Laura has long dark hair and is wearing a lacy leopard print cardigan over a print dress. Tom has dark hair, and what my gran would have called 'designer stubble' and is wearing a blue blazer over a navy micro polka dot shirt, with jeans and trainers
Composite: Jim Wileman/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Laura and Tom

We leave the comforting, cosseted dating bourgeoisie of London this week and instead head to Plymouth, where vowels stretch out for days like sandy beaches, and, hopefully, a smaller dating pool means people are a little less… shall we say picky?

Braving 48-hour infamy in the Blind Date pages this week are Laura, 38, and a playwright, and Tom, who is 47 and is described by the Guardian as ‘job in transition’, which I think is a new way of saying ‘taking some time out’, which was a new way of saying ‘between jobs’, which was a new way of saying ‘I’m spending my redundancy on Massimo Dutti loafers, veneers, and negroni sbagliatos’. (Either that or he’s in line for a promotion he doesn’t want to talk about? I don’t know. I hope Tom’s transitional job status is for a good reason and not a ‘cost of living crisis’ reason. Nothing wrong with saying ‘unemployed’ though – hopefully Trussolini herself will be exactly that before the end of this column! And that is the last bit of politics you will hear in this review! Hurrah!)

The image the Guardian have chosen to use for Tom in the magazine is just… I don’t know why they’ve done that, so I will not be reusing it here. But here they are from top to toe:

Laura has long dark hair and is wearing a lacy leopard print cardigan over a print dress. Tom has dark hair, and what my gran would have called 'designer stubble' and is wearing a blue blazer over a navy micro polka dot shirt, with jeans and trainers
Composite: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

 in full on the Guardian website and then catch the first train back – if it’s not cancelled – and read what I have to say. Yay!

Laura on Tom | Tom on Laura
What were you hoping for?
Good food, easy conversation, a belly laugh if possible. Absolute worst case would make my Edinburgh Fringe show for next year.

She’s a creative looking for inspiration, ladies and gentlemen.

What were you hoping for?
Good food, good chat, the crackle of attraction.

The Crackle of attraction. Nice. But what about the Snap? I guess the Pop comes later if you’re lucky.

First impressions?
Smiley, friendly, smart.
Warm, friendly, great smile.

A double-smiley and a double-friendly? Why they’re so in sync! This is meant to be! And definitely nothing to do with colluding over your answers during the last half-hour of the meal, oh noooooo.

What did you talk about?
All sorts of things, from theatre to therapy, education to cheese.
All sorts: our jobs, dating, family, theatre, the surrealness of what we were doing.

All sorts ✅ – Were they actually sitting next to each other as they typed these answers out?
Theatre ✅ – When people talk about theatre I bet they’re not talking about how Alexandra Burke smashed it in Sister Act at the High Wycombe Swan, but believe me they should be.
The surrealness of what we were doing – when do you think this kicks in for the daters, generally? During the photoshoot? As the date walks toward them and they try not to gulp too obviously in case it looks like they’re deepthroating a golf ball? Or on the Saturday morning, when they see the magazine has picked a photo of them that makes them look like Mark Goodier’s hype-man at a Radio 1 Roadshow in Kettering in 1991?
Cheese – I’m calling it, they’re POSH. Regular people like you or me wouldn’t talk about cheese on a date, unless we still had the remnants of the Cheestrings we grabbed as we left the house between our teeth, down our top, or floating in our long island iced tea.

Any awkward moments?
Not really, just an early panic that I’d turned up at the wrong restaurant (I hadn’t).

I do this every time I go somewhere. Being alive and mildly anxious at all times is absolutely exhausting. I admire those ebullient titans who swagger from place to place running on sheer confidence with a braggadocio chaser. How much time might I have to write dazzling novels or coruscating features if I didn’t spend half my life unzipping my backpack to check I had my spare phone battery or arriving twenty minutes early for absolutely everything ever and having to walk round the block ten times?

Any awkward moments?
No, not really. Some very lovely comfortable silences, actually. Laura held conversation well.

Gotta love a comfortable silence. I have a terrible habit of trying to fill even the tiniest conversational vacuum with jokes. This works well, say, if I’m doing an author event or am at a party full of mutes, but less so at funerals or in tranquil bookshops.

Good table manners?
I’m not too fussed about table manners but we shared food without fighting.
Exemplary: slow and considered eating. I had to check my desire to wolf down food.

Further evidence of poshness: not bothered about table manners. People with generational wealth usually eat like Henry VIII at one of his wedding breakfasts, so if you want to get by, you have to turn a blind eye. Interesting that ‘slow and considered’ is thought of as good table manners – like, I don’t know, but if someone is taking absolutely ages, and you’re having to cut your food up into tiny cubes just to compensate, isn’t that… bad table manners? What’s the sweet spot? I try to do mindful eating – not loading up the fork with my next bite until I’ve swallowed the first etc – but, come on, we’ve all got places to be.

Describe Laura in three words.
Engaging, honest, fair.

ENGAGING, like a TED talk being given by someone who has a toast-crumb on their top lip but they don’t know. Will it fall off before they get to the section on microplastics? Who knows!
HONEST, like an apology from a daytime TV presenter, or an opinion about your hair from a toddler
FAIR, like… what does that mean in this instance? Fair about what? Fair is always a bit of an alarm bell for me. ‘I had a bad opinion but I talked them round’ or ‘Said something awful but they had a point’. Although I’m sure that’s not the case here.

Describe Tom in three words.
Joyful, warm-hearted, curious.

JOYFUL, like coming up on that second pill as the Dronez Club Mix of ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ kicks in. [This may be a slightly outdated and somewhat unrelatable reference for some readers. But IYK, YK.]
WARM-HEARTED, like nobody who… oh I said I wouldn’t do politics again, didn’t I? Just imagine it then.
CURIOUS, like a cat watching new neighbours move in and trying to work which will ruin these suckers’ lives more: constant light meowing from behind the fence or random tuneless yowls delivered without warning, at jet engine decibels.

What do you think Tom made of you?
I’ll wait to hear – hopefully just that I’m not a total c***.

Nicole Richie saying 'I'm so edgy'

It’s all we can hope for really. Haven’t we all walked out of rooms, thinking, ‘One of those people in there definitely thinks I’m a prick’. I can’t believe the Guardian has starred out the c-word – I thought they didn’t do censoring. They also edited out ‘fuckboy’ from a piece I wrote them for today’s Saturday magazine (more details on this at the end of this post). The puritans have taken over the mosh pit!

And … did you kiss?
A light peck goodbye.
A non-lingering kiss at the end of the evening.
Miriam Margolyes in Blackadder holding up a turnip that looks like a phallus
BBC/Hat Trick

We know it.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
I would’ve ordered a negroni.
Angela Lansbury has Jessica Fletcher gasping in horror at something

Can’t think of anything better to round off a date than a liquid migraine served out of the overstuffed ashtray of a Ford Capri.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
My trousers. They were a bit tight on a warm night.

It’s probably what sealed the second date for you, Tom, tbh. We’re all just animals after all.

Marks out of 10?
This feels mean – I’ll just say gold star.
Not doing this number rating thing.

Bea Arthur as Dorothy about to let rip


Ian McShane dressed as a vicar, saying well why are you here


If you enjoyed this review, you can find me in this week’s edition of Saturday magazine in the Guardian, with the definitive guide to red flags on a first date. It includes the terrible truth about being asked for ID in a supermarket:

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I’m also an author of three novels. You can find out more about those and buy them anywhere you buy your books.
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My latest one is called THE FAKE-UP and is worth a read, according to the people quoted on the cover.

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. 

Tom and Laura ate at Salumi, Plymouth. Fancy a blind date? Email


    1. To have both do it must be a planned move. At least we got a gold star ⭐️ and some well chosen Guyliner gifs!

  1. Thank you, funny and joy inducing as always.

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Guardian Red Flag article but oh my f***ing lord, the comments!

    I am honestly struggling to comprehend the level of joyless, taken it as a serious thesis replies.

    It’s like a group of Daily Mail readers have been asked to create a spoof of how they imagine Guardian readers would reply to a tongue in cheek article!

    Please ignore them all, you are hilarious. X

  2. “Being alive and mildly anxious at all times is absolutely exhausting” – ain’t that the truth. I once spent 15 minutes being very worried that I wouldn’t recognise the person I was meeting for dinner. I’d only been married to him for 15 years at that point. And I don’t have face blindness, I have an exceptional memory for faces.

    I like that they’ve coordinated their answers. But I wish they had mentioned that her dress has pockets because it’s important and she clearly needs us to know.

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