Photographs: Sarah Lee, Alicia Canter/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Gavin and Rob

January. Party’s over, clear away the gin, banish meat from your life, eschew dairy, sail oblivious past the chocolate aisle in Tesco like you’re the Demeter caught in an enchanted fog. January.

But what’s this to start off the new year? Could it be yet another bullet point on the gay agenda? One step forward in our quest to take over the world? Yes, it looks like we’re giving up heterosexuality for New Year too, as we have two dudes in this week’s Guardian Blind Date. When scientists look back and try to prise apart the charred remains that fuse our bodies to our smartphones, they will chart the LGBTQ uprising as starting right here in the Blind Date column. I have noticed increasing disquiet from people previously unbothered by making any kind of effort for equality that the cherished Blind Date now “over-represents” the LGBTQ community. This is the hill they choose to breathe their last on. Dracula put his hand on a man’s knee, there’s not one but TWO lesbians in EastEnders, and the final straw, a distinct lack of straight clean-shirts talking about loft conversions over watery daiquiris, resulting in two sevens. If the wider world at large gets used to seeing two blokes or a pair of women in the Blind Date column, what next? An end to homophobia?! My, how inconvenient that would be for far too many people. Anyway, let’s get on with out global takeover, one impeccable table manners answer at a time.

This week, it’s soft scoop vs software. (I am not proud of this gag.) We’ve got Gavin, beard minor, 37, who is an ice-cream shop owner, and Tom, 40, beard major, who is a software developer.


Photographs: Sarah Lee, Alicia Canter/The Guardian

and then let’s reconvene and try turning it off and on again.

Gavin on RobRob on Gavin
What were you hoping for?
The love of my life. Failing that, good food and good company.

Aim for the sky – before plunging your hopes back down to earth again. If this answer were an ECG, your doctor would be wheeling you into theatre.

What were you hoping for?
A stress-free evening with someone who was easy to be around.

I would probably have headed to a cat café and endured two hours of insistent, unprovoked scratching, if I were you, Rob.

First impressions?
An impressive beard.
He was incredibly beautiful. Like a model. Totally stunning.

Okay, so this is what the fandom might call a spoiler. Rob has laid his cards on the table so hard the clatter has started his next-door neighbours – he is D-primed. Gavin, however, has gone full toddler and can only point out the most obvious thing in front of them. Plate! Fork! Table! BEARD!

What did you talk about?
Work, holidays, yoga, snowboarding, Rob’s voluntary work, politics (unfortunately), going out and dating in London.
His ice-cream shop, Wales and Scotland (our respective places of origin).

Work/his ice-cream shop/Rob’s voluntary work – kind of a ✅ I guess.
Politics (unfortunately) – yeah, don’t do this.
Wales and Scotland (our respective places of origin) – that grating noise you can hear isn’t mice in your skirting board; it’s the sound of accent fetishists rubbing their crotches through layers of corduroy and Christmas-gifted underwear.
Going out and dating in London – Even Bridget Jones would manage to talk about something else on a first date, guys. I dunno, maybe this is just me but it’s SUCH a turn off to sit there and listen to someone talk you through their dating ‘escapades’. I mean, my friends were so bored by it, I had to start a blog. So maybe just do that.

Any awkward moments?
The staff at the restaurant brought some complementary dishes for us to try. Rob is vegetarian, so I ended up eating more than my fair share.

Not awkward, just economical.

Any awkward moments?
I rarely drink, but for some reason I said yes to every alcoholic drink that night. I hope it didn’t show too much.

Oh, nervous wine! My least favourite alcoholic drink of all. Nervous wine thinks it’s doing you a favour; it’s the ‘drink me’ bottle that promises to cure all your ills. But it’s just a sticking plaster over an axe wound. I guess it can temporary realign your personality to make the situation less daunting but once you start preferring the you that the wine brings out, there’s a problem because you cannot, with a few exceptions, spent your life drunk. I didn’t drink for most of 2017 and while I wasn’t exactly reborn, I have only rarely looked better. Unfortunately after ten months of sobriety I went to an event where I didn’t know anyone and nerves got the better of me and when a tray of nervous wine – disguised as free, exciting champagne but I knew the bouquet a mile off – was put in front of me, I took it. And I have regretted it ever since.

Better to be you, and nervous, and maybe even a bit dull (very dull, in my case) than to let the wine do the talking for you.

Good table manners?
Very good.
To be honest, I was more interested in looking at his face and his arms.

I mean, its not a strange thing to say (I just like the gif), but in the context, and in juxtaposition with Rob’s answers, it’s… revealing. That “to be honest” is an understatement of the century because that is honesty-plus, a luxe upgrade to searing, galaxy-brained honesty. We have two different dates happening here, one is factual and one is sensual.

Gavin’s answers are a school report, what I did on my holidays, an unexpected item in the bagging area, a cash machine receipt, a list of prime numbers. Rob’s answers are Mary Shelley losing her virginity on her mother’s grave, an outtake from the first Emmanuelle movie, The Story of O being read aloud to you by a man old enough to remember the opening night of Madonna’s Who’s That Girl Tour, Barbara Cartland’s wedding night, the soundtrack to Trouser Bar.

Best thing about Rob?
He was good company and easy to talk to. There were no awkward silences.
He was the full package. Handsome, lovely figure, great smell. And he shows genuine interest in other people.

And again.
Gavin: A person was sitting in front of me and did not offend me in any way. Send tweet.
Rob: Love in the Creamery, by Robert Robertson. Chapter 1. I knew as soon as I saw him that we were meant to be together. The way he moved, the way he spoke – like a dance to music you’ve never heard before but have been waiting for all your life. His scent drew me in, the delicious aroma of raspberry ripple and rum “n” raisin filled the air as he wiped his hand on his apron, nodded toward the cones waiting for me on the counter and said, “£8.30, please.” Reader, I was hooked. I knew I would be back, and no dairy intolerance would ever stop me.

In all seriousness, these are great answers and it’s good to see two people appraise each other so honestly and kindly. I do love to be told I smell great so I hope Gavin is buzzing off this and not entering witness protection.

Describe Rob in three words?
Warm, calm, kind.

Warm, like a radiator in everyone else’s house but MINE.
Calm, like a letting agent taking money for said flat.
Kind, like someone lending me an oil-filled radiator.

Describe Gavin in three words
Interesting, humble, gorgeous.

Interesting, like the thought of Gavin slowly unbuttoning your shirt, Rob.
Humble, as Gavin would no doubt be on your wedding say when you tell him he looks “sensational”.
Gorgeous, just as you imagine his… I think we should leave it there before Rob needs to be taken outside for some air.

Did you go on somewhere?
It was a Sunday evening, so we were both happy to call it a night after the meal.

A date on a Sunday?!? Wow that is some serious cock-blocking by the restaurant there. Not that these two needed it, I guess; if Gavin were any less interested, he’d be outside. I know Mondays are awful but tbh the only way to get through is by being dog-tired with a terminal case of beard rash, leg muscles numb from your walk of shame ‘etc’. Stay out late on a Sunday – you don’t have double-geography in the morning. What time does an ice-cream shop open anyway? (Genuine question: just how early could I get a cherry and chocolate double-scoop cone?)

And… did you kiss?
No. We hugged and said our goodbyes.
I would have quite happily spent the evening kissing him, but I didn’t feel the date was going in that direction.

I mean, I guess you have to say hats off to Rob for leaving absolutely zero to interpretation. I wonder if Gavin is enjoying this revelation – very probably not a revelation tbh as he was on the date – or whether he is convulsing in the kind of ceaseless full body-cringe you’d get from eating a full jar of pickled onions in ten minutes. Still, at least it gets him a bit of attention online – I’m sure half of thirst-Twitter will be asking him for a giant cone soon enough. I’ve seen it all before.

Marks out of 10?

Oh God. A nine would’ve been bad enough but full marks being met by a 7, the score equivalent of a shrug, is tough. Rob, I salute you for not dialling this back to save face. I mean, you might as well, eh?

Would you meet again?
I would as friends. Rob said he might come to check out my ice-cream shop.
Perhaps I’ll go to his shop to buy some ice-cream.

A welcome distraction for Rob’s tongue, which seems to have been hanging out for the duration. Better luck next time, boys.

Can I just say, Gavin, that if you’re not going to give us any entertainment, then this is the most wasted promo opportunity ever. WHERE IS THE SODDING ICE-CREAM SHOP? Maybe he doesn’t want us to know.  I wonder if Gavin has even told Rob. Anyway, if I ever do find out, look out my for new venture, Impeccable Bus Tours, where we travel round London remembering bad scores and failed kisses at a series of increasingly depressing locations.

EDIT: The ice-cream shop is called and is in Herne Hill station, scene of many a failed date for me. You can go stalk Gavin on his if the urge takes you which, judging from my mentions, it shall.

Gavin and Rob ate at Barboun, Shoreditch, London E1. Fancy a blind date? Email If you’re looking to meet someone likeminded, visit

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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. Most of the things I say are merely riffing on the answers and not making judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments or replies. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. Chocolate-covered cone, please.


  1. I hope that Gavin and Rob can be friends after such striking frankness on Rob’s part, but I have a feeling that if he does make it to the ice cream shop, after the pleasantries and just before he taps his card, there will be a silence so awkward that a decade’s worth of clunky conversation over risotto will pale in comparison.

    If last week’s date was the kind of evening which makes a certain sort of unpleasant person mutter about the ‘gay lifestyle’, this was the prosaic reality: We’ve all been Rob, and some have been lucky enough to have been Gavin. I hope Gavin remembers the last time he was gazing while his date merely observed.

    1. I’m guessing the dreaded Brexit was probably the politics they discussed and one of them had somewhat questionable views about it?

      Poor Rob. I wonder if he’s regretting wearing his heart on his sleeve so much. But there’s nothing to feel ashamed about in fancying someone who doesn’t return the feeling. We have indeed all been there.

      It reminds me of another Guardian Blind Date ages ago with two fortysomething gay guys, where one guy fancied the pants off the hotter other guy, who sadly didn’t return the feeling.

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