Ruby and Alex
Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Ruby and Alex

Imagine being 24, decent-looking, with your future lying ahead of you, exciting and mysterious and certain to contain lots of utility bills and phone calls to customer services about an irregularity with your gas meter. Maybe you don’t need to imagine, maybe, for some inexplicable reason, you are still young enough to pogo up and down to music in Converse and not worry about your knees the next day. if so, what on earth are you doing reading a middle-aged man coming up with increasingly laboured quips and metaphors on a Saturday morning? Shouldn’t you be off eating pastry like you’ve never even heard the word ‘carbs’ or looking into mirrors, pulling at the skin on your face and marvelling at the fact that it doesn’t take an industrial winch and several multi-denominational prayers to get it to snap back into place? Well, whoever you are, whatever your age, I am glad you are here. There doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to at the moment but all we can do is go forward and help bring others along with us. The only way to deal with such uncertainty and blankness is to stare right into it and make sure it knows you are watching.

Anyway if you’re wondering what’s brought on yet another mini existential crisis it’s the young, happy and good-looking faces of our two Blind Daters this morning. Yes, I’m afraid on first glance they do appear to be heterosexuals but remember “love is love” and whatever these people like to get up to in the privacy of their badly decorated shrines to IKEA’s least fashion-forward home interiors ideas is up to them. Perhaps a lack of cynicism will do us good for once. Anyway, they are Ruby, who is 24 and a senior account manager – for whom, it does not say. Swatch watches? Nuclear weapons? Cola-flavoured Maoam? We’ll never know. And we have Alex, also 24, who is a PR account manager. All these accounts that need managing – what a chaotic little world we seem to live in. No telling who Alex does PR for but those jeans appear to be stonewashed so I’m guessing he’s about to relaunch the year 1984 with a pop-up mixology hut and a line of Simon le Bon wigs?

Here they are:

 

Ruby and Alex full with quotes
Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Read the full version of what happened on the date in the Guardian before I take a select few of the questions and kind of waggle my hands a bit and hope it serves as entertainment.

Ruby on AlexAlex on Ruby

What were you hoping for?
A pleasant evening with a mystery suitor in a nice restaurant.

She has just described a blind date. She was hoping for a blind date? Ruby, you’re already going on one.

What were you hoping for?
A charming “How we met” story, or at least a mildly amusing anecdote.

Ah, “How we met” stories. Nobody is ever interested in them, unless they’re an author with a deadline looming and have been struggling with their manuscript which starts off with a couple meeting in a bookshop – she works there, he’s in browsing for a limited edition of something utterly turgid which, it turns out, is actually for an elderly relative so he’s NOT dull and boring after all – and is desperate for new ideas. It doesn’t matter how you met unless it is PROPERLY exciting. Examples: You ran him over. You were piloting a plane and they were arrested on it for assaulting cabin crew. One of you is/was/served a quail’s egg to Princess Diana. That’s it. Nobody cares that you were the victims of matchmaking by a well-meaning friend who has since gone on to bang all your exes, or that you were both fighting over the last crab linguine in Balans (in 2013), or that you met on Tinder and spilled a pint over each other in All Bar One or whatever. Sorry.

First impressions?
Well-dressed, polite, perhaps a little bit young? He had a youthful glow, kind of like Peter Pan.
Well-dressed, nice smile.

I don’t think we’ve ever had a match in the ‘first impressions’ question before. They like each others’ clothes, that’s nice. I am going to pause briefly to take in that a 24-year-old has said a fellow 24-year-old had a “youthful glow, kind of like Peter Pan”.

 

Right. Onward.

What did you talk about?
Travel, music, family, work – it was all fairly above board at first. Things got a bit more spicy around the main course when we moved on to past relationships, bad dating experiences, politics and feminism.
Naked cyclists in Brighton, Anne Hegerty, whether the ice-cream was lavender-flavoured.

No matches at all. “All fairly above board” – look, I just wanna see Ruby’s birth certificate to check she’s not actually in her seventies. Maybe she spent a lot of time with grandparents when she was young? Or popped a Werther’s Original before she left the house?

PLEASE don’t talk about past relationships and bad dating experiences on a date GOD the other person is only listening to be polite, probably.

Anne Hegerty – they watch The Chase. These people are the pensioners from Cocoon.

Any awkward moments?
When we went to get the tube my ticket didn’t work so I had to barge through the barriers and got somewhat trapped in the process … Luckily, we both found it hilarious.
Possibly when Ruby was briefly impaled between the ticket barrier at Oxford Circus after I encouraged her to run through after losing her travel card.

man saying "straight people be crazy"

Okay, so playing Jessica Fletcher here, I notice an inconsistency. Ruby says her ticket “didn’t work”. Alex says Ruby had to “run through after losing her travel card”.

So which is it? Broken or lost? Oh look, two words that perfectly describe my eternal state of mind since March.

Anyway, I am going to be kind and not accuse Ruby of being a serial fare-dodger and assume they were both so drunk on wine and romance that they didn’t remember exactly what led to the crime. Also, I don’t think Alex means impaled, unless this date has a very dark ending. I quite like how they are both young and getting their words jumbled up because they don’t really know how to talk yet – like their vocabulary is generated by rounds of Boggle.

Good table manners?
Very good. He kept the wine glasses topped up, made lots of eye contact and let me through the door first. Chivalry is not dead.

Regular readers will know I am AGAINST topping up the wine – it almost always comes at the wrong time and so many people (men, usually) add cold white wine to warm which leads to a very tepid experience in more ways than one. Also letting someone through the door first gets a mention: wow, gentlemen, the bar is truly on the floor. I’m guessing Ruby’s exes (all called Charlie, with grace and favour flats in tumbling mansion blocks in Fulham, eternally covered in hairs from their parents’ labrador) were not the chivalrous type.

Good table manners?
I was the only one to spill the rice.

NOT a euphemism, it would seem.

Best thing about Alex?
A good listener, smart, attentive, gentlemanly.

Dracula smiling and nodding

No, seriously, these are all wonderful qualities to have and great compliments. GENTLEMANLY is perfect – and further proof that Ruby is indeed a holder of a free bus pass. Rubes, drop the skincare secrets – we need to know!

Best thing about Ruby?
She was open, honest and very easy to talk to.

And, again, a great selection of compliments.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Yep, defo, he was very easy to get on with.

Runy has flung in this “defo” to put us off the scent – she’ll be cruising by on a skateboard in a FRANKIE SAY RELAX T-shirt next.

Describe Alex in three words
Quietly confident, interested.

QUIETLY, like you would creep through a door to escape, the next morning, before you’re offered ‘some toast’ which will be overcooked and under-buttered, and a cup of tea that’s not the strength you like it, served in a mug featuring the logo of a company that went bust in the mid-2010s, or a cutesy illustration and some word denoting the relationship of the recipient of the mug to the person who gave it. It’s usually ‘grandson’, just to really hammer home the fact you spent the evening getting railed to death by some little old lady’s pride and joy.
CONFIDENT, like the first 15 seconds of that walk of shame down Streatham High Road – you can do this, it’s fine, you feel great – before you realise there is something stuck to your shoe (no, not loo roll) and your hangover is kicking in, and you’re not sure where your wallet is, and your genitals are tingling not with excitement or a post-shag afterglow, but with a threat.
INTERESTED, like every passerby seems to be in whatever it is that’s stuck to your shoe. Don’t look! Don’t check! Just go home and burn the shoes.

Describe Ruby in three words
Warm, intelligent, enthusiastic.

WARM, like mulled wine is for precisely three seconds before it turns into cold, gloopy, spicy spunk.
INTELLIGENT, like you felt when you added up in your head just how much change you’d get back from the mulled wine seller at that cart on the south bank, only to find that you were wrong. Were you wrong? Or were you short-changed? You’ve walked quite a bit away from the cart now – could you actually go back? Maybe they’d think you’d trousered some of the change and were pretending to be short-changed. Do people actually do that? Maybe the person you’re with would think you were tight and you do want to make a good first impression. But… well, it was a 20. Maybe they charged you for three? Should you go back?
ENTHUSIASTIC, like the person you’re with is when you say you absolutely have to go back and sort this out. “It’s fine, they say, you’re right to check, they shouldn’t get away with it, not in these uncertain times” and then they watch you walk back to the mulled wine cart before slowly backing away and melting into the crowd, then turning to walk quickly, quicker, fast to Waterloo station, texting their ex as they march on. “It was all a mistake,” they say, “I can’t stop thinking about you, take me back, I have mulled wine to drink but you got custody of the microwave.”

Did you go on somewhere?
We did indeed … to a little pub round the corner where we had to down our pints in 15 minutes as it was the first night that the pubs closed at 10pm.
Yes, we went for a drink at a bar around the corner.

THIS IS VERY ENCOURAGING.

Barbara Stanwyck winking

I know I’m old, because I know this gif is of Barbara Stanwyck.

If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
Perhaps …
We were somewhat lax on the social distancing at the end.

Perhaps, as we are about to head into lockdown – according to the the government’s primary communication channel, the sodding PAPERS – the timing is not great for me to speculate on what may or may not have happened here but

Joe Sugg spraying white, thick, creamy suntan lotion on himself

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Considering it was an Indian restaurant, I’m disappointed I didn’t make a Ruby Murray joke.

Believe me, Alex darling, it is quite literally one THOUSAND bonus points for not doing that. Avoid the obvious, clichéd banter – leave it to the men on comedy panel shows.

Scores are in.

Marks out of 10?
8.
Marks out of 10?
7.5.

A wine glass shatters in Adele's hand

Eight? Seven ‘point’ five?! Are you playing it cool?! Why??? Haven’t you seen… [gestures wildly in the vague direction of the rest of the world] all this?! 7.5 is almost unforgivable for a date that appears to have actually gone very well (if a little too well for the WHO’s liking) and Ruby’s 8 seems woefully under marked. You’re not Craig Revel Horwood marking Anton du Beke’s first rumba of the series, guys.

Oh, hang on:

Would you meet again?
I would definitely be interested.
It’s certainly a possibility.

Well, I guess we’ll watch this space – all two metres of it. I like them; I hope they make it work with whatever is coming next.

Stay safe. We’ll get there. See you next week.

Sharon from EastEnders saying thank you and goodnight


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, you pair of adorable super-spreaders.

• Ruby and Alex ate at Hankies, London W1. They were photographed separately for this image. Fancy a blind date? Email blind.date@theguardian.com.

Oyster card image source

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for your writing. I love it. And despite the low marks, I hope they meet up. They seemed like a very sweet couple, very young to settle down though.

  2. How we met… on a train, randomly, five and a bit years ago, although when we started chatting it turned out we had very overlapping social circles so it was a surprise we hadn’t met sooner – through friends. We got married a couple of years later.

  3. This has been a shit day even by 2020 standards so thank you for waking up and commenting on these disgustingly young daters

  4. Do British people say “defo”? This is normally on my list of words to sniff out fellow Australians but I may have to reassess…

  5. Thank you Justin you are ON FORM! Brilliant writing, and yes I have now bought your book (the first one) and will soon purchase the second, when I have finished pretending to be intelligent by reading the latest Hilary Mantel. It’s taken me a month so far, I keep forgetting who everybody is (I’m not getting any younger either…)

    1. This is what God invented google for. I keep the page open with the list of characters (and trust me, someone will have done it for you) so I can continually refresh my ever-so-slightly hardening brain cells. I so wish that had existed when I read Dostoevsky 6,000 years ago.

  6. Brilliant as ever and I just love the expression ‘getting railed’.
    I don’t know why but I burst out laughing every time I see or hear it

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