Impeccable Table Manners

Max and Grace

Since the untimely passing of Blind Date icon and “flying  long-forgtten relatives over from Australia for no apparent reason” enthusiast Cilla Black, I have wondered how long it would take for the Guardian Blind Date couple to mention her.

No Saturday night was complete in my nana’s house without sitting through an hour of gawky provincials stooping under the weight of Elnett and Studio Line hair products wooing each other from opposite ends of a bit of plywood. “Cilla’s on!” Nana would trill as she sliced a Mars bar into tiny pieces lest I got too excited and ate the whole lot in one go and choked. Reader, I was 13.

I don’t know whether Cilla read the Blind Date column in the Weekend magazine, but I do know Liverpool’s favourite ex-pat was fond of saying, “Isn’t it lovely when they get on?” after two of her romantic hopefuls managed to make it back from a drizzly day at Flamingo Land without killing each other.

Well, happily for archangel Cilla, but perhaps less so for us cynical lemon-suckers she left behind, this week that’s exactly what happened.

max and grace

Read what ‘went down’ on the date between 28-year-old Max, a design consultant and Grace, 32, an events manager before I “come back and tell you all about it”.

Max | Grace
What were you hoping for?
Someone worthy of an introduction to my mother.

This is a fairly legit concern to be honest. Every time I arrived at a date to meet the latest ne’er-do-well, I would wonder if I could ever take them home to my mum. Would this guy flinch as Mum piled an eighteenth roast potato on his plate on a Sunday? Could he handle our raft of in-jokes, carefully crafted over decades of practically being the same person but with different tastes in denim? The answer, usually, was no. And they’d have to go.

I wonder how often Max’s mum tells him to take his hands out of his pockets. I reckon she has a recording she plays down the phone to him every half an hour.

What were you hoping for?
A lovely meal with someone fun.

You would be amazed how many people go on this Blind Date thing for a free meal. In the limited feedback I have had from participants, loads of them mention this. If you’re that desperate for a dinner, maybe get yourself down to the nearest food bank – unless, you know, you also want to be in a magazine but are too proud to say.

David Tennant looking judgey

First impressions?
Pleasantly surprised.

If you’ve been in the Guardian Blind Date column before, and the room suddenly went dark, it’s because Max just shaded you all to hell.

Tall, strapping, smart and very friendly. Good glasses.

Strapping and smart – what you grandma would say about, ooh I don’t know, Dale Winton, before going back to knitting her Shredded Wheat.

Good glasses. A man once leant over to me on a date – putting his face really close to mine – and I thought well hello here we go, but then he put his hand up to my face and said: “I really like your glasses; can I try them on?” I hear they lived happily ever after.

What did you talk about?
Offal, sherry, gout, ironing, Royal Variety Performances, first world problems, our mutual ambivalence towards cheesecake.

Do you think he means “indifferent toward cheesecake”? I know a lot of people who use ambivalent when they mean indifferent. It’s like confusing “sat” and “sitting”, but with a champagne twist and an extra car in the garage. If you really do have actual conflicting feelings about a dessert, then please accept my apologies.

Nothing quite makes me want to pick up every piece of furniture I own and throw it through all available windows like #FirstWorldProblems but, hey, this one’s for Cilla so I’ll just sit tight and bite down extra hard on my bridle.

Travel. Restaurants. Max’s love of shopping. How great nights out in Hull are. We did a Blind Date toast to Cilla.

I have some friends who went to university in Hull and look back on it very fondly. I can’t find the right GIF for this part so just imagine one. Any GIF at all, doesn’t matter. It’ll work.

“Max’s love of shopping” – you will notice the more this date goes on, the more Max sounds like that fabulous gay BFF you’ve been waiting for all your life.

? for the Cilla reference. Well done, chuck. I hope it was proper champagne. None of your cheap plonky fizz for the terror in 1A.

Table manners! Gird your loins.

Good table manners?
Excellent; very messy ribs were impeccably navigated.

I am now imagining everything Max says in the voice of Cupid Stunt.

Cupid Stunt

Good table manners?

I know an “impeccable” when I see one – I didn’t just fall out of a bloody tree, you know.

You know when you’ve been on a night out with friends and it is perfectly pleasant and the food is “fine” and everybody gets on and you come home, after only waiting for a taxi for three minutes, and you get through the door, wipe your feet on your John Lewis mat that says “Welcome to our home!”  and your spouse or your partner or your lover or your mother or your cleaner or your miniature schnauzer asks you, “How was it? Any scandal?” and you sigh and go, “No, not really”?

Well this is where we are. They’re getting on. Their answers are complimentary. We’re staring down a double-barrelled interview with S Club 7 in 1999. Let’s skip a few.

Describe her in three words
Lovely, charming and engaging.

“Engaging.” Like a really good slide in a Powerpoint presentation.

Describe him in three words
Warm, outgoing, enthusiastic.

This is how Piers Morgan would describe himself in a lonely hearts ad.

What do you think she made of you?
Urbane? Gentlemanly? I’ll settle with sane and with his own hair/teeth, though.

See what I mean? Max could be the toast of Soho, with swarms of acolytes, hyper-manicured fag hags and pornstar martinis stacked as far as the eye could see. He is, however, heterosexual, so we’re stuck with the guys who wear tiny vests and have “hey mr” programmed into their predictive text.

What do you think he made of you?
He suggested another drink, so I think he was having fun.

This is quite an impressive way of swerving the question without giving away any of your own perceptions of your character traits.

What would our Cilla have made of this answer as she grilled the daters on that peach Draylon interrogation nightmare of a sofa of hers? She’d have gone to a break, I assume, before threatening Grace with a shiv and telling her to be “be more telly”.

Did you go on somewhere?
Yes, for multiple martinis.
For a couple of cocktails.

Multiple vs a couple. I am guessing Grace phoned in sick the next day and has stupidly told her boss she was going to be in this.

“No, I only had a couple of drinks – it must have been something I ate.” Or someone.

Man pointing

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Cassava. No need for it, anywhere. Ever.
I wouldn’t have had that second martini.

They always regret the grog, don’t they? I suppose they are wandering gently into the age range where hangovers really start to bite, but come on, power through.

Also, is it me, or is Max the first straight male participant in this column in quite a while to actually give decent answers you want to read? Imagine if they hadn’t got on! He’d have been taking names, snatching weaves and welcoming bona fide sass to the stage without even pausing for breath!


A strong 9.

max marks


Grace finishes off with her 8 and a very coy, and kinda boring, “yes, probably” when it comes to meeting again, so let’s leave it to Max to give us the content-packed happy finish we know Cilla would’ve loved.

Would you meet again?
Yes! We’re both away for a few weeks, but plan to when diaries can align.

I don’t think that’s the only thing that will be aligning pretty soon, readers, if you catch my drift, know what I mean? (I am talking about sex. I imagine they are going to be getting on with that eventually.)

Somewhere up there, in the fluffy marshmallow clouds of the hereafter, Cilla has excitedly put down her glass of champagne and her harp, made her excuses to her hostess Princess Diana, and is tottering over to Heaven’s very finest milliner because “Isn’t it lovely when they get on?”

Yes. Yes, it is. Yes.

Alexis looking sultry

I want cage-fighting next week.

Photograph: James Drew Turner 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. 


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