I must confess, there are some days I don’t feel like sitting here and typing these out. It’s Saturday, you know? Some days, the Weekend magazine’s Blind Date page doesn’t offer me much in the way of meat to chew on and although sometimes these can be the best ones to do because they allow me to go off on any tangent I please, sometimes it’s a struggle. And then sometimes I see something like this:
and I realise I have found my people. And today these people are Sarah, a 29-year-old development officer and Matt, 32, an HR manager.
Sarah and Matt. Matt and Sarah. The lovely couple who just moved in next door. First-time buyers. Design influences: IKEA, the serving suggestion on a box of Lean Cuisine thai fishcakes, Sue Lawley’s dresses when she stood in on Wogan, terracotta. Ever so sweet and kind, pop in on elderly neighbours, open your pickle jars for you, know not to feed your cat because it’s on tablets, spend two hours every bin day methodically re-sorting the recycling. But what are those scraping and bumping sounds at night? Sarah and Matt.
Anyway, that could be them one day, but here they are ‘today’:
For the full version of what happened on the date, read the account in the Guardian, then come back here for a few highlights. Okay? Great.
Sarah on Matt | Matt on Sarah
What were you hoping for?
I’m a bit jaded by dating apps, so was hoping this might bear fruit. Also for good conversation; a bit of a laugh.
I can think of no better remedy for being ‘jaded by dating apps’ than agreeing to appear on a dating column in a magazine that’s part of a national newspaper. It’s a bit, ‘Oh I’ve spilled wine on my rug – best burn down the house and start anew’.
What were you hoping for?
Getting to know someone, seeing what happens, and a lovely dinner.
In that order? You’d be bloody starving if you waited all that time before a forkful. How well do you have to know someone to eat a crab & avocado salad in front of them?
Nice shirt, good hair, nice smile, tall.
Well, we would certainly trust Sarah to come up with an accurate photofit if she witnessed a crime, wouldn’t we?
Sarah was really smiley and put me at ease. She clearly handled the pre-dinner photoshoot better than me.
Young Matt (relatively, to me) seems a bag of nerves. Dating is nerve-wracking I suppose, especially with the whole virus lurking everywhere for goodness know how long. It’s a bit like being in a science fiction movie, but with no budget, and acted out by the Hammersmith Flyover Players – B-cast and understudies because all the A-players are isolating after a rule-breaking drink ‘n’ bitch session in that miserable branch of Bill’s next to the tube station.
What did you talk about?
A lot – how we spent lockdown (of course), work, Bake Off’s return, books, food. There was never a lull. Silences are my biggest date fear.
Family dynamics, trying to get back to a normal sense of living, and reality TV. It was great to share a common hatred of running, and to agree that baked beans are the enemy.
Lockdown/normal sense of living ✅ – There isn’t much else to talk about is there?
‘Oh what have you been up to?’
‘Oh you know… the usual. Bursts of wild optimism, followed by brief episodes of nihilism, interruptions of pessimism, and then a quick yoga session to realign everything before it all starts again. Oh, and I bought an air fryer on Prime Day and read all the Wikipedia pages for every episode of Cheers.’
Bake Off/reality TV ✅ – I don’t watch Bake Off. Nothing personal, I’m just not interested. Prue Leith reminds me of the kind of chemistry teacher who always turns round at the wrong minute to see you retaliating to an unprovoked ruler twang to the face and puts you on detention. Paul Hollywood looks like he licks his lips twice before asking you to pick which sausage you want off the barbecue.
Books – I write those.
Common hatred of running – you will get into it around your 40th birthday; you look the type. I dont make the rules, Matt.
Baked beans are the enemy – if baked beans are wrong, I don’t want to be right. Whenever I am feeling a bit miserable, or cold, or run-down, or just cannot face having something obviously healthy, I will reach for beans on toast. I like it many ways – beans to the side, beans all over the toast, beans on two slices with two further slices cut in half and fanning out around them, but one of my favourite ways to eat beans on toast is what I call ‘indecisive beans on toast’, and it takes a bit of extra prep but is worth it. It involves:
The contents of a can of beans warming in a pan, four slices of bread freshly toasted.
Butter two of them as soon as they pop out of the toaster and spread with marmite – leave the other two to cool.
While the beans are warming, eat one of your buttered slices, dipping it into the pan as the beans simmer. Leave the other one alone.
Once the other two have cooled sufficiently, you butter them. They should be cold enough that the butter will not melt into the bread.
Place these two in the middle of the plate, cut the marmited toast in half and top and tail the central slices.
Pour beans over the lot. Eat it.
For a bonus, spread marmite on ONE of the cold slices too.
And there you have it. Is this what Bake Off is like? What do you think, Prue? Detention? Oh.
Any awkward moments?
I was nearly late because Notting Hill is essentially a modern-day version of King Minos’s labyrinth. Other than that, I didn’t think so.
IS it? A labyrinth?!? Notting Hill? Four streets of big houses and a market? Not exactly the warren-like souks of Marrakech is it? The place they went to – Beach Blanket Babylon 😶; it is 2020 ffs – is, like, come out the station, turn right, go down a bit, then turn left, no not that left you’ll end up on Portobello Rd, down a bit further and then… there you are. Oh maybe he has a point. Which exit did you come out of? I have a theory that maps on phones make us more lost because we’re not really thinking about where stuff actually is properly. I know it happens to me sometimes. In fact, the older I get, and the more tech at my disposal, the worse my (formerly great) sense of direction is becoming. How lovely.
Good table manners?
Perfect, although he made it clear that he doesn’t share food.
I think I have to be clear here, I am not actually against ‘sharing food’ as a concept. I enjoy tapas, ‘small plates’ etc, so this reputation I have for not liking to share is not entirely accurate and, unfortunately, precedes me. People I meet for the first time remark on it, shrink away from me like I am the Nosferatu of sharing-platter cuisine; friends have unlearned everything they knew about me and take it to be the truth. So, no, I don’t mind sharing food as such, but the politics and the anxiety around it are what I object to. The dividing of the food, the inequalities of ‘just try a bit of yours’, the hovering of the forks, the envy of the last of the albondigas, the swapping of pizza slices, just food DANGLING mid-table like a snotter from an invisible nose, waiting to be claimed and eaten. Get your frigging fork out of my beef-cheek ragu, ‘Harry’ or ‘Jake’ or ‘Finn’ or whatever. You always end up with less of what you actually like, and leftovers of the thing one person ordered but decided they doesn’t like, so chowed down on yours instead. I imagine the internet is ready to pour boiling oil on Matt for ‘making it clear he doesn’t share food’ but perhaps in a pandemic this is a wise move, no?
I will happily share food – ideally with one other person who will agree to eat even the horrible things we order and not just hoover up the best bits – but on a date it’s a bit horrible, sorry.
Good table manners?
Better than mine – I wish I hadn’t ordered the linguine.
Oh hang on is this what Sarah means by ‘made it clear’? He ordered linguine? Pretty unshareable. Also a terrible thing to order on a date unless you are one of those men who thinks slurping spaghetti is alluring. Clue: you are not Jessica Rabbit.
Describe Matt in three words?
Kind, attentive, straightforward.
KIND, like you must be cruel to be.
ATTENTIVE, like a boyfriend or girlfriend who’s just noticed someone else looking at you appreciatively. or a dog who sees another dog on the TV and assumes it’s coming to take you away so barks at the TV and then nuzzles at you protectively.
STRAIGHTFORWARD, like none of us truly are until we expire.
Describe Sarah in three words?
Open, passionate, easy-going.
OPEN, like a pub at 21:59
PASSIONATE, like people really seem to be about wearing a mask over their mouth but not their nose.
EASY-GOING, like none of us are being at the moment.
What do you think he made of you?
I hope something positive, but probably that I speak too much. And that I was too obsessed with eating a steak on the Guardian’s dime.
Ah just eat the steak, Sarah. The restaurant’s paying anyway.
And you don’t speak too much. Society just likes to make you think you do because you’re a woman and women are supposed to sit listening, rapt, while a man talks you through their tool drawer or top 10 sports cars or their favourite ever pages of FHM – sorry I have no idea what ‘men’ talk about, I don’t know any.
Anyway, please continue to steak and to speak.
If it weren’t for social distancing, would you have kissed?
I don’t think so. But he told me previous surgery means he has 25% less feeling in his lower lip. Maybe I’d have kissed him as an experiment.
Dunno about you, but I’m getting absolutely nothing here.
I’m getting unsalted Lurpak, two decorators trying to work out the difference between Dulux barley-white and apple-white, undercooked scrambled egg after queuing for brunch for two hours, supermarket-brand orange squash diluted just a smidge too much, unamusing misprint in the job section of a local newspaper, Salt & Shake crisps with a little blue packet missing, just a nothing-y, day without weather, ‘did you forget to stir this tea or just forget to put sugar in?’, last (plain) digestive in the tin vibes. If you can call it a vibe; it’s more of a fine mist.
Marks out of 10?
For the date, not him personally: 7.
Would you meet again?
Perhaps. But only as friends, I think.
I would, but not romantically.
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; I’ll happily publish whatever you say, unless it’s bitching about my beans on toast recipe. Know yourself.