Mark is wearing a dark shirt and has grey hair with glasses. Abi has long dark hair and is wearing a dark jumper.
Composite: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Mark and Abby

Today on the chopping block, two prime cuts in their early thirties: Mark, 33, a project manager, and Abby, 32, a lawyer. Ooh, haven’t they got good jobs, I bet their aunties boast about them to the lady on the cig counter in their local Co-Op.

and then return here for some choice barbs, observations, distracted looks over your shoulder for someone more interesting coming along.

Mark | Abby
What were you hoping for?
To nick some Guardian stationery when I came into the office for my photo shoot. A fruitless pursuit, sadly.

What on Earth for? Question for people who used to regularly steal from stationery cupboards when offices a) still existed and b) didn’t keep stationery locked away with only one Cerberus-like office manager allowed the key: what did you do with all those Post-its?

What were you hoping for?
To feature in a future Guardian article about Blind Daters who went on to get married.

The Blind Date column is 15 years old this year – this month actually. I don’t know if the Guardian has remembered. I’ve been doing these reviews for ten years this summer. Anyway, back for the tenth anniversary in 2019 I wrote in the Guardian about the Blind Date column and caught up with some favourite former daters – you should read it

First impressions?
Intelligent and less lawyery than anticipated – not even a briefcase.
Very impressive tattoos but if my long-term plan (see above) works out, my mum is not going to like them.

I can definitely see these two getting under your feet at Columbia Road flower market on a Sunday. Holding hands, pointing at stuff, debating oat milk.

What did you talk about?
How she does iron man competitions and her interest in carp noodling.
Waitrose v Aldi. The (terrible) questions his friends had sent him as conversation starters.

Iron man competitions – I bet Mark quickly filed away any ironically sexist jokes he had in his repertoire – supplied by his friends, perhaps – when that little snippet was revealed.
Carp noodling – to save you a google, it’s fishing with your bare hands.
Waitrose v Aldi  – both terrific in their own way, Lisa and Faye from Steps, or rice and chips.

Most awkward moment?
There was a couple opposite us making out, properly going for it.
When Mark threatened to go and have a word with the couple snogging at a table nearby.

MAKING OUT. Ugh that expression gives me the shivers, remembering all those ‘very special episodes’ of Degrassi Junior High where someone would be offered a thimbleful of 2.0% beer and there’d be a whole drama about it. Anyway, why on Earth would you go over to someone snogging at a nearby table? Don’t look!

Good table manners?
We both did that stupid thing of leaving a tiny piece of each dish on the plate out of politeness.
No better or worse than mine. We had sharer plates and Mark was excellent at making sure we had fair portions.

Bea Arthur as Dorothy about to let rip

Y’see, this is why I hate ‘sharing plates’.
Oh no, you go for it, I’m full, seriously.
No you, I insist.
Please, you.

Argh. And then the whole ‘making sure we had fair portions’. Fair. Portions. HOW SEXY said nobody ever, to use formerly popular internet vernacular. Carving up bruschetta like a dinner lady, doling out the side salad with the grim determination of Lucrezia Borgia measuring out cantarella.

Best thing about Abby?
She smelled like really nice cucumbers.

Cat jumps very high upon seeing a cucumber

I suppose it’s a couple of steps up from smelling like the bottom of the salad drawer in a fridge that’s been accidentally turned off while the owners are in Crete.

My next novel LEADING MAN is available to pre-order now! 

Just a quick pitstop to say LEADING MAN is out 9 May 2024 and according to early readers is apparently the best thing I’ve ever written! Fancy that! It’s a comedy – with a few dark turns – about a drama teacher who finds himself at the centre of a few dramas of his own after a lifetime in the shadows. Pre-orders are everything because they literally dictate how much shelf space it is given, how much attention critics will pay to it, how many copies bookshops will order, and its entire performance, that kind of thing. I don’t care where you get it from – support an indie if you can! – but here are links to , Bert’s Books, Lighthouse Books (which has it at a lower price at the moment) and Amazon. Thank you.

The cover of my fourth novel Leading Man which features an illustration of the main character on the cover and the title in large pink lettering plus my name underneath, and the caption "dependable sidekick of romantic hero? Who will Leo decide to be."

Best thing about Mark?
It was pretty flattering when he guessed my age as 28. On a more serious note, he is a great conversationalist.

Ah, your early thirties, the first time in your life where you appreciate someone thinking you’re younger than you actually are. The other day I was out and about and a young chugger stopped me and said something about my age – I had headphones in, I had to take them out – and it turned out she was saying I was ‘probably too young’ to sign up to whatever she was flogging. She ‘guessed’ my age and I was so embarrassed for her spinning such an obvious lie, I won’t repeat the number here. It’s a tactic a few of them have tried now, probably because I have grey hair and my knuckles crack when I press the WAIT button at a pelican crossing; they assume I will be overjoyed by whatever crumbs of flattery come my way, so unaccustomed am I now to the attention of strangers. The young woman was perfectly lovely, and we had a nice chat – she switched to complimenting my clothes and manners once it was clear the age flattery was a bust, but I’m no fool, I have heard them all – before I went about my day (and still holding onto my bank details) but I will say, generally: I do not give a Fuengirola f•ck how young or old you think I look. So please, please, let’s not.

What do you think they made of you?
I reckon she mostly enjoyed my company, but would’ve swiped left on me on a dating app. I don’t think I’m her usual type.
Not as bland as he expected for a lawyer.

I think these two are good eggs, and clearly very good-looking and successful but, to me, not entirely comfortable in their own skin. One aspect of being 32/33 I had forgotten. When it’s all happening but your mind can’t quite catch up. Or perhaps I’m wrong and they’re giving gentle self-deprecation a go because it looks better in a magazine, no idea.

Did you go on somewhere?
I’m in my 30s now, things ache and I get tired, so no.
Nadia from Big Brother holding a glass of champagne and a cigarette and looking annoyed
Endemol/Channel 4

Thirty-three. Ageing is, I will concede a very individual experience, and if you are living with some kind of condition, then my sympathies. Otherwise, it is not your advanced years keeping you from going on somewhere. I dunno, faux-fogeyism is quite annoying. You have no clue what’s coming for you, so you might as well live it up now. Anyway, according to Abby…

No, Mark had a train to catch.

Perhaps try rubbing some voltarol on your aching train timetable, Mark.

And … did you kiss?
We didn’t. Imagine getting rejected and it being printed in the paper. The boys would kill me.

THE BOYS. Stevo. Jonesy. Other Mark. Batesy. Linguine. Cinders. The same auto-bants machines who supplied those terrible questions., I assume.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
I would have been able to finish the incredible celeriac carbonara.

Buffy feeling sick

Marks out of 10?
A solid 8 (points deducted due to her abysmal effort to kill a troublesome fly and for not being impressed enough by my really long banister slide – it was probably my PB).

I am finding Mark’s audition for the ‘Greatest Blind Daters Hall of Fame’ both entertaining and exhausting. I bet all his answers were actually several paragraphs long HOWEVER it’s better than monosyllabic drivel like most men in the GBDs so thanks Mark. As for the long banister slide, I really had forgotten how weird your early thirties are. You’re a TODDLER with RESPONSIBILITIES. I both miss it and am glad it’s over. Anyway these scores are fair enough.

Would you meet again?
I’m not averse to it: conversation was easy enough.
Yes, as friends. (Just kidding, I know it winds Mark up when he sees the “as friends” responses.) Sadly, it’s a no from me from a dating perspective.

Lady Diana Spencer runs her fingers through her hair

Ah well. Good luck to you.


BTW, THE FAKE-UP is only 99p on ebook!

My most recent comedy THE FAKE-UP is in a special 99p deal for the whole of February, on Kindle and e-reader now. It’s about two (hot) idiots who fake a breakup to stop friends and family interfering in their relationship but it turns out to be a shitshow. And less than £1! And has lots of jokes like the ones in this blog. Please buy it so that my publisher still takes my calls! Thank you! BUY NOW, REGRET NEVER (perhaps)

The cover of my novel the fake up and a sticker saying 99p


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Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every post

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. Celeriac carbonara?! STOP.

Abby and Mark ate at Nessa, London W1. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. Faux-fogeyism drives me nuts. I’m genuinely ancient, and I get really tired of writers who start a line with “I’m so old I can remember…” and then name someone or something that wasn’t around until decades after I stopped keeping up with yoof culture.

  2. Actually, the usual phrase is “I’m old enough to remember…” Anyway, something that surprised me in this week’s was “We both did that stupid thing of leaving a tiny piece of each dish on the plate out of politeness.” Why is leaving food on the plate considered polite? Bet the kitchen staff don’t think so.

  3. I kept expecting him to drop a promo in for a podcast or something – this didn’t feel like a date but a personal branding exercise.

    I use a couple of packs of post it notes that my husband pinched from a government office just before the GFC hit as a laptop riser. I am sure some people write notes on them.

    NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE EVERYTHING ELSE. Can we skip celeriac carbonara and cacio e pepe croissants and taco pizzas please?

  4. Great piece, as always, Justin 🙂
    “Perhaps try rubbing some voltarol on your aching train timetable, Mark.” – I properly guffawed at that.
    Celeriac carbonara sounds a bit grim (I checked the menu, it also contains truffle and confit egg. Urgh).

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