Kate and Stephen
Photographs: Alicia Canter/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Kate and Stephen

And, lo, it came to pass that as we entered the 700th week of lockdown or whatever we’re calling this, the GBD is once again two ostensibly straight people politely chewing their takeaway over a wonky Zoom connection. There’s been a distinct ‘no thanks’ from the LGBTQ crew lately. We work better in person, for one, and would probably spend the entire date looking at ourselves on camera trying to make sure we didn’t have weird facial expressions as we chewed/spoke/breathed. Once the date was over we’d probably be unable to pick them out of a line-up. (I am joking, please don’t write in.)

Anyway, this week we have Kate, 48, who is a nutrition consultant, and Stephen, also 48, and a census administrator. God that must be a weird job. Wild and exciting for, like, one month every ten years and the rest of the time just… sitting there answering emails, and counting the Haribo in the ‘treats in the usual place’ dish by the printer.

Here they are in situ on the hallowed pages of Weekend magazine which, it was confirmed yesterday, is to close in the autumn. ?

Stephen and Kate in magazine
Photographs: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

(make sure you do this so they can continue to get page views and also because I miss out some answers) and then please, return, whereupon we shall commence the skewering.

Kate on Stephen | Stephen on Kate

What were you hoping for?
A fun, laid-back evening with a few laughs and maybe some chemistry.

The only Chemistry I’m interested is the Girls Aloud album. Chemistry. Spark. Connection. All just fancy ways of saying you would probably, given enough Tia Maria and Lucozades, bone someone.

What were you hoping for?
I had no preconceptions. I would have rolled with anything – from a look of disgust and an immediate end to the call to running away together to Gretna Green.

I’m guessing Stephen has a novel in a drawer somewhere. 

First impressions?
Stephen was down-to-earth and chatty.

An overall first impression, not a genuine first glance impression!  I will die on this hill! I always wonder what down-to-earth actually means. I take it to mean friendly and not intimidating here, but it can also mean common, can’t it? I have no concept of what common is, really, but I always interpret it as someone who wipes their hands on the back of their jeans after they’ve just eaten a choux bun.

First impressions?
Classy, well-dressed, attractive and friendly.

Classy. You never really hear that in an unironic sense now, do you? Stay classy, babes. Classy broad, as some American movies might say. So we have Stephen being described as down to earth and Kate being labelled as classy. I’m now taking it that Stephen was almost certainly wearing a vest like Onslow from Keeping up Appearances and Kate was in something floaty and cashmerey and neutral-coloured from Jaeger.

What did you talk about?
Covid, vaccines, Woody Allen, films, travel and politics.
Lockdown television, Jewish comedians, writing, Greece, parents, my children, different boozing styles.

Covid/lockdown/vaccines ✅ – I won’t drag them for this because what else can we talk about?

Woody Allen films – A good way to smoke out whether someone is neurotic and/or boring or not, I guess, and whether they’d make a suitable Santa at the local leisure centre’s Christmas party. (I have lost count how many gay men I went on dates with tried to get me to watch Annie Hall.)

Different boozing styles – Ooh it sounds a bit like they took a Grazia multiple choice quiz to work out whether you’ve got a drinking problem or not. I don’t drink alcohol any more, but when I did I was definitely less of a ‘three sips of a vintage wine in a charming country pub’ and more a ‘twenty sambucas stuffed in your manbag so you’ve something to drink in the bright pink limo that’s taking you to Tiger Tiger’

Any awkward moments?
Not really, although his wifi signal was bad so the video kept cutting out.

Apparently if you turn off ‘touch up my appearance’ in Zoom settings your connection will be better. Sorry, but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Text me if you must. 

Any awkward moments?
I looked up Kate online before the date, and when I told her (offering full disclosure), I’m not sure what she made of that. I’m not sure what the etiquette is for this.

If you’re not sure what the etiquette on something is… don’t do it! Also: the specific etiquette on this is, we all do it, everyone does it, but don’t ever say out loud to them that you did it. A quick gathering of intel on someone’s social media is standard, but it’s a bit like picking your nose and eating it, or innocently shoplifting a bag for life in the supermarket, or having an affair with your partner’s sexier twin – we don’t admit it. And definitely don’t bring it up on a date. Wait to be told that they went to Mykonos in 2012; don’t present it to them like AC-12 slamming a wad of evidence against a bent copper down on the table.

Good table manners?
He’d already eaten with his son, so I couldn’t tell, but I suspect so. He excused himself politely to go to the loo.
Miss Piggy looking horrified eyes wide
Disney/The Muppets

Am now obsessed by how someone might impolitely excuse themselves to go the loo on on a date. ‘You crack on with your tortellini, darlin’, I’m just off for a shit.’

Good table manners?
We didn’t eat. If she slurped her cava, she managed to mute before I noticed.

Cava! What a comeback! The prosecco backlash begins! I suppose the fruity Italian plonk-fizz has lost its lustre a little since people started carrying tote bags saying things like “I’d sell my kidneys for a magnum of Prosecco” and “Oops I’ve bought Prosecco instead of the kids’ Chambourcy Hippopotamousses again!”

Don’t think you’re safe just because you’ve moved onto what you feel are more sophisticated fizz options – there’ll be novelty mugs saying “Crémant made me do it!” by Christmas, and Champagne has been adorning print-to-order sweatshirts in pithy slogans since David Cameron was still occupying a grey Ikea chaise-longue in Downing Street’s diner-kitchen.

Describe Stephen in three words?
Chatty, intelligent, laid-back.

CHATTY, like the guy behind ‘Counter Number 7 please’ in the last branch of Santander not to be shut down in your local area. It’s been dead, you know, he really misses talking to people, you know? They’re taking us down to two counters, you know; there’s not even going to be the automated voice telling you which one to go to – he wonders how much redundancy the little robot inside the speaker is getting, no just his little joke, he’ll miss her really.
INTELLIGENT, like my mum said I looked the other day when we FaceTimed because I was wearing a dark green roll neck and my glasses. She began to laugh quite uncontrollably before she even got to the ‘gent’ part of the word so I assume she was being sarcastic.
LAID-BACK, like David Cameron (again, two appearances, he’ll be thrilled) definitely is now, in his custom-made shed, oblivious. How ironic that a man who literally looked like gammon wouldn’t stick around to watch his people try to take over the Earth.

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Describe Kate in three words?
Independent, strong-willed, stylish.

INDEPENDENT, like your dream-come-true artisanal spelt croissant stall that you open in a local market, twenty seconds before selling it to Pret, along with planning permission for 17 LuXuRy aPaRTmeNTs on the very spot your heart used to be.
STRONG-WILLED, like your dog who IS going to sniff the dog pee against that tree whether you like it or not so don’t bother trying to pull back on the harness.
STYLISH, like a man who appears on the ’20 Best Dressed” lists every year for standing mute on a red carpet in a suit that was picked for him by someone else earning much less money than him and looks like every other suit every man has ever worn.

What do you think she made of you?
Content with life, open, lacking in direction.

Okay, so it’s a half-finished novel in the drawer.

Any connection issues?
Yes, Stephen lives in a village and the connection wasn’t great.

‘Stephen lives in a village feels like a slight burn.’ I sympathise, though. I know lots of people like the countryside for the space and peace and quiet and passive bigotry, but I couldn’t live anywhere I couldn’t have a £17 lobster roll Deliveroo’d to me within a quarter of an hour – even if I don’t want one. (Have never eaten one. I just like to know they are there.) 

Any connection issues?
We lost connection twice, but it didn’t faze us.

It didn’t faze you.

And… did you swap numbers?
We did.
Phillip Schofield piping icing into his mouth
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Better wifi connection.
I’d rather have had drinks in a cellar bar with some decent music and distracting strangers to talk about.

Why a cellar bar? So Kate couldn’t scroll through Tinder while he was off politely excusing himself to go to the loo, maybe. But if there’s one thing Kate is very keen on, it’s decent wifi – no way would she be burrowing into a cellar bar with shaky 3G. Ideal date venue: atop the one 5G mast that conspiracy wonks haven’t burned down yet.

Marks out of 10?
7. We operate in different realms, and I’m not sure how compatible they are.

This does feel like Kate has knocked a point off because Stephen didn’t have fibre-optic broadband. It’s fair enough – what if they married and Kate was forced to move to the country and endure glacial speeds while she tried to download photos of Jake Gyllenhaal off Famousmales forums. Hang on. no, sorry, these are the notes of a gay man stuck in 2001 with a Freeserve account.

As for that ‘difference of realms’, it’s almost as if Kate resides in the bountiful metaphysical kingdom of fire people and unicorns – Stoke Newington – and Stephen lives in Bourton on the Water with his antiquated router.

Would you meet again?
Kate is clearly worth knowing, but distance and the lack of an obvious meeting of minds would probably rule it out.

Stephen has obviously picked up the signs that Kate isn’t interested in that way – and likely feels the same – and is being very nice and a gentleman about it. See, other men who prowl the internet and the apps looking to savage women? It’s actually easy to realise something isn’t for you without getting aggressive and rude. More men should try it.

Would you meet again?
Yes, potentially, but not in a romantic sense.

Image shows a 'Loading' message while a progress dial goes round and round and round

There’s no getting over a bad connection, is there? Keep refreshing, Kate. You’ll find them eventually.

This week’s review is dedicated to the marvellous Sarah Hughes, who sadly died earlier this week. She was a captivating writer on many things, but especially culture, and was extremely supportive of my first novel, and my writing generally, tbh, and I shall never forget it. Thank you, Sarah.

If you don’t want to buy my book, consider  No subscription or obligation, the blog remains free. (I would rather you bought the book, though, or rated it on Amazon if you already have.)

I was on the very good Bottoming podcast this week talking about coming out, mental health, and my books. Listen now

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 mediaI will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself. Sometimes daters contact me upset not by what I have written here, but things people have said on Twitter. Come on, guys. 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. Have you considered switching internet service providers? And if you haven’t started that novel, Stephen, you should!

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

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  1. I like “Clearly worth knowing”. Also – I suspect the googling a nutrition consultant would often put you off eating in front of them. What if she judged how I dunked my fishfingers in the mayonnaise?

    Woody Allen/Jewish comedians is a match, isn’t it? Depending on your view of Woody Allen’s humour and whether you were discussing his work or his family life.

  2. Oh well, we had to revert to the ‘two not especially well-matched straight people try their best to be pleasant to each other for two hours’ mean eventually.

    I shall really miss Weekend (and the Review); so many articles, or turns of phrase, have stayed with me or prompted new interests, further reading or simple reflection.

    If Blind Date comes to an end, do you think you might try and sum up everything the column has taught us about dating now, and about love? Reflections on your favourite dates might be fun, too.

      1. Ah, yes, I did read (and enjoy) that, but I thought it was rather longer ago than August 2019 (so much has happened since, and time seems to speed up as you get older…) and so thought there might be scope for another article. I suppose the only thing to add is that Zoom dating is mostly awful.

        I’ve thought about going on a Guardian Blind Date myself but never quite been able to pluck up the courage, and it seems I may have missed my chance. There’s a lesson there somewhere…

        1. You may still be in with a chance – as far as I know, the Blind Date column will continue in some form. Am still making my mind up about my reviews.

          1. I suppose it depends on what kind of material any new format gives you to work with. Or have you simply had enough? Twelve years is a good innings for a weekly column (which I suppose this is, in effect) and I can see how what began as a bit of fun might easily become a chore which gets in the way of your writing.

            I have to say I’d be less likely to sign up without the prospect of a gentle ribbing from you.

          2. I’ve only done the reviews since 2014, but it does feel like a long time. I’ll just have to see.

  3. I will confess, I googled last week’s Opera Singer, and loved hearing him sing! I love your comment, Justin, about how you can reject someone but be nice about it! Not everyone will suit you, but that doesn’t mean they are not a nice person who will suit someone else! I just love Frank Turner’s song “Be More Kind”. Thanks for the review, always look forward to them! Does this mean the end is in sight for Guardian Blind Dates, with the magazine ending? Oh dear, I feel like the potential for romance in the world will be reduced if it ends… but of course, people will still date. I just won’t get to live vicariously through them, or read these delightful reviews. Will be getting your books, Justin, sorry about the delay! Looking forward to them! Do you get paid the same amount whichever bookstore they are sold from? Just curious, as there is a price difference at some stores, wondered if that affects the author.

    1. Hey Winifred! Thank you for reading. It doesn’t matter to me where the books are bought, so please go ahead and buy wherever you prefer. And thank you again.

  4. Not too dismiss this week’s review which I enjoyed very much, but why have you skipped the extremely awkward one from Nicki and Kris several weeks ago? It was… Bad. I would like your comments!

  5. Thank you so much for entertaining us every Saturday. It literally is the highlight of my and my husband’s week, and we haven’t even been in full lockdown because we’re teachers! We have just ordered both of your books so looking forward to reading them. ? I hope you feel you want to carry on with the reviews. Shame there was so little spark between Steven and Kate; I got the impression she had “switched off” once his screen froze for the first time, and his use of “strong-willed” and “independent” as two of his 3 adjectives suggests he noticed as much. Keep up the great work!

    1. No, I’m afraid not. I’m not going to review them again until they’re off Zoom. Hopefully won’t be too long.

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