Suraiya has long dark hair and is wearing a black top, standing hands on hips. Gary has dark hair, a kind of beard, and is wearing an orange overshirt and a white T, standing with his hand to his top lip, like Poirot
Composite: Jill Mead/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Suraiya and Gary

February! Imagine looking forward to February! But we did, and now we’ve got our wish. The year’s shortest and for years, until everyone you know decided to ruin Christmas and get engaged all around you, the most romantic month. But will love blossom for 27-year-old Suraiya, a trader – finance, not market – and Gary, 30, a TV producer?

Interesting – in a way that people who perhaps don’t get out much might use the word – that the mag carries a different photo of Gary from the online version. Online version: stroking his top lip like Poirot about to expose a trembling tearful flapper as a cold-blooded murderess. Print: Paul McCartney showing Heather Mills where the door is. Strange.

Suraiya has long dark hair and is wearing a black top, standing hands on hips. Gary has dark hair, a kind of beard, and is wearing an orange overshirt and a white T, standing and pointing at Suraiya, for reasons unknown
Composite: Jill Mead/The Guardian

and then return here for the debrief.

Suraiya on Gary | Gary on Suraiya

What were you hoping for?
An evening worth breaking Dry January for.
Sarah Lancashire in happy Valley, turning to someone as if to say what

Honestly. Dry January. Why do it to yourselves? I don’t drink alcohol at all and haven’t done for a few years now – and I don’t really mind January, I just pretend it’s awful, it feels like something I should do – but why deny yourselves? Do Dry February instead: it’s a shorter month, and the weather usually takes a psychotic turn so you won’t mind staying in at home watching the flakes in your Velvetiser go round and round.

What were you hoping for?
An evening of fun, flirting and fish.

Alliteration! I’m a fan of it, generally. I know more, er, literary types look down on things like alliteration and adverbs – always the sign of someone showing off in front of guests if they slag off writers who use adverbs – but, you know, it’s okay for reading to be playful. Although you should definitely use alliteration sparingly to avoid looking like an ‘everything must go’ A-board outside Mike’s Carpets, Armley, Leeds.

First impressions?
Nicely dressed and bubbly – my initial nerves disappeared within a few minutes. He had lots of energy.
Very cute. She rocked up in a leather jacket and told me she was abstaining from alcohol for a couple of months, before proceeding to smash through four glasses of sparkling wine.

‘Before proceeding to’ always reminds me of a copper reading off their notes in a courtroom. I’m not sure you can really ‘smash through’ four tiny flutes of sparkling wine. They take seconds to drink, unless you sip. And who’s sipping these days, aside from dowager countesses and cats curious enough by the fruity smell to taste your bathwater (while you sit in it, screaming at them to leave you alone). Also ‘rocked up in a leather jacket’ makes me think Gary may have led quite a sheltered life. Maybe he wouldn’t wear that orange shirt in his hometown in case someone shouted at him from a passing taxi.

What did you talk about?
His several encounters with Idris Elba. Kebabs. TV. Birmingham, where we are both from, though I moved to London aged nine. Babies, and his desire to have them.
Her DJing days. I shoehorned Arctic Monkeys into the conversation, but it was met with a blank expression.

Idris Elba – If I’d worked with Idros Elba and was trying to impress a woman, I would mention this. He seems to have quite a liquefying effect on many women (and some men), doesn’t he? One day, I’d love to see a crossover between Idris’s Luther and Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood from Happy Valley, the only TV cops you can truly root for.

Birmingham – I have NEVER been! I think that’s actually shameful and I would like to remedy that.

Shoehorning Arctic Monkeys into the conversation – What on Earth for?

Sarah Lancashire looking stony faced in Happy Valley
Most awkward moment?
When I resorted to drinking straight brandy. In my defence, I couldn’t drink any more wine and the restaurant had run out of gin and vodka.
When I asked, “Has the booze hit you yet?” while knocking over my own drink.

Everyone, come quick, it’s a good old-fashioned date where they get legless because someone else is paying. I know we shouldn’t condone getting hammered these days because it’s problematic in all sorts of ways but the good thing about being young is your body doesn’t yet know what it is to be old. It’s a far-off concept, as real to you as the zenith of Mont Blanc or winning the lottery. You know it’s possible, but feel totally untouched by it. So, as long as you’re not doing it for the wrong reasons (what are the right ones? No idea) then if you’re young and like the fuzzy comfort of a 12-hour hangover where you just eat pizza and binge 30 Rock all day, you might as well get wasted.

Also: the restaurant *ran out* of gin and vodka?! Couldn’t someone run out to the shop? Oh, I see the restaurant was in deepest Notting Hill, where you can buy a £750 bottle of champagne or an artisanal pheasant roulade, but Costcutters selling £12 bottles of Tsarina vodka are in short supply.

Good table manners?
Perfect – he was a gent and let me have the last prawn.
She had amazing prawn-peeling skills.

Sending a dating couple to a fish restaurant feels like something a ‘no sex before marriage’ purity ring organisation would do. I could not, and would not, allow myself to be touched intimately by anyone who had peeled a prawn in front of me.

Best thing about Gary?
So easy to talk to. He tried an oyster for the first time – pretty impressive.

Equally, I would struggle to maintain any sexual feelings for anyone who’d just throat-goated an oyster in front of me too. I tried them once – it tasted like someone had lifted the linoleum on the ocean floor and served whatever sweepings were underneath.

Describe Gary in three words.
Confident, energetic, Brummie.

CONFIDENT, like a man limbering up on the top diving board in slightly baggy speedos.
ENERGETIC, like Geri Halliwell racing to the end-of-season sale of a shop that sells only white floaty dresses.
BRUMMIE, like someone from Birmingham. I would probably be slightly concerned if one of the three top adjectives used to describe me was where I’m from. It would be like saying ‘BREATHING’ or ‘HUMAN’.

Describe Suraiya in three words.
Driven, fun, chilled.

DRIVEN, like a Cinquecento down a high street that contains no fewer than three Superdrugs and a Caffè Nero.
FUN, like the last ten minutes of Happy Valley are very unlikely to be.
CHILLED, like Suraiya does not sound in any way, shape or form, bless her.

What do you think they made of you?
Probably a bit clumsy. I almost walked into a glass door.
I’ve absolutely no idea.

H A M M E R E D, in other words. Do they even remember being on this date?

Did you go on somewhere?
We went to Soho House for a few more drinks. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of a celeb but we were unlucky.
We had a few drinks at Soho House.
Sarah Lancashire in happy Valley lighting a cigarette and saying right

‘Oooooooooooh’ etc.

And … did you kiss?
We didn’t.
Sarah Lancashire in happy Valley, leaning back with a bloody nose and saying the F word
If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
I’d stick to sparkling wine instead of going rogue with the brandy – my head felt rather sore the morning after.
I ended up with a glass of red, a white and a tumbler of Laphroaig. Trying to neck all of those was a bad idea.

This reminds me of being 14 and people coming into school on Monday morning and claiming they got ‘really drunk’ at the weekend and when asked on what, just listed every drink they’d ever seen in their parents’ drinks cabinets (I had some very middle-class friends) or whatever they could remember from the shelf in the off-licence where they’d bought their (illicit) chewing gum on the way in.

Marks out of 10?
Let’s go old-school: A*
james Norton in Happy Valley pretends to blow his brains out wiht his fingers

Old-school? It’s marks out of ten. The only thing more old-school than marks out of ten is marks out of five, because the cavemen couldn’t count up to ten yet. Wtf?

In a revelation that makes me feel 800 years old, A* grades did not exist when I did my exams, and they ceased to be in 2017, apparently, so I suppose, to some, six years ago is old-school. To me, it is LAST WEEK. Anyway, you can’t give an A* so I’ll assume this is… I dunno. 11/10?

Would you meet again?
I’m sure we would.
Would you meet again?
I would, though I’m not sure there was a romantic vibe.

Well, it’s better than nothing. Here’s to both of you!

Sarah Lancashire in happy Valley storming out of her bosses office

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Make sure you watch Happy Valley on Sunday, BBC1, 9pm. Can’t wait for people to rush onto social media saying Sarah Lancashire ‘deserves all the awards’ – ugh it really gives me the ick, I don’t know why. (Also: she doesn’t deserve them ALL. What about Best Cinematography? Best Short Animated Film? Most Performed Song? Most Horrible Thing in the Smash Hits Poll 1991? She cant win them all; it’s physically impossible.)

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. You will probably see more celebs in the Waitrose on Marylebone High St, just a tip.

Suraiya and Gary ate at The Orasay, London, W11. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. I am obsessed by those jeans. I used to work for a company that made denim and in all the conversations I was in about what to do to jeans NOW no one ever suggested a panel that looks like a shop apron.

  2. So I’m confused. Do you like Happy Valley or not? Or just object to all the praise heaped on Sarah Lancashire? Because that seems a bit harsh….

    1. I love the show. And Sarah Lancashire. I hate the sentiment/ phrase ‘deserves all the awards’ in general.

  3. Yep. A* is “old school” is the first thing that came to my mind too. Now, where did I leave my reading glasses…?

  4. The problem with oysters is not so much the taste, which can be acquired, but the unfairness of it all. You swallow them live and then engage in a rather unequal game of, “who can suggest whom first?”.

    I’m not against sport, but this is as rigged as professional wrestling.

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