Impeccable Table Manners

Peter and Hannah

This week we have the ultimate crossover, almost as mind-blowing as when Dynasty‘s Fallon turned up in The Colbys with a new head, or Footballers’ Wives’ Tanya Turner was banged up in Bad Girls – not forgetting when Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher and Magnum teamed up.

Because, today, not only am I reviewing the Guardian Weekend Blind Date as usual, I am actually… in Guardian Weekend writing about the Blind Date. In fact, I’m on the cover. Look:

Wow. , and, no, I didn’t get to keep it but I’m thinking of starting a crowdfunder; I cried when I had to take it off. Anyway, so what the hell am I doing on the cover, you may ask?

The Blind Date column is now 10 years old and my Impeccable Table Manners Blog is 5, so to celebrate our mutual milestones, we did a very meta mashup where I met Nina, the woman who matches up the daters, plus revisited five of my favourite couples from years gone by to see how they feel now about appearing in the column. You can find it in today’s Guardian Weekend magazine complete with lots of lovely pictures of me and Nina jumping about all over the place, or read it .

And one more thing: I actually helped set up this week’s couple in the Blind Date column! Yes, I put them together and you can find out how I did that and how the entire Blind Date works in the Guardian piece also. Phew.

But enough about that. Let’s get to business. Welcome to the gladiatorial arena Peter, 26, a board games publisher, and 24-year-old Hannah, who is a content designer (and me, 43, writer).

Photographs: Linda Nylind/Muir Vidler/The Guardian

And no, great sock choice isn’t the only reason I put them together, but it certainly helped before I steam on in and get scalping.

Peter on Hannah | Hannah on Peter
What were you hoping for?
A clickbait-worthy evening of cringe.

Surely it’s time for an update of Andy Warhol’s (overused) statement that everyone in the future will be famous for 15 minutes.
“Everyone will be clickbait at least twice in their lives.”
“Everyone will be duped by a boiler-room investment fraud.”
“Everyone will be cast as Ben Mitchell in EastEnders.
“Everyone will be cancelled (and then un-cancelled if they’re rich, white, and male enough).”
Bit more workshopping, maybe.

As Peter very astutely points out, the more clickbaity dates tend to be the ones that are absolutely filthy, beautifully romantic or, in the majority of cases, cringeworthy. Here’s hoping.

What were you hoping for?
Someone hot, good conversation. I didn’t want someone poncey.

Before you rush to cancel Hannah with immediate effect, the official meaning of “poncey” is pretentious and affected and I think we can all get on board with this, can’t we? I know that on a date you have to present a “version” of yourself lest you scare them away by unleashing all your crazy early on, but it should at least be a version of yourself you won’t have to unpick later on. Don’t pretend to like stuff you don’t actually like because that comes back to bite you and suddenly before you know it you are being taken to a SPORTS bar, as what he claims to be calling a SURPRISE, to watch some kind of MATCH.

First impressions?
Prompt; eminently comfortable with awkwardness.
Super cool. I felt I was in for a good night with someone interesting.

This is going well, isn’t it? Perhaps I have magic powers.

What did you talk about?
The woeful state of sex education in schools, working with government agencies, terrible dates and how much food we could get away with ordering – turns out, a lot.
Standard London millennial stuff: museums, books, films..

Woeful state of sex education = the main thing I remember about sex education at my school (when I was 11) is that it made me pretty certain I never wanted to do it, and that I was the only boy in the class who had heard of the word “vulva”. My official sex education consisted of 15 minutes of flicker-book style illustrations which showed two incredibly hairy ’70s cartoon people having the most vanilla of shags its possible, followed by a whole hour of excruciating chat about pregnancy and birth, culminating in a live-action film of a labour – again, lots of hair – and a baby covered in what looked like pond lichen, screaming its objections to its agent, no doubt. My unofficial sex education was ameliorated somewhat by cigarettes, rum and teenage enthusiasm but was, in hindsight, no more enjoyable.

Terrible dates = I am very against talking about this kind of thing on a date because nine times out of ten the sharing of these bad date stories won’t be a bonding exercise, but will alert you to the fact you are, in fact, actually on a bad date.

Standard London millennial stuff = Millennials. Ah. That word. That concept. I find the obsession with generational divide – and actually assigning each tribe a name like being born at the same time makes you a homogeneous mass – and the ensuing culture war really really tiresome and lazy. It is a middle-class obsession. Plenty of people out there, of every generation, are experiencing the same problems, usually heightened because they have less money, no social mobility, suffer from prejudice and, most tragically, lack the contact email address of an opinion columns editor. Breaking news: people of all ages are being absolutely screwed by society – screaming about avocados, mortgages, and numbers on a birth certificate isn’t helpful, it’s a distraction. Can you all even hear yourselves?

Any awkward moments?
When I knocked a glass of water all over the table within minutes of meeting.

Clumsy hero who loves a bit of “cringe” spills water all over heroine and they live happily ever after, right? I’ve seen enough of these movies.

Any awkward moments?
He responded well to my rant about how we don’t learn about vaginas.

OK, well I wasn’t expecting that plot twist. But Hannah does have a point. What do we really know about them? Obviously women’s interest magazines talk about them but for anyone who doesn’t dip into those hallowed pages – of which there are now much fewer, given the mass-market magazine industry appears to be ailing – it’s all a bit of a mystery. Many men, especially, have no idea – they would need a map and a 5G phone signal to navigate the genitalia on an inflatable sex doll. Yeah, OK, no need to write in if you’re that “nice guy” who can track down a G-spot in seconds.Whack it on your CV instead.

Good table manners?

OK, you got me. This better not be a mutiny.

Best thing about them?
Her willingness to keep ordering more food and booze. I’m still full.
He was really cool. He made me feel a bit inadequate.

Look, all you want is someone to say yes to another bottle of Chateau du Migraine and a tasting menu of ten desserts (you must agree to have five each and not split each one in two – your forks should not touch until your tongues have).

I’m not sure how I’d react if someone said the best thing about me was “he made me feel a bit inadequate”, although I know a lot of gay men whose skin complaints would magically clear and life expectancy would triple upon hearing it. But this, on the whole, is positive and I am… quietly optimistic? I don’t know, it’s like watching two of your children tackling the egg and spoon race.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Sure, though they’d probably look at each other like first-contact aliens.
Don’t see why not, but not in a romantic way.

Oh dear. That crunching sound, the scraping of metal on tarmac you can hear, is the bloody wheels coming off.

How soon should you introduce a love interest to friends? I’d give it four dates or so, I reckon. Probably wise to have already had sex, then you can weigh up talent under the duvet against your friends’ instant dislike of them, complete with hissing and threateningly drawing their hands across their throats. I’m afraid it really can change everything meeting the friends of someone you’ve hitherto fancied.

I remember going on a few dates with a guy and it had been going quite well and had even been, unusually for me, pretty romantic. And then I met his friends and realised he had terrible taste in humans which, sadly, by default, meant that I was in fact just his latest mistake. And thus terrible too. One of his friends barely hid her disdain for me either – when I said I grew up in a council house (she led this line of questioning, obviously), I could practically hear her pearl choker tighten in horror. She was also married to man who later asked me what it felt like to kiss another man, so I imagine those pearls will be tighter than a balled-up scrunchie by now.

Describe Hannah in three words?
Friendly, conversational, thoughtful.

FRIENDLY, like that one cashier in the post office, who you never get. You always get that one who brushes their teeth in formaldehyde and whose motivational quotes calendar features only lines spoken by Disney villains.
CONVERSATIONAL, like your French oral. A+, thanks for asking.
THOUGHTFUL, like an anonymous postcard popped through your letter box reminding you to “PLEASE START USING CONDITIONER ON THAT KINDLING YOU CALL A HAIRDO”

Describe Peter in three words?
A creative nerd.

A, like the first letter of the alphabet and not really an adjective, Hannah. Too many people are copping out with this one and I am not having it.
CREATIVE, like the lies I used to tell myself when pretending I was madly in love with Anna Friel and not, as the sands of time would soon shift to reveal, gay gay gay gay GAY.
NERD, like a nerd. Remember when nerds were friendless, lonely horse-frighteners who lived in their bedrooms and applied for charitable fund status for their acne? Now nerds are everywhere, they buy T-shirts with “NERD” on them just to alert you that they’re not a proper nerd but a relatively attractive person in NHS glasses. Whatever happened to the old-school nerds? I guess they saved up for Invisalign, put a rowing machine in the garden shed and got busy. Shame.

What do you think she made of you?
Probably an awkward parody of myself on a mission to generate sweet, sweet content.

This must be what it felt like for Kevin McAllister in Home Alone when the boiler in the basement became sentient.

What do you think he made of you?
I hope he thought I was cool and easygoing, but he also might have thought I was a bit square because I didn’t want to break into a building with him.

“Break into a building?” Does anyone have any idea what’s going on?  Why would you do that on a first date?

Did you go on somewhere?
Smithfield meat market for a wander. Yes, after the vegan restaurant.
Smithfield market to kiss a pig.

And… did you kiss?
We both ran away before that could happen.
No, I didn’t want to. Then when we were saying ’bye, he started edging away.

This is like when I was about 11 and in English lessons, I would write long, epic stories with more twists and turns than Gwyneth Paltrow at hot yoga – but I had no idea how to end them, so everybody would die, or just go home or be zapped back in time or something, despite the story previously having zero sci-fi leanings. Another thing in common with this date: nobody lived happily ever after. I sense this is slipping through our fingers.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That my suggestion of finding an abandoned building to explore was taken up.

“Finding an abandoned building to explore” – oh so it’s that Peter, the one from the Secret Seven. Smashing.

I would have been more daring, but I am not very good on a school night.

Look, Hannah, don’t feel too guilty you weren’t into the idea of shimmying up a drainpipe into a derelict building, for “content”. What you should be ashamed of, however, is invoking the “school night” curse. You are, according to the top of this very page, 24 years old. You will likely never have as much energy as you have now. What you could have done, I guess, is remind Peter you and he were better off “exploring” some more wine and perhaps a kebab at 4am! Hangovers at work can be overcome, time lost cannot.

I am now resigned to my failure. Cilla’s holy place in matchmaking legend is safe, it seems.

Marks out of 10?
Marks out of 10?

A seven from Peter. 7. Seven is, as regular readers will know, the 1 that is trying to better itself. It’s a 1 that switched to four-ply toilet paper first out of all its neighbours; it’s a 1 with planning permission for a loft conversion (with solar panels); it is a 1 that times itself when doling out foreplay so you can’t complain they didn’t do it long enough. But it is still a 1.

Hannah’s 8 feel like it was given for the first part of the date, in the restaurant, when he was still “cool” and interesting and not attempting to turn the date into a side plot for a feature-length live episode of Holby City. A total of 15/20 isn’t a disaster, by any means, but it’s definitely not enough.

Would you meet again?
I’d be up for another casual wander around an ironic meat market.

Can meat markets be ironic? Or is he talking about a trip to Tiger Tiger, or one of those awful pheromone-choked vomit barns near Bank station and favoured for post-work drinks by horny (married) City workers?

Would you meet again?
Probably not. Everyone on here says they would, as friends – but that’s boring.

Gasp! That eight was a 2 wasn’t it, Hannah?

Sigh. Well, I tried. I think I’ll leave it to the experts.

Peter and Hannah ate at the Gate, London EC1, Fancy a blind date? Email If you’re looking to meet someone likeminded, visit


❤️ This one’s for Nichola. I wish you were here to share this with me. x

NOTE: 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, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say. If you’re worried about ending up in one of my reviews, I don’t actually do them every week – and I’ll skip you if you request it. No questions asked.

BOOK: Please buy it. Click on the lovely image below to do just that!


  1. Wow. I had no idea until reading your article in today’s Guardian that there are people who analyse their dates column in such obsessive detail… everyone needs a hobby, I suppose!

    Glad to see the tone is more humorous than mean-spirited; but still, reading this just makes me 200% certain that I would never put myself through the public humiliation of appearing in that column! Lifelong singlehood would be preferable…

  2. I didn’t know about your commentary until today but am now gladly onboard. And proposing your book to my book group.

  3. What I find strange about this review is that you don’t mention how creepy Peter sounds for trying to lure her away to an abandoned building. Was he trying to get clicks/become a household name by murdering her?

    1. Yes! I couldn’t tell if he was saying it faux-ironically or what, but Peter clearly doesn’t spend a lot of time with actual women if he’s coming out with lines like that.

  4. You promised something big and special last week, and wow, it was spectacular! A new column here (does “column” make me sound old? Probably. Definitely.) and your amazing and informative cover story on the same day. Long time reader, well done and thanks so much.

  5. BD is my co-favourite Weekend item (Dowling’s the other), so enjoyed your perceptive and amusing analysis. Will be regular reader from now on.

  6. After all this time I’ve only found your blog today! Lover of Blind Date! Met my husband of eleven years via a radio version, Midnight Encounters, back in 1993 (yes, readers, he refused to get married for fifteen years) so have huge interest in BD. Loving your writing, Justin Myers, will be Reading you voraciously…

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