Impeccable Table Manners

Liam and Lizzie

One of my favourite things about living in London is very usually a pet hate for others – the city’s inescapable clutter. I like how tightly packed everything is, not an inch of space wasted save for the green expanses set aside for people with trust funds to have E. coli-inducing barbecues. From dense rooftops from my kitchen window to tiny, seemingly useless shops squeezed in tight on the main road, I really enjoy the thought of us all jammed in together, perhaps barely even recognising the other is there.

The best place to survey this, of course, is from a rooftop. If you can just about put your existential crisis on hold and anaesthetise yourself against the crushing insignificance and fragility of your existence, gazing out across just about anywhere from the top of somewhere can be quite the vitamin shot. It can be romantic, unless you have vertigo, a fear of lifts, or remember a bad experience when you were charged twice for a cocktail at the top of a skyscraper but were too nervous to say anything.

Gawping at the vista this week are PR consultant Lizzie, 27, and 32-year-old Liam, who’s an analyst, which both sound like jobs you’d need an ergonomic chair to do to the best of your ability.

Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Read what happened on the date before I take the lift all the way up to the top floor. Oh hang on, the lift’s broken. I’ll take the stairs. Start without me.

Liam on Lizzie | Lizzie on Liam

What were you hoping for?
At least a laugh; at most, a romantic connection.

I’m not quite there yet. Only four more floors. Carry on.

What were you hoping for?
Good conversation and a laugh. If all else failed, a dinner party anecdote.

Last couple of fights taking a bit longer than I’d expected. Isn’t it unseasonably warm? My… my chest aches a bit. Definitely be with you for the next one.

First impressions?
Confident, lovely and relaxed.

Lovely. Lovely. Lover-ly. Oh wouuuuuldn’t iiiiiiit be lover-ly? I say the word lovely a lot. You know why? Because teachers terrorised us back in the day for using the word “nice”. My English teachers were obsessed by it.
“It’s a biscuit, not a compliment,” they would say, which is actually not quite the case because as everyone knows the biscuits are pronounced Nice, not Nice.

Anyway, “lovely” is “nice” with butt-cheek implants and double the credit card limit. Still a compliment, but not overly threatening or leering or… well, anything, really.

First impressions?
Friendly, nice smile.

Do you have a nice smile? I do not. I have to confess. If I smile too widely, my eyes overly crinkle and disappear into my face and my (impressive) cheekbones can look quite hamster-esque – I look like Norman Wisdom trying to finish the last of his sour cola bottles. So I don’t smile very often, or if I do, it’s a very slight turning up of the corner of my mouth which is sometimes devastatingly effective – thank you bi-curious bank manager for the overdraft extension in my student days – but can sometimes look like I’m plotting your murder. You take your chances, eh?

What did you talk about?
Music, gigs, family and films, the fact that the waiter was great, but we could hardly hear what he was saying.
What did you talk about?
Trump impressions, first gigs, Christmas traditions and Star Wars.

Gigs, an exact match – ✅
Family I’m going to assume can be lumped with Christmas traditions so ✅
Star Wars = film – ✅

Trump, however. Hmmm. I don’t believe much in nostalgia but I tell you one time I hark back to often, and that’s before I had to care about that man, that family. I dream about them: the halcyon days we barely knew, when the news was just something you saw when you didn’t manage to switch over fast enough after the end of “generic BBC drama” and the most controversial comment piece in a newspaper was about yet another dreary middle-class know-it-all telling everyone why they were leaving London for a new life in rural Nottinghamshire.

Now current affairs is celebrity gossip, the usual roundup of Z-listers consigned to history as we follow every word of what is going on over that “pond”. I loathe it with my life. I miss fluff, nonsense, rubbish. I long for the headline story in the news to be about Jodie Marsh falling out of a taxi dressed like the belts bin at the local Cancer Research UK shop. It’s important to be politically engaged – increasingly so – but I struggle to connect with what’s happening now because it feels like the worst episode of Sunset Beach being played on repeat on a badly tracked VHS player while I’m continually stabbed in the abdomen with a spaghetti fork. Politics has become a punchline for a joke that was told seconds before you entered the room.

Any awkward moments?
When the whispering waiter had left us, we started to discuss how nice he was but we couldn’t hear what he was saying – but he came back and I’m not sure if he heard us or not! And at the end of the evening… how to leave it?
Any awkward moments?
Our waiter was lovely, but I couldn’t hear a word he said, so poor Liam had to repeat everything for me. A lesser man may have tired of this after a five-course tasting menu.

One thing to break the ice on a date is bonding over something terrible or awkward. A waiter with strep throat isn’t exactly the end of the world – and I hope he’s not getting a bollocking from his boss right now for making this guest appearance in the column; please think of your serving staff when you go on these dates, guys – a shared awkwardness is way better than one you create yourself.

Good table manners?
Good table manners?
His were excellent, whereas I kept on dropping cutlery.

You were thinking it too.

Best thing about Lizzie?
Really easy to get on with and a lot of fun.
Best thing about Liam?
He’s down-to-earth and easy to chat to.

Is this… going how I think it’s going? As in, “well”?

I know, just like Auntie Cilla, people at home really like it when the people in the column get on, so I am happy for you.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Yes, you could introduce Lizzie to anyone.
Would you introduce him to your friends?
Definitely; he’d get on well with anyone.

Give it a year or two and Lizzie and Liam will be the kind of couple who finish each other’s…

Describe Lizzie in three words
Pretty, confident, lovely.

Pretty, like the woman in Pretty Woman – both song and movie.
Confident, like THREE sprays of Right Guard under each arm.
Lovely, like a cupcake from Bessie-Sue’s Cupcakery, opening soon in the former premises of something useful – like an off-licence, a pub, or a drug dealer’s flat – near you.

Describe Liam in three words
Easy-going, genuine, fun.

Easy-going, like the sole person behind the till at H&M Regent Street at lunchtime when the queue is eight-deep.
Genuine, like your last pound coin, which keeps going straight through the vending machine like amoebic dysentery, leaving you without your mid-morning Twix.
Fun, like being trapped in a lift with a hula-hoop salesman.

What do you think she made of you?
All right bloke to spend a nervous evening with.


What do you think he made of you?
That I rambled quite a lot.

I tell you what, we need to get rid of this idea that if you’re a woman and deign to speak more than one word an hour you’re overly talkative or annoying. Have you any idea how boring men are? Left to talk on and on, unchecked, they turn into John Major’s Spitting Image puppet.

This is annoying, patriarchal stuff about men being conditioned to be strong, silent types or authoritative and whatever, and women in turns portrayed as a chattering sparrow or someone who’s interrupting a man’s very important conversational flow. It is very harmful to us all and even when we end up trying to subvert these stereotypes we end up making it worse. Anyway, the only way to get through this is to do exactly what you want without boring someone, so just talk and talk and talk on dates until one or both of you is dead from it.

Did you go on somewhere?
Yes, a drink in a bar nearby, for the views of Manchester.
Did you go on somewhere?
For a drink around the corner and then to a car park rooftop (not as dodgy as it sounds) for amazing Manchester views.

“Amazing Manchester views.” I am from Yorkshire so perhaps it’s best I stay silent on this particular point.

Second week running for a rooftop bar, though, in December. And in the north to boot. Bet they don’t have coats on. In fact, in the north, if it’s cold and you want to sit outside, they make you put on swimming gear and gargle with crushed ice before you take your seat, just to prove you’re tough enough. And if you complain, you are immediately labelled a “softy southerner” – and other less PG-rated variations – and ejected forthwith. Even if you have a Barnsley accent and know what parkin is.

EDIT: It appears the “drink in a bar nearby for the views of Manchester” and “car park rooftop” are not one and the same. I’d just assumed, what with a tiki hut popping up atop every abandoned multi-storey in London these days. So, yeah, they went for a drink and then went to the roof of a car park to look at these amazing views. So now we know.

And… did you kiss?
A gentleman never tells.
And… did you kiss?

“A gentleman never tells.” Honestly. Who has the fucking time?


Marks out of 10?
Marks out of 10?

Two eights. Ocho. Huit points. Hmmm. They kissed. 16 points in total. What do you have to do to get a 9? Actually, don’t answer that. I’ve been to Manchester. I know already.

Would you meet again?

Would you meet again?
We’ve swapped numbers.


2020 EDIT: Liam and Lizzie are engaged! “We hope to marry in 2022, with lockdown a distant memory,” Liam emailed the Guardian to say. “However, it made me even more sure I wanted to marry her”. Amazing! Congratulations. Looks like I was right to be channeling Cilla.

Also: I’ve got a second book coming out on audiobook and ebook in a few days. It’s called THE MAGNIFICENT SONS and it’s great. Preorder now from Amazon, HiveWaterstonesBert’s BooksBook DepositoryWH Smith, and Foyle’s.

Disclaimer: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants, not any deep-seated sociopathic tendencies. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits it to suit the column. Get in touch if you want to give us your side of the story; we can work this out. And I like Manchester just fine; I was joking – please do not write in.

VERY IMPORTANT ADVERTORIAL PARAGRAPH: My debut novel THE LAST ROMEO is out NEXT ACTUAL WEEK on ebook and audiobook. (Paperback follows in spring.) It would mean the world to me if you would buy it, or, if you’re strapped for cash, tell someone to buy it for you. Maybe even bully strangers into buying it – it would certainly make your bus journeys go faster. It’s on all the usual outlets – preorder at Thank you!



  1. Great dissection as usual but I take extreme umbrage with the idea that there is such a thing as a bad episode of the gloriously unparalleled Sunset Beach.

  2. I’ve got the book on pre-order – it’s snuck up on me that it’s being released next week though. Congratulations!

  3. Congratulations to Lizzie and Liam! I hope they are enjoying finishing each other’s sandwiches! What wonderful news!

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