I’m sitting at my desk underneath two blankets with only a cup of tea for warmth – shall we crack on, we’ve all got somewhere to be.
Meet Leanne, who is 43, and works as an occupational therapist and looks like she might’ve auditioned for the part of Kira in the stage version of This Life (another one of my very modern references), and Josh, a rhapsody in navy blue, aged 39, and earning 50% of his rent by working as a curator and creative producer:
I think we can all agree that Leanne’s nieces and nephews are very lucky to have her. Read what happened on their date on the Guardian website – and see a sneaky selfie they took on the date – and then come back here for the carving of the turkey. (This is a Christmas reference: it’s two weeks away.)
Leanne on Josh | Josh on Leanne
What were you hoping for?
To meet a lovely Guardian reader for a fun evening. To not want to leave before the starters arrived. To not feel mortified reading his review of my rusty dating skills.
‘To not want to leave before the starters arrived.’ I felt that. Right here in my… well, if I had a soul, that’s where I would’ve felt it. Leanne is 43, so am guessing is about as fed up of the dating ‘arena’ as I am of the World Cup moving Strictly around the TV schedules. (Very.) At least, if she’s ‘rusty’, she’s perhaps not been on the scene that long. Women in their forties on dating apps have seen everything, sat opposite every possible concoction of horrible men you can imagine. The divorcé who spit roasted his PA with his 21-year-old son (‘we high-fived over the back’); the man who sits outside his ex-wife’s house in his Vectra because he ‘technically still owns 50% of the driveway’ the man who still lives at home with his parents and has an ‘eggy-wegg’ boiled for him every morning by his mother who has fantasised about suffocating him in his sleep; the man whose exes all turned out to be ‘psychos’ (had the temerity to leave him); the man who negs her then tries to sell her tickets to his open mic night; a guy she fancied at school who has turned to literal (racist) porridge in the intervening 25 years. I could go on.
What were you hoping for?
To meet someone great via a public-facing, possibly romantic, social experiment … and enjoy a free meal.
Well, I suppose it’s easier than applying to go on Big Brother.
I was thrilled that Josh wasn’t engrossed in his phone when I arrived. He was warm, friendly and made a slightly surreal situation comfortable.
Oh. Oh no. What are you supposed to do when you’re waiting for someone to arrive? Sit with your arms flat on the table and stare at the door waiting for them to walk through it? This is slight ‘teacher who’s never off duty’ energy. As long as he doesn’t reach for his Samsung (two models old, cracked screen) while you’re midway through talking about what you got for your A-levels (I’ve not been single a long time, does everyone still do that?), it doesn’t matter.
Cute, cool tattoos, possibly more extroverted and communicative than I am, which is brilliant!
‘Oh thank God someone who will fill the awkward silences.’ Nice one!
What did you talk about?
Belize. Smartphones. Work. Festivals. Not being natural campers. London cycling. Tattoos.
So many things. We’ve both travelled around Belize and Mexico recently. Our love of music festivals. How we aren’t glued to our smartphones like most people.
Festivals ✅ – I will never go to a festival. I’ve made peace with it now. I will happily go to a one-day thing, provided I can leave at least 25 minutes before the end and be home, on my sofa, knocking back a Cherry 7UP by the time the headliner is trilling their last note. But camping? For days on end? No. Couldn’t be me. Not even when I was younger and bendier and happily slept on floors, drunk. The threat of rain, to me, is on a par with the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation. I like the idea of Glastonbury, lolloping through mud or dusty fields (depending on the weather) head to toe in ugly fast fashion, giving myself strep throat by singing along too loudly. I watch the acts on TV and romanticise being there, of carefully peeling back the polyester flap of my large luxury tent (which includes a ‘living area’ you can stand up in) and blinking into the sunrise. I gambol down the hill to an organic food truck and buy fresh croissants, setting myself up for a day of dancing and frolicking. I move effortlessly from dance tent to Pyramid stage to headdress and candle-making workshop making brand new friends, my cagoule tied round my waist ‘just in case’. But what about going to the loo? I’m not afraid of rancid long-drops or even overflowing portaloos – I’ve had IBS for the last decade or so, you should see some of the dives I’ve had to stop in for an emergency evacuation. But being squished in the middle of all those crowds when nature called – what would I do? I’d be destined, then, to be standing right at the back for every single act, watching ants play the hits. And not being able to shower properly – I don’t feel alive until I’m towelling myself off after a quick five minutes under Thames Water’s finest. And what would happen to my stuff while I was off dancing to the Pet Shop Boys even though I’m not a huge fan but got caught up in the moment? And then the rain. It would definitely rain if I went. Just as the moon controls the tides, my hair has its own ecosystem which drags rainclouds along with it whenever possible. So I must remain at home, mildly envious, yet relieved that while I may not be there soaking up the atmosphere, at least I don’t have to pretend to like ‘Hey Jude’.
Belize ✅ – I don’t know anything about Belize but it’s a great word.
London cycling – Getting on a bike and cycling round London is probably as close as I’ll get to being a daredevil circus performer. I don’t have a bike of my own, I think it changes your DNA slightly when you become a proper cyclist; I use the rental ones, and I love them. I resisted for years but cycling is so great and cars destroy cities.
How we aren’t glued to our smartphones like most people –
Ooh. They’re different.
Good table manners?
We were too busy talking to notice. But we shared a dessert.
Our personalities are such that we aren’t shy about sharing our food, or opinions!
Yeah, I figured.
Best thing about them?
He lives his values and cultural interests, and this gives him a really positive energy.
She’s an excellent communicator, very considerate and articulate.
What kind of phone do you have?
Would you introduce them to your friends?
He’d get on with most people, and my friends are awesome, so it would work.
I would. They’d think she is quite the character.
This is a nice answer. I’m always wary of people described as characters, though. It usually means they’re prone to doing something unsavoury in polite company, like commenting on your weight, trying to convince you to go fox-hunting or parroting the comments section of a Mail article about Harry and Meghan. Of course, sometimes it’s something completely innocuous like wearing horrible scarves or naming a body part or being weird about phones.
Describe Josh in three words.
Creative, driven, friendly.
CREATIVE, like when I write things I want to include in my novels on my phone.
DRIVEN, like being in the back of a taxi, scrolling on my phone.
FRIENDLY, like someone I would message (on my phone).
Describe Leanne in three words.
Quirky, talkative, charismatic.
QUIRKY, like people who moan about others being obsessed with their phones always think they are.
TALKATIVE, like someone who, I guess, isn’t staring down at their phone.
CHARISMATIC, like my phone. PHONE.
I kind of agree that people are on their phones too much, especially when walking down stairs to a train platform – please do not do this, you will get yourself killed and also I have now missed my train – and I bump into at least three people a day on the pavement who are zoned in only on their phone, but, uh, not checking Twitter obsessively doesn’t make you some kind of superior being. Anyway, back to the commentary.
What do you think Josh made of you?
I think it was positive? Sweary, cycling, child-free London lover?
Sweary cycling child-free Londoner? Finally a relatable main character! 5* would read again… with one point knocked off for the whole phone thing. (You have my permission to interpret this, when telling friends IN PERSON NO DOUBT, as me feeling ‘seen’ or that you’ve ‘hit a nerve’ if you like, I don’t mind. I’ll be too busy on my phone, I suppose.)
What do you think Leanne made of you?
That I’m social, passionate about the arts – and have a cool job.
These two are PROPER Guardian readers, aren’t they? The real deal. The ones (crap) comedians on Mock The Week (is that still going) take the piss out of. A heavy air of quinoa and machine-gunning neighbours for not properly sorting their recycling; two gentrifying hydras who thrive on flat whites (in reusable cups), centrism, and shaking their head in disbelief at the stupidity of motorists at traffic lights (or people looking at their phone while crossing the road). But also decent people, as far as I can see.
Did you go on somewhere?
He kindly walked me to my bike.
I have previously written about being bummed out when someone turned up to a date on a bike – it was years ago, when I still drank and was much more attractive, so the likelihood of pulling more than a loose thread on my jumper was much greater. The piece resurfaced earlier this year when a woman recounted a story of a man being a prick to her because she cycled to the date and he was expecting a ride of a different kind. I suppose now it wouldn’t matter to me but back then I needed the validation of someone being at least willing to go home with me – I never expected it or demanded it – but I was lonely and also a shameless trollop and there’s nothing wrong with being either of those things, so long as nobody else is getting hurt. Anyway, I have changed my mind: cycling to a date is a good idea – it’s transport they (usually) won’t be able to follow you on if you decide you never want to see them again. You can just wobble off into the distance, waving and hollering vague promises behind you into the wind.
If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
Nothing, I had a really enjoyable time: great food at one of my favourite restaurants, with fabulous and interesting company.
They ate at Mildred’s, a vegetarian restaurant in Soho that’s turned into a small chain. I’ve been there many times and I like it. They do a mushroom and ale pie that is 💯 . However… oh never mind, let’s just get on with it.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I might have cycled there. Leanne suggested cycling back to east London together, which would’ve been a lovely, unexpected ending.
You still could’ve done it! You can’t walk ten paces in London without tripping over an abandoned Lime bike (usually with two seconds of battery power left, granted), and Soho has multiple Santander Cycles stations you can use! There’s an app you can get for your phone that… ah. Okay. Never mind, then.
Marks out of 10?
A very strong 8.
I am glad these two found each other; I’m sure they’re going to have some wonderful picnics on London Fields next summer.
Would you meet again?
We agreed a second date as I was typing this 🙂
We plan to.
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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. My phone is literally never out of my hand, I’ll reply within seconds.