Impeccable Table Manners

Martin and Samantha


Have you ever been an intern or done work experience anywhere? No matter when you start or where you’re working, there is always another intern there too; one who started the week before you.

You are, of course, enthusiastic and want to impress in the short time you have in the role, but this other intern, who has the jaded weariness of someone who’s been in Coronation Street for 36 years, knocks you back at every turn, dampens your spirits, shoots down every idea. Despite having only seven days on you, they know how things work better than you, thanks, and reckon you should stay in lane. They’re the ruler of the interns, OK? And no upstart like you – just a week behind, but it may as well be a century – is going to step up and change things on their patch. They are the wet blanket you have been waiting to meet all your life.

Which brings us to today’s Blind Date. Read what happened when 27-year-old Martin, an IT training manager met Samantha, 25, a teacher, before I sweep that in-tray right off the desk and get someone else to pick it up.

Martin | Samantha
What were you hoping for?
Some funny, free-flowing conversation/wine.
Great conversation, a laugh.

Well this isn’t a bad start. Both answers as thunderingly average as it’s possible to get. A nice allusion to a potential alcohol addiction by Martin there, which I can totally get on board with.

I remember being on a second date with a man I really liked and I was super nervous and the service was sloooooow so I was desperate to get my hands on a glass of wine. The date, a teacher funnily enough, just like Samantha here, took this to mean that I was only three storyline meetings away from being Sue Ellen Ewing on full vodka meltdown. The evening never recovered and I had to sip my wine like a child at holy communion just to prove I didn’t need to drink.

First impressions?
Very smiley.

I actually read these before I get out of bed, you know. And I always wonder whether this week will be the week I can finally take off. I will confess to you that on reading these straight-up, dull as dishwater, “maybe I should take up an evening class” answers, this was nearly the week I did it.

What did you talk about?
Not seeing the sun rise over Angkor Wat, small dog syndrome, not seeing the Rocky Mountains.

Full Angkor Wat details here for anyone like me whose knowledge of Cambodia is restricted to atrocities and that amazing song by Kim Wilde.

Martin has travelled. Uh-oh. There are two types of people in the world:
1. Those who simply can’t get enough of your travelling tales and want to hear all about it.
2. People who actually exist.

If they talked about not seeing those things, does this mean they wanted to see them but couldn’t, or “refused” to see them, like Will Young refused to see Kanye West at Glastonbury. Either way, globetrotting tales are my Mogadon and today’s date is a duvet.

Pointless trivia knowledge, moving to London, offering to dog-sit just to go on walks, him working abroad, his recent holiday.

So Martin has got his travelling to bore us rigid with – and if you look closely here, you’ll see Samantha wasn’t exactly thrilled either. Him working abroad. His recent holiday. Samantha’s arms are folded so tightly you could press olives between them.

But what’s Samantha’s dinner-party soporific? Looks like it’s “pointless trivia knowledge”. I bet people always say to Samantha they’d want her on their pub quiz team. That’s one for the CV.

Table manners! Let’s go!


Thanks for coming. Samantha:

Any awkward moments?
When I realised the olive I had popped into my mouth had a stone.

How did you recover from the shame? The indignity of not realising an olive wasn’t pitted? I think even Margo Leadbetter would barely have flinched at that one, but if you’re happy that’s as awkward as your life is going to get then who I am to make you switch from vanilla to neapolitan?

Best thing about her?
A good knowledge of 90s sitcoms.

“Best thing?” Watched telly a lot in the ’90s? Hang on, she’s 25. Born in 1990. So, in fact, she will have watched most of these ’90s sitcoms on Comedy Central or Gold or any channel on cable. This is the best thing? Nothing else? Her smile, her wit, her boundless enthusiasm for trivia, her legs, her hair, her generosity, the way she crunches through an olive? None of those the best thing? Not a one? Knowing about Friends and Dream On and Men Behaving Badly and Spaced? That’s what you liked best?

Best thing about him?
Very talkative.

I think this is the second or third week in a row that the female half of the date has referenced the guy being talkative or chatty. Here, it is presented as the best thing about him. Traditionally, being labelled as talkative isn’t a compliment, and one day I will drill down to the psychology of what people are really saying when they answer this, but I don’t have time now so instead I’ll assume that Samantha has dated a lot of strong, silent types and was glad of the respite.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
They have very different interests, so maybe not. 
I’m sure she’d get on very well with my friends.

I have never, ever understood why someone would point-blank say that they’d never introduce someone to their friends. Why wouldn’t you? What’s so special about your group of acolytes that puts them a cut above?

I’m sure even your cabal of deep-thinkers and trivia experts wouldn’t mind having a pint with Martin. If you have the kind of friends who wouldn’t welcome someone new, whatever their story, maybe you need to rethink your social circle.

This is not the Algonquin Round Table. You’re nobody. We’re all nobody. Until others treat us like a somebody, at least.

Describe Martin in three words
Chatty, enthusiast, outdoorsy. 
Describe Samantha in three words
Chatty, witty, chilled-out.

Chatty this, chatty that. We get it. You fucking talked.

What do you think she made of you?
She left through the door rather than the toilet window: that’s a good start.

Martin. If this is a reference to that old rumour about how the first version of Sugababes split up then you get FULL POINTS and are this week’s winner. Even if you kill someone before the end of the column. If not:

Mutya rolls her eyes

What do you think he made of you?
A good listener with random trivia knowledge.

If you were planning on using the dark moon emoji today, you’re out of luck – Samantha has been through all available world stocks. “A good listener.” Looks like Martin talked and talked and talked until he finally talked his way to the gallows.

Oh, and “random trivia knowledge”. Again. Was she just blurting out #facts at every turn? Each forkful of food interrupted by “Did you know?” like a Christmas cracker anecdote that has just been brought to life by a benevolent wizard. Never mind the trivia, tell me about you.

Did you go on somewhere?
Not on a school night.

Normally I would shred Martin for this dull old trope, but Samantha is actually a teacher so it’s at least appropriate.

And I’m sure, in between telling Martin things like “Actually did you know Patsy Kensit was originally lined up to play the Helen Baxendale role in Friends?” she also mentioned it was a school night a couple of hundred times. I have dated teachers.


Did you go on somewhere?
And… did you kiss?

Winter is coming.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That the tubes weren’t on strike.

A light dash of chivalry and self-preservation here from Martin. He expertly avoids slating his date and also drawing attention to any of his bad points by referencing the Tube strike. Unless, of course, what he means here is that he wishes the Tubes had been running so he could have got away from Samantha sooner. We’ll never know.

I wonder what Samantha, 25, would change?

He would have worn a suit.


A suit? On a first date? He works in IT. They wear suits to funerals and speeding-fine court appearances and that’s it. I looked up the restaurant they went to on the date and it looks fairly modern, youthful. Nothing special. I can see why they sent a couple in their mid-twenties here. Martin would’ve looked like a dickhead in a suit.

Maybe Martin was super cazh and arrived in a onesie – I don’t know. But to wish somebody had turned up on a date in a suit, on a weeknight, and be an actual 25-year-old, not the Queen Mum inspecting the troops… I don’t get it.

You have the rest of your life to stare lustfully at Foxtons basics in suits, Samantha. Your twenties should be spent being pressed up against the doorbell of your flat kissing away whisky fumes with someone you shouldn’t be in inappropriate, unlaundered denim.



I always cringe when I see a point-five. Is that half a mark on or half a mark off? Anyway, Martin, I have a feeling you are about to get gubbed.


Zero. Tip: if you want to score highly, turn up in a tuxedo to your date at Pizza Express!

Would you meet again?
I woke up at 5am with the answer to the brain-teaser she set me before the first course, so I do hope we meet again, to see if I’m right.

She set him a brain-teaser. Oh Martin. The whole world is Samantha’s classroom and we are merely under-dressed pupils. Anyone who would a) set someone a brain-teaser and b) not reveal the answer before the end of the date, especially knowing the answer they are about to give for this question, is a meanie of the highest order. Samantha is that intern; she’s crushing dreams left right and centre.

The answer to the brain-teaser, Martin? Why I have it here. It’s: “Who gives a fuck? Go back to sleep. It’s 5am.”

Final word from funsponge corner:

Would you meet again?
Possibly not.

Suit yourself.

Photograph: Fiona Shaw and David Levene for the Guardian

Note: All the comments I make are based on the answers the Guardian chooses to publish, which may have been changed by a journalist to make for better copy. The participants in the date are aware this may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena. I am sure, in real life, they are cool people. I am critiquing the answers, not the people themselves. If you are the couple in this date and want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal. 



  1. Hey there,

    Just discovered the blog when reading the 10 year anniversary article in the Guardian. I eventually found a nice Austrian girl who can tolerate my travel stories (her eyes only glaze over slightly).

    You’re a good reader of people, I am indeed a functioning alcoholic.

    Keep up the good work


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