Seàn has longish fair hair and a moustache and is wearing an 80s style shell suit style tracksuit top. Sam has short fair hair and a pleather jacket that is brown, orange and cream
Photo: Jill Mead/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Seán and Sam

My Guyliner blog is thirteen years old next week, and I’ve been reviewing Guardian Blind Dates for nine of those and, I must confess, I’ve been wondering whether it’s time to wrap things up. Have I run out of things to say, finally? My childhood teachers thought this day would never come. However, on two separate occasions this week, and completely unprompted, two people I didn’t know told me how much they enjoy these reviews, so I thought I might as well hang around a bit longer.

And thank goodness I did because look what two hours on Vinted brought me! This adorable pair! We have support worker Seán, 26, and 25-year-old Sam, who’s a social media executive.

Seàn has longish fair hair and a moustache and is wearing an 80s style shell suit style tracksuit top with lilac bootcut trousers. Sam has short fair hair and a pleather jacket that is brown, orange and cream, and jeans
Photo: Jill Mead/The Guardian

Read what happened in full on the date on the Guardian website – the trousers are NEVER mentioned, which is a travesty, I love them – before we come back here for the Blu-ray director’s commentary or whatever.

Seán | Sam

What were you hoping for?
To try a more conventional style of dating, outside apps, and put an end to my unfortunate dating streak.

Interesting that apps are still not seen as the ‘conventional’ way to date, when they’ve been around for so long now – since Seán was about 13, in fact. Perhaps this is the lingering stranger danger fear we’ve inherited from a generation or so up, who still think meeting a data processor on Hinge is a surefire way of ending up murdered or, worse, radicalised into voting Tory.

What were you hoping for?
A whirlwind romance straight out of a Nancy Meyers or Richard Linklater movie. Failing that, a nice meal.

Beware of whirlwinds. If you must experience that frothy headrush, maybe stick to a nice whirlpool jacuzzi instead, or perhaps sit inside a dishwasher for half an hour.

First impressions?
Walking into the restaurant I saw him from behind first and thought this has potential. I also loved his jacket.

I’m assuming Seán means Sam had a nice arse, rather than a pleasing nape, or fascinating shoulder blades. The jacket is what I would politely call ‘striking’, and brings back memories of lots of girls at my university wearing similar as the nineties circled the drain.

First impressions?
The 1970s. Seán has a gorgeous set of locks and a tache to be proud of.

From the 90s to the 70s. Now I know how my mother must’ve felt when smiley pop acts started doing low-rent hi-NRG covers of the soul bangers she bought on 7″ in the 60s. Your past becoming an ironic trend or nostalgia fodder for talking heads shows is more sobering than a surprise trip to Dignitas for your wedding anniversary The locks are great, though. Very Beck, I thought, and he was – yes we’re back there again – the 90s, a decade in which the 70s were very big again. Oh it’s all so confusing. Next!

What did you talk about?
Pop culture. My poetry book. Janet Jackson. Vinyl hunting. Our top five Lana Del Rey songs.
As well as his devotion to Abba and our mutual love of Lana Del Rey, we wrote a poem together.

Poetry ✅ – I can recite only one poem from memory, by Gyles Brandreth, from a poetry anthology we had at school. It’s called Ode to a Goldfish and goes:


(I think, I’m not googling. And yes, I did English Literature for A-level.) As for writing a poem together, this is very sweet but OMG poetry is so risky. Being exposed to someone else’s writing is a terrifying prospect for me; it gives so much away. Imagine if you were really attracted to them and thought they might be the next Wordsworth or Sylvia Plath or whatever, and it turned out they struggled to come up with anything more sophisticated than ‘One Potato, Two Potato’

Lana Del Rey ✅ – My top five Lana Del Rey songs:
Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It
Treats in the Usual Place
You Don’t Have to be Mad to Work Here, But it Helps
Did You Know There’s a Special Railway Under London, No Not That One, a Different One, Like For Letters or Something

Abba/Janet Jackson – Now, them, I do love. (Fave songs: Lay All Your Love on Me for ABBA, Nasty for Janet.)

Most awkward moment?
A pernickety waitress in the pub we went to afterwards started using our table as the holding space for menus, cutlery and napkins – enclosing us so we had to sit closer and closer. We thought she might be the matchmaker in disguise!

I don’t know if you mean ‘pernickety’ – do you mean she was annoying? I do think it’s very sweet how they interpret a server being incredibly rude as some kind of romantic sign. We must protect their innocent hearts.

Most awkward moment?
I told Seán a story about hawks, but he misheard and thought I was talking about a similar-sounding word (not ending in K). I’m glad I could clarify that one before the end of the evening.

Whores? How bad were the acoustics? I mean, as comedic misunderstandings go, I think even the writing room at Not Going Out would toss this on the ‘only if we’re desperate’ pile.

Good table manners?
Very good. Though, we were at a tapas restaurant so getting crumbs on the table was inevitable.

Oh tapas, great. Seven dishes of not quite enough of anything and far too much of one thing you ordered by mistake thinking it was meatballs. (This is a joke. I like tapas. No furious comments please.)

Good table manners?
We apologised to the waitress for the amount of mess on the table.

It is quite hard to fish glorified canapés out of a terracotta ramekin without making a mess so I’m sure the waitress was very understanding.

Describe Sam in three words
Inquisitive, cultured, warm.

Inquisitive – Like a squirrel with a spare set of keys to the local newsagent.
Cultured – Like that yoghurt that’s been sitting (on its SIDE) in the egg tray of your fridge since Liz Truss tanked the country.
Warm – Like a greeter in an airport lounge whose fourth illegally obtained diclofenac of the morning is finally kicking in.

Describe Seán in three words
Charming, kind, poetic.

Charming – Like school uniforms would be if you could wear a pussy bow blouse and a sequinned shrug instead of a blazer and tie.
Kind – Like a tall handsome man in the supermarket who sees you struggling to reach the top shelf and offers to retrieve whatever it is you’re after. Sadly it’s haemorrhoid cream and he suddenly remembers there’s somewhere else he has to be.
Poetic – Like the justice should B**** J****** ever trip over a suitcase full of cheap chardonnay and fall headfirst into a waiting open sewage pipe.

What do you think Sam made of you?
I hope he thought I was good company and interesting to spend an evening with.

Ah I hope so too. I’m sure you were, what lovely young boys we have here. Better than the usual riff-raff etc etc. I feel quite paternal about these retro-jacketed lads. I can imagine them having long, lovely afternoons flipping through clothes rails of ironic T-shirts in one of those musty vintage landfill shops in the arches at Stables Market. (Is that still there?)

What do you think Seán made of you?
Is he an alcoholic?

Hahaha. Oh I’m not one to advocate binge drinking these days but if you’re queer and young, and on a first date, and you can handle your ‘ale’, you might as well get shitfaced. I say this as someone who hasn’t had an alcoholic drink in three and a half years, this is the most bonkers era to be sober at all times.

Did you go on somewhere?
An old pub in Borough Market that we both agreed had an 1850s Oliver Twist vibe – specifically Oom-Pah-Pah from the musical version.

Borough Market. I used to live round the corner. I like the idea but at the weekends it’s like being kettled by Boden and Ocarro, and the smell of raclette makes you feel like you’re fighting your way out of the inseam of a cage-fighter’s unitard. I say as a former local: the pubs round there are mainly heinous, except the Gladstone. The Grapes used to be OK, too, I suppose.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That we had kissed.

A woman raises her eyebrow sexily

Oh Seán. That day will come. At least you still have your honour.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
To finish the poem we started.

Bette Davis raises lorgnettes to her eyes

Well, the easiest way to get cracking on that second stanza is to get in the same room.

Marks out of 10?

Regular readers or just the instinct of a rainbow couple knowing you can only score a 10 if you 👉👌 and a 9 needs a kiss? Either way, it’s a double 8 but, as sure as Padam Padam isn’t done climbing the chart yet, this score has definite potential to make it all the way to the top spot because…

Would you meet again?
We have a date in the diary.
Seán has promised to take me to Abba Voyage. It’ll be his ninth time.

Agnetha from ABBA licking an ice cream and saying I like it

My, my.

Did you like this?

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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. Did you manage to make it to third verse yet?

Sam and Seán ate at La Gamba, London SE1. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. I very much enjoy the reviews but your other writing is great too so would totally understand if you wanted to flip the script a bit… Is there another iconic regular format you could look at? refinery29 spending diaries? Or the Guardian seems to be really pushing Dining Across the Divide and How We Met at the moment but it’s a bit harder to roast people who are usually so sincere…

  2. I still very much enjoy reading the things you have to say about the blind dates and every Saturday there isn’t an Impeccable Table Manners I’m quite dissapointed! It’s such a good way to start the weekend, with a giggle (love your GIFs) and occasionally some genuinely moving thoughts.
    Seeing you have been doing it for nine years I realise I can’t really complain if you did decide to quit, but I (rather selfishly) would be very happy if you did continue 🙂

  3. Please don’t wrap up this column. GBD is the first thing I read on a Saturday morning and then I repeatedly check my emails to see if you’ve done a review. I LOVE IT! If you do ever stop I will forever more be wondering what you would have had to say about a particularly good (or bad) date. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease continue!

  4. Thank you Justin for feeling (re?) inspired by these two lads. There’s a good number of zingers in the blog today, showing us what we’d miss if it ended. And yeah, in those jeans it was probably the arse, but never let it be said that there wasn’t something to be said for a beautiful nape.

  5. Please never stop writing about GBD. I wouldn‘t know how to spend my Saturday mornings. I absolutely love your writing! ♥️

  6. Thank you so much for writing about Blind Date! It makes me, a middle aged lady in Australia, extremely happy. But I would completely understand if you have had enough, 9 years is a long time. I thought these two young men looked just perfect for each other in those amazing jackets, so wishing them the best in any op-shopping adventures!

    1. Ah I love the word ‘op-shop’ – reminds me of watching Neighbours in the 80s. Thank you, as ever, for reading.

  7. Another vote for how much I love the reviews and your voice from a middle aged queerdo in Toronto. And these boys! So sweet!

  8. I’m so pleased you reviewed this date, what a sweet pair. And echoing everyone else who will greatly miss your reviews if/when you stop, although I’ve kept creative projects going way longer than I ever thought possible or appropriate, so I very much get it if you want or need to release yourself. Or if you want to bring in guest writers to pick up the burden?

    You are uniquely brilliant at this, though; so funny, and into this potentially restrictive format, you manage to write about so many big profound things (as well as the funny little annoying ones) and in such a beautiful way.

  9. The Guardian sees fit to recompense the likes of Emma Beddington, Adrian Chiles and Zoe Williams: I for one would be happy to see the back of them and their salaries be paid to you to carry on the good work.

    1. I don’t get Adrian Chiles either. Boring as hell.
      But Justin please do keep going if you can bear it. X

          1. Oh now I feel like a miserable old cynic. The real (sic) Dolly Bantry would be ashamed of me. Alright, Adrian can stay (like it’s up to me) but I’d be sad if I.T.M were to be laid to rest.

  10. Hi!

    Your reviews are always readable and I often giggle in amusement. Please continue! Your work is a twinkling star in a black and cold universe.

    Cheers all the way from Sweden.

  11. Where I’m living ATM, in That Europe, the soundtrack in the small, local bar, basically sounds like a playlist from a small, local gay club, circa 1999/2001. They even have That Don’t Impress Me Much, by Twain. I very much like the song – possibly because it reminds me of when I had a concave stomach, (which I never took forgranted BTW, I knew, even back then, you probably had to do some sit-ups or something, in order to maintain that sort of thing,) but I’m fairly sure, you could play the song to language students, to explain the concept of a straw man.

    Anyway, if you love something, you have to respect it. I obviously would like to continue reading this column, but there are nine years worth of material, so I’m sure I could simply read from the beginning and find a whole new level of weekend entertainment. I personally think, if you quit, somebody should start a roast about the back-catalogue of ITM. 😀

  12. As a relative newcomer abroad I enjoy the banter to Blind Dates tremendously (even though I don’t get all the allusions/innuendos all the time). I for one am thankful to be able to read you and I even bought (and read) one of your books… I see great things to come for this sweet couple and I’m thankful that you haven’t torn them to pieces. They look so exquisitely innocent and pure!

  13. Hello! I have only discovered your blog a few months ago after seeing it mentioned in the Blind Date column….. and only in a few months I went back and read ALL of your reviews. I feel sad that these reviews might come to an end just when I found out about them, but I understand you might want to move on. Thanks for all of your hard work reviewing these blind dates and for some very deep reflections sparked from seemingly superficial comments!

  14. I’ve never commented before, but I just wanted to say how very much I’ve enjoyed your Blind Date reviews every since I discovered them a year ago (late to the party!) – they’ve become an essential part of my weekend entertainment and never fail to make me laugh (and often empathise, having endured several years of internet dating hell before I met my husband). Nine years is a long time so I would completely understand wanting to call it a day and respect your decision if that’s what you want to do. But whatever you decide, thanks for the laughs and I look forward to whatever comes next!

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