Impeccable Table Manners

Guardian Blind Date 2015: A retrospective


I’m not doing the Guardian Blind Date blog today because I’m taking a day off. But I shan’t leave you wanting; it’s just not in my nature.

Here, then, is a compendium of some of my favourite bits from the column and my blog from the first half of this year (and a bit of last). What we’re getting here, I’m afraid, is one of those episodes of Friends where it’s a ‘clips show’ because Courteney Cox has got the week off to get her veneers fixed.

And, yes, I know, this is a bit like someone linking to a list of their funniest tweets and saying, “Look how great this one was – you should really RT it or something” but this is 2015 and at least it’s not a shirtless selfie or something #eatclean.

Benjamin and Mark


Did you go back to the top of the page, as I did, and check their ages again? Your turn up on a date to find some smooth-skinned honey in their twenties sitting there and all you can talk about is wanting a house?

When I was about 21 I dressed like I was in my early 40s and owned one of these houses these two manchildren are lusting after. I had a long corduroy coat and wore grey flannel trousers and sensible, well-fitting woolly jumpers. My hair was atrocious, and fell into an unfortunate centre-parting that never really worked because I have two crowns.

I was fooling myself into thinking that if I dressed like an investment banker taking the weekend off to go see his flaxen-haired braindead daughter at university that I’d be taken seriously, that nobody would spot I was an imposter – a young northerner from a council estate who had nothing but popcorn for brains. So I know a try-hard bore when I see one.

The house thing made me want to travel back in time, stride into the restaurant where these two were boring each other into infinity, shake them by the shoulders and say “Look, this ‘being in your twenties’ thing isn’t going to last long and rather than dreaming of some house which you’ll only be able to afford to buy when you’re ancient, fat and unfuckable, you should be concentrating on the here and now and getting busy with Aftershock and making plans to destroy a duvet”.


I am trying to imagine these two ‘doing it’, but all I can picture is two John Lewis gift cards sliding around on top of each other.

Tom and Oona


Line up all of the “eyeroll.gif” files in the world. Every single one. And then watch them all. And you still won’t have enough eyerolls. I rolled my peepers so hard they span out of my skull, went to the shop for milk, and came back with the wrong change.

“Boat-building lineage” – this entire column is the reason we can’t have nice things. “Syllabub.” Welcome to the try-hard Olympics. Bad news, you’re up against Geri Halliwell and she’s just had a vitamin shot.


Here’s a hot take from someone old enough to be your older brother who wishes you’d never been born: nobody cares whether you know about wine. Leave it to a sommelier.

Fuck your wine list musings. Do what we all do: pick the second or third cheapest and pretend it doesn’t taste like vinegar.

Emma and Kenny



“Hey, guys, ever since I waded into this swimming pool that was absolutely full of water, I’m all wet. Weird. Anyone know why?”


Emma is 24.

Imagine being so burned out by your mid-twenties that “an early start” would put the fear of God into you.

It doesn’t last for ever, you know. And when you’re in your 70s and carefully negotiating your way out of the shower and hoping this isn’t the day the bath mat gives way, landing you in A&E and at the mercy of a sad-eyed social worker, you’ll wish you hadn’t been so uptight about Mondays and early starts.

Just a tip from halfway down the abyss, here.

Rena and Chris


Oh, that loud whirring sound? It’s just me turbo-rolling my eyes. Giving stuff up for Lent isn’t “a thing”. We have Dry January now, if you really want to be worthy and have everyone congratulate you for not lifting a glass of wine  to your lips, that most arduous of toils. Come on.

Seriously, You’re on a date. It’s all free. Fuck Lent. Pour me a gin and tonic. Double. No, no lemon or lime – there’s no room in the glass.

Lucy and Tom


Running. Oh God. Running bores. The curse of getting into your thirties and realising you *can* be arsed doing some exercise after all so maybe you’ll try running because that’s easy. You then talk about it nonstop.

I used to run and I was terrible for this. I would even mention, on dates, actual routes I ran. If my date looked too bored, I would try to pull it back by getting up from the table and walking over to the bar, and thus away from them, so they could check out the benefits of running on my behind. It worked pretty much every time.

Tom, here’s a tip: “nodding politely” isn’t a good thing. You don’t want your date to be nodding at you like Prince Harry meeting a renal ward in Leicestershire. You want your date to be throwing her head back in laughter and imagining you pressing them up against the doorbell as you kiss goodnight. Nobody ever got banged because they were good at making people nod.

Lucy and Bruno


Hahahahaha. Oh, Bruno. I would have said this at 20. In fact, I probably didn’t even know what house wine was at 20 – all my eating out was confined to dreadful American burger joints and cheap breakfasts in BHS cafe.

I would be disappointed with anyone his age giving even the slightest fuck about wine. Until I was about 26, it came in “colours” and that was as much as I knew about it. Oh, and “fizzy” too.


I imagine the conversation on this date to be on an awkwardness scale somewhere between “Grandma is on the phone and your mum has wet hands so can’t take the handset from you for the moment so you have to tell her about university and your coursework and she doesn’t understand” and “Caught lying about whether you used a large, chargeable carrier bag at an M&S self-checkout”.

Rob and Dan



Grace and Richard


This is a bit of a safe, tame response, but I suppose it’s better than saying: “Cracking tits. Passable teeth.”

Danny and Anni


Really? WHEN?!


You don’t give eights to people you don’t fancy. Although “haven’t decided yet” – this goes out on PAPER, Anni. I know you are 22 so are a digital millennial or what-fucking-ever, but you do understand that once the copy is submitted and printed, it cannot be altered, right? Anyway, people who say “8 or 9” mean 9. So, 9.

Russell and Jennifer


I think Jennifer was staring at you fantasising about stoving your head in with an anvil, Russell, but it’s great/concerning you can read this as a come-on. And as for the high fives? What a pair of dicks.


Oh, this explains the staring. She was trying to read him. Sadly, Russell isn’t a Kindle and if he were, the backlight certainly wouldn’t be on.

Lucy and Jamie


Jamie’s answer is another dull thud masquerading as a sharp zing. It would be funnier if it weren’t for the fact Lucy later mentions her “amazing hair” in another joke answer later on in the column. This suggests Jamie has been groomed to say that.

I have to take my hat off to Lucy here – and thus reveal my own amazing hair – because if I had the power to make people compliment my hair in national newspapers, I would use it on an hourly basis. It would certainly brighten up Ukip scandals and ‘love cheat’ tell-alls. However, I feel compelled to ask: what exactly is so amazing about her hair? I don’t get it. Is it sentient? Does it play piano? No idea. Just looks like your average long hair to me. But what do I know? I’m just a big gay.

Gemma and Dean


Let’s be real. Straight, gay, bi, curious, not really sure, frigid, rampant, virginal – it doesn’t matter. We are all secretly hoping Beyoncé is going to turn up on a date and tell us she wants a fresh start.

Alex and Edward


Look, I’m sure Alex is a stand-up guy in real life, but holy HELL, he is the worst date ever. This is why I hate going for food on a first date – it is potentially packed with millions of deal-breakers. Let’s step inside Edward’s head for a moment:

“No you can’t try my sea bass; it’s mine. We looked at the menu and you dithered for what seemed like millennia over whether to get the sea bass or the hot prawns. When I said the sea bass was probably the only thing I liked on the menu, you opted for the prawns as it would be “silly to get the same thing”, which is a stupid rule that only idiots – or restaurant reviewers as it’s their job to eat everything – feel compelled to stick to. If you wanted to get the sea bass, you should’ve ordered it. And now, to avoid looking like a prick over something so trivial, I am going to have to let you poke your chopsticks in my fucking dinner. You are the worst. The absolute worst. I will never have sex with you.”

Sarah and Aled


Yes, Aled, she was soooooo interested in it, she didn’t even mention it as one of the conversation topics on your date. Aled, she was pretending. Nobody has ever cared about anybody’s dissertation. Not ever. Nope. I’m serious. No. BTW, mine was about the Labour Party. No, wait, come back. Guys? See? Nobody cares.


Is this a compliment? It reads to me like a spectacular diss of all the women Aled has met before. Maybe it’s because of that bloody dissertation.

As Aled says, usually, nobody is interested. Here, though, Sarah gamely sat through the chat, her eyes perhaps wide and warm. Inside, however, she was composing her shopping list for tomorrow, trying to remember whether she put a wash on before she left the house and wondering if she would have found this any more interesting had Aled unbuttoned his shirt to the waist.

Sophie and Gareth


If you listen very carefully, you can hear Sophie’s hopes plummet, like a buffalo falling from the top of the Empire State Building. Gareth, who appears to have been hoping his date would turn out to be the treats cupboard from a kindergarten, slams even harder back down to planet Earth with his flatlining “She’s Australian”. An unexpected Antipodean – it can be a hard thing to recover from.

Alan and Graham


“Hello, yes, I’d like a taxi to the Friendzone, please. As soon as you can. Thanks.”

Eleanor and Charlie


Keep. Your. Hands. Out. Of. My. Dinner.

When somebody “orders better” than you, the protocol is to sulk a bit, maybe look at their plate wistfully – perhaps compose a short blog or Instagram post for later, lamenting your bad decision – and then get on with eating your own dinner.

When your date, who has noticed your bottom lip scraping the edge of your plate, asks if you would like some of their food, you smile brightly, like you’ve just seen all your family killed in the Blitz but have been handed an ice cream to make it all better, and refuse. You say no. They are only being polite. You have to live with the consequences of your actions. You ordered badly. Your fault.

Sarah and Pete


“From taking public transport, then eating with my hands” – not only is Sarah a comedian, she’s a doctor too. I’m sure there are a million other ways you get norovirus, but if it makes you feel better that it was an innocent old handrail, that gave you the Technicolor squits, so be it.

This means that not only did Sarah steal some of Pete’s hard-earned chips, she did it with fingers absolutely leaping with norovirus. Has anyone been round to Pete’s to see whether he’s still got his stomach lining?

Richard and Patrick


“Sweet.” Remember that time you got a massive boner when somebody said you were sweet? No, me neither.

“Good views on life” = we agreed Cucumber didn’t represent us in any way whatsoever.

Sandra and Eddy


Haha, despite scoring him a six and giving the impression that she would rather be talking about BLANKETS than go on a date with this guy, Sandra is peeved Eddy didn’t ask for her number. I can totally get behind this attitude.

“No, I didn’t fancy you at all and your chat was only a few degrees short of being instruction-manual-boring, but you could have at least asked for my number. How DARE you not fancy me?”

Janelle and Joe


I’m sure Janelle is all of these things, but if this answer were any more basic it would be you.

Photograph: James Drew Turner for the Guardian.

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 


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