So we soldier on gamely with the virtual Blind Dates, pretending – much like the cast in the last season of The Good Place – that everything is fine and that we’re all having just as much fun as we always did. One advantage to doing everything through Zoom is it’s finally put an end to the Blind Date being so London-centric – this week we’re in… Paris. Not that you can tell until the dates actually say so. Nobody is nearby chugging on a Gauloise and you can’t even smell croissants.
Anyway, Pete is a 36-year-old writer and Claire is 40, and a journalist, and while there is no likelihood of anyone voulez-vousing to coucher avec anyone ce soir (à cause de social distancing) we may well have a coup de foudre on our hands. Or not. Read what happened on the date dans le Guardian and let’s meet back here to dissect.
Pete on Claire | Claire on Pete
What were you hoping for?
A fun conversation with someone interesting, attractive, intelligent and full of life. Possibly the owner of exotic animals. Not too much to ask.
I feel I should warn you now that as well as with being writers, it appears lockdown seems to have had quite an effect on both Pete and Claire, as their answers to most questions have the unmistakable tone of someone who hasn’t spoken to another soul in quite a long time. Or if they have, it hasn’t been a very fulfilling experience – a quick thirty-second exchange of pleasantries in the boulangerie or a barked “fuck you” to a cyclist using the pavement. We’ve all been there, I guess. Starved of the regular, seemingly unimportant regular interactions of our day-to-day. Even if lockdown was business as usual for you, there was a distinct lack of… everyone else.
Anyway, this is a very full answer so I will pay it the ultimate compliment and analyse exactly zero words of it.
What were you hoping for?
A good chat, some banter, and to like the person enough to want to meet them in person.
I hate the word ‘banter’ so much. I am not a ‘banter’ person; it is a club I have never been able to join. Banter belongs to those confident enough in locker rooms to air off their testicles using the hair dryer. Banter is the language of the people who go “waheeeeey” when someone drops a glass in a pub. Banter is a different world, one where you can say exactly what you like and know you can cause offence because there will be little comeback because you are an Archbishop of Banterbury, you shampoo your hair with Bantène, your favourite metal band is Bantera. You are a BANTS GUY, and for some reason, I always end up sitting behind you on a bus when I’m on my own.
Claire was very attractive and intelligent, and had a pet cat (not a python as I’d hoped). She was very nicely dressed, too. I realised that, on screen, the stripy T-shirt I was wearing looked like pyjamas.
A stripy T-shirt in Paris?! As any stereotyping fan will tell you, to avoid a stripy top looking like pyjamas in France, just add oignons!
Pete seemed laid-back and confident.
Like a chaise-longue with a podcast.
What did you talk about?
Work, the state of the world, how it is to be English living in Paris, as we both do. Large parts of the conversation were cat-based, which is one of my areas of expertise.
Being in lockdown, our jobs, dating apps, places we’ve lived, his application for French citizenship, our cats.
Lockdown/state of the world ✅ – it’s coming to something when you almost miss Brexit on the front pages, isn’t it?
Cats ✅ – not a cat person, sorry. I don’t find them hugely exciting. I need to know I can click my fingers and have an animal fall in love with me immediately. I just don’t have time to court an indifferent moggy. But I wish them well.
Work/our jobs ✅ – lots of matches here, that’s good, even if it does all have the air of “struggling to stay coherent on three nitrazepam and a Benadryl” about it.
How it is to be English living in Paris – years ago, when I was much younger and never had to turn sideways to push past anyone in a bar, I lived in Belgium and the topic of conversation whenever I met anyone new who was also English-speaking was “how it is to be an English-speaking person living in Belgium”. Luckily I was only there a year because I wasn’t sure how many conversations about inferior cups of tea and a lack of decent bacon I could have without my head falling off with sheer boredom.
Any awkward moments?
For some reason I decided to tell her a story about how I recently went to an erotic massage parlour by mistake. Probably should have saved that one for a second date. In general, trying to flirt with someone with a little mirror of yourself on the bottom of the screen was quite humbling.
Let’s breeze over the “erotic massage parlour” but because we’ve all got places to be and the “by mistake” is… well, sure.
Here’s a tip for anyone who finds themselves looking at their own face during a Zoom call or a Microsoft Teams hell-conference or whatever: pop a Post-it over your image. Then you can focus on the carbuncles of whichever poor soul hasn’t got the memo that you should stack your laptop on a good pile of encyclopaedias before switching on the camera. I know NONE of you will take this advice because half the fun (most of the fun) of video-calling is seeing your own little face and what you look like as you speak.
All your little facial expressions, things you do without even noticing, that feel like nothing when your facial muscles are obediently forming them, but on camera look like you’re chewing your way through a sack of Tangfastics. So this is what you look like, all the time, while you’re talking. The cute little frown you do when you’re thinking? Horrible, isn’t it? Like the Child-Catcher when his satnav tells him he’s approaching a Montessori nursery. My, aren’t your wrinkles just deepening by the second? And… look, if you can’t be bothered to cover the little image off yourself with a Post-it, at least buy a ring-light and blast the imperfections away.
Anyway, let’s now cross over to the longest “table manners” answers known to mankind. I mean, someone get me a hook to drag these two people offstage.
Good table manners?
We both ordered pizzas, which arrived at almost the same time. Claire had immaculate manners, always a sign of a fine upbringing. I unfortunately tried to eat oysters as a starter, which must have been horrific to watch.
Good table manners?
We decided to order the same food, agreeing on pizza pretty quickly. We picked places with the same expected delivery time, and the timing was almost perfect. I didn’t really notice how Pete was eating. My camera was pretty close, but I wasn’t too bothered about eating (with my hands) in front of him.
I mean, life story.
“Impeccable” come back, all is forgiven.
Best thing about Claire?
I felt there was much to learn about her and that’s very appealing.
Okay, so this is a good answer from Pete because it not only compliments Claire (kind of) but also reveals something about himself and as we know from doing this for six years or so, the answers are actually all about the people doing the answering. Pete is showing here that he’s a curious person, that he likes to find out about people. Some don’t. Some go through life broadcasting to the world, not having conversations. So, full marks – not that I’ve ever scored anyone on these dates, should I have been doing that?!? Oh well too late now, it’s all nearly over.
Did you introduce her to your housemates?
I tried to hook up my cat, Fatoosh, with her cat.
I introduced him to my cat, Lola.
These answers only exist so they can each show off about how cool their cat’s names’ are – “cool” is doing some Olympic-level heavy lifting here btw – but if at least the two cats get to bang eventually, it won’t have been an entirely wasted day.
How did the call end?
For some reason, the last thing I said was, “Vive la France!” Her response was, “Oh dear.”
How did the call end?
I said I was knackered. We swapped numbers and said we’d go for a drink.
I really can’t imagine Parisians doing this at all, can you?
What I like about this meme is that it carbon-dates this blog to a hyper-specific time period and should we ever bother to read it back, say in a year or so, it will take us a while to remember… and then we will marvel at how long ago it seemed that we all laughed at a woman brandishing a glass of wine nearly fell off a shed in the world’s most built-up back garden.
If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Probably to wear a nicer outfit and not say loads of weird stuff. But that applies to pretty much every evening.
Marks out of 10?
Assuming you mean for the “date” and not Pete, I’d say 6/10.
What? Of course it’s for Pete! Isn’t it? Have we all been living a lie? Are they marking the evening?!
No, it’s the person. Yes, it is. You’re rating a person, like you would an Airbnb, or a bad ratatouille on TripAdvisor. If all these years we’ve actually supposed to have been rating the evening, what does this mean for us as people? It’s like one of those life-hack listicles they used to have on BuzzFeed when it was still fun, about secret, actual uses for a soup ladle, or the correct way to take a stone out of a plum.
Anyway, no. You rate the person. How dare you try to whip away the tablecloth from under the precious, fragile chine tea service that is our reality, Claire.
Would you meet again in person?
Would you meet again in person?
We said we would… Maybe as friends.
My second novel THE MAGNIFICENT SONS is out on Thursday! But some people who ordered it online have it already! And I found it in a Waterstones yesterday! As you can see below! What’s it about? Does it matter? You’ve read this far. Anyway, you can buy it using one of these links:HIVE WATERSTONES AMAZON FOYLES WH SMITH BERT’S BOOKS APPLE BOOKS BOOK DEPOSITORY
If you’ve ever enjoyed anything I’ve written, maybe c.90,000 words if fiction might be right up your street!
About the review and the daters: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most of the things I say are merely 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. 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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. Have the cats met yet? This could be the lockdown love story we need.
• Fancy a blind date? Although Weekend magazine is earmarked for closure, the Guardian are still looking for candidates to be in the Blind Date column, so maybe it’s carrying on in some form; they haven’t said. Email email@example.com.