Joseph and Beti
Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Joseph and Beti

I moved house this week. I can’t say I adored the experience, to be honest – seeing all the space junk I’ve accumulated over the years shoved into boxes, or worse, left in the street for the council to collect and throw onto landfill, was quite levelling. What was interesting was the sentimentality of leaving a flat I’ve lived in for six years. Suddenly, all the things that annoyed me about it became cute quirks that I would miss when I left them behind. The area I was moving out of suddenly seemed charming and fascinating, all the shops and restaurants I never even bothered going into were now essential services I couldn’t live without. It’s like the opposite of a relationship, where all the cute, quirky, kooky habits that draw you to a partner, over time, become complaints on an application for divorce. Anyway this is my first Blind Date typed out in South London in YEARS and I have boxes to unpack and, finally, a balcony to eat my Corn Flakes on so I’m going to whizz through this one. One thing I am definitely nostalgic for is the Blind Date being interesting; I thought Zoom was the problem but maybe it’s just the pandemic in general. We’re more hesitant, and perhaps still drunk on the fumes of #BeKind – an admirable campaign, but kryptonite to the generally bitchy and charmingly acerbic among us. (I like the concept of kindness just fine, but prefer ‘Don’t be unkind’ as a slogan – easier to fulfil and less likely to offer blanket kindness rights to objectionable twats.)

But perhaps the problem is actually that there has not been a date featuring two men since NOVEMBER 2020, and our last date featuring two women was back in JANUARY (and that was a totally fabricated – and cute laboured – in-joke between two friends, so the proper authentic one was the week before). Coronavirus has kept us all zipped up. Months and months with no obvious rainbow representation has left us chewing on stale toast. Please, if not for my sake but that if my readers, come back, sweet Ls, Bs, Gs, Ts, and Qs. Come home.

Anyway, this week flying the flag for a lovely walk round Ikea saying, ‘We’d have to measure the back wall, remember the radiator’, while looking at sofas are Joseph, 24, a release engineer, and Beti, 25, who is a doctor. Here they are in full length mode, in the magazine.

Joseph and Beti
Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Read what happened on the date in full before I come back here and chuck a few one-liners out and see what sticks.

Joseph on Beti | Beti on Joseph
What were you hoping for?
A nice dinner with interesting company. Failing that, a funny story.

And what about option C? Always best to have a third option in case even ‘failing that’ fails you.

What were you hoping for?
To meet someone new, who is easy to talk to and up for a laugh.

‘Hoping to meet someone new’ on a blind date. How unusual. As opposed to what? Meeting a cousin? Your ex? Someone from Love Island? One of your parents?

First impressions?
“Great coat – I wonder if that’s my date”, as I walked past the table twice in a late, confused rush after the photoshoot.

It is a great coat – although my sympathies to Teddy Ruxpin’s family. My takeaway from this, however, is that Beti was sitting at the table in her coat. Where were they eating? A KFC? Northern mothers reading this are horrified – a coat should be whipped off one’s back and hung up somewhere unseen, and not easily retrievable, before both feet hit the carpet.

EDIT: obviously they were sitting outside of Covid restrictions, they say as much later on, which is why Beti is wearing her coat. For a blissful moment I forgot. I’ll leave it as it is so we can revel in my stupidity haha.

First impressions?
Great glasses, nice smile. I was nervous and he made me feel at ease very quickly.

This is very sweet and I have no snark here EXCEPT that I zoomed in for a closer look at Joseph’s specs and they look Photoshopped on, although clearly they are not – unless his actual glasses had to be censored in some way. Maybe Su Pollard claimed copyright infringement or they had ‘Subscribe to the Daily Telegraph’ etched into the frames.

What did you talk about?
Travelling, cooking, her opinion of the Neapolitan quartet, the use of the phrase “I’m feminist, but”, Louis Theroux.
South London v north, Welsh rugby v English rugby, cats v dogs, and whether tequila and orange juice counts as cocktail. We also discussed being bad at singing (me) and good (him), Green Wing, attempting to make gnocchi, and bad student houses.

Neapolitan quartet – Neapolitan ice cream has three flavours, it’s a trio, what are they on about?*

‘I’m feminist, but…’ – I prefer to let other people argue about feminism and just let me know when they’re done so I can pop in and do the hoovering after.

South London v north – Ooh controversial. I thought this was settled in a Nike campaign years ago.I can’t believe people still care about this. But if you want my opinion, and I assume you do because you’re not exactly here to find out what Gyles Brandreth thinks of something, then it’s south, because you get to cross the river more, and for some reason crossing the Thames is still – after almost nineteen years for me in London – extremely exciting. If you don’t agree, please pop your comments on a postcard and send them absolutely anywhere you like.

Rugby – whatever.

Tequila and orange – this was, FACT FANS, the first ever drink I ordered in a bar the day I moved to London, in a bar by Clapham North tube. I don’t think it’s a cocktail as such, but it was very nice, and I got the idea from my friend Sarah Innes who lives in Edinburgh, the city I had just left. Hello Innes! ❤️ Anyway, back in 2002, the barman thought I was fucking insane when I ordered it, but poured me one (several) all the same.

Singing – the one thing I wish I could do is sing. I can sing in tune most of the time but I don’t have a very nice singing voice.

*(This is a joke, please do not write in, yes I know the books.) 

Any awkward moments?
When I suggested we write each other’s answers; apparently I have a misguided opinion of what an average score would be.
I managed to miss my mouth attempting to eat the starter.

I’m not going to lie – this isn’t exactly a strong enough hinge to hold a rom-com plot, is it?

Good table manners?
I can’t think of any other scenario where I’ve judged someone’s table manners!

No, true, but that’s why we we’re here, so could you give it a go? First time for everything!

Good table manners?
Definitely better than mine.

OK!

Best thing about Joseph?
Really easy to chat to and made me laugh a lot.

This is quite a nice answer and so there’s nothing really to see here, except that Joseph’s answer to this question goes unrecorded. It is missing, from both print and online editions. OMG. What did he say? Was it something really weird, or sexually objectifying? Was it a joke that landed about as well as a sparrow on a skateboard? We will never know. (I guess the Guardian either forgot or left it out because it was quite exciting and they didn’t want to disturb the general tone of the date.)

Describe Beti in three words
Inquisitive, warm, chatty.

Inquisitive, like all my old neighbours were when I put out a sofa (that I had taken to literal bits) for the council to take away. I’m serious: leave absolutely anything outside your house and the locals will be in it, investigating. I had to shout out the window at one as they were leaving bits of my life all over the pavement. It is a fucking ancient sofa, disassembled into around a thousand pieces. I have had SEX on it, thrown up on it (not at the same time), half of London has passed out on it – you do not want it, believe me.
Warm, like tea that’s too cold to drink but too hot to microwave. (It never tastes as nice, does it? There’s something in that ping that takes all the joy out of it. Oh, get over yourselves; it’s only a cup of tea. What else is a microwave for, other than frozen peas?)
Chatty, like a French cat.

Describe Joseph in three words
Confident, charming, intelligent.

Confident, like the feeling of striding across five carriageways on a green pedestrian crossing. Oh yes, cars, lorries, vans, buses – you will stop for me. I am king now.
Charming, like a man in a wine bar who just asked you your mother’s maiden name for ‘oh, no reason’ and has his hand inside your iridescent burgundy clutch.
Intelligent, like a super-computer, or the scientists who came up with James Corden’s career trajectory in a lab.

What do you think she made of you?
Adventurous for eating raw fish on a first date.

It’s 1989 and your dad has just called beef stroganoff ‘foreign muck’ and shouted at you to turn that immersion heater off.

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
I would have swooped in for a romantic moment under the streetlamps of Holloway Road, but alas…

Once a week, Joseph sits in a branch of Le Pain Quotidien and writes poems. (But also: YAY.)

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
Never say never.

And again: YAY.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
To have been able to go inside after the sun set.
To have been a bit less cold towards the end.

Just imagine Rik Mayall doing his ‘innuendo response face’ to this question, as I can’t afford the image rights.

Marks out of 10?
Higher than whatever I think the average score should be.
8.5.

Beti’s 8.5 would’ve been a 9 if lips had locked. Joseph’s score seems a copout to us but I’m sure it made Beti smile this morning and, believe it or not, it is about them, not us. And they do seem very sweet, and so young! Oh, to be young again – I would do everything exactly the same but I’d go to the doctors about my adult acne much sooner and probably not bother with the whole ‘let’s see how tedious heterosexuality goes’ thing.

Would you meet again?
Yes.
We swapped numbers, so we’ll see.

Well, thank goodness for that – love isn’t dead, after all.

Meryl in The Devil Wears Prada saying thats all


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About the review and the daters: 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, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself. 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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. I hope you got that kiss eventually.

Beti and Joseph ate at The Tramshed Project, London EC2.

Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com

14 Comments

  1. We went for dinner when only eating outside was allowed and fucking hell I wish I’d thought to skin Teddy Ruxpin. I had a jacket on and it was not nearly enough – could hardly hold my cutlery.

    Also, I like his jeans.

  2. I absolutely hate packing and unpacking and all that cleaning. But I do like the adventure of somewhere new! I also hate how I can remember exactly where I used to keep something in my old house, but can’t for the life of me remember where it is in the new house. Even when I have been in the new house for quite some time. Have fun eating cornflakes on your veranda, and exploring your new neighbourhood! I really loved this date, they seemed well suited, even if they won’t ever be both singing in tune! I hope they see each other again for a romantic moment under the streetlights! I think she wore the coat as they were seated outside. And I went to look at his glasses again, and they DO look photoshopped on! Perhaps they lost the photo of Joseph, and had to use a random photo of someone else, and the Blind Date thought they’d better add glasses for verisimilitude… we shall never know, unless Joseph or Beti come here to confirm… loved the YAYs at the end! I concur! YAY!

  3. I forgot to say I got your books, and read them both in one weekend. And therefore got nothing else done, but was worth it. Thank you! When is the next book, please? I love your thoughtful and funny writing and your people. I seem to remember a music playlist you mentioned, will have to find it and re-read with the music!

  4. So relieved to read your experience of sentimentality on leaving your flat. I’m about to move after 14 years in the same flat and I’m feeling EXACTLY like this. I was really reading into it; does this mean I don’t actually want to move? Should I stay?? Glad it’s not just me and probably a common experience after being in one place so long.

    Just finished The Last Romeo and enjoyed it very much.

  5. I am definitely stealing your ‘Chatty, like a French cat’ line, even though I don’t know when I’ll get to use it.

  6. I’ve just finished packing up the house my parents moved into 65 years ago so while I share your joy at moving to a new life stage, I’d like to point me that you’ve not known possession angst till you’ve thrown out a complete 1958 road engineering correspondence course or a collection of lovingly preserved gas bills through the ages,

    Enjoy the new place!

  7. The Neopolitan quartet is a group of four novels by Elena Ferrante, chronicling the lifelong friendship of 2 women in, you guessed it, Naples. I hope your comment was tongue-in-cheek and that you knew that.

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