Photograph: Graeme Robertson, Jill Mead/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Heather has long dark hair and is wearing a white top and bootcut jeans. Sam is dark haired with a beard and is wearing a leather jacket, jeans, and boots.
Impeccable Table Manners

Heather and Sam

I have a feeling that this week’s Guardian Blind Date may be raising the temperature under a few collars – for various reasons. Popping their head out of the speeding train window of romance are 30-year-old Heather, an academic skills tutor and Sam, also, 30, an artist. It’s brains versus brushstrokes, um… calculus versus, uh, conceptual, uh, something or other, and other alliterative exclamations. Sorry, I was distracted there for a moment, looking out of my window at the exact second someone fell off a Lime scooter right outside my house.

Anyway, here are our delectable duo from mane to tail:


Heather has long dark hair and is wearing a white top and bootcut jeans. Sam is dark haired with a beard and is wearing a leather jacket, jeans, and boots.
Photograph: Graeme Robertson, Jill Mead/The Guardian

Both young and pretty, how exciting… for them, anyway. Wouldn’t it be great if the pair of them were wearing the exact same top, which they might be. One thing they have in common right away is not bothering to separate their laundry into lights and darks – those white tops have seen their fair share of unwelcome intimacy with grey socks and olive green trousers in the spin cycle.

Anyway, congrats to them both on their whole youth and beauty thing, and if you want to know every single thing they said, of the date, but please do return here for some select cuts, annotated in the breathless style of someone dying to tell that they’ve already read that paperback you’re just about to start.

Heather | Sam

What were you hoping for?
A good conversation with someone engaging.

Heather is keen to go on a date with the first ten slides of a PowerPoint about all the twists in Melrose Place.

What were you hoping for?
I had a dream Mark Kermode was reviewing a date I went on. I took that as an omen that I should sign up for this.

I once saw Mark Kermode on the Bakerloo line. His Doc Martens needed a polish. Also: I am no Mark Kermode but I am reviewing your date, so, as Gabrielle so wisely trilled back in 1993, dreams can come true, ‘Sam’.

First impressions?
Sam was great about my lateness (transport woes). I felt comfortable immediately and conversation was easy.
Late. But so flustered and charmingly contrite she turned it into a positive.

Ordinarily I’d go full Tasmanian devil about lateness for a date but trains gonna train. We also learn from this that Sam appears to have a mild kink for… Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of Bridget Jones?

Most awkward moment?
Me being late.
My chopsticks went flying at one point, and I nearly knocked heads with the waiter as we went to retrieve them.

These two are basically living pages 14–36 of new romcom What’s the Worst that Can Happen?, coming soon, abandoned on the table of an airport Pret. The cover has a cartoon Cupid shooting chopsticks through a giant loveheart.

Good table manners?
Excellent. And I wasn’t overly mocked for struggling to pick up rice with chopsticks either.

Heather, chopsticks are HARD. (I wrote about this, although I’m since kind of over it.) I see they went to Yauatcha, on the corner of Berwick and Broadwick streets in Soho. I’ve always wanted to go. Only thing stopping me, apart from £££ is that particular corner of Soho usually smells like the bottom of a hamster cage, so everyone I ever see sitting on the outside tables at that place look as miserable as I would be on the front row of a Westlife concert.

Good table manners?
Impeccable. I focused on keeping pan-Asian titbits out of my beard.

joan collins as alexis smoking a cigarette

Impeccable, eh? V nice. Where do we stand on ‘titbits’ versus ‘tidbits’? I know one is supposedly more American, but… in fact must we say it at all? It is a deeply shit word. We don’t admit this sometimes, that it’s not just offensive words that are awful and should be retired – there are other, seemingly innocuous words that need to be run out of town too. And titbits – whose popularity, I’m sure, is down to having the word ‘tit’ in it, and we are nothing if not needlessly puerile – is one of them. See also: shenanigans; liminal; Braverman.

Best thing about them?
I’d say Sam’s passion for creativity and open-mindedness.
Prim, proper, with a subtle smattering of unpredictability that began to make itself known once we’d settled.

I don’t know why but ‘open-mindedness’ used in such close proximity to ‘prim, proper’ brings to mind someone who would come up to you in the office breakout area, polish their specs on the corner of their cardigan, gently set down their mug of fruit tea, and say, ‘Look, can I shock you? Do you mind? But I once ate a cow’s reticulum at a Marco Pierre White popup so I feel like I’ve seen a bit of the world…’

I suppose Sam might mean that Heather wasn’t telling dirty jokes and breaking wind for the first ten minutes and then, once the ice was broken, she was swearing like a sailor and telling him her best friend was Annabel Chong? No idea.

Would you introduce Heather to your friends?
I don’t really have any friends.

ben willbond saying 'oh that is a sad story'

Now, I am ill today – hence why today’s review is hugely late – so have managed to catch a few reactions on Twitter to Sam saying this. I choose to believe he’s being ironic, showing off in front of guests kind of thing. Might as well entertain us while he’s here, so I wouldn’t read too much into it, if indeed anything. Mind you, true friends would never let you participate in the Guardian Blind Date.

There was a piece doing the rounds this week by a man who claimed to have no friends and I thought well, finally, this should be an interesting take on the very real issue of encroaching loneliness in your 40s – a topic I have *almost* written about countless times. But to my amazement it was something of a cynical boast, someone revelling in having no friends, quite inauthentically, as obviously he has friends and is just saying he doesn’t to… I don’t know, appear cool? Do people still strive for coolness in their 40s? Why? You’re in your 40s – you’re invisible to tastemakers or the gatekeepers of such cachet. Anyway, I was quite disappointed because there are so, so many columnists who will just say ANY OLD SHIT to make copy and it would be nice to read someone a) saying what they mean, but not in a horrible way and b) trying to be a bit more useful, insightful or, at the very least, entertaining. Otherwise… what are you for? Get a blog. Pivot to SILENCE.

What do you think Sam made of you?
He mentioned he liked my boots. Also, apparently I reminded him of a specific film character, so I’ll have to check that one out.

IMAGINE not telling us which film character! The public deserve to know! Catwoman in Batman Returns? Jessica Rabbit? The woman who gets mauled by numerous pterodactyls in Jurassic Park? The guy out of Saw?! I zoomed in on Heather’s boots to get a better look, but under those flares they look like a bit like hooves, so I can’t tell how nice they are – a bit like, but nowhere near as emotionally scarring, Simon Cowell’s little trotters poking out from his always terrible jeans.

And … did you kiss?
There was almost a brief kiss goodnight.
A civilised peck somewhere between lip and cheek.

Sam’s answers sound a bit like the way I write and it’s slowly occurring to me that I must do people’s heads in. Anyway, I am guessing what this means is a slightly lingering kiss but one or both of them turned their head(s) too soon.

Marks out of 10?

Rules is rules and Heather and Sam know it. You get on, but don’t taste tongues? DOUBLE OCHO. Very good.

Would you meet again?
We did exchange numbers, so let’s see.
Sure, as friends.

Usually when dates realise you’re not into them, they give you the whole ‘I’m not here to make friends, I’ve got friends’, but Sam doesn’t have any (allegedly) so that’s exactly why he’s here.

I know it’s disappointing when hot ones don’t bang but look… friendship is possibly the greatest offer someone can make. Romance is like golf – why ruin a perfectly good walk?

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The latest edition was about our weird obsession with celebrity breakups, and the one before that was an appreciation/dragging of Gwyneth Paltrow.


The paperback of my third novel THE FAKE-UP arrives May. Preorder if you fancy, from Amazon, Waterstones,, or any other lovely retailer.

Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review

The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. Daters are under no obligation to get along for our benefit, or explain why they do, or don’t, want to see each other again, so please try not to speculate or fill our feeds with hate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. I really, really need to know which film character Sam said Heather is like.

Sam and Heather ate at Yauatcha, London W1. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. Was he fishing for compliments? Because HIS boots really are great and she may not have said.

    Tid (or tit-) bits is an awful word. It smells of doily.

  2. I felt sad when I read that Sam said he didn’t have any friends. But I also felt relieved that he’s saying no matter why he’s saying it. So many of us don’t have friends- real friends who we can share our deepest selves with and who we can trust to love us and support us no matter what and who we can offer the same space of love, respect, empathy and trust. We all need these relationships in our lives and so many of us don’t have them. Bringing that fact of not having friends out into the open is a brave step because it is clouded in shame, and saying it is the first step to reaching out and changing the situation. Maybe reading those words helped people who feel stuck and alone to not feel so stuck and alone. So, for me Sam saying he doesn’t have any friends, no matter why he said it, yes it made me feel sad, but also inspired a sense of hope.
    Justin you’re a brilliant writer and a total joy and delight to read.

    1. I think Sam does have friends. I think he’s just saying it to sound cool, or he’s just being silly. But, who knows?

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