Rebecca and James headshots
Photograph: Luca Sage/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Rebecca and James

The weekend! Here it is! Let’s not mess about! I’ve been sat at my desk all week and my break flakes are going squishy.

Today in the lion pit we have Rebecca, a 36-year-old researcher, and James, 28, a primary school teacher, which is shorthand for ‘never has any free time and spends most of that fielding batshit queries from helicopter parents on WhatsApp’.

Here they are looking like half the cast of a Radio 4 panel show:

Rebecca is wearing a black dress and boots. James is in a blue jumper with jeans and trainers. Her hair is reddish in colour, James's is brown and he had a short beard and glasses, they're both white.
Photograph: Luca Sage/The Guardian

Read what happened on the date in full on the Guardian website – the on-the-date selfie has returned btw! – and then let’s come back here for a few barbs, brickbats and rollockings before we can all get on with our lives.


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Right, let’s get on with it.

Rebecca on James | James on Rebecca
What were you hoping for?
A fun night out with someone lovely, and a heap of good wine.

I have never seen a heap of wine although I have certainly collapsed in a heap after wine.

What were you hoping for?
A decent conversation and some romance to the evening.

Decent conversation! You may as well hop in a time machine and phone Dial-a-Disc, but I suppose you might be lucky this time.

First impressions?
A well-dressed, charming man.

Deduct ten points from whatever scoring system you use to get your though life if you sang a bit ‘This Charming Man’ when you read this answer

First impressions?
She seemed very cool and chilled, until we got to talking, when this tidal wave of excitement and interest just came out.

Very cool and chilled – Rebecca is part-Smeg fridge on her mother’s side.
Tidal wave of excitement – a Smeg fridge on auto-defrost.

What did you talk about?
Stories, games, families, Norse gods, clinical exam acting, the origins of the word trivia, our mutual love of ice-cream.
Blimey, nearly everything: our pasts and families; the idea of “sea loitering” instead of sea swimming; her interest in witches.


Sea loitering – if I were a man who had either voted Ukip at least once in the last ten years, or a husband whose last conversation with this wife had ended with her saying, ‘I just think it’s pathetic of you Tom, really spineless and wet. Anyway, I’m going to yoga, back at 5,’ and walking out of the room, I would’ve made a joke about how much people talk about cold water swimming, but I… just don’t care enough.

Witches/Norse gods ✅ Oh, it’s the same thing. We’re all Zelda from Terrahawks in the dark.

Origins of the word trivia – Okay, I’m finding this a bit exhausting already. Shall we move on?

Any awkward moments?
None. He was easy to talk to and asked me lots of questions.

Remember this answer because it’s ‘important’ later on.

Any awkward moments?
One or two where the conversation shifted too quickly, but they were minor things at most.

Judging by the conversation topics, I can imagine James and Rebecca each needed a neck brace to recover from the sheer force of the hairpin segues.

Good table manners?
Excellent. He shared all the food we ordered and poured me some unfairly generous glasses of wine. What’s not to like?
Veronica Green in Drag Race holding up her hand with f**k off written on it

I have an almost silent aversion to having my drinks poured for me. I can just about cope with waiting staff doing it because I know maîtres d’ get very annoyed if they don’t, but unless I ask you to (which I won’t), please don’t fill my glass. Assuming we’ll ever meet and are in a glass-filling situation, of course. Why? Oh I have mentioned it loads of times before. The frothing because you’ve poured too fast, or the lovely chilled wine that you’ve poured into the dregs of quite warm wine to make a full glass of unenjoyable tepid wine, or maybe just the fact that I’d like to control how much I’m drinking and when, thank youuuuu. x

But I’m glad it made Rebecca happy.

Good table manners?
Exceptional. It was a sharing plate restaurant and she diplomatically made sure we had similar portions.
Gail in Corrie holding her hands up with f**k off written on them
ITV Studios

Sharing plates too. God. If it’s cultural, and how food is served in its country of origin, then fine, I can accept this, I even enjoy this. But I’m not here for a load of ‘tasting plates’, just because people like to pretend the world is one eternal buffet, or cosplay as a fussy toddler getting served micro-portions of stuff that might actually be quite satisfying and enjoyable if full-size. I have nothing against ‘Ooh I think I’ll try a bit of everything’ people, because adventurousness and curiosity are both very good qualities to have, but… look, this isn’t a ‘picky tea’ with ten deli items from M&S; this is costing a bomb. Just serve me a main course, I beg you; you’re certainly charging me for one.

Best thing about them?
He’s a kind, conscientious person, and knows what brings him delight in his life.
Her energy and enthusiasm. She made every conversation feel fresh, and the night never dragged because of it.

Can I JUST say – no worries if not lol – that Rebecca and James seem very lovely and I can imagine this being a very entertaining date to watch, maybe on that TV programme where the oleaginous, whiskery maître d’ leers at the lectern when anyone comes in.

Describe James in three words:
Warm, fun, thoughtful.

WARM, like the last day of your holiday, after 13 days of sideways rain sluicing right into your frown lines.
FUN, like a party always seems to get just as your bunions are telling you it’s time to order an Uber. (Ha, remember Ubers?! That was a wild few years, wasn’t it?)
THOUGHTFUL, like a godchild who brings you a beautiful picture they’ve drawn of you for your birthday – your 39th, again, perhaps – and it’s surrounded by hearts and when you say how much you like all the hearts, they say they’re not hearts, they’re Lucifer’s winged minions coming to take you to the netherworld because you’re so OLD and you laugh too loud in the cinema, Auntie Emma.

Describe Rebecca in three words:
Vibrant. Delightful. Inquisitive.

There is a whole thesis to be written on which punctuation a dater chooses to separate these adjectives.

VIBRANT, like a massage chair in a busy shopping centre, oh hang on, I mean VIBRATING, don’t I? Oh well.
DELIGHTFUL, like an evening spent at your godchild’s school play – they had no speaking role.
INQUISITIVE, like an airport security agent going through your battered Debenhams carry-on looking for anything interesting or illegal among the supermarket-brand toiletries, antiquated underpants, and holiday novels whose spine you shall never crack the entire time you’re away.

Did you go on somewhere?
We didn’t, we were still propping up the bar close to midnight.
We did not. We spent five hours at the bar, happily chatting away, before we realised how late it was.

This is nice. Imagine meeting someone new you could do that with, when almost everyone you meet has now been driven round the twist by newspapers, conspiracy preachers, and other people’s dreary opinions on morning television and tells you they support the return of the death penalty for benefit fraud within seconds of introducing themselves.

And … did you kiss?
No, we didn’t.
No, although we did hug and swap numbers.

Sean Bean as Sharpe looking disappointed

I know people might be disappointed there’s no romance but… don’t be. To enjoy each other’s company enough to stay out that long and it not be awkward is actually a really good thing. If anything, the world needs less romance and more friendship and camaraderie. Relationships and love can make you blinkered and selfish; you can become insular and defensive. If people really do mean ‘be kind’ as much as they say they do, maybe making more friends is the way to do it. Get to know people without the complication of fucking and joint mortgages and pushing to the front of every sodding queue just because you’re married.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Ask her more questions! She got so many in, I barely had time to ask any.

JUST to say that earlier, Rebecca said he asked lots of questions and here James claims he didn’t ask enough. This date sounds like the final of Fifteen to One.

Marks out of 10?
9. There wasn’t a romantic connection for me, but I had a lovely time.
Solid 9 out of 10. Very few things could have been improved.

Two nines without a hint of romance is a double-eleven in a way. I know we’re supposed to fear the friend zone but if Rebecca and James had such a good time, then maybe it’s not such a bad place to be.

Would you meet again?
Yes, for sea loitering and pints as friends.
Fingers crossed! But I get the sense it would be as friends.

(A little flicker of romantic hope there from James, maybe, but at least he was perceptive enough to realise it wasn’t going that way for Rebecca. I hope this two stick around for each other – it could be the start of something platonically beautiful.)

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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. There has been an increase in readers being quite horrible about the daters – this isn’t what we should be about. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments and will report any abusive tweets. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself or assume I agree with you. 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 what the holy balls is ‘sea loitering’?

James and Rebecca ate at Plateau, Brighton.

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