Nicole and Luke
Photographs: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian/Yhe Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Nicole and Luke

What a week it’s been! Well, I’m assuming it’s been ‘a week’ – the days tend to blur into one and most weeks tend to be ‘quite a week’ or a ‘hell of a week’ or ‘fuck my life’ these days, don’t they? But one thing we can rely on is that every seven days, the Guardian Blind Date happens and two strangers will gently flirt, or feverishly frot, or pray for sweet death, in the name of column inches.

Gamely two-finger typing their best retorts this week are Nicole, 26, an ecological consultant, and Luke, also 26,  who works as a physiotherapist. I may have to call upon his services later to seek treatment for injuries sustained trying to crowbar jokes into this week’s date. Here’s how they look within the hallowed, and doomed, pages of Weekend.

Nicole and Luke full length
Photographs: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Generally good outfits here – strong footwear from Luke, excellent trouserism from Nicole. Read what happened on the date in full on the Guardian website (make sure you do so they get clicks, thank you) and then let’s reconvene for the scorn and shame.

Nicole on LukeLuke on Nicole

What were you hoping for?
I’m still just excited to get out after lockdown. I hate dating apps, so was looking forward to getting to know someone in person. Also, free food.

I think this is going to be a pretty standard answer in the weeks and months post-lockdown – the new ‘good food and great company’. It says a lot for dating apps’ reputations that meeting a stranger, with no idea what they look like, and who has been selected for you by someone who doesn’t really know you because you’ve only spoken over emails, is preferable to swiping left on scores of men with ‘lad’ in their bio.

What were you hoping for?
To have a fun evening and meet someone I could get along with.

Reach for the stars. Luke.

First impressions?
Good-looking, smiley. My mum would say he has kind eyes.

Kind eyes. I wonder what makes them kind? Perhaps the left-eye has a regular direct-debit to a local donkey sanctuary, while the right eye always makes sure to drop a few tins into the food bank collection point at Tesco – branded ones, too, not own-label.

First impressions?
Very friendly, easy-going and cute.

🚨’OVERALL IMPRESSION NOT FIRST IMPRESSION’ KLAXON🚨

What did you talk about?
We both have science-based jobs, so nerded out about work a lot. We also talked about our childhoods (his in Australia, mine in Zimbabwe).
Food, family, bats, work, hobbies, travel plans.

Work ✅
Family/childhoods ✅

I’m fascinated by the word ‘hobbies’, because I don’t believe I’ve ever had one other than reading. When I was much younger it used to be writing, but now I do that for a job. Hobbies to me means things like potholing, crafting, wearing lycra for a three-minute bike ride to the shop, trying to reinvent your tiredness as a personality quirk, mapping every tube station on a large graph sorted by footfall and depth underground. My main hobbies now are scrolling through my phone reading other people’s arguments on social media – arguments which, if I encountered them in real life, would make me leave the room – and googling symptoms for diseases that haven’t been in circulation since the 1700s but that I definitely have.

Any awkward moments?
Luke is pescatarian, and the set meal consisted of mostly meat options – thankfully the waiting staff were nice about it. Also, the table was super wobbly, which made things interesting.

Pescatarian. Such an inflammatory word for anyone who reads a right-wing rag; you can tell we’re in the safe and understanding embrace of a newspaper whose entire workforce shops in COS. I have quite often been on dates where a wobbly table was the most interesting thing about it.

Any awkward moments?
Nicole claimed she’d met David Attenborough and had a photo with him, then couldn’t find the photo. (I’ve since seen it, and it’s pretty great.)

‘I’ve since seen it’ – SOUNDS LIKE A SPOILER

Good table manners?
We both struggled to eat wings (my chicken, his cauliflower) without getting sauce everywhere.

You heard it here first: cauliflowers have wings. Sadly, they remain flightless, unless launched st someone’s head by A N Other.

Good table manners?
Considering it was a meal of wings and burgers, very good.

I wouldn’t eat wings, like ever. I can’t eat with my hands really, not unless absolutely necessary, like if the only way to get out of a windowless room rapidly filling with water was using a code that could only be generated by eating a (buttery) corn on the cob with no skewer. I suppose if you’re on a date and watching someone eat with their hands you get to see whether they lick their fingers clean, or wipe them, an early indicator of what sex might be like.

Best thing about Luke?
Easy to talk to, and didn’t mind me nattering on about bat and bird surveys. He also made a point of remembering the names of my family members, which was sweet.

Let’s just hope he wasn’t remembering them so he could take a stab at guessing your online banking security questions, Nicole. Have you checked your balance this morning?

Best thing about Nicole?
The passion she has for her job is inspiring.

Well, I suppose wanging on about bats and birds is better than the usual rundowns of office politics, or which room of their massive house the CEO was sitting in as they Zoomed everyone to tell them they were at risk of redundancy, or the colleague who’s had a breakdown because it’s been over a year since he commented sarcastically on the nutritional value of a coworker’s lunch.

Describe Luke in three words?
Funny, kind, engaging.

Funny, like a look from a stranger as you lick the lid of your peach melba Ski on the bus.
Kind, like the woman who paid for my brother’s shopping the other day when his card wouldn’t work.
Engaging – YAY! IT’S BEEN SO LONG SINCE WE HAD AN ENGAGING – like an animated PowerPoint slide with six typos.


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Describe Nicole in three words?
Smart, passionate, funny.

Smart, like a lovely easy-iron shirt and tie set from Next that a relative who doesn’t really see you that often might buy you. £13.99. Colours are slightly… 2007. You haven’t worn a tie to anything other than a funeral or a wedding since Mr Brightside dropped out of the Top 10, but it’s the thought that counts.
Passionate, like a couple bagging off on the Tube platform waiting for the 23:14 to North Acton.
Funny, like a comedienne, or what the tabloids would call a ‘funny girl’.

Did you go on somewhere?
If you count moving tables to be closer to the canal. I didn’t realise everyone else had left until the bar staff came to kick us out.
We changed tables if that counts (wild).

Oh, this (wild) has read my mind. I think everyone is a little hesitant and cautious and nervous and overly polite post-lockdown. We don’t want to drive anyone away with our new habits honed during months of silence and joggers-wearing. The Guardian should hook the participants up with some MDMA, or perhaps pre-drinks of White Lightning and Sambuca to loosen them up a bit.

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
Yes, probably.

Villanelle in Killing Eve saying 'take me to the hole'

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
Great question…

It *is* a great question, Luke. That’s why they’re asking it. Fancy answering? Anyway, good for Nicole. If The G isn’t going to throw in controlled drugs, can’t they at least chuck them a couple of lateral flow tests so they can check for Covid and then snog if all clear? (Please do not get in touch about why this is a bad idea; I’m not suggesting it become government policy.)

Marks out of 10?
The night was 10.

Toni Braxton scores a 10

Marks out of 10?
7.

A wine glass shatters in Adele's hand

What? Seven? And you would’ve kissed? Um. I’m guessing Luke’s scoring system goes something like:
7 = attraction, but no physical contact;
8 = snog (with tongues);
9 = fingers and tops;
10 = full bonk.

Would you meet again?
Yes, definitely.
Yeah, for sure. I had a great time; I hope she did, too.

(Wild.)


If you liked this but don’t want to buy my book (rude!)then you can send me a one-off tip on Ko-fi. No subscription or obligation, the blog remains free, and if you don’t have any spare cash then please don’t worry – just tell people how sexy I am instead. It doesn’t matter that it’s not true.

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 media. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself. 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. Please promise me you might go a little (wilder) next time.

Nicole and Luke ate at Randy’s Wing Bar, Canalside, London E15.

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

20 Comments

  1. It’s like you lived my childhood, Peach Melba Ski 😅 I had completely forgotten about them, we used to fight over that flavour as kids so we didn’t end up with the banana one!
    A joy as always
    He was a bit mean with the 7 but maybe 10 was a bit generous, in normal times she might have scored it lower!

  2. Aw I was a bit disappointed with the 7 score but feel better now I read his possible scoring criteria. Thank you for the excellent analysis as per. ⭐️

  3. I’m so pleased you commented on her excellent trousering – I’ve just gone down a rabbit hole trying to find similar ones for fat women.

    Hopefully he’s not a pescatarian who won’t kiss someone who has been eating meat.

  4. I’d say these scores and the disparity between them perhaps reflect differences in how the two might feel about coming out of lockdown; Nicole seemed pretty giddy with excitement and might have been less generous under normal circumstances while Luke might have been feeling a bit tentative.

    Bear in mind also that he’s being asked to rate the date as a whole, so perhaps he took a mark off for the meaty menu. Last week we had two lactose-intolerant daters being sent for pizza and this week it’s a pescatarian being sent for wings and burgers; do people simply not mention these things anymore because they assume everywhere is diet-aware, or is the Guardian not doing its homework?

    Some of us are also just less effusive personalities: for me, a 10 would mean ‘I think I might want to spend the rest of my life with this person’, a 9 would mean head over heels in love, with every parting a wrench (Lizzie and Tomas levels of instant connection, maybe), and an 8 might be a Joanne and Morgan-esque ‘let’s dive in feet first and see where this might lead’, so I’d interpret a 7 under Covid conditions as pretty enthusiastic.

    It sounds like these two were very well-matched and that a second (or third!) date at a seafood place might be in order once the weather improves.

    Well done, Guardian Cupid (though I really would double check the dietary requirements next time).

  5. Ah, licking the lid of the tub of the yogurt is the best part! Do all UK people pronounce ‘yogurt’ the same way Hugh Grant does in Notting Hill? (Side note: his role in Paddington 2 is his best performance!) Loved this date, and your concluding (wild) made me snort-laugh! They have interacted again, yay! Hopefully it was a fun second date with a plethora of pescatarian food options, not just a text from Nicole sharing her David Attenborough photo with a terse “See, I wasn’t lying, so nerrr!” (I am jealous she met him, he’d be so interesting to talk to, and his voice !!!! Swoon!). Justin, you have a devious and cynical yet creative mind, I would never have thought to memorise people’s families names to assist me to break in to their bank accounts…

    1. If you can find it, watch Hugh Grant in ‘A Very English Scandal’ – definitely his best performance.

      1. Hi TJH, I haven’t seen that, but I have heard about it, will have to watch it! Hugh Grant just looked like he was having so much fun being in Paddington 2, I have watched (and fallen asleep in!) many kids movies over the years, but Hugh Grant in Paddington 2 was one I didn’t mind rewatching with my kids! The other week or so Justin had mentioned that movie, so I alluded to it here!

    2. I just came to see what gif you would use after he dropped the “7/10” bombshell.

      Excellent choice sir

    3. @Winifred UK person here, yes we do pronounce yoghurt like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill
      : )
      And I totally agree about Paddington 2, he’s amazing in it. He’s also great in A Very English Scandal.

      @Justin cheers for another great write up. Still thinking about cauliflowers with wings!

      1. Hi Daniel H, oh, I love the way you say it! You spell it with the ‘g’ too! Much better than the Aussie Way. Second recommendation for A Very English Scandal, better find me a copy to watch! And cauliflowers with wings prompt a smile indeed!

        1. Just checked, and they spell it yoghurt here too. Have been spelling it wrong in my head and on my shopping lists for my life up until now. How embarrassing. Now I will doubt my spelling ability for the rest of my life…

  6. I came here immediately to see which gif would appear under the 7… Such a disparity, but hoping it is as you say less to do with how much they liked each other and more how they mark in general.

    Again with the restaurant not matching the dietary restrictions?

    I had a friend who was a pescetarian who said it was because she would only eat anything she could see herself being able to kill. “I could kill a fish, I couldn’t kill a chicken”

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