Marion and Brenden
Photographs: David Levene/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Marion and Brenden

Another Saturday, another Blind Date couple braving wobbly connections and rapidly cooling takeaways over Zoom. Thank you for all your kind messages last week when I wasn’t well. (Not so many thanks, I must say, for the ones accusing me of lying about being ill, but never mind.) I am getting better, thank you. This weekend may be about the Easter Bunny but Saturday belongs to Cupid. Or Eros, or Anteros, or whoever it is that twangs arrows at hapless romantics – I can’t be bothered to Google and I probably won’t read any comments telling me so never mind.

Before I start, I would like to say that my second novel The Magnificent Sons is out on paperback on April 15th, and it makes a huge difference to me and how the book might do if you preorder it. Look, Adam Kay thinks it’s good and he should know – he’s sold loads of books.

Adam Kay: 'The writing is pacy, smart and funny'

It has some new, extra content in it, and is good, and there is one amazing mistake in it that I am pretending is intentional and I would love you to buy it. Preorder links to most retailers here

Thank you. Right.

This week, having us pause mid-bite of our third Easter egg of the day are Marion, 36, and an operations manager, and Brenden, who is 37 and an opera singer. God I wish I’d seen more operas so I could do a good joke here. Let’s hope when it comes to chatting up women, Brenden knows his arias from his elbow. Or whatever.

Here they are in glorious Fuzznicolor, in the Weekend magazine:

Marion and Brenden
Photographs: David Levene/The Guardian

Please read the full account of the date in the Guardian (I leave out some answers) and then hop back here for a full rundown of what you just read, but with vinegar smeared all over it. Or maybe it’ll be sugar. You never know.

Marion on Brenden | Brenden on Marion

What were you hoping for?
A nice evening and someone easy to talk to.

‘A nice evening.’ I know we’re all liking our walks, and our quieter commutes home if we’re still travelling to work, and the fact that EastEnders is 5–10 minutes shorter and much snappier due to the restrictions of Covid-secure filming, but it will be great for ‘a nice evening’ to mean something other than what you’ve been doing every other evening, won’t it?

What were you hoping for?
I went in not expecting anything more than a lovely evening of chat. Pandemic virtual dating can be soul-destroying, so I wasn’t hoping for too much, just a spark of fun and interest, some common ground.

I feel we should mention straightaway – I have read ahead, you see – that Brenden is a talker. Well, a typer. Typist. Anyway, he’s got a lot to say and this can only be a good thing. He wasn’t hoping for too much which is apt as he was giving over his evening to talking at a stranger on his computer, like a glitchy Chatroulette stuck on the same person. A spark of fun and interest! Common ground! Sounds easy enough. but when you’re on the dating equivalent of a debate with a self-checkout machine about an unexpected item in your bagging area, this may as well be shooting for the moon.

First impressions?
Really good! Brenden immediately put me at ease. He was talkative, asked questions and was very pleasant. He was dressed up, which was lovely (always love seeing a guy make the effort).

This is an overall impression of the first date, not a first impression in my opinion (God being pedantic again makes me feel so ALIVE) but either way, this is a great start. ‘I love seeing a guy make the effort’ is so true, isn’t it, and rare. I’m not men-bashing here – well, not purposely, like I usually do – but many men have a ‘this’ll do’ attitude when it comes to… well, most things actually, but especially getting spruced up for a date. My dating days are long behind me and I have to say gay men generally make more of an effort because – like women! – people have expectations of what we should look like, but honestly some of the ensembles men used to come and meet me in would have looked better spilling out of a bag dumped outside the Sue Ryder shop that had been savaged by a fox. Outfit choices that looked like a focus group of two-year-olds trying to pick an outfit for the next Doctor Who, items with food spilled down the front, mucky collars, stained breeks, shoes that should have been handled only by bomb disposal units. Obviously not everyone has a natural sense of style or can afford to dress well – although, in fact, richer people tend to wear very horrible clothes, have you noticed, you can’t buy taste, eh? – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to make an effort to look at least clean and that you care about where this may be going. Dressing for a date is like shining the skin of an apple or an orange – the most important thing about your clothes is they should make the person you’re dating want to take them off, and not because your ‘favourite’ jumper is making them gag because it smells like stew.

First impressions?
Absolutely charming, with a disarming smile.

Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth winking

Nobody calls you ‘charming’ unless they fancy you. Just putting that out there.

(Last week’s review was supposed to be a Jessica Walter/Lucille Bluth special and I had lots of amazing gifs lined up. What a queen.)

What did you talk about?
Where we both lived abroad, lockdowns, job situation, families, travels, cooking (we both love food), hobbies, relationships, reading… We didn’t stop.
A little bit of everything, from Cajun and French cooking, to cheeses, English wine, future family hopes. Our shared love of jazz, and 80s music. Top three travel destinations we would want to see someday soon. We matched on two of them…

What do you think their matched travel destinations were? I’m guessing Magaluf in August and puking up candy floss – sorry, cotton candy – in the queue for the It’s a Small World ride at Walt Disney World, Florida.

Any awkward moments?
No, none.
Not a single one.

Elle Fanning saying 'huzzah' from The Great

Good table manners?
Yes, absolutely.

I do believe if you can watch someone eating over a video call, you will probably let them do anything to you. I filmed myself eating a vitamin ‘gummy’ the other day – I got sent them, free, I am not being paid to mention the brand so I won’t – and was quite alarmed by what I look like when chewing. I had to mute the video because it sounded like Jabba the Hut trying to tongue kidney beans out of a plughole. And my face. I have never been a prize beauty but holy hell I looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle as I chewed a medium-sized sweet. What must I have looked like eating Toffos? Or ramen? or steak? How has ANYONE ever wanted to sit opposite me? Anyway my tip is never watch yourself eating because you’ll probably never touch yourself again.

Good table manners?
We talked so much that we didn’t really get to eating. I nibbled on my cheese plate a little. But the conversation was so easy that we just kept talking.

You see, Brenden gets it. A bit of a nibble. And also, people generally look sexy while they’re talking, unless they’re one of those men who talks out of the side of their mouth, or purses their lips right before they say something horrible, or has a tooth-brushing routine that could’ve been described as ‘vague’ at best.

Anyway, they stayed on the call over two and half hours so they must’ve been doing something right.

Best thing about Brenden?
He’s easy to talk to.

This is all we want, isn’t it? Someone to stay awake and act like they’re interested as we talk about how much we miss the Argos catalogue (which we hadn’t picked up since 2009), what our favourite train station is (Waterloo! I know it’s horrible! But it’s exciting!), how we read something fascinating about broccoli the other day but can’t remember what it was, what we think of the culture wars (very bad), and who we would vote for if RuPaul’s Drag Race were a public poll. We are all very captivating, compelling and, sometimes, knackers-achingly DULL, and all we really need every now and again is a keen ear to let us say our piece.

Best thing about Marion?
Such a sunny, down-to-earth disposition and a great, joy-filled energy. Genuinely authentic.

You can hear Brenden’s relief through the page. She got me, he seems to be saying, thank God she wasn’t a weirdo, or someone who yawned all the way through my story about wanting to puke two thirds of the way through La Traviata, or just generally someone I didn’t want to spend time with.

Describe Brenden in three words
Open-minded, passionate, genuine.

Open-minded, like I am to the idea of Matt Hancock being made to spend a year cleaning graffiti about himself off the toilet cubicle walls of St Thomas’ Hospital.
Passionate, like I am about wanting to smoosh Boris Johnson’s face into a toddler’s nappy.
Genuine, like my loathing for car drivers who impatiently wave at me to cross at a junction. If you’re in that much of a hurry, why don’t you skip this benevolent act and just drive on, you impatient arse? By the way: your car is shit.

Describe Marion in three words
Three probably isn’t fair. Grounded, curious, joyful.

It’s perfectly fair, Bren. Marion has read the column – she knows what this is all about.
Grounded, like your favourite billionaire’s private jet in April 2020. (Haha just kidding, nobody has a favourite billionaire – unless Beyoncé is one now? Is she?)
Curious, like I am about where my Easter egg is. My boyfriend has hidden it somewhere and won’t tell me where it is. Hope it’s two Ginster’s steak slices inside a chocolate egg.
Joyful, like hearing someone who was very rude to you in the cereals aisle in Waitrose (rudest customers of any supermarket I have ever been to) forget their wallet at the checkout and have to leave all their groceries and go home to get it.

What do you think he made of you?
I think he was pleased – well, I hope so.

Ellie and Izzi from Gogglebox doing flirting motions

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Nothing, it was very comfortable and smooth.

Like a healthy set of testicles! (It’s Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. If you have balls, please check them. I wrote about how, here.)

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Being at the same restaurant table, with a jazz trio in the background. Or cooking together.

Being at the same restaurant table – ❤️
Cooking together – 💕
Jazz trio in the background – 🙉

Horses for courses or whatever but I think I’d rather eat my dinner at the end of Heathrow’s busiest runway or to the soundtrack of P***s M****n reading an audiobook of his greatest achievements (very short, he just reads the title and the amount he was paid for the book deal over and over again until you can’t stand it any more). BUT if you love jazz trios and are an old romantic like our Brenden then good for you.

Marks out of 10?
8. There is always room to discover more.
9.

Marion knows the score. You can’t go higher than an 8 if you haven’t laid hands/lips on each other. I don’t make the rules. Brenden, however, ever the gentleman, has been kind enough to wager that Marion’s snog will be as good as her chat and, next time they meet, I hope they find that jazz trio – or if they can’t find one, perhaps someone willing to throw some pots and pans and kazoos down a flight of stairs to recreate the sound of one – and turn those scores into the perfect 10s.

But there’s one question left:

Would you meet again?
Yes!

Simpsons class waiting for Bart to say the line

Would you meet again?
Oh, I do hope so.

Simpsons class cheering after Bart says the line


 

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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. Am dying to know if I’m right about the travel destinations. I reckon I am very close – maybe Kavos instead of Magaluf, right?

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

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22 Comments

  1. Do you ever do retrospective reviews? Because I am dying to hear your take on last week’s collision of “hey, we’re all souls right?” and “over my dead body”…

    That being said, this pair were very sweet.

          1. I’m glad you are better now (or at least feeling better). Not sure a review of last week’s couple would have been worth it – it sounded like fingernails on an old-fashioned blackboard.

  2. Thanks for your review, Justin! Glad you are feeling better, and hope your Easter Egg dreams come true! This couple warmed my heart, and I hope they get to meet in person soon, I dearly loved his “Oh, I do hope so!” comment!

    1. I only came to this site to read your take on the March 27th one because it was such a shocker. The guy said lovely things, the woman said the complete opposite! Been eagerly waiting all week to read a review of it and the readers comments. Oh well.

  3. That a lovely couple.

    Just pre-ordered your book from my local bookstore and the woman said that the pre-ordered sometimes come in a couple of days early so I might even get it before the 15th! Yay!

  4. I’m actually rather partial to a bit of Chet Baker or Bill Evans, but your description of jazz sounding like pots, pans and kazoos being thrown down stairs made me genuinely laugh out loud. Thank you for brightening up another solitary Saturday. Glad you are on the mend.

  5. This was such a joyful review of such a lovely blind date, thank you!

    Special thanks for this, which nearly resulted in me choking on some hot cross bun: “I had to mute the video because it sounded like Jabba the Hut trying to tongue kidney beans out of a plughole”

  6. Glad to hear you are better. Oh, this one had me in tears of laughter and joy. What a gorgeous pair. And yes, Waitrose customers can be the worst. You’re right, you can’t buy class.

  7. When we had two very young children, my sister kindly babysat for us so we could go out for a rare romantic evening. We had just settled down with our dinners in a cosy but packed country pub, when to our horror a two piece jazz band sat down three yards away and RUINED our evening. I don’t think a three piecer would have been any better…,

  8. Glad you are better sir. I was so pleased that these two seemed to get on. I hope the Guardian can send them on a normal date when safe so we can see how they get on in person.

  9. Waterloo is my favourite station too!!! It is exciting- that’s why they shot one of the Bournes there. They couldn’t have done that say at Liverpool Street (dull) or even the majestic Kings Cross.

    My least favourite… the hellmouth that is Euston.

      1. When even a north London boy like Ray Davies chooses a south London terminus as the setting for the greatest song about London ever written, you know the competition is over. Waterloo has the clock, setting for so many meetings, real, imagined and fictional. For readers of a blog about the hope for romance there’s only one choice.

  10. Best wishes for your improved health.
    Sadly (according to Google search), Beyoncé is not yet a billionaire. Only US$400M so far. But well on her way …

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