When I first clocked the pair stepping forward to be mangled by my malice in this week’s Guardian Blind Date, I found myself thinking, ‘Oh, they’re old.’ And then I realised they are closer to me in age than almost all the Blind Date couples have been in the last year. Oh, how I laughed, for all of a millisecond.
Anyway, Mum and Dad are going out now and they want you to behave and you just have to call if you need anything, okay, which means don’t call at all:
EDIT: A few hours after this went live, it was brought to my attention that Matt is not 60, as printed in the magazine, and is in fact 52. The online version of the Guardian column has been amended (see screenshot below) and I’ve edited some jokes and comments below to take out any incorrect references. Hopefully they still make sense.
Penny is 60 and Matt is 52 – I will pause here for you inevitable ‘well they don’t look it’ commentary.
All done? Great. Anyway. Penny is an artist and Matt is a senior arts lecturer. Senior! I wonder how long he had to wrangle with his head of department to get the funding for that title change. Anyway, there they are looking very tasteful and like the kind of people who will tut at you for getting in their way on Kensington High Street, and you can read how it went, including an on-the-night-selfie, on the Guardian website or in today’s Saturday magazine. (I’m not paid to say that but it seems only polite.)
Once you’ve done that, we can get going:
Penny on Matt | Matt on Penny
What were you hoping for?
Lively conversation with an attractive, astute man whose family is central to his life.
So… not someone who radiates nuclear divorced energy and has a sports car which he loves more than his children – who don’t speak to him anyway because he’s embarrassing and tells them, ‘Look, Kandi is not trying to replace your mother, I assure you.’
What were you hoping for?
Good company, good food and wine and pleasant surrounds, which we got.
‘Surrounds.’ Matt’s ideal date finds him in a mantelpiece shop.
A good head of hair and a friendly smile.
You get the sense Penny’s answers are influenced by men she’s already met, who are a similar age. ‘Full head of hair’ – a devastating throat-punch to every man she’s dated before who happens to be reading this.
Confident, with a nice smile.
I always think of ‘confident’ from its 1980s use in deodorant or sanitary towel commercials because they were too afraid to say ‘sweat’ or ‘periods’. ‘She smelled of Natrel Plus and for some reason arrived on rollerskates, flying a stunt kite.’
What did you talk about?
Creativity. His work in design and my art. Matt’s house renovation. The ins and outs of families. Health and exercise routines.
Children. Penny’s work in foreign countries. Losses we’ve experienced. Shared interests in walking in the countryside and by the sea. Running. Cycling. Painting. My house renovation. Yoga v Pilates.
Children/the ins and outs of families – Inevitable I guess, with two dates over 50, but you shouldn’t talk about your children on a date unless they are famous, in prison, or have over 1m followers on TikTok.
Yoga v pilates/ running/cycling/exercise routines – another inevitable conversation once you stagger past 40, tbh: your health. It becomes like talking about the weather, trust me. I’m going to have to introduce a blanket ban in my personal life, like not talking about politics or seasons finales of shows you’ve only just started watching. I will literally talk about anything other than my osteoarthritis. Exception: you need me to come to an appointment with you and do Costa and crisps runs while you wait three hours to be seen.
House renovation – Actually maybe I would rather hear about your cystitis or your tennis elbow.
Any awkward moments?
I guessed her to be 10 years younger than she actually is; Penny thought I was a few years older than I am. I think I managed to laugh it off.
Man, grey hair is a killer And I should know. I have grey hair. I only hate it because a) it doesn’t go with my natural complexion at all, so I now look ill 24/7 and b) people see it and make an instant judgement. I know I’m not imagining this, I’ve been introduced to enough strangers to know that I’m being biometrically assessed by their age scanners and that a decision has been made. Their tone when talking to me changes, like they’re about to ask me if I need any help crossing the road. While not an immediate problem for me, I do dread my life becoming nothing but younger people talking to me as if I’m just coming round from a coma. The pigment in my hair may have done a bunk, darling, but my middle finger still works just fine. (I would never dye it, btw, not to hide the grey anyway. It’s very easy to look like a huge melting Lindor ball.)
Note: can we please just agree to stop guessing each other’s ages. We’re not contestants on The Wheel, ffs, just tell us.
Good table manners?
Impeccable. And he let me try his acorn cake.
Extremely good, and relaxed with it. Her choice of wine was sound, too
I’ve been to the restaurant they’re at. Hide, on Piccadilly. It’s quite posh. I went there with my then-editor to celebrate the launch of my first book (still available on all good bookseller websites). The food was nice and the service was friendly, but it was one of those places where there’s lots of FAFF, though. Things arrive shrouded in mist or clinging to moss or served in ancient flagons. I grew up thinking the height of fine dining was a quarter pounder and a knickerbocker glory in sophisti-tacky local ripoffs of TGI Friday’s so I loved it, obviously.
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Best thing about Matt?
Thoughtful and a good listener.
Again, I get the feeling every man Penny’s friends have set her up with have been neither of those things. All those awful dates in bland west London eateries where everything is £27 and comes on a plate the size of an acid tab.
Best thing about Penny?
Her high cheekbones, strong nose line and hair – when she came back from the bathroom, I think she’d brushed it out and it shimmered.
Is it just me or does Matt sound a bit like he’s describing the horse from the Lloyds Bank adverts to a police sketch artist?
Describe Matt in three words?
Creative, kind, good humoured.
CREATIVE, like a lie you tell as an excuse why you’re five minutes late to meet someone that gets way out of hand and suddenly you’re having to invent a whole backstory for your imaginary lover.
KIND, like the offer of a biscuit when you’re drinking a really crap cup of tea.
GOOD HUMOURED, like I hear some people are, somewhere, but never on the same Tube carriage as me.
Describe Penny in three words?
Youthful, resilient, intelligent.
YOUTHFUL, like someone who is no longer a youth would say about someone else who is no longer a youth, on a date.
RESILIENT, like a plant you paid £17 for from green-fingered gay magnet Nunhead Gardener, despite all your best efforts to kill it.
INTELLIGENT, like someone who is in your replies within SECONDS to make a joke based on the syntax of your tweet. Always a pleasure, boys.
What do you think he made of you?
Fast-talking, an adoring mum and youthful for my age!
He did indeed say you were youthful! Either this has been achieved through neurolinguistic programming, or Penny is genuinely youthful – whatever that means. Did she pause halfway through the meal to watch an episode of Peppa Pig?
And … did you kiss?
No – we had a friendly hug.
Only on the cheek, but that felt nice!
Ah, this is very sweet. Oh hang on, I’m doing it, that patronising thing people do to older people. ‘Isn’t it CUTE how even at their AGE they can still have distinct personalities and be capable of feeling emotions I assumed would be swept away down the plughole, along with your hair follicles and your hormones, once you hit 50.’
Marks out of 10?
8, for an interesting conversation over good food.
I like how Penny’s review sounds like Judith Chalmers giving an overall score and a little bit of extra info for the Hotel Rialto, Playa de las Americas. ‘I especially enjoyed the flamenco quartet, castanet juggling, and chorizo-making class, all held in the newly refurbished “King Juan Carlos buffet lounge”, formerly the “Francisco Franco sun terrace”.’
Anyway, a pair of eights is a perfectly respectable score for two people who didn’t want to murder each other.
Would you meet again?
We might do a gallery to continue the art conversation.
We swapped numbers and agreed to meet at a gallery, or if she has an exhibition of her own paintings.
Yay! I guess we’ll watch this space then.
Alternatively, if you liked this, maybe you can support my work by sending me a small, one-off tip on Ko-fi. I know times are hard so I genuinely don’t expect anything, so if you can’t, then your eyes on my words are enough.
Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review: 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. Penny, I want to hear about all these asshole men you’ve met.