friel making love to herself.

    A family tradition she seems keen to continue.

  4. I know you’ve got a “disclaimer” but slagging off random members of the public because they’ve appeared in the Graun seems like a rather obscene use of your power as a Twitter figure. If a blind date-r asked you to take a blog down, would you?

    1. Hello Paul.

      First of all, I would argue that I’m not “slagging off random members of the public”. They are two people who have agreed to take part in a magazine column in a national newspaper and be subject to the scrutiny of thousands of readers. I don’t see my reviews as that much different from critiquing people who appear on reality TV shows or appear in popular culture generally. Also, it’s worth remembering that I’m not criticising them as people, merely using their answers – which they have given themselves and know may be edited by a paper – as a launchpad for my own observations. What most people seem to get is that the blog isn’t about the people on the Blind Date at all, really; it’s about me. All I do is use the things people have said as inspiration. I don’t criticise people’s looks (I do suggest Alice looks like Bjork in this one but Bjork is great, isn’t she?) or say they are bad people; I just talk about what they’ve said. It’s like reviewing a TV show, or a record, or a play, or a book. Most people who appear in the blog are thrilled to do so, but I accept that not everyone will be pleased by it and I do offer a right of reply and very often daters get in touch with me.

      Secondly, I’m not sure this blog is an “obscene use” of my “power”. The blog is nothing but an outlet for my writing, which is read and critiqued, just as the Blind Date column is. It’s interesting nobody ever addresses their ire at the Guardian, far and way much more powerful and read than me, for editing the couple’s answers, picking the photos without the daters’ seeing it first and sending them somewhere they have no control over. The daters accept all this willingly, so why does it matter if some bloke nobody’s ever heard of writes a 1000-word eye-roll about the things they say. Go and read the Facebook comments under each Blind Date the Guardian posts – seen by more people than my blog, I imagine, and much more powerful.

      Lastly, yes, I have taken down a blogpost twice. Once when a dater asked me, and another time when, after I got further information, I decided it was the best thing to do. Whenever I write these posts, it’s not just about getting a cheap laugh – I genuinely think about whether I’m being fair or it’s a reasonable conclusion to draw. It’s not enough that it is funny – it has to make sense. If Gareth or Alice got in touch to say they wanted me to remove it, I would. If you are one of the people directly involved in the date, do email me, as the “disclaimer” suggests, and I will happily discuss.

  5. Don’t worry sweet cheeks – I think most of us can see you’re just delightfully poking fun at the human (dating) condition. Your empathy shines through. Looking forward to the book. Gonna need a bigger shelf.

  6. I’m very late to the party, but not only is it not disrespectful to eat sushi with one’s hands, that’s how it was traditionally eaten in Japan. Please hit me up if you make it to Tokyo.

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