Impeccable Table Manners

Grace and Marcin

I like my rituals. Sometimes, to an outsider, they can seem obsessive, or a sign I’m set in my ways, but there’s a reason outsiders are outsiders, isn’t there? Anyway, my Saturday morning rituals have been, for quite a while now, set in stone. Wake up feeling jaded, make myself a cup of tea in a china mug with my initial on it (maybe that makes me basic, but I’m sorry your name doesn’t begin with the best letter of the alphabet), and let out a guttural sigh when I see the Guardian Blind Date headline. Today was no exception.

Am I alone in wanting that particular innuendo to make haste into retirement? I loathe it with a passion usually only reserved for bad guitar music. Imagine being a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, and having to wield a syringe, only for the patient to say something about “you’ll just feel a little prick”. I’m assuming this is why the docs et al actually say “you’ll feel a little scratch” because they were sick of patients turning into low-rent Sid James characters who can’t read the word “shaft” without absolutely losing their minds.

Anyway, fine. As we can see from the headline, today’s daters are Grace, who is 24 and a brewery ambassador (come on, what the hell is this supposed to be, are they trying to say she drinks beer for a living, or is this a fancy way of saying “works in PR”, no doubt cooked up when stocious on an ale called something like “Old Pig Wart” or “Maiden’s Teat”) and a 33-year-old head of programming (computers? ITVBe? oven timers? who knows?!) called Marcin. No, not a typo. Marcin. I’d never heard that name before so I googled and apparently it is Polish in origin and the most famous Marcin I could find is a martial arts expert. My sympathies are immediately with Marcin here because I too have a name that people always either get wrong (“Jason, isn’t it?”) or tell me, for no reason whatsoever, that my name is “unusual” (as it used to be before Timberlake and Bieber came along). How fascinating to hear what you think about my name, said nobody ever. Why not tell me your thoughts on my nose next?

Anyway, voici the original date in the Guardian; read that before we investigate further.

Marcin on GraceGrace on Marcin
What were you hoping for?
A fun evening, good story and memorable experience.

“A memorable experience.” Just so long as you’re remembering it for the right reasons, and don’t remember it because you got run over by an Austin Montego on the way home.

What were you hoping for?
Someone a bit fit with similar interests to me and a right laugh.

“Similar interests.” Yes. When someone asks me what my interests are, I go blank. What do I like? What do I actually do? I usually say writing (“but that’s your job!”) and when that is dismissed, I’m forced to say reading because people noticeably reel if you don’t mention, within seconds of confessing you’re a writer, that you don’t read twenty books a month – well that’s once they’ve got my favourite “Who do you write for? Anyone I’d heard of?” out of the way. *sound of champagne glass shattering*

First impressions?
Tall, punctual, friendly, confident and open.

Lot of adjectives here.

First impressions?
“He is very posh! Looks like he works in finance…” I actually said before I went [on the date] that blue suit, brown brogues would be my worst nightmare – and he was wearing just that. But he was welcoming and relaxed.

“Blue suit, brown brogues would be my worst nightmare.” Your worst? The absolute worst? Worse than bad breath, a fascination with oil-filled radiators, a confession your date once got a caution for exposing himself in Waitrose, a verbal tic of saying “actually” at the end of every sentence, two tickets for an Ed Sheehan concert, or breaking down on a ring road on Christmas Eve with only an M&S three-bean salad for company? You need to broaden your worst-case-scenario horizons, hon.

What did you talk about?
Beer, wine, yoga, Morocco, family, climate change, plastics, Bali, India, bad dates and marriage. Not in that order, though.
Family, yoga, his time in Bali (I joked about people who go to Bali to do a yoga course and find themselves: it transpired he had done that).

Bali ✅ – OK, first Grace was worried about the suit and brogues, and Marcin turned up wearing them, and now she makes a “joke” about Bali and yoga – let’s just pause there so my eyes can roll right out of my head, do three circuits around my lounge and then clank right back into place – and it comes to light Marcin has done just that! Once she’s finished doing some work on her rather odd preconceptions, perhaps she could consider a career being some kind of clairvoyant. She could make a fortune trotting out mild coincidences to gullible innocents at the end of Brighton Pier, to the comforting background groan of three hundred fruit machines resolutely refusing to pay out.
Morocco – I went in June, one year. Literally do not do that if heat is not your thing.
Climate change – A huge, pressing issue, yes, but first-date material? What are they? Newsreaders?
Plastics – I’m assuming they mean old Coke bottles and bags for life, and not these much more fascinating plastics:

Hang on, they’re still going.

India – oh good, a “travel person”
Bad dates – it is hugely bad dating etiquette to swap dating horror stories on a first date. The big risk here is you expose that, in fact, the main problem on all your dates is… well, you.
Marriage – I prefer divorce: fewer letters, sharper syllables, sounds great screamed out a passing taxi. I would much rather be a divorcé than a husband, but sadly one begets the other and I don’t like wedding cake.

Any awkward moments?
I did have to check my blood sugar before dessert, but she was not put off by it. In fact, she asked to have her blood sugar level tested, too, after which, I explained the rules of the “blood, sugar, bingo” drinking game…
When he said he worked in finance. When I said I was vegetarian and he said his philosophy was: “Meat a day keeps the doctor away.” When he took out his insulin needle and asked if I wanted “a little prick”.

Ever since someone told me, years ago, that one way to tell you have undiagnosed diabetes is that your wee smells like sugar puffs, I became obsessed by it. I went to the doctor and everything. They did that sigh they teach them on the last day of medical school (if they taught them it earlier none of them would complete their training) and told me I was fine.

“When he said he worked in finance.” What’s awkward about that? Why is she fixated on this? It’s the Guardian, readership: Islington – who did you think was going to turn up? A poet? A chiselled actor? A tortured artist? Look, everyone needs a job and they can’t all be in PR or being in charge of guest lists for corporate gigs (which are always held at Sway, aren’t they?).

“Meat a day keeps the doctor away.” Marcin. Come on. That is… no. No.

Good table manners?
Impeccable. Even when she lunged for my apple crumble dessert: she did it most gracefully and warned me it was going to happen.

I don’t like puddings, mainly, but I do love an apple crumble, so if Grace (ironically monikered, it would appear from this answer) came lunging at my apple crumble, no matter how elegantly, there would be trouble. To say the very least.

Good table manners?
Absolutely. He was incredibly polite, a proper gentleman.

I do like to be polite. I am, mostly. I hate rudeness so much; it makes me feel really flat and tired. What is most annoying is the world seems to belong to the rude, or those who confuse assertiveness and arrogance. Who told them that? Who decided that was how it was going to be? Who decreed that fortune favoured those who barge past, push in, click their fingers, sigh loudly, act like they own the place?

I know we’re encouraged to put ourselves first to achieve our goals and make our lives as comfortable as possible, and this is very important and absolutely right, but the trouble is that this positioning, this comfort, usually comes at the expense of someone else’s, so along with that, we should also learn to be accommodating. It is not a sign of weakness to let someone else have their way once in a while. Kindness is so hugely underrated. Breezes are much easier to withstand if you bend to them occasionally. What I always remember is that while you may barely give a second thought to your brashness, the person on the receiving end may dwell on it all day. I can’t tell you how dispiriting it is, especially if, like me, you work alone so don’t speak to many people during the day, for your one interaction with a stranger to be tarred by their abject rudeness. Imagine being an older person who doesn’t get out much, turns on the TV for “company” and longs for someone, anyone, to say something to them – a hello, a kind word, any empty pleasantry – and come face to face with a bitchy shop assistant, or abrasive bus wanker, or impatient control-freak on the street. No person should be able to count the days since somebody last smiled at them.

Yes, everyone is going through their own stuff, you can never tell who might be having a bad day, and we all have our reasons for behaving how we do, but seriously – we are an ensemble cast. We should act like it.

(I went through a phase of pointing out to people if they’d been rude to me, but it only made things worse because, reader, they didn’t give the slightest of fucks.)

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Yes. A few would be awed by her knowledge of and enthusiasm for craft beer.
I think we move in different circles.

Hahahaha “different circles”. I have never seen anyone so at pains to distance themselves from a date. I’m surprised she didn’t go sit outside.

Describe Grace in three words
Hippy, passionate, fun.

Hippy? Do they still exist in 2019? Is Marcin secretly three 75-year-olds standing atop one another under a (blue!!! finance!!!) trench coat? Perhaps this explains why Grace is so horrified by Marcin’s poshness, what sounds like a fairly run-of-the-mill job, and – the true big bad – his brogues. There’s trying too hard, and then there’s Geri Halliwell on Instagram.
Passionate – I’m not being “funny” but there are some words that really sleaze me out and “passionate”, especially when used in this sense, is one of them. Ugh.
Fun – They do seem like they’re having fun, I guess. Despite themselves.

Describe Marcin in three words
Kind, intuitive, regal.

Kind – ah you see, this is nice. Nice to be kind, nicer to be noticed for your kindness, and nicest to be the person who appreciates it. Well done, Grace.
Intuitive seems so loaded here. I wonder what she means. Surely she is the intuitive one with her dead-on guesses about the suitm, job, and yoga retreat in Bali?

I was puzzled by this “regal” because, well, it’s quite a negative word. I always think of Princess Margaret being casually racist on her private island when I hear it.

What do you think she made of you?
A posh aristocrat – she told me as much, despite my attempts to dissuade her from that illusion.
I think he thought we got on well, but could tell we had little in common.

I… I honestly don’t care enough to analyse this. I just can’t be bothered. I feel like I’m reading back a play I wrote when I was in sixth form. Marcin is a lord of the manor and Grace is a maverick queen of craft beer and beard oil. Fine. I am done. Here is Joan Collins looking fed up, instead:

And… did you kiss?
And… did you kiss?



If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I would have asked if we could have shared her burrata.
We should have ordered more booze.


Marks out of 10?


Would you meet again?
As friends, yes.
No, afraid not.



Grace and Marcin ate at The Jones Family Kitchen, London SW1. (I ate there once; it was AMAZING, seriously) 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. I reserve the right to fall the fuck asleep halfway through, though.



  1. Poor Marcin…what did he do to deserve this? Some of Grace’s comments seem needlessly snide. Hopefully he finds a kinder soul on his next foray.

    1. I actually disagree – my sympathies were very much with Grace. They are also unlikely to ever pair a 24 year old man with a 33 year old woman.

      I really hope you won’t skip today’s Blind date. It’s horrific/terrific.

  2. I’ve (clearly) been reading your old posts and enjoying them but especially want to thank you for your marvelous rant about kindness in this one and how we all need to be more kind and why it’s important. You are absolutely right. I hope lots of people read and heed you.

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