Photograph: Sophia Evans; Jill Mead/The Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Tanya and Jason

I look up at the sky more now, marvel at the blueness of it, the expanse. I don’t know why I find it so fascinating these days (I do), but I get lost in it sometimes, like gazing into the dreamy eyes of a soon-to-be lover. Goodness knows what I’m looking for, or who. But eventually my neck lets me know it can no longer take the strain, and I’m forced to lower my sights, not to mention my expectations, and I look back down into the here and now. Quite the comedown.

Today, amid the debris of a world determined to off itself, with me as is traumatised witness, my sight falls upon a fleck of gold, in the shape of Tanya, a 55-year-old teacher, and Jason, 50, and an engineer.

Of course, being a gay man of a certain age, the names Tanya and Jason immediately evoke the memory of one of popular culture’s most tempestuous love stories, Tanya and Jason Turner from Footballers’ Wives:

Hopefully there’ll be no baby swapping, snorting dodgy cocaine, infidelity, and death by shagging in today’s Blind Date, although it looks like we can’t escape what was always the very WORST part of Footballers’ Wives: the actual football. Here are our dream team today:

Photograph: Sophia Evans; Jill Mead/The Guardian

Before we get going, you may as well read the full story of what happened on the date, before I take a few select cuts and do what we’re all here to see me do.

Tanya on JasonJason on Tanya
What were you hoping for?
A fun date with someone lively and interesting.

Ooh, she’s after someone lively and interesting – a brand-new reader, guys!

What were you hoping for?
To meet a stranger and make a friend.

This is a lovely thing to say, but it also sounds like a rejected slogan from the “Live! Laugh! Love!” range of wall hangings, crockery and bizarre ornaments that people sit on their window sills and feel more like a command than… whatever they’re supposed to be. Motivational? When you walk into a room, or a branch of Next, and see this bizarre order, what do you do? How does it makes you feel? Must you comply with its orders immediately, or are you supposed to contemplate this cod-Confucius statement and apply it to everyday life.

Live! = I’m already doing it, albeit most days without the exclamation mark.
Laugh! = I’m afraid I am very sparing with laughter unless it’s evil or maniacal. Cackle! would be an easier one for me.
Love! = What, everything ? At all times? But if I don’t hate, dislike, or just vaguely feel uncomfortable with people or things, how will I know true love? Tell me that, motivational stationery with matching pen holder and paperweight!

First impressions?
Tick. As in “yes”, not the blood‑sucking variety.

I like Tanya. I imagine she is one of those teachers who makes slightly clever puns to a classful of children and then has to explain why it’s funny as they stare back blankly. Once she’s finished, 11 of them ask to go to the toilet.

First impressions?
Very pleased.


What did you talk about?
Everything, from gourmet cooking, how to eat a worm (quickly or not at all) to dodgy holiday apartments.
We didn’t stop nattering. From what we like to cook, to places we have visited and our mutual love of Africa and karaoke (I introduced Tanya to the Smule app).

“everything” and “we didn’t stop nattering” = adorable and ✅
Cooking = ✅
Dodgy holiday apartments/places we’ve visited = ✅

Ok, so obviously I clicked on the link and saw the Smule app and it looks kind of terrifying but if you’re the kind of person who likes karaoke – a shameless show-off with strep throat, basically – then it might be the one for you.

I am usually forced into karaoke; it is something that tends to happen to me rather than my seeking it out. Someone’s birthday, usually. I last did it earlier this year, at a place in Dalston. I sang three songs: Second Hand News by Fleetwood Mac (badly, Lindsey Buckingham is harder to imitate than you’d think); It’s A Sin by Pet Shop Boys (not too bad), and the Ballad of Frida and Barry, by Victoria Wood, duetting with my boyfriend (drunk). I don’t ever need to do it again. You always get that one person who is really good, too, don’t you, who makes you feel even worse that you can’t hit the high note in I Will Always Love You. That kind of person who shrugs and pretends to be reluctant to get up on stage and mutters, “I don’t really know this one”, before delivering a barnstorming performance that has the ears of X Factor producers pricking up three miles away. Ugh.

Any awkward moments?
Possibly for two seconds when we both realised that neither of us lives in London and I don’t even work in London. There was a slight “Are we on the right date, with the right person?” moment. But we carried on regardless, and I’m glad we did.

The “I’m glad we did” is just perfect there, isn’t it?

Any awkward moments?
I was almost late when I got an update on the transfer situation. But Tanya supports the same team, so I got away with it.

FOOTBALL. Bane of my life, most very horrible thing I can imagine having to do/watch/talk about/anything. I know it’s really popular and whatever but oh GOD, the worship of it. I can’t help but think being obsessed with football diverts many men’s emotions and feelings from where they actually need to be. Never trust a man who cries at the football when his team loses but can’t bring himself to tell his children he loves them.

Anyway, Tanya seems to be onboard with the fandom of the Devil’s Kicking Sphere, so I am happy for them both.

Good table manners?

Best thing about Jason?
He has good banter, is interesting, likes food, cooking and Arsenal.
Best thing about Tanya?
Not too serious, and very easy to talk to. And she supports the right football team (deal breaker).

It’s funny how when you get a couple of football fans, the word “banter” is never far away, isn’t it? These are all brilliant positives and I think these two are great, but, historically, banter and football have been two of my biggest enemies, lifelong nemeses that I would happily crush and burn. One man’s meat really is another man’s poison.

I suppose there are two types of banter. We have the mutually agreed banter, which Tanya and Jason are enjoying here, and then we have the other banter. The banter that masquerades as playful but is actually calculating and mean. The banter you have no control over, because it is chucked at you relentlessly and then, when you deign to say you’ve had enough or don’t laugh along with the “joke”, you are accused of spoiling it, or taking it too personally. Why can’t you be a bantersaurus, a bantsmobile, the Archbishop of Banterbury, just like all the other dudes? Come on, mate, it’s only a joke. What you go and ruin it for? It’s just banter.

Would you introduce them to your friends?
Yes, we could all do karaoke together and make cats cry.
Absolutely. Tanya is great company.

? ? ? ? ?

Describe Jason in three words
Fun and entertaining.

FUN, like the last loop on a rollercoaster because at least you know it’s nearly over.
AND, like, oh hang on what happened here, we’re an adjective missing. Um. Could we…? Um. OK. AND, like two things (words, people, whatever) joining together.
ENTERTAINING, like Robbie Williams claims to be in that song of his.

Describe Tanya in three words
Relaxed, cheeky, intelligent.

RELAXED, like someone who reclines their seat on a plane and causes endless rage in the cabin, hushed arguments among other passengers and then, upon landing and dismembarking, a zillion tweets and think-pieces on the rights and wrongs of it.
CHEEKY, like a millennial or someone from some other generation the media is desperately trying to make me hate to no avail, having their seventh cheeky Nando’s of the week followed by a can of cheeky gin and tonic on the train to whichever zone they can afford to rent in. Cheekily.
INTELLIGENT, like a self-checkout machine who knows that baguette that you’ve claimed was a stoneground one and not a regular, thus you owe them an extra £1.49.

What do you think they made of you?
Something nice, I hope.
That I love bread and butter, especially butter, like to wear Lycra, and probably talk too much.

Tanya’s answer just makes me want to post every heart emoji and sit looking at posters of dreamy hunks from my teenage years. Lovely. Respect to Jason for chowing through the bread and butter on the date; I mean it’s there to be eaten, let’s not be shy. NOBODY wants to hear about your carb avoidance plan on a first date; one person’s quirky and “totally achievable” diet is another’s serious issue with food, please go talk to someone.

The Lycra bit threw me and I thought things were about to get interesting in the wardrobe department but further reading revealed to me that Jason is a keen cyclist and the one of those pedlars who dresses like they’re on standby for the Tour de France and makes bus passengers gasp in horror as they weave around juggernauts on the Elephant and Castle gyratory.

Did you go on somewhere?
No, I didn’t want my train to turn into a pumpkin and I had to work the next day.
No. But only due to trains – at least I hope so.

We’ve got, like, the plots of about seven potential novels going on here. Trains ruin everything, don’t they?

And… did you kiss?
If the “mwah” type counts, then yes.

Well, OK, we seem to have a slight difference in opinion here because Jason just says, “yes”, which you wouldn’t say if it was just a “mwah” kiss, would you? A mwah kiss is in the air or on the cheek: lip does not touch lip. Or does Tanya mean, “yes, but no tongues”? I guess she’s a teacher and about to be in a national magazine so she doesn’t want to be too explicit in case her students somehow get hold of it or a “concerned parent” corners her at the next school social and reminds her that their own child’s education is more important than any personal life Tanya might wish to have.

Anyway, my guess here is lip contact, no tongues, but Jason wishes there had been and maybe Tanya does too but she’s a lay-dee.

Marks out of 10?
8 (as a teacher it’s hard to be a generous marker).

Double-eight! Definitely no tongues, then. The rules – and by “rules” I mean my rules – clearly state than any date that involves tongue-alar interaction has to at least be a 9 unless the kiss was awful.

Also, “as a teacher it’s hard to be a generous marker” just makes all those A grades I used to get from Mr Tennant and Mrs St Ruth seem all the more exciting.

Would you meet again?
Yes, as long as it’s not for one of his eight-hour bike rides – I’d be crying.

I predict that you will go cycling with him one time, and kind of hate it, but also love that he’s happy you’re trying, and then you’ll just make sure you’re at the start and finish lines in future, with a flask of brandy and an apple turnover. But you will go again, the two of you. Yay.

Would you meet again?
We are looking to have another night out.

And it’s going to be a belter, I can tell.

NEXT WEEK OMG: Don’t miss next week’s, it’s a very special one. And make sure you get a copy of the Guardian Weekend magazine too because… well, you’ll just have to see. But seriously. Huge.

Jason and Tanya ate at Gezellig London WC1. Fancy a blind date? Email If you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit

NOTE: 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, but get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll happily publish whatever you say, as long as it’s that, yes, you are in LOVE and I can come to the wedding.

I have a book out:


  1. Banter: I’m too lazy to look it up, but my recollection is that in The Remains of the Day the butler ponders how he might improve his banter. I also seem to recall that it didn’t end well for him.
    Karaoke: I once watched (and momentarily fell in love with) a woman perform a spot-on rendition of Criminal by Fiona Apple. Lubricated by a wee bit of alcohol I later did my go-to song: After the Lovin’ by Engelbert Humperdinck. I don’t think she noticed, even though I was begged – begged, I say! – by many to do an encore. I still flatter myself to the point of believing that there are quite a few children who owe their existence to their parents procreating after I put them in the mood that evening.

  2. Loved your recap as always. I’m so glad this was a pleasant date for both of them.

    Just Finished reading The Last Romeo, by the way! I really enjoyed it.

  3. Yes! Good to have you back. Keep looking up, I say. I spy on people from the window of my second floor flat and get away with it, because nobody ever looks up.

  4. I’ve never been drunk enough to do karaoke, but now I know Frida and Barry is an option I will be tempted.

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