Photograph: Alicia Canter; David Levene/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Helena and Greg

Saturday comes, as it always must, and we’re now very much at the fag-end of the bright mornings and sunny days. The evenings are “drawing in”, and the air has a distinct tang of future chill.

What this means for us, apart from a chance to get reacquainted with scarves, is that the Guardian Weekend Blind dates will no longer be fuelled by blue skies, rosé and light beads of sweat on the brow. Stand by for blustery evenings, red noses and, usually, a dampening of ardour.

Until then, however, we have Helena, a 26-year-old PR associate and Greg, 25, a technology consultant. Here you go:


Photograph: Alicia Canter; David Levene/The Guardian

The nineties are totally back, aren’t they? Anyway, before I run my finger along the mantelpiece and very pointedly ask if there’s a biscuit factory nearby. (Please make sure you always click on this link! Without the Guardian, this doesn’t exist! Plus, I always take a question or two out.)

Helena on GregGreg on Helena
What were you hoping for?
To meet a guy who didn’t take himself too seriously.

Maybe you should have swiped right on this guy, then.

What were you hoping for?
To meet someone funny, cute and intelligent – combined with an evening devoid of embarrassment and/or awkward silences.

This honestly sounds like a line ripped by a vengeful subeditor from a Carrie Bradshaw column.

First impressions?
I wasn’t expecting him to be so good-looking. He tried to stand up to greet me but had his leg in a cast.

“I wasn’t expecting him to be so good-looking” – Helena is a regular reader, everyone!

I guess a leg in a cast sets certain boundaries on a date by which I mean potentially, but not definitively, rules out… er… possibilities. It’s a bit like turning up to a date on a bicycle. Whether you’re the kind of person willing to admit in public that you would indeed have sex on a first date or not, many people wouldn’t be sure whether sex is possible with a cast on (spoiler: it is!) so to have the option apparently removed before you even get talking might be slightly distracting. Not that a bike has ever stopped me before haha – are you mad? Challenge accepted. And it should be same with a leg cast. Work round it! Cut the jeans off!

First impressions?
Far less nervous than I was. Tall, pretty and instantly engaging.

Nerves. They are such a waste of time. But we can’t help ourselves. Nervousness maybe alerts us to the importance of what we are doing, and tries to prevent us messing it up, but the fact is nerves quite often are also the cause of us messing things up. What an unhelpful, duplicitous bastard they are. We stan for ever.

What did you talk about?
He was full of random facts: apparently each Wetherspoon has its own carpet, which is designed by the same person. Every day is a school day, he said, tapping his nose.
My recently snapped achilles tendon, family, travelling, career aspirations, Helena’s love of horticulture, my complete lack of creative flair, and how to utilise certain office paraphernalia to avoid engaging with colleagues when hungover.

Greg is a character from an E4 sitcom from 2009 about a hapless professional – think estate agent, car dealer, marketing exec – who ambles from disaster to disaster. With his leg in a cast! Every day is a school day! No it isn’t! I hate that phrase! The breeziness of it! The fact it elicits only exclamation mark-strewn responses from me! If this blog were handwritten, “every day is a school day” would have a heart dotting the i.

Don’t get me started on Wetherspoons. I’ve already done this. .

Any awkward moments?
My friend messaged me, asking me to send her a voice note from the toilet to debrief the date, and he saw it pop up on my phone.

I understand why your friends might want to check in on you once during a date to make sure the guy isn’t a potential murderer or, worse, a fan of negronis but for the love of all that is holy, please leave people alone when they’re on a date. These are people’s LIVES, not content. Let someone have two hours off-grid, just this once – obviously when I mean off-grid it is still OK to Insta-story your food and have a quick reel through Twitter while the other person is at the loo and, yes, fine, maybe a quick WhatsApp to Jessica, Sarah, Chloe, Edie, Lola, Elly, and Gay Tom to let them know whether the guy is fit or not.

I love being connected and there is something quite reassuring to me about always being contactable – that doesn’t mean phone me though, ever – but I do think there is a lot of interference masquerading as interest or “keeping in touch”.

Also: voice notes. I’m not a fan. Can’t think of anything I’d rather listen to less than three minutes of garbled pinot-whispering echoing off the toilet walls of a mid-level restaurant, while the person in the next cubicle dies of anxiety in case their tinkling is picked up by the microphone. Oh I can, actually: David Cameron’s audiobook.

Any awkward moments?
None, although I did accidentally touch her knee a few times as I was gesticulating (that sounds dodgy).

If you wait long enough, some broadsheet columnist will be along in a minute to claim this is a result of “#MeToo culture” going too far and an example of how poor CEOs can’t even grope and assault interns anymore without being hounded out of their job – for a full five minutes before an old friend gives them a new one, with more money. What this actually is, however, is recognition that accidentally touching someone on a date has always been awkward. Since the dawn of time. Since Ug first accidentally scraped Yug’s left nipple with the mammoth horn he was using as a makeshift trombone. It’s awkward anywhere, in fact. If I brush knees with someone at the opposite desk, or on a train, or seat-adjacent in an organic coffee shop, I am mortified. Even though it means nothing. (Actually, spoiler: I am worried they will think it is a sign I am showing an “interest” and, if they’re straight, giving them permission to beat me up or something. Welcome to the patriarchy, enjoy your stay.)

Good table manners?
He said he’d save me a bite of pudding, but polished the whole thing off.

Shame he broke a promise, yes, but very much a “tough shit” for me on this one. Order your own dessert. It’s not a tasting menu, it’s his dinner. Unless, of course, this was a sharing dessert in which case this is your own fault for trusting a stranger with a share-plate! Shoulda been smarter! Shoulda been quicker!

You’re not going to kiss now, are you? I know a dealbreaker when I see one.

Best thing about Greg?
His laugh was the loudest I’ve heard.
Her infectious personality.

Both of these answers feel like subtweets.
“I really loved your loud, HONKING laugh that made everybody stare.”
“You personality was like MEASLES except I had the misfortune to survive.”

Would you introduce him to your friends?
100%. They’d love him on a dancefloor.
Sure, I think they would all like her.

This is actually a lovely answer and so RARE nowadays given everyone thinks their friends are unapproachable edge-lords with indecipherable, unique cultural references (translation: Joey is their favourite Friends character).

Describe Greg in three words
Nutty, bubbly, warm.

Nutty, bubbly and warm – like the resulting goo of an Aero and a Snickers left on the dashboard of a hot car for too long.

What do you think they made of you?
I feel that we gelled quite well – we spent a lot of time laughing.
She laughed a lot and seemed quite impressed with my love of cooking – so hopefully she thought well of me.

Is this… a glimmer… of hope?!

Did you go on somewhere?
We walked/hobbled to a pub down the road.
We went to a pub and had a couple of pints.


And… did you kiss?
No, we were on the tube and it was really busy.
We did not.
(Ryan Love/BBC)

Hang on. You went to a PUB; your date wasn’t on the Tube. You could’ve snogged anywhere beforehand! Think outside the box. I mean, you even got on the same train together! It’s fate!

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I’d want to go on for a dance somewhere.

She is basically shifting the blame onto his leg cast here. Was that all that was stopping you?

Marks out of 10?

I know what these eights are. Even an 8.5. They are cautious nines. Nines that a kiss could’ve fixed. Nines ruined by torn tendons and finishing pudding and a loud laugh.

Would you meet again?

OK, so this is actually hopeful. That 8.5 may get a nought-point-five upgrade yet.


Would you meet again?
As friends. I didn’t feel any romance, unfortunately.

OMG YOU HUGE LIAR. This is damage limitation. I’ve been it a zillion times. You thought she didn’t like you so thought you’d better mark her down a bit and then claim there was no romance to save face, just because you didn’t kiss. You don’t have to kiss on a first date for there to be romance – sometimes the promise of one, even unspoken, is more romantic.

Anyway, meet as “friends” and see if you can make a whole Monica and Chandler out of this whole thing. But wait until your leg is better.

Helena and Greg ate at Cafe Murano, London WC2. 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. Unless you disagree with me.

BOOKS: One’s out now, and is called . Next one (not a sequel) is out May 28, 2020 and is called . Feel free to buy or preorder at will.

ALSO: Please share this if you liked it. It helps get me commissions and this has been… a year. If you like my writing and want me to to do some for you, get in touch. I’m neither as busy or as rich as people seem to think.

ONE LAST THING: No review next week. Personal stuff.



  1. “They’d love him on a dancefloor” about someone who has his leg in a cast is almost certainly shade.

    Her shoes are quite unexpected. I didn’t know the Guardian had relocated to the Pennine Way.

  2. I will assume The Guardian hired new photographers who don’t have side jobs doing photos for dermatologists who insist that every blemish be revealed in the clinical quality photos. Well, either that or these are two of the most attractive people ever to participate in Blind Date.
    Also: So nice to see a pair of people who would gladly introduce the other to their friends. No pretension. I liked both Helena and Greg, if for no other reason than this.

  3. Noo! Ridiculous. I think I’m probably guilty of similar. Looking back at potential friends or lovers, I now think, many years too late, perhaps some of those people did like/fancy me. I was never ‘orrible or anything, I just didn’t robustly persue the relationship, because I assumed the worst. Silly LJ.

    Have you ever written about dancefloor politics? Sorry if you have. I’m currently watching a very talented woman sing pop hits at a 50th birthday party, to mostly dispondent revellers. The woman in the red dress is on the floor, the woman who sensibly bought a cardigan isn’t, but definitely wants to be. My hope is, she’ll get there, if she’s eventually camouflaged by the crowd. I’d love to pretend I’m cool and gatecrashed, but what actually happened is, I’m smoking, like an idiot, (sorry Rees-Mogg – I done a comma after a and,) and the party spills into the smoking area in the local. Coool. Amirite?!

  4. I don’t get how two good looking people who give each other over an 8 don’t want to see each other again in a romantic context. A 7 would be OK for me… mind you, I’m old and jaded!

    1. Dulcinea; agree with you – I nearly broke out in tears with frustration that they were NOT already madly in love with each other…. I so like a happy end.

      1. People are so picky these days. And how about today’s date? A 9 and a 9.5! I would be having his child already if I were her but she turns around and talks about “age gap”!

  5. Another fine job, as always. I only recently discovered your blog and have been enjoying plowing through all the older analyses. But I must say your timing for missing a week seems horrible .. when there is one that you simply MUST review, like the current one after this date (Bud/Georgia), or the one in the past where one party left halfway through the date, couldn’t you review that one late when you return and just skip the current one? It would be worth the wait, and it’s a shame to let the purest of gold nuggets slip through the fingers.

    However, I suppose each one is worthy in its own way, and it could be hard for you to choose one over another. And we understand your hours are limited and you can only afford to spend so much of your time searching for just the right GIF. So I will try not see seem ungrateful. Indeed, thank you, your work is much appreciated.

    1. Thank you. I’m afraid I don’t go back and do ones I’ve missed. My feeling is the reviews work best in the moment – if I can’t do them that weekend, they stay undone. Thanks for reading.

      1. Understood … you’ve been doing this for a while now, best to pick a system and stick with it. (We can still lament a little though 🙂

        Anyway, it’s all very entertaining and enjoyable.

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