You must look for beacons in a world where the darkness is becoming suffocating. There will always be some, here and there, the odd chink of light for you to latch onto: perhaps you happen to witness one of your several nemeses spill affogato down a pristine white T-shirt; maybe Sainsbury’s has started selling that variant of Boursin you’ve always liked; and there’s always the Guardian Blind Date. Whether it’s a couple of clean-shirts talking about the Hadron Collider over a chewy quattro stagioni, or two horned-up PR managers ripping off each other’s Uniqlo shackets, there’s always some pleasure to be wrung from it.
And today’s is no exception! Please welcome to the stage Ruth, 38, and a school support worker and 35-year-old archaeologist Stacy. So Mrs McCluskey and River Song, basically. (I know Mrs McCluskey wasn’t a school support worker but I struggled to find any well-known school support workers in popular culture so you will have to go with me on this alleged ‘joke’, thank you.)
Let’s see what each of them had to say in the Guardian‘s most terrifying questionnaire since they surveyed their readership about its voting intentions in 2019, before returning here for a few highlights.
Ruth | Stacy
What were you hoping for?
That she would turn up, and we would both stay for at least the meal!
This makes you wonder what kind of miserable date situation Ruth has found herself in before. Sometimes, you arrive and you’re just like, ‘oh no, I can’t stare at those facial expressions for ninety minutes over a prawn yaki udon, I’m going to nope out’ but more often than not, you just endure it because, even though you know you will never see this person again once you’ve both done that awkward tango around splitting the bill and trying to work out the tip – and going ‘oooooh’ if one of you pays with your watch – you somehow don’t want to leave this future stranger with a bad impression.
What were you hoping for?
To meet someone sporty and chill.
Are sporty people normally chill? Aren’t they usually signing up for ultramarathons and whining at you to get up off the sofa and join them for some kind of team-based exertion in a room full of ‘equipment’ that’s lit like the toilets of a KFC drive-thru?
She was cute, likable, approachable, lovely eyes, great smile.
I reckon she fancies her!
She seemed a bit nervous.
Nerves aren’t necessarily bad news on a date. I know we’ve all seen the rom-coms where nerves turn people into bumbling wrecks who spill water over the table and accidentally say ‘breasts’ every five seconds or something but nerves can actually keep you alert to both your own potentially weird behaviour and that of your date. And nerves are just excitement with a different cardigan on, anyway.
What did you talk about?
Oh gosh, loads … Holidays. Food. Friends – particularly how hilariously excited our friends were at this blind date! Work. Family.
Training regimens for races. Concepts of home. Family. The joys of going to bed early. How great Les Misérables is.
How great Les Misérables is. I am happy for them, and as much as I enjoyed Anne Hathaway’s snot-and-tears version of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, Les Misérables is not for me. Also, there is something quite emetic about the way the theatre showing it in London has ‘Les Miz’ on the side of it in giant letters. MIZ. No. I hate it so much. Imagine how Susie Dent must feel.
How hilariously excited our friends were at this blind date. Would you tell your friends you were going on this? I wouldn’t. I would just wait for the WhatsApp to explode on publication day, and then deny it was me.
The joys of going to bed early. I wouldn’t say it was a joy but, finally, after years of fighting it, I have been forced to admit that going to bed at a decent time and not feeling all day the next day like you’ve been reincarnated as a mop that’s cleaned the entire lower deck of the QE2 – including all toilets – makes life a bit easier.
Concepts of home. I’m guessing this is more of a lightly philosophical back-and-forth about leaving your hometown and maybe travelling to their places and living there a short while than a quick flick through the Swoon catalogue looking at sofas.
Good table manners?
She said she was a messy eater, but she totally wasn’t.
Excellent. She was up for sharing all the dishes, which worked as we’re both veggie.
Oh, you know, sharing. Forks in the air, ‘scuse fingers, ‘how many of those have I had?’ – just not my thing. I shared some dough balls between three last night and working out who deserved the last one between three of us was like a numbers round on Countdown where the other contestant – who has the icy exterior of the kind of man who does a hit and run in an ITV drama – has selected ‘five from the top’. (I split it with my partner.)
Best thing about them?
She was just really, really nice, and made the whole thing much easier than I had anticipated.
She’s really thoughtful, and asked perfectly timed questions. She also had some sage advice about breakups and grief, which I really appreciated.
I like these two. They seem to have their heads screwed on and, as you can see from the conversation topics, have clearly connected on a deeper level, moving to corners of your mind you might not usually explore on a first date. Look, I’m all for the clueless heterosexuals either semi-frotting in a cocktail bar or being egregiously rude to one another about house prices in a shabby Las Iguanas, but perhaps those of us who have lived a life feeling very much in the minority have an ability to cut through the nonsense a little quicker*. Now, I’ve said that, next week will be two theatre gays who end up snorting midori out the bottle in a fetish sauna but we are who we are, I guess.
*(Also, no men being present on a date means there’s usually one less person behaving like an arse.)
Would you introduce Ruth to your friends?
For sure, especially the cold water swimmers.
Cold water swimming gets a bad rap now, doesn’t it? Like anything that’s mentioned more than five times in the weekend supplements written exclusively for upper-middle white people who live in the three smartest streets of N1, it’s ripe for mockery. Like quinoa, private schools, Ottolenghi cookbooks, consciously uncoupling, naming your terrifying children Severus or Redwood, or hating your in-laws because they say ‘loo’ instead of ‘lavatory’.
Describe Stacy in three words.
Cute, American (although she wouldn’t like me saying that!), quirky, fascinating … That’s four things, oops.
CUTE, like being booped on the nose by [insert non-problematic, hot famous person here]
AMERICAN, like… why wouldn’t she like you saying she’s American? Is she *not* American?! Is she from Barnstaple, but does that weird Nickelodeon cartoon voice children always do when they’re playing Barbies or Lego?
QUIRKY, like a crochet top you find in a charity shop (that turns out to be haunted and strangles everyone you love one by one).
FASCINATING, like… I’m sorry but we have a three-word limit here. I’m not a charity.
Describe Ruth in three words
Caring, gentle, sporty.
CARING, like hypoallergenic hand wash.
GENTLE, like non-bio fabric conditioner.
SPORTY, like Melanie C.
And … did you kiss?
No, but I wish we had.
No, but we had a nice hug.
If you could change one thing about the afternoon, what would it be?
I wish I hadn’t overthought it all, and had relaxed more. We had a fantastic three hours together and it didn’t drag at all, which is awesome.
More time in the park, as it was such a gorgeous day.
This was a daytime date, so they went to Primrose Hill after and took one of those selfies at the top, the kind where you try to get with your face and the distant skyline in but it never really works and there are always too many tourists doing exactly the same, blocking your sightline with their pneumatic puffa jackets. (I was at the little food market next to PH a couple of Saturdays ago and can recommend the stall serving masala hot chocolate.) Anyway, isn’t this great to see?
Two people having a nice lunch, amiably sat-navving their way through life’s trivia, then climbing a medium-sized hill and gazing out at London’s intimidating, incredible, ridiculous sprawl and enjoying every second. If you stay very still for a minute and read their answers again, you can almost feel that life-affirming, fresh and hopeful air from the top of Primrose Hill rushing into your lungs. Today might not be the best day for a lot of us, but it is here, and so are we, and if that’s all we’ve got, it’s more than others.
Marks out of 10?
I can hear the gasps from here, but 9 is a very good score and it sounds to me like a second 10 is scheduled in for a later date.
Would you meet again?
Hopefully … keep your fingers crossed for me.
Yes, we’ve traded numbers. A country walk would be nice, or a cycle ride, though I doubt my bike is as good as hers!
Like this? Cool! Support my work with a small online donation
Find out more about my three novels and perhaps buy one! MORE INFO
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. What’s wrong with being American? It can’t be all bad – MADONNA is, after all.