Impeccable Table Manners

Maverick and Sandra


Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but what really gets the heart pumping to the point of explosion is never meeting at all. Imagine all the relationships that are absolutely perfect over phone, text, IM, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter and the like, only to be spoiled for ever when you do the unthinkable – meet them in person.

During my dating ‘career’ – and let’s be honest here, that’s what it was, and indeed is, even though I am no longer on the hunt – I managed to go out with a healthy century of suitors. Online, with my fingers never touching even a millimetre of their skin, I wooed them with what I suppose, if you were being generous, you would call my charm and wit. Well, it certainly wasn’t my photos, my bank balance or intimate snapshots of my middle-aged wang.

But as soon as we met, at least 50% of the time: disaster. Charm succeeds where flesh cannot. I often wonder if this is what has kept the Guardian Blind Date – which I love with every beat of my putrid, nut-sized heart – going all these years. Its readers like the idea of getting a nice meal, a lovely photoshoot, being in the paper so their friends can see etc. All sounds pretty good so far. But then there is the crushing reality: you actually have to go on the date, meet a stranger who will probably get too drunk or be really weird or bring a hedgehog or will suddenly, mid-Merlot, turn out to be a colossal racist or, worse, work in PR.

Maverick and Sandra 750

Braving the glossy pages of disappointment in the name of romance this week are Maverick – yes, that’s right – a 43-year-old independent film-maker, job and Sandra, 57, a wedding photographer. Read what happened on the date between these two camera-wielding romantic hopefuls before I walk into shot and ruin everything.

Maverick kicks us off and is in blue. Sandra’s all pinky-purple.

mav hoping

18 years. I used to shake like a shitting dog before dates after a gap of only 2 days, so Maverick must’ve been borderline hysterical waiting for Sandra to rock up.

sandra hoping

A spark. There are good sparks and there are bad sparks. There are coup de foudres; there are nights where you feel like you’ve known each other for years, even though you’re barely past the starter; there are instant lustful thoughts.

And then there are the sparks you get from two acrylic cardigans rubbing up against each other in a bus stop.

mav first

Sandra is very pretty. She looks a bit like Cherie Lunghi (actress who had to endure being called “the thinking-man’s crumpet” every time she was mentioned in TV Times in the ’80s) or a fashion sketch of the woman from Supernanny.

sandra first


Stavros. Hmmm. I am assuming she’s referring to Stavros Flatley, the comedy act from Britain’s Got Talent, featuring two tubby guys of Greek origin whose whole shtick was doing wonky Irish dancing with no tops on. Yes, really, this was a thing. That’s the UK for you.

Anyway, I’m guessing Maverick doesn’t dress that way because he’s desperately shy, so not to comment on it would be weird. Stavros, though. I’m watching you.

EDIT: Quite a few people messaged me to say they’d assumed she’d meant Harry Enfield’s ’80s comedy character Stavros, a stereotypical Greek kebab shop owner.  I remember thei character and, beyond the moustache, didn’t see much of a resemblance. That’s what I meant by “I’m watching  you” – was she trying to say Maverick was Greek? It’s dodgy, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. FWIW, I thought he looked a bit like a less cartoonish version of Patrick Marber playing Spiros – Pauline Calf’s dodgy lover in Three Fights, Two Weddings and a Funeral.


A kind reader had another suggestion, leaving this in the comments:

Sounds good to me.

Anyway, I’m glad we could clear that one up. Onward:

macvv talk about

Maverick sounds almost wistful here. This is what dates do sometimes, when we’re least expecting it. You get a peek into someone else’s experiences and can, once you compare them against your own, feel inadequate, that you haven’t quite lived the life you should’ve done. Should I have done more? Should I have taken chances? But would that have brought me here, to this moment? Who could I have been?

However, you can also sit there thinking, “Shut the fuck up about your fab, crazy, zany life and let me tell you about my obsession with closed London Underground stations, you humblebragging bore”. I mean, Gaaaaaawd, write an autobiography or get a blog or something.

sandra talk about

Gambling doesn’t come up much on these dates, does it? An addiction to scratchcards, maybe? Swapping bingo stories? We’ll never know.

Moustaches. Maverick has a moustache, everyone. Did you know?

sandra awkward


“It wasn’t really awkward, but when you ask me a question about something awkward, I’ll mention it. But it wasn’t awkward, not at all.”

Someone putting their hands near your foodstuffs – even if they’re merely decoration on your cocktail –without your permission is awkward, Sandra. Let’s not stay polite just for the sake of it.

Table manners!

sandra table

mav table


maverick best

Hot take: Maverick fancies Sandra.

sandra best

Hotter take: Sandra could well be reading out the dating profile of a Labradoodle.

mav friends


Why does everything Maverick say, even when it’s perfectly upbeat, break my heart?

mav three

sandra three

I ❤️ that they both use eccentric, especially Maverick. He’s, like, yes, that’s right, I can turn up dressed like a fancy dress shop owner whose family made him get a Gok Wan makeover and still call you eccentric. Yes, you can, Maverick.

Not sure about the “passionate” and “full of love” – it does sound a bit like he’s just watched her sculpt a tall vase on a potter’s wheel – but at least he’s being nice.

mav made of you

I refuse to believe that Sandra’s notched up 57 years on Earth and the oddest man she’s ever met is some guy with a moustache. Has she never nipped into the McDonald’s next to Charing Cross station after 4 in the morning?

sandra made of you


I’m very impressed with Sandra’s recall for compliments. Maybe she was recording him on her phone. “For the benefit of the tape, can you just repeat the second compliment – it was ‘intelligent’, right?”

mav go on

Good-looking older lady who lives on a houseboat? Iconic.


mav kiss


sandra kiss

I’m starting to think Sandra might have an unusual variant of Tourettes that compels her to say the word ‘moustache’ every other sentence.

Be warned, beard-cultivators: not everyone loves your face fur. It could be getting in the way of a passionate snog.

mav change


sandra change

See? She can’t help herself. But, no, Sandra, you were right not to brave it if it wasn’t for you.

Kisses: they’re not automatic. They are not a right.

It’s the scores. Oh God. How do you think this one is going to go?

mav score

This 10 is like when you’re eating something in the same room as a dog, and it pads over to you to see what it is, and even though it doesn’t like what you’re eating, it will nudge you and start to make those big eyes at you in the hope that whatever you’re eating will magically change into something it does like, and that once that transformation has occurred, you’ll give it some.

But what Sandra’s eating is immune to magic tricks.

sandra score

This 9 is the smile you give a stranger on a train when you hand them the umbrella they almost left behind on the seat next to you. It’s warm, it’s sympathetic – it is brief.

Have these two eccentrics found common ground? Will they set sail on Sandra’s houseboat? Is Maverick’s walrus moustache about to come into close contact with the blades of a Gillette?

sandra meet


mav meet

I’ll come see Anomalisa with you, Maverick. And you can keep the moustache. Just keep your hands out of my popcorn.


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 editing of answers may happen, I assume, and know these answers will appear in the public arena.  This isn’t about me thinking these two people are bad people – I don’t know them. I am sure, in real life, they’re lovely. I’m critiquing the answers, not the people themselves.  If you are the couple in this date, please do not take this personally. If you want to give your side of the story, get in touch and I will happily publish any rebuttal or comments you might have. 

Photograph: Graeme Robertson, Linda Nylind, both for the Guardian


  1. She is 14 years older than him, yet looks 14 years younger… I don’t think they’re visually a good match. Like this is asking a hot woman should just go for the not-so-hot man, while he gets the crumpet.

  2. I loved this! I read your blog every week and it’s brilliant every week but the addition of Ken Barlow’s houseboat lover knocked this one out of the park! Loved it! You’re a genius!

  3. Being a similar age to Sandra I reckon the Stavros she’s referring to is Kojak’s cuddly brother who had a mop of curly hair not unlike Maverick’s. Another great analysis G, but I’m not sure that a gorgeous, 57 year old woman would appreciate being called an “older lady” – conjures up the whiff of lavender talc and sweet sherry.

  4. At least you didn’t call her ‘youthful’, which means older and trying too hard. Or ‘young at heart’ which means about to die.
    Gill (58 yrs)

  5. In the words of Top Gun “Maverick? Did your parents not like you?” I think he’s trying the name on for size as part of his dating persona.

    1. Nope, it is my real name. My Facebook name is an alter ego I invented when I was 14 and I have only just changed it. You’ll see my home page has my name, and you can check out my credits on IMDB

  6. I am 99% sure I’ve met this man, many many years ago when he was a friend of friends I used to go out clubbing with. I did not brave the moustache cos he had a long term girlfriend (who quite possibly became the mother of his child). This makes the whole thing even more melancholy 🙁 (though possibly there are several frizzy haired men in their early 40s called Maverick in London)

    1. Em, if you met me it would not have been with a tache. That is a year old. If you ever met another Maverick in London I would love to hear. As far as I can tell there are 5 of us in the country and I am the oldest by far. I would love to know if you ever did meet me. (Ignore my Facebook alter ego, that’s new and a long story).

    2. It was a lot of fun. Ignore the FB name, I am the Real Maverick and so happy I found this review and that some of your comments are lovely. Em, I wonder if we ever did meet. But if it was in my clubbing days I doubt it as I have only had this tache a year.

      Thanks all for noticing, means a lot.


  7. I love them both. Two nice people not dissing the other. We know Sandy hasn’t dipped her hands under the tepid tap of a hot tap left to drip continuously for a day unattended just yet, but c’mon Cupid..get your sling out and shoot some arrows goddamn!

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