Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Jonathan and Oliver

Usage of Grindr and all the other “men seeking men” apps must’ve crashed through the floor, given the sheer volumes of gay guys now using the Guardian Blind Date column as their preferred way to hook up – and score that all-important free meal, of course. Yes, eating is back, in a big way; adjust your number of squats accordingly and tuck in.

This week, Jonathan! And Oliver! Jonathan is on the left with the face-beard and shirt-beard and is a 30-year-old civil servant – has never knowingly run out of envelopes and is expert at doodling during meetings. Oliver is the other one, with the glasses and – GAY BLIND DATE CLICHE KLAXON – the roll-neck and is not, as you may expect, a French exchange student that you fall hopelessly in love with during two scorching weeks in Aquitaine, but a 28-year-old masters student. In what, you may ask? It doesn’t appear to matter; we must feed off the scraps life has given us and hope for the best.


Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

I have a second novel to hand in within the next few days, and I’m behind because I have also been ill, so let’s be brisk. Read what happened on the date before I blunder in and ask Jonathan to burn that belt.

Jonathan on Oliver| Oliver on Jonathan
What were you hoping for?
Is it corny to say love at first sight? No pressure, Oliver.

Spoiler: Jonathan abSOlutely falls in love with Oliver and this ardour is so thinly disguised it is the romantic equivalent of Clark Kent’s specs.

What were you hoping for?
A guy who could hold a conversation.

First impressions?
I hoped he was my date. He’s much cooler than me – I wish I could pull off a turtle neck.

“Reader, I fancied him.” But, Jonathan, if you wore a turtle neck, how would you show off that impressive chest-wig? Knowing the “community” as I do, I’m willing to bet it gets you around 30% more dates than a chin-skimming jumper would.

First impressions?
I thought an unattractive man who walked by was my date and was pleased he wasn’t. Jonathan was attractive.

Have we ever had the mutual “intention to bone” notification so early in the column? Whether its interior design, memes, or content for our prurient minds, men who sleep with men DELIVER. (FYI, I feel the “was” there is significant. More on that later.)

What did you talk about?
London, the other cities we’ve been to that don’t compare. Politics. Which Hogwarts houses we belonged to.
Olivia Colman, politics and his master’s in witches.

Politics – ✅ Ugh.
London – One of my favourite things to do when I see friends who used to live in London but have moved away is ask them what they miss most about London. If they pretend “nothing”, the conversation ends and I make haste to the nearest Tube station to get as far away from this LIAR as fast as I can. I love lots of cities and regions – so please don’t write in – but London is London is London and I will never be anything other than obsessed by it.
Hogwarts – I bet you’re expecting me to say “READ ANOTHER BOOK” aren’t you? I’ve only read one Harry Potter and seen just one of the films – fifth one, at the IMAX, I took my baby sister, and her English teacher was sitting right in front of us which was MORTIFYING for both afterward – so I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other. Who cares? If people want to live their life according to fictional ideals, who are we to judge? I mean, take a look at some of the real-life morals and ethics people are only too proud to display – I can see why you might want to disappear into a made-up world of wizards and bizarre retconning of character traits in pursuit of wokeness. A date once asked me about my Patronus and I had no idea what he was talking about and the evening never recovered. The sex was awful.

Any awkward moments?
When he said a Blind date couple are getting married, he might have interpreted my silence as a sign I wasn’t into him – it was the opposite.

Yeah, if your answers are anything to go by, I don’t think your intentions were particularly hard to read. Oliver’s got eyes.

Good table manners?
Exemplary. Even when I ordered the pig’s head. Hufflepuffs like me need a Slytherin to encourage them to order the most expensive wine.

I see they ate at the Sanderson. I have such an AMAZING, MORTIFYING story about eating there once – twice, in fact! – that I wish I had time to share. Oh my GOD I am curling up at the thought of it.

Good table manners?
Much better than mine. I kept randomly dropping food.

Best thing about Oliver?
He was easy to talk to and fascinating to listen to.

“I just wanted to bone him sooooooooo bad.”

Best thing about Jonathan?
That he pursues issues he is passionate about – like the environment.

“Yes, that’s right: I’m deep.”

Would you introduce him to your friends?
’Course. He seems as mad as my mates.


Do you think Oliver’s mates are really mad? How mad? Are people with roll-necks in their wardrobe generally “mad”? Are we talking clinically insane and in need of urgent treatment or “has three Sambucas and knocks over a wheelie bin IN A ROLL-NECK”?

Describe Oliver in three words
Interesting, sophisticated and handsome.

Interesting, like the decision to wear odd socks to a funeral.
Sophisticated, like a roll-neck.
Handsome, like he is. Oh he is. Come on. The bastard.

Describe Jonathan in three words
Interesting, passionate, inquisitive.

Interesting, like that belt Jonathan voluntarily wore to be photographed in.
Passionate, like the snog at the end of this date that I cannot help think is looking increasingly unlikely.
Inquisitive, like that squirrel fascinated with the guttering above my bathroom. What does it want? What is in there? Why does he always call over another squirrel to have a look at it. Is it made of NUTS?

What do you think he made of you?
He won’t tell me.

Jonathan, do you know how thinking works? You have to, like concentrate kind of hard and… IMAGINE. Anyway, I’ve read to the end and the answer seems to be… not a whole lot? Dunno.

What do you think he made of you?
That I am a bit mad and probably talk too much.

Oliver is really quite keen on appropriating some kind of mental health issue as a personality, isn’t he? I can tell you exactly what Jonathan thought of you, Oliver, but I’m worried the details may be too shocking for your tender ears.

Did you go on somewhere?
I had work, so we headed off early. But I wish we hadn’t.

Homosexuality is broken. Jonathan clearly wanted the D and yet did an early dart because he had WORK the next day?!?!? These are not my people. Work will ALWAYS be there another day; Oliver will not. (And I mean he really will not; read to the end.)

And… did you kiss?
No, we hugged goodbye.
One does not kiss and tell.

Oliver, I know you are wearing a dark jumper but no need to try to be as mysterious as the Milk Tray man; it doesn’t really work when the other dude says nothing happened.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
We’d have stayed out longer.

“I’d have asked him back to mine.”

If you could change one thing, what would it be?
That we’d had more wine.

“And drunk enough, I would’ve gone.”

Marks out of 10?

The 8 in itself is a massive under-marking – the waiting staff in the restaurant spent untold hours cleaning up Jonathan’s saliva once they’d left – so I’m going to call it a 9, which is a nervous 10.

Oliver’s six-point-five is quite something. His answers throughout have been delivered with the robotic distance of a pen pal who writes back only once for every three letters you send, with a leaky biro, across just two pages, in large, hurried, dismissive script. So we can surmise that Oliver was not hugely into it and wanted to make this kind of clear. Note that “was handsome” way back in the first impressions question. It’s very detached, already in the past for Oliver, not an ongoing situation. Handsomeness is, arguably, a continuous state unless you wake up one morning to find you’ve been recast as a warthog, yet for Oliver it was a thing, then, a done deal, not now. The handsomeness was a first impression, not a lasting one. Hence the 6.5 kill-shot.

Would you meet again?
I’d love to. We swapped numbers.

I’ll keep everything crossed for you, J.

Would you meet again?

Oh, Oliver! Oliver! Never before has a boy wanted more.

Jonathan and Oliver ate at The Restaurant at Sanderson, London W1. 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 and not what they may actually be like in real life. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll publish whatever you say. But, please, other kinds of sweater exist.

NOTE 2:  It’s how I eat.

NOTE 3: The Impeccable blog is usually published on Sunday mornings, but was on a Saturday this week. LOL I’m so random..


  1. Harry Potter books,
    In the 90’s (pre internet) I left these shores on a boat and wobbled around, ending up on the South coast of France for many years.
    Just before I left Dennis Potter died.
    I befriended an English speaking family who talked about the Potter books, I assumed it was his nephew’s biography I had understood he was going to write, so I was very enthusiastic about it and was delighted when I as offered a loan of said book.
    I was a little surprised when the 6 year old went to her room to get it.
    On return she explained how I should read the books in some detail, and was super cute. So I dutifully ready them, and apologised for the red wine stains on return.
    We were about 3 books in then and so I got caught up in the whole “when is the next one out” drama, which was fun. Also the local children wanted it translated right away and struggled with concepts like being embarrassed to ask someone on a date, and treacle tart

  2. Aw. I was kind of rooting for Jonathan, he did seem smitten. So, Oliver’s 6.5 at the end was a bit devas, as we used to say as dumb kids. (‘tating’ was the unspoken part, but back then it meant “cool”.) What was wrong with Jonathan’s belt? Oliver looks like the one who may need fashion advice. Something beyond the glasses and roll neck, there’s the bright yellow watch and the rolled up trouser-cuffs AND the striped socks.. I wasn’t crazy about Oliver’s bright orange belt either. Trying for some Hermés signalling and gestalt..? Yeah, need receipts for that belt, Oliver.

    Oh well, thanks for another brilliant fun write-up, always enjoyable. And yes, noted by this gay person too, it seems we’ve completely taken over the Guardian Personals, beyond statistical probability, our sorts seem like the only ones applying perhaps? I liked your sentiments about London, amazing city I miss very much. Best to you, hope you feel better soon.

  3. Well this one went some places! At first I thought you were unfairly reading too much into the past tense of Oliver’s early response, given that they’re both recounting something that has already happened, but then with every further question it sounded increasingly likely that Jonathan’s intense and conspicuous attraction to Oliver would remain unrequited by the time they parted ways. And it really bums me out whenever someone says they have to cut their evening short “because it’s a school night”, as though none of their co-workers have ever worked a shift hungover. Could this date have been salvaged if Jonathan had already started planning his self-cert sickness form excuses for not coming into work so they could at least stay out a bit longer, or if he wasn’t wearing that dreadful belt? Even if we’re not exactly poised to go hat-shopping for their upcoming nuptials, I’d been hoping there was still the chance of a heavy make-out session on a Tube platform before Jonathan vanished off to do whatever a civil servant actually does—presumably the world would have ended had it not been for his determination to prioritise the upcoming workday over a brief encounter with a handsome man wearing an uncircumcised jumper.

  4. I love Jonathan. I want Jonathan. I want to tie Oliver up and make him watch us.
    There is nothing wrong with Jonathan’s belt — IT COMES OFF.

  5. I don’t get the hate for Jonathan’s belt. He looks perfectly fine to me with his crisp white shirt and brown brogues. Oliver, on the other hand, looks like he’s trying a wee bit too hard with his half mast trousers showing off his odd socks and trendy trainers. But hey, what do I know? Maybe this is what all the young folk are wearing in London these days.

  6. Other than it’s too long, sized for someone with a much larger waist, there’s little wrong with Jonathon’s belt. It’s an appropriate width, about 1.5″, for a causal one and the shade of brown is in coherence with his shoes. I think derbies better complement a casual outfit than Oxfords, but at least they’re brogues which dials down the formality.

    The disaster is Oliver’s rolled up trousers, the sports socks, and the trainers. The child’s yellow watch is ridiculous. I dislike the extreme contrast of a tan belt with such dark clothes. In its defence, the belt served as a startling warning to look no lower.

    He’s wearing two incoherent outfits and borrowed his 8-year-old niece’s watch to boot.

    Oliver is cute, which counts for a lot. Jonathon looks 10 years older than his age, which is unfortunate.

  7. I detest staying out late when I’m tired and have work the next day. I need to get home before 1100 so I can wind down, otherwise getting out of bed the next day is horrible.

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