Sonia has long curly hair and is wearing a taupe cardigan with dark trousers and trainers. Stefan is wearing a mushroom coloured T-shirt with dark trousers and trainers and he's wearing spectacles
Composite: Suki Dhanda/Graeme Robertson/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Sonia and Stefan

Is this it then? Is spring finally here? Should we get excited?

Before we get going, allow me to tell you why I’m excited in particular. In under a month’s time, my fourth (and best) novel LEADING MAN is released, and it’s a dark comedy about a gay drama teacher who hides his pain behind jokes and has an overbearing boss, a couple of self-centred friends, and a very hot face from his past to content with – and that’s before we even get to throwing up in the reception area of a gym after a spin class.

The cover of my fourth novel Leading Man which features an illustration of the main character on the cover and the title in large pink lettering plus my name underneath, and the caption "dependable sidekick of romantic hero? Who will Leo decide to be."

Here are what some other authors, all of whose first names begin with L, for some reason, said about it:

– “This is Justin Myers’ best novel yet” – Louise Hare
– “Pitch perfect and totally compelling, this is Justin’s best yet” – Laura Kay
– “This is Justin Myers’ best novel yet!” – Laura Price

– “It’s my favourite Justin Myers novel so far!” – Lily Lindon
– “I completely adored Leading Man – I think it might be my favourite Justin Myers’ book yet” – Lucy Vine

I dunno, guys, feels like this might be my best novel yet. Listen to the streets. Anyway, pre-orders are VITAL for the success of a new book and the survival of its author, so if you feel able, please do some of that pre-ordering magic. I don’t care where you get it from – support an indie if you can! – but here are links to , Bert’s Books, Lighthouse Books and Amazon. Thank you.

Today’s contestants donning the weird, stinky Knightmare helmet are Sonia, 72, a retired civil servant, and Stefan, 70, a software engineer. I still don’t know what civil servants actually do and I think life is better that way, to be quite honest with you.

Sonia has long curly hair and is wearing a taupe cardigan with dark trousers and trainers. Stefan is wearing a mushroom coloured T-shirt with dark trousers and trainers and he's wearing spectacles
Composite: Suki Dhanda/Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Read the full confection on the Guardian website and then return here for some of my barbed observations or whatever you want to call them.

Sonia | Stefan

What were you hoping for?
At our age we have less confidence when it comes to dating, so it takes a brave personality to take a chance where the outcome will be published.

Isn’t this so interesting? Many of us, when we’re young, assume that a few more turns around the sun will somehow help us magic up the confidence we lack. Getting older is often associated with not caring what anyone else thinks and while there are definitely people for whom that is true – I tend to end up behind them in queues in cafés while they unload their newfound bolshiness on hapless baristas – I know far more people whose advancing years only make them more cautious. We know, perhaps, all the ways life can disappoint us and are anxious to avoid that sting again. For someone whose confidence advances and retreats like you’re turning a dial and trying to get a decent single on Atlantic 252 (one for the mums and dads there), I often wonder what it would be like to wake up with that feeling permanently on charge, with no worries or insecurities. I console myself by reckoning that existing in a permanent state of bravado is the kind of energy that gets you run over by a bus because you think you’re invincible.

Anyway, don’t worry Stefan, we’re all friends here. Mainly.

First impressions?
Friendly, relaxed, had hair – always a plus for me.

Sonia is not here to play. She wants matinee idol locks and a shelf stacked with VO5, thank you very much.

First impressions?
I was greeted with a very warm smile. A good start.
Most awkward moment?
Probably asking the waiter to take a photo of us, and then thinking that it wasn’t enough of a closeup!

Do waiters enjoy being asked to take photos? Sometimes they offer, don’t they? Do they do it to make you leave? I always feel sorry for anyone asked to take a photo of people they don’t know. I get stopped and asked to do this a lot – I must have one of those faces that reads like it belongs firmly behind a camera rather than in front of one – and I always take at least three, cheerily chopping off the head of anyone who makes a smart-arsed comment about my photographic skills.

Good table manners?
Impeccable, of course!
Hers: impeccable. Mine: hopefully didn’t make too much of a mess with the tapas.

joan collins as alexis smoking a cigarette

A double Impeccable? Are they… readers?! Or maybe they just know a lot of words, of which impeccable is one.

Best thing about them?
He seemed interested in my life, and remembered things I’d said.
Always interested and interesting.

Sonia and Stefan are in their seventies and I imagine by now they have experienced many types of conversation. You can tell the difference between someone finding you fascinating and someone just waiting for you to stop talking so they can speak, can’t you? It’s strange, but as many of us use social media now, we are stuck in this strange contract with the rest of the world where we have to at least pretend we find *ourselves* fascinating. Otherwise, why else post all our photos or wild thoughts, or send out our newsletters? But do we really believe it? Perhaps this is why I don’t post much anymore; I can’t possibly sell myself as an engaging and interesting proposition when I eat Bran Flakes for breakfast 4–5 mornings a week. (I eat a different cereal at the weekend, which usually has chocolate in, and I call my ‘treat cereal’. See? I am a boring cow.)

So how lovely and valuable it is to meet someone who genuinely finds you interesting and isn’t just liking your pics because they feel they should, because they know how speedy the descent can be when a post garners bugger all engagement. It must be especially energising for Sonia and Stefan, as older people tend not to be listened to that much, or patronised – that’s why a select few get so strident and aggressive in the letters page of the local paper. They don’t really care about the lack of daffodils on the grass verges outside the Asda; they just want to be heard. Maybe.

Describe Stefan in three words.
Interesting, interested, good company. (Can “good company” count as one?)

“Can good company count as one?” No, it can’t, Sonia, what do you think this is?

Describe Sonia in three words.
Warm, confident, open.

Warm, like the innards of a Pop Tart clinging to the roof of your mouth.
Confident, like a politics student who’s just done two years on the Roaccutane and smoked a B&H in three minutes flat right before they walked in.
Open, like your window in the car wash.

What do you think Stefan made of you?
He probably thought I complained about the rain too much.

Andie MacDowell saying is it raining I hadn't noticed in Four Weddings

Don’t apologise, Sonia. Rain is a nasty, ugly bitch and we should claw its eyes out. I am a rain complainer. I hate it. I don’t feel invigorated by spring showers, or hug myself as I sit on a windowsill in the large stately home I inexplicably live in for the purposes of this fabricated scene and watch rain pelt against the windows as thunder rumbles overhead. Rain has ruined my hair, my coats, my shoes, and my LIFE for as long as I can remember. Oh, it’s good for the plants? F*CK your plants.

What do you think Sonia made of you?
She asked for my phone number, just as I was about to ask for hers, so …

kylie minogue doing the ooooh finger

I mean, she might be selling it on to a cold-calling company for a commission, Stefan, but for the purposes of this actually very sweet date we will assume she was going to text you something ALL IN CAPS about how rainy it was later on.

Did you go on somewhere?
Yes, we visited the nearby Cartoon Museum, which was great fun. And then had another cup of coffee.
The Cartoon Museum. Brilliant.

I haven’t been! I wanna go! Shall we go?

And … did you kiss?
No, but we hugged.
In public? Heavens, no, we’re British! But we did have a warm goodbye hug.

Big fan of Stefan and Sonia here so no shade on either of them but I am such an avowed hater of this ‘typically British’ thing. Like those Twitter accounts that post bad memes about preferring cups of tea over children and saying ‘Oh that’s no problem whatsoever’ but meaning ‘I wanna slice open your forehead with a JML Combi-Chop vegetable carving system’. So repressed and twee and it always feels like it’s a show for a passing tourist, like we’re touting for coins. Why do we sell this idea of being borderline sociopathic to the rest of the world? It’s so annoying. I’m not saying that British people are great, far from it, but the so-called ‘stiff upper lip’ is chapped and could use some Carmex and a few slicks of MAC Cremesheen Glass.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have met in the afternoon. An evening date would have been preferable – I would have drunk alcohol for a start!

Sonia was out to get lit and the Guardian perhaps assumed two septuagenarians would prefer a nice sedate lunch maybe with a tea and a scone after. You know, as we’re talking about getting older, the one thing I dread way over arthritis or suddenly waking up and looking like Nigel Farage just stepping off the waltzers is being patronised. People in their seventies like getting ripped to the tits, okay? Next date featuring someone over 70 should be at Adonis or Fabric.

Marks out of 10?
9.5. I hope he doesn’t give me a lower score – I’d feel a bit foolish.

Sonia, if he does, I’ll come by yours on a Lime bike and we’ll go GET him.

Marks out of 10?
Easily 9+.

Madonna saying YES


Would you meet again?
We exchanged numbers. So very possibly.
I’d love to.

Zak from Saved by the Bell saying Bingo

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Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every post

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. Tell me about the Cartoon Museum!

Sonia and Stefan ate at Bellazul, London W1. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. What a lovely couple. Hope they’ve found happiness!
    Always happy to see when you do another “Impeccable”, Justin. Looking forward to the new book, good luck with it!

        1. Wait. Justin – is this THE Sonia commenting on your column?! Sonia – is that you?! Did you meet up with Stefan again?

  2. Yay it’s a Justin Saturday. As I sail briskly toward 60 in the next year, the patronizing thing really begins to worry me. Good luck to this pair!

    1. It’s really common – older people presented as a wholesome, wise homogeneous blob that can’t decide which scone to have rather than individuals with personalities and ambitions of their own. The generational arguments playing out in newspaper columns – from both sides – don’t help matters.

  3. “Interestingly” to answer your question about what civil servants do, I can’t speak for all of them but I write computer programs. What do those computer programs do? Why are they needed? The answer to this is actually the nub of your question, contrary to what people think, everything that a state system and government does requires people who actually make the millions of working parts happen.

      1. Millions of people (chiefly Daily Mail readers) angrily don’t know so it is a reflexive response. Just the fact that I am here shows civil servants are not as popularly portrayed.

  4. Your rain rant made me laugh out loud! I hoped the double Impeccable meant you’d review this date and as always you didn’t disappoint.

  5. Oh yes, there is nothing about being over 70 that puts us off getting ripped to the tits. Why stop now? Best of luck lovely pair 😍

  6. I loved that they both used the phrase “interested and interesting”! That’s a good sign for me 😁

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