Both Plamena and Nathan are wearing dark T-shirts with quite short shorts. Nathan has a beard, tattoos and is in trainers. Plamena has hair in a ponytail and is wearing sandals.
Photograph: Graeme Robertson and Antonio Olmos/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Plamena and Nathan

It seems frivolous, perhaps, to focus on the fripperies of romance when so much of the world feels like a Saturday Night Live cold open – joyless, incomprehensible, utterly pointless and toothless. We can’t turn the radiators on, we’re thinking of new ways to make oatmeal exciting, our bosses are saying ‘Can I borrow you for five minutes?’ – it’s no way to live. But for some, the Guardian Blind Date is the swipe of Germolene to the scraped knee of existence, so shall we set aside our problems for ten minutes or so and focus the vain hopes and dreams we once trained on our children (who we have had to sell, for fuel) into two strangers who’ve been covered in Bostik and rolled round the changing room floors at Weekday? Good idea.

Keeping our hearts warm while the bailiffs are taking away our telly this week are Plamena, a 28-year-old diversity and inclusion professional, and Nathan, 30, a group business development manager – two jobs that sound very important but lighter on laughs than your nan’s funeral (held in the shadowy courtyard of debtors’ prison).

Here they are in full top-to-toe mode. Good shorts, I’ll give them that.

Both Plamena and Nathan are wearing dark T-shirts with quite short shorts. Nathan has a beard, tattoos and is in trainers. Plamena has hair in a ponytail and is wearing sandals. Photograph: Graeme Robertson and Antonio Olmos/The Guardian

(they got on btw) before returning here for a small selection of responses, carefully shredded, much like every book I own, in an effort to make kindling for the fire I’m building in the middle of my flat.

Plamena on Nathan | Nathan on Plamena
First impressions?
Nathan was very bubbly and curious. He was also dressed well, had a great smile and lots of tattoos, which I liked.

Bubbly and curious! Like sentient champagne! Or a meerkat holding an Aero in one hand and an old-fashioned A-Z in the other!

It is incredible to be old enough to remember before tattoos were cool. Most of the men who had them when I was a child in the 1980s regretted them, and you would even have to cover them up at work, as if they were weeping sores, or evidence that you voted Tory in the 2019 election. Now they’re everywhere – literally! This is probably why I used to be a bit sniffy about them; it’s amazing how your childhood prejudices can linger if you’re not careful. A lot of people would do well to remember you can make up your own mind about things. Anyway, I don’t care now. ( I still don’t have any though – I go off shoes/clothes etc within weeks of buying them. A permanent etching on my skin that I would DEFINITELY dislike within minutes off leaving the shop? It’s not for me.) I suppose any way you can find to express yourself in a world that seems hellbent in taking away every last breath of your voice is cool with me.

What did you talk about?
Travelling. Fitness. Food. Our jobs and family stories. I was surprised how much we had in common. We share similar views on virtually everything, as if I’d met the male version of me!
Everything … I chat a lot generally and especially when I’m a bit nervous.

Travelling. I thought this was what Instagram captions are for. So we can bore each other senseless virtually without having to fog up actual real-life conversations.

Fitness. And again.

Food. Three out of three. Tell it to the Reels baby.  —–> What *do* I think it’s okay to talk about on a first date, I hear you ask. Three things only: drug deals you’ve witnessed; what day you put the bins out; Madonna’s hair.

Sharing similar views on virtually everything. Meeting someone who was almost a carbon copy of me would probably be my worst nightmare. I find myself incredibly boring and my insatiable desire to pop a punchline on the end of every sentence is quite wearing. I’m always reminded of Cher famously puzzling over why so many people liked her music. ‘I’m not really a Cher fan,’ she quipped. See? Fabulous women in their seventies are relatable icons for us all, not just ageing gay men. ANYWAY, this is great that they clicked so hard.

I chat a lot…especially when I’m nervous. Oh same. But also not same. It can go two ways and – very fun part – I never know which way until the very last second. So it could be extreme speed-talking packed with adjectives and overuse of one word or phrase that makes me look like I just learned it from a ‘Word of the day’ tweet by Susie Dent. OR, it’s mute nodding, light coughing, and beginning my answer to every question with a small, almost imperceptible (and devastatingly fake) laugh, followed by… ‘What a great question’
(Don’t believe me? Come and see me at Henley Literary Festival on Thursday 6 October or Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival on Saturday 8 October and see for yourself!)

Any awkward moments?
None at all – well, not from my side anyway. It felt as if I’d met her before and there was little to no small talk.

girl saying: so i'm gonna say it's going well

Good table manners?
I feel I have to say “impeccable”. And they were!

Uh-oh! A link from the Guardian website! Here they come! Maybe they’ll be too angry about house prices and complaining to the council about the noise from an asthmatic neighbour coughing to notice. So Plamena is (possibly) a reader! That won’t make me go any easier on anyone but it is nice to know.

Best thing about Nathan?
His curiosity and willingness to try new things.

Curiosity again. It is an important trait. I have realised this as I get older and meet more people with zero interest in others around them. A willingness to try new things is key too – it doesn’t have to be anything mind-blowing like spelunking, or Medusa piercings, or putting root vegetables up yourself on OnlyFans. Just a willingness to have an experience for the first time. Go on, try that flavour of Pot Noodle you’ve never had before, have alpaca milk in your macchiato, spit on each other at point of climax, pop a finger up or in. You might like it.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Yes, 100% – she loves a gin and tonic, so she’d fit right in.

As with tattoos, I’m also old enough to remember when nobody cared about gin and it came in three types, and tonic was either Schweppes or Asda’s own and it was served in a wine glass or – luxury upon luxury once you hit the 1990s – a slim tumbler with a black straw. Now, gin and tonic is an event, a moment, a personality. There are flavours, aromas, essences, gimmicks, a range of tonics that’s frankly embarrassing when there are so few varieties of Chloraseptic throat spray still available.

Gin is a lifestyle, served in those huge tureens over a great big icy wedge of the Fedchenko Glacier, with inexplicable berries everywhere, especially among amazing women who sigh loudly carrying giant boxes of Matches fashion returns in post office queues and strut around supermarkets in gigantic shades with their car keys hooked over one thumb, and men who’ve had CBT and now realise it’s perfectly okay to cry at the births of the sons they will later briefly reject for being gay.

Describe Nathan in three words.
Open-minded, adventurous, driven.

Open-minded, like someone who answers an advert in the Exchange & Mart for a swingers’ weekend in Ledbury.
Adventurous, like someone who walks from Islington to Camberwell in thigh-high boots with no phone signal and only half a can of (guava) Rubicon.
Driven, like we all deserve to be, in the back of a stretch limo, by our school bully.

Describe Plamena in three words.
Interesting. Fun. Gin.

Interesting, like noticing your boyfriend follows that cute guy who works in the bar at the Soho Hotel on Instagram AND Twitter. [Note: this scenario is entirely fictional. Do not go looking for this nonexistent hot barman.]
Fun, like nobody ever had in a branch of Argos.
Gin, like… gin? I don’t know. I wrote loads about gin farther up the page.

What do you think he made of you?
We stayed out till late, he asked for my number, and texted that night so I’m pretty sure he had a good time.

? We went strolling, drank lemonade ?

Grease, Sandy singing we went strolling, drank lemonade! Paramount
And … did you kiss?
No, we’re saving that for next time.
Andrew scott in fleabag touching his chest and saying 'please' or maybe it's 'pain'. I can't tell. BBC
And … did you kiss?
No, I feel a kiss in a busy restaurant in which everyone knew we were on a blind date would have been a bit strong.

I get the feeling Nathan has never been to Tiger Tiger in Leeds on a Saturday past 7:30PM – makes 9 and a half Weeks look like a The One Show report on lung disease.

Marks out of 10?
Ten, because I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable night.

Hurrah for the 10, which somehow feels like an ELEVEN when it’s written in its full form of ‘Ten’. But… what is 8.7? 1.3 marks removed for… what? Maybe Nathan is one of those people whose vena cava erupts when the Strictly judges give someone a 9 in the first week.
‘The scores have nowhere to go!’ they cry, like it matters.
FYI: judges are scoring the dance itself, not any progression or improvement. If they were dancing the same type of dance every week, this idea of scores as a monitor of improvement might make sense, but even then not really, because one week you might ace the tango, but the week after you might fall over. This isn’t a journey, it’s a series of tasks, with different scoring criteria. I’m so glad I could get that off my chest.

Would you meet again?
Yes, it’s in the diary already.
Cher in Clueless being coy Paramount


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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. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. And do tell me what your favourite gin is. 

Plamena and Nathan ate at Parrillan Borough Yards, London SE1. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. In this burning sluice room of a country, my heart genuinely sings when there’s a positive Blind Date.
    That may be the saddest thing I’ve ever written.
    Also, I love your new book

  2. me thinks you might want to edit the bit at the end, where you state that “ This is a gay date in that it features two men using he/him pronouns, but I don’t make any assumptions about how they choose to sexual identify.”

  3. I am so sick of alcohol as a personality. I don’t care if it’s gin, prosecco or negronis. It’s almost enough to make me stop drinking.

  4. I feel like “pop a finger up” was included here for those who followed the link? But great work as usual all three of you!

  5. Oh, a good blind date makes me happy! Maybe it’s sad that I live my life through others, but it gives me genuine joy, which I am grateful for. If I didn’t live on the other side of the world, I would come and listen to your book talks, Justin! I am not much of a drinker, but I had a pink gin and lemonade once that was nice, although it could have just been the group of friends I was with. Hoping these lovely daters have fun, whatever the future holds!

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