Mariana is wearing a dark flowery dress, black tights and black DM boots; Oliver is wearing a green cardigan, a white T, jeans and blue trainers
Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Mariana and Oliver

Today peeking into the jaws of the lion, we have Mariana, 34, a publishing rights manager, and Oliver, 32, an account manager at a creative agency.

Two creative-adjacent people dressed like they’re rushing off to a French grammar plenary lecture in 1997.

Mariana is wearing a dark flowery dress, black tights and black DM boots; Oliver is wearing a green cardigan, a white T, jeans and blue trainers
Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

Read the (I always miss some out here for time and boredom reasons) and then return like a hero from the war, or the supermarket, so we can gently pick apart everything they say for reasons still unclear to me after all these years.

Mariana | Oliver

What were you hoping for?
Not to make a fool of myself, as everyone I know (and have dated) reads the Guardian.

Mariana might be a bit young to have served at the dating coalface that was Guardian Soulmates (RIP). Where do other Guardian readers meet each other if not there, or here? Protests? Farm shops? Ottolenghi? Fascinating. Maybe once David Attenborough is done touring the ‘wild isles’, he can take a look.

What were you hoping for?
To meet someone new, with similar interests and a potential spark.

Oh, not the spark. The dreaded flash of flint. We place far too many expectations on a spark, although it is a brilliant way to dump someone you’ve maybe shagged a couple of times. ‘I just don’t feel a spark,’ you text, from your work phone, while you superlike every single person under 35 on Tinder on your own phone (which has a cracked screen and needs charging four times a day).

First impressions?
He was fashionably early, which is always a good sign.
Punctual (we both arrived five minutes early), a little nervous and pretty.

If you arrive five minutes early you are ON TIME. If you arrive at the allotted meeting time, you are LATE. I’ll let you off if you have anxiety, mobility issues, live on the northern line (High Barnet branch), or spent ten minutes with your face pressed up against the window of a former Paperchase, mourning all the £17 notebooks you will now never have the chance to buy.

What did you talk about?
How London is the best city in the world. The greatness of Abba. Oil companies and the cost of living (is anyone talking about anything else?). How we’re both going to the same Ezra Collective gig.
Work. Football. Travel. Music. Swimming in cold water. Film. TV. A bit of Brazilian and UK politics.

How London is the best city in the world – Is it? I used to think this. Do I still think this? Yes, I probably do. I am never bored by it. I am often annoyed at it, especially when I have no money coming in or I’m flat hunting, but I still can’t believe I get to live here, after 20 years. I go cycling round the parks most weekends, and last weekend I was beetling round Hyde Park at about 8 in the morning and it was like I imagine RELIGIOUS experiences must be.

The greatness of ABBA/music ✅ – Agreed. ‘Lay All Your Love on Me’ is my favourite. The ABBA Voyage thing is great – you should go if you can.

Cost of living – I am so sick of talking about it, but it feels treacherous, somehow, doesn’t it, to be sick of talking about it, like it’s a denial of privilege to have the headspace to move onto something else. I got my energy bill last week and was quite pleased to see it wasn’t as astronomical as I’d feared, before I realised that to achieve this I have sat working under two blankets – one wrapped round my shoulders like I’m waiting for the creel boats to come in at Arbroath in 1758 – and the tip of my nose has not known warmth or sensation since early November.

Something about an Ezra Collective gig – I’m not googling. I’m sorry. That’s extra.

Work/football/travel – The triumvirate of dull.

Swimming in cold water – For some reason I find hilarious this way of saying ‘cold water swimming’ – an activity long beloved of Guardian readers and long derided by anyone else too lazy to actually do it. ‘Swimming in cold water’ sounds more like someone doing the crawl in an inflatable pool in a back garden in Ashby-de-la-Zouch than bravely wading into a glassy lake on the Scottish Borders suggested by ‘cold water swimming’.

Most awkward moment?
It was never awkward and we had the gig to talk about. But I don’t think there was much back and forth.
She tried to bring up politics but I worried she was more leftwing than me and we’d clash.

You know Mariana must’ve been desperate if she brought up politics, or maybe she had her suspicions. Might I suggest that if you’re worried someone you might be interested in is more left-wing than you and it might cause issues, try… being less right-wing? Y’know, generally?

Good table manners?
There was lots of rice on the table when we finished – which I think is a sign of a good meal (or a small table).
Lucille Bluth winking
Would you introduce Oliver to your friends?
I think my friends’ energy might scare him a bit.

Your friends’ ‘energy’? Are they ghosts? Or oil-filled radiators? Or do you mean they’re annoying?

Describe Oliver in three words.
Friendly, punctual, foodie.

FRIENDLY, like a dog in a park who wants someone, anyone, to throw a stick; it doesn’t have to be a big stick, or thrown too far, just chuck a stick already someone, I’m a dog, I have needs.
PUNCTUAL, like your grandma or your headteacher would say when talking about you to someone over sixty-five.
FOODIE, like one of those Borough Market terror couples in matching Uniqlo waterproofs who nudge their way to the front of every stall and talk loudly about the olive oil they once bought in Naples while asking to sample cheese which they then dismiss for being ‘too strong’ – it is a mild cheddar.

Describe Mariana in three words.
Stylish, friendly, interesting.

STYLISH, like a Parisian woman draining a gravy-thick coffee, smoking Gitanes Brunes, and watching her poodle, defecate before scooping up the mess with a vintage copy of Vogue and handing it to a waiter – without making eye contact.
FRIENDLY, like all children are until the sweets stop coming.
INTERESTING, like nobody ever is after three drinks.

What do you think he made of you?
That I’m way too obsessed with east London.
She probably thought I was friendly, but that there wasn’t an attraction between us.

What’s great here is that Mariana is SO obsessed with east London – which part exactly, and why, I mean, it’s great, but… what do you mean? – that she assumes this is her most obvious trait, but it seems Oliver hasn’t really noticed – although it does get mentioned in a question I can’t be bothered analysing because I’ve still got my exercises to do after I’ve finished this and I’m hungry.

And, well done, Oliver she did think you were friendly.

And … did you kiss?
No. Just a polite hug.

A polite hug. Chests and cheeks not actually touching, then. Suitable.

Marks out of 10?
I think everyone always deserves a gold star – that’s why I could never be a teacher!

Sybil from Fawlty Towers rolls her eyes

THIRD week in a row someone has done this. What the hell is going on? Why are you here? You are taking up space. You didn’t fancy him, fine, that’s allowed, just drop your 6 or, if that’s too mean, your 7 and move on. We all know what the real score is anyway. Right, I’m assuming this is a 2, so I’ll give you that score.



There we go. That’s how we do it. I’m guessing this is also a 2. Well done everyone.

Would you meet again?
We will probably bump into each other at that gig, but I don’t think there is a spark between us.
Maybe if we bump into each other at the Ezra Collective gig …

Ah, the spark clause has been activated. There’s no coming back from that. Hope you had fun at your gig. (Okay, I googled, it was back in February at the Hammersmith Apollo.)


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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. I really mean this. Stop it! If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. Did you bump into each other at the gig?

Mariana and Oliver ate at Dishoom Kensington, London W8. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. The one you decided to omit, I thought was quite an important one, as he said he wouldn’t have got her to come out to West London, but I thought it was the Guardian that booked the restaurants? Or does he mean he wouldn’t have bothered?

    Actually, I can see now why you decided to omit it.

    1. Haha tbh anything where I have to do too much guessing about their thought processes, I leave out. But, yes, the Guardian books the restaurant so no idea what he means there.

  2. I can help. I meant that I felt bad she had to treck from east to west london and if I’d known, I would have suggested a more convenient Dishoom for her – because I’m polite!

      1. I didn’t get that far. They said Dishoom Kensington but I didn’t know where she was travelling from, so I didn’t try to change the location!

        1. Ah right. You wouldn’t have been able to change it, then. The restaurant calls the shots on location as they’re paying. So no need to feel bad!

    1. I know I’m almost 30 years older than these two, but they are adults. Why as are they both dressed like children?

    2. To me, Doc Martens signal 1987 to 92 as these were the years I wore them. I feel they were over by 94, which is the year I went to university, but I am being ridiculously picky here…

  3. Marple. And to be fair it was more aimed at him than her. It’s a first date and his clothes do not shout ‘I’m going to do you the courtesy of looking like I made an effort.’

    1. Note that his clothes in their ‘date-selfie’ photo were smarter than this clothes in the fashion shoot photos.

    2. I wore a smart knitted rugby shirt and checked trousers on the date, thank you. And how is a Cardigan, tshirt and jeans dressing like a child? I wear what I find comfortable – I hope that’s ok.

      1. It’s the plimsolls, I suspect.

        I think you look very grown up. Nice to see you’ve got a sensible vest on. What happened to your shirt, though? And does anyone under 60 really wear cardigans?


  4. And a purely personal prejudice: I can’t take to the cute little floral frock look. Possibly because they really don’t suit me and they’re utterly ubiquitous. I did say it was personal…

  5. Justin, “I have sat working under two blankets – one wrapped round my shoulders like I’m waiting for the creel boats to come in at Arbroath in 1758…” made me laugh out loud, and your stylish Parisian description just as good.
    I always wonder why some of these Guardian daters seem to take pride in having frightening friends.

  6. I am of the age where clothes I wore as a teen have come back. I felt a bit uncomfortable at first but then I remembered how much I loved fashion in the 90s so I’m just re-embracing it!

    I low-key love it when people state that people dress like or act like ‘children’ – it’s like when drivers get annoyed at cyclists. It gives me a warm glow because I’d rather dress like a child, with joy, than as I think an adult ‘should’.

  7. You had me at: ” a Parisian woman draining a gravy-thick coffee, smoking Gitanes Brunes, and watching her poodle, defecate before scooping up the mess with a vintage copy of Vogue and handing it to a waiter – without making eye contact.” !!! P.S I wanted to leave this comment on your Substack piece but as an unpaid subscriber there doesn’t appear to be a facility to leave comments, which is weird?

    1. Haha thanks for reading! Sorry about the Substack comments thing – there’s no option for me to change it on a post that has a paid element. It’s so annoying but I can’t find a way round it.

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