Impeccable Table Manners

Hannah and Scott


Do you have one of those annoying friends who says things like, “Dance like nobody’s watching!”?

They will sidle up to you at a party, while you studiously avoid having any fun because you have a cold or everybody’s awful or you’ve just had a row with your other half, and tell you to “loosen up”, quoting a million Marilyn Monroe fridge magnets at you about why you should feel glad to be alive.

The thing is,  you can’t “dance like nobody’s watching” when people actually are. And why would you dance like you didn’t have an audience, anyway? You’d no doubt pull a muscle, or break a nicknack or frighten the dog.

Writing like nobody’s reading, however – well, I have years of practice of that. But I do know that today I will have at least two readers. Oh yes.

hannah and scott

Read what happened on today’s date between 32-year-old events fundraiser Hannah, and statistician Scott, 34, before I throw myself across the dinner table, laptop in hand and screech, “Well, actually…” I knew this day would come.

Hannah | Scott
What were you hoping for?
One of those dates where you never want it to end.

I’m sure I am not the only person who read that in the voice of Princess Aurora skipping through the forest on her way to meet the prince, or Eliza Doolittle twirling her way through “I Could Have Danced All Night” ( Martine McCutcheon version).

The trouble with optimism, and hope, on this scale is that there is always so far to fall. On a side note: this week’s pair are on a date in the Sky Garden, atop London’s most attractive old wellington boot, the Walkie Talkie. That’s quite high up.

What were you hoping for?
A second wife. Failing that, charming company.

Divorced men tend to elicit just two reactions from women. To some, they are catnip.

Ah, yes. The irresistible thrill of dating a man who has only half his photograph/book/music collection left and is still waiting to sell his marital new-build  luxury flat – usually above an M&S Simply Food on a miserable B-road – so he can pay off the ex.

The other reaction, and the most common, is anaphylactic. Will Scott’s marital status be the rogue peanut in the bag of Revels?

First impressions?
He’s wearing a three-piece suit with a pocket handkerchief, I feel massively underdressed.

You have to be super-careful about clothes when you go on a date. It’s an old cliché, but less really is more and there’s nothing worse than turning up swathed in Primark’s Spring-Summer edit only to find your date sitting there in head-to-toe Vivienne Westwood.

Although, if I can get in a quick bout of mansplaining here: it is a “pocket square”, not a “handkerchief”. You blow your nose on handkerchieves and I can only hope that after going to all that trouble, Scott didn’t whip it out and let fly with the hay fever.

First impressions?
Pretty, savvy, a bit nervous.

She walked in to find you dressed like a Victorian mill-owner, Scott – it’s bound to unnerve her slightly.

What did you talk about?
Music, the NHS, how he’s learning to play the sax, how he is a competitive runner, how I hate running.

“The NHS.” I’m kind of glad I wasn’t sitting round the table for this one, guys. I have quite a few opinions on the NHS, but I have absolutely never thought any of them as being particularly romantic.

The sax, it appears, has replaced the ukulele in the hotly contested category of “favourite instrument for men to learn while staring long and hard into the abyss of a midlife crisis”.

And running too. What a treat. I have been this man. I have bored dates about running. You want them to be impressed, maybe to feel your thighs and go, “Ooh”. Perhaps even ask you where you run, or to show you a few strides!They never do. Full marks to Hannah, then, for coming out with it and saying, “I hate this”.


What did you talk about?
Relationships, university, baking, travel, fundraising, the Guyliner blog, James Bond, should we just jack it all in and see the world?


So this is how it feels on the other side of the looking-glass.

What did you say? Did you wonder whether I was pretty? Did the C-word come up?

Anyway, sixth in a list of topics below university and baking (something about how amazing Mary Berry was, no doubt) and one above James Bond. I’ll take that. Excuse me while I go call my mother.

Any awkward moments?
When he said he was thinking about moving to Clapham, I blurted out that I can’t stand Clapham.

She hates running, she can’t stand Clapham – she’ll be telling us next she’s not mad about Whole Foods and that Orla Kiely is “kind of samey”.

I like to think we are post-Clapham and that it’s OK to like Clapham again. It’s even OK to live there, if you’re on a graduate scheme at an evil bank or something and had a horse when you were a child. I’m not sure it’s OK to “think about moving” there, though. Not yet.

Any awkward moments?

Scott, bae, you knew I’d be writing this and yet you have nothing for me?

Alexis sulksAlexis sulks

Table manners time. You ready?

Good table manners?
Yes, we’re both adults.


Yes. I was enjoying the conversation, so I wouldn’t have noticed in any case.

POLITE. SHADY.  I am going to go for “light slurping of spaghetti”.

Best thing about Scott?
He pulls off a three-piece suit incredibly well.

The best thing about him was his three-piece suit. Not his chat, or his smile or his charm. The suit. “Clothes do not make the man,” as George Michael famously trilled in Freedom ’90 – and perhaps cribbed it from some other, older source, not sure, whatever.

If what you’re wearing is the best thing about you, you’re in more trouble than Shampoo.

Best thing about Hannah?
She’s warm and caring.

It appears that just out of sight, Hannah was hand-rearing some lambs under the table and pausing every 10 minutes during the meal to donate to charity.

Don’t know if I’d want someone to describe me as “warm and caring” on a date, like I worked in a old people’s home or something. Anyway, I doubt they ever would, for I am neither.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Yeah, they’re not animals.
Would you introduce her to your friends?

YAAAAAAS. SLAY. Two regular readers here, ladies and gentlemen. Nobody’s friends are too cool to meet anybody. Any friend you can’t introduce to a man in a three-piece suit or a woman who has an allergic reaction to Clapham and running isn’t worth having in your Rolodex.

Describe him in three words
Smart, Scottish, gentlemanly.

*phone rings*

“Hello, Grandma, it’s me. Hannah. No, Hannah. Anyway, I know it’s late, but the thing is I have to describe in three words a guy I went on a date with and I’m struggling. It’s for a newspaper. No, the Post is online only now; it’s the Guardian. Yes, they’ll have it in the Spar. You might have to ask though. In hushed tones. What was he like? Well, he was wearing a three-piece suit and was from Scotland. Any ideas? OK, Gran, thanks. I’ll use those. Bye, love you.”

(Hannah, if your grandparents are dead, please disregard the above. Sorry.)

Describe her in three words
Funky roller chick.

“Funky.” “Roller.” “Chick.”

Hey, daddio, it seems that Scott is not human after all – he’s actually made from old radios. While he has been tuned to Radio 4 all night, all of sudden he has malfunctioned and inexplicably retuned to Radio 1 in 1974.

Is this a misprint? Old socks and damp attics are funky. Chicks come out of eggs. Roller? I don’t know. This is rather late in the column to be revealing that Hannah arrived to the date wheeling on inline skates.

What do you think he made of you?
Hopefully, he thought I was a good laugh

Scott. Scotty. You could’ve used these three words for the answer above. You’re probably right though, man – she seems to be more interested in what you’re wearing than what lies beneath. Less is more, remember. Distractions should come from actions, not pocket squares.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’d have turned up earlier, to get offered a glass of champagne like he did.

I would have been so bitter about this, I would have simmered with rage over it all night. However, the image of Scott sitting dressed up to the nines sipping champagne  while Hannah skates in arms and legs akimbo like the mum from Freaky Friday and gets zero fizz does make me double up. I really, really need to know how underdressed she was. Pyjamas? Curlers?

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Nothing. Good food, good company.

Hannah’s grandma is reading this and absolutely furious she’ll never get to meet this true gentleman. Milliners the whole country over are bowing their head in mourning.

So a good time was had by all, I think. Not sure. Let’s move on to the scores.


Like trudging all the way to the Tesco Express – that really horrible one that smells of soup and has just one self-checkout that always goes wrong and sounds like the Borg – to buy ice cream only to find  there’s nothing left but vanilla. And not a nice vanilla with pods in or whatever, just the yellow stuff from your summer school dinner nightmares.

7 and 6.5 are non-scores, but they work here. Talk of warmth, pocket squares and the like do not usually give way to unbridled passion and a future together. Hannah will never have to sneer at Scott’s ex-wife in Sainsbury’s. Scott will not be picking out a special pocket square for wedding numéro deux.

We know where we’re going with this one, don’t we? We are sloping all the way to the guillotine alongside Marie Antoinette. But let’s do it anyway.

It’s the crushing inevitability of a fly in your mojito within seconds of arriving at that popup bar on top of that car park: the meet again question.

Would you meet again?
Probably not, but I wouldn’t run and hide if I saw him in the street.
As friends. No romance on the cards.

And that, as they say, is that.

Photograph: James Drew Turner; Frantzesco Kangaris, both 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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