Tom and Claire – Tom is wearing a blue jumper and brown chinos. he has brown hair and a light beard. Claire is wearing a black top and back jeans under a black leather jacket. She has long treacle coloured hair
Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Tom and Claire

They say things come in threes, don’t they. This week’s Guardian Blind Date serves us the third Tom in as many weeks. There’s nothing wrong with the name Tom, of course, but it clearly has a very Guardian bro energy to it that some Toms may wish to distance themselves from. Regardless, let’s wade in and meet Tom III: Tokyo Drift and his date Claire.

Tom-Cubed is a 30-year-old teacher and Claire is 36 and works as a manager. A manager of whom, or what? Expectations, I’d say, reading ahead. Here they are in full length changing-room mirror pose.

Tom and Claire – Tom is wearing a blue jumper and brown chinos. he has brown hair and a light beard. Claire is wearing a black top and back jeans under a black leather jacket. She has long treacle coloured hair
Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

If this photo were black and white, you wouldn’t lose much would you? Their pose suggests this isn’t going to be one of those dates where they’re drinking sambuca out of each other’s shoes at 4am on the Kingsland Road. This is the kind of stance that has accidentally found itself at the front row of an ABBA tribute band concert and isn’t sure whether to dance. This demeanour is ‘seventh in the queue for your booster shot and you’re the only person not coughing’.

Anyway, go and read the full, unabridged version of the date on the Guardian website and then come back here and see how I wasted my morning.

Tom on Claire | Claire on Tom

What were you hoping for?
A fun chance to meet someone new.

We underestimate the desire to meet someone new. After two years confined to immediate social groups, or flatmates, or totally alone, chances to lay eyes on fresh humans have been rare. You find yourself craving interactions with people who know absolutely nothing about you. I once found myself inviting the third self-checkout machine on the right in the Hammersmith Tesco Metro out for a drink.

What were you hoping for?
Good food and good conversation. And the hopeless romantic in me was secretly hoping for a knight in shining armour.

Will rust-coloured chinos do?

First impressions?
Friendly, polite, warm.

Sounds like he’s describing a sentient patio heater.

First impressions?
Tall, friendly, keen to order an aperitif.

They both thought the other was friendly on first meeting which is encouraging for those of us whose taste for highs goes as far as a double episode of All Creatures Great and Small. It is, however, a slight disappointment for the scores of readers whose lives have been lacking that second-hand buzz of watching a romance unfold between strangers since Princess Diana wore her revenge dress and started getting her hair GHD’ed four times a week by Sam McKnight.

What did you talk about?
Political engagement and why people should vote. Bake Off and MasterChef. Christmas music. The tribulations of flat-sharing.
Food. MasterChef, Bake Off. Devon. The trials and tribulations of a London flatshare. Voter apathy.

MasterChef, Bake Off. ✅ – two shows I’d rather gargle razor blade negronis than watch but each to their own. (It’s the incidental music. I feel like I’m in a really lo-fi episode of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates and I’m afraid when I’m watching a TV show, I need the stakes to be higher than ‘My entire future depends on the approval of a man who rides into work on a vintage motorcycle and looks like his fingernails have chlamydia’.) I do generally like the Bake Off alumni though. Nadiya, Edd, Tamal, Andrew, Richard, Ruby, Diana to name but a few. In fact, a Bake Off contestant was a Blind Dater once. They didn’t come off that well so I won’t embarrass them.

Voting ✅ – I don’t want to talk about politics. I prefer to look at the current situation with a very The One Show worldview – yes it’s all very worrying and infuriating but I’ve got some Heck Chicken Italia chipolatas under the grill so I can’t give it my full attention at the moment.

Flat-sharing ✅ – So many matches in conversation! Not necessarily a good thing. I haven’t shared a flat with a non-romantic partner since 2003 so I can’t really remember what it was like except no washing up ever gets done and that it’s best not to imagine what your flatmates do in the bathroom – if shower curtains and bath mats could give witness statements, none of us would ever wash again.

Any awkward moments?
The police did walk past our photo shoot – I found that pretty awkward!

I wonder what a white, straight-presenting male teacher needs to find awkward about the police being nearby. Would it have been less awkward if it had been an ice cream salesman, someone riding a gondola, or a marching band of Jonathan Dimbleby lookalikes? Maybe Tom has outstanding speeding fines, or shoplifted that roll neck on the way to the date

Any awkward moments?
There was a slight mix-up between Drake and Francis Drake…
sonia looks at phone, aghast, in eastenders

I… I just don’t think so. Believe it or not, the Guardian chose this as a the headline for the online version of the Blind Date. This.

Good table manners?

Alexis's face as we zoom on piece of paper

Sometimes I kid myself that the daters use this as code to let me know they read the blog. I know this probably isn’t true, and such an attempt to make me more lenient would only drive me in the opposite direction – but maybe that’s what they want. When I was younger and thought of people one day saying to me ‘I’d love to be roasted by you’, this isn’t quite how I imagined it.

EDIT: Tom got in touch and confirmed he has never read the blog before, so it’s just a coincidence.

Good table manners?
Great until we got to dessert. Fingers shouldn’t be used in the absence of a fork.

Depends what it was. Cake? Profiteroles? Who cares – get your hands in there. If it were ice cream or apple crumble then I would take your point. I am going to throw this out there and say, if you really fancied someone, you would not give two bronze f*cks how they ate their pudding. ‘Fingers shouldn’t be used in absence of a fork’ is such a headteacher thing to say – surely Tom 3: Beyond Thunderdome would be more likely to say it. Also, if the fork was absent, as Claire says, then… what was he supposed to do? Telekinetically move his cannoli siciliano into his mouth? (I have been to the restaurant they went to and loved it. And I ate the cannoli with my fingers.)

Best thing about Claire?
How multitalented she is – good at baking, music, photography, cooking, flowers and more. She is a very accomplished person.

This is admirable. I’m only good at one thing. Well, okay, two.

Best thing about Tom?
Easy to talk to.

Haha this is a bit like that first second after the Pepsi Max Big One has spent an age climbing and it’s so exciting and anything could happen next and then it just goes WHOOSH – DROP and rattles your brain inside your head like the toy in a Kinder egg. Talk about damning with faint praise.

Describe Claire in three words?
Talented, interesting, knowledgeable.

Talented, like an X Factor contestant in the bad old days of 2007 who’s not quite feral enough to be in the annual freak show video montage, yet not quite hot enough to be even considered for the final five. Will be eliminated during the last live show of November and will spend the rest of their days in supporting cast on national tours of outdated sex farces – top billing goes to a woman who got down to the last three to play the lead in TwoPointFour Children and whichever hunk has just left Emmerdale – and being asked for autographs in the Windsor branch of Prezzo. (I’ve eaten in there, too.)

Interesting, like perhaps a date at another table might have been.

Knowledgeable, like that one person in the pub quiz who has a frightening recall for Christina Aguilera b-sides and remixes, but is of no use to you whatsoever because you’re at a quiz in the Duke of Wellington in St Neots, not Soho.

Describe Tom in three words?
A true gent – he walked me to the bus stop.

Can I just say that following Tom 3’s very kind three adjectives with ‘the best thing about him was that he walked me to a bus stop’ is a stunning way to close this whole thing down.

Did you go on somewhere?
Alas, no.
It was a chilly Monday evening and time to head home.
Michaela Coel in the comedy chewing gum saying ugh hetero
Retort/Channel 4

I’m gonna put it right out there and say that even a balmy Saturday night in Cannes would’ve elicited the same result.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
I might have pretended to like sport a little bit more.

God, what on Earth for? Of all the things to pretend to get someone interested in you romantically, an interest in sport is the worst one. The crap pubs you will sit in, the dreary people you will meet, the appalling subterranean banter you will be subjected to. Pretending to like sport in an effort to get closer to, or spend more time with, someone is a fool’s errand because a) you just can’t fake an interest in something so tribal, exclusive, and dull, and b) they won’t pay you any attention anyway. A man who is only in a good mood when eleven men he has never met have a good day at work is NOT the one.

If you could change one thing about the evening what would it be?
That I’d made a note of the white wine – Italian, crisp and delish.

That ‘delish’ sent me into a full ‘tipping my head back and pouring in an entire bag of Tangfastics, on a sore throat, in a mouth full of cavities’ body cringe.

Marks out of 10?

This nine from Tom 3 is a little like watching your new puppy tumble quite hard down the last three steps, and Claire’s 7 is, of course, the Blind Date 1. It is worth remembering that we never know what criteria the daters are marking on and the Guardian leaves it up to them – I like this lack of clarity, tbh. So, Tom’s nine could be for the evening as a whole, whereas Claire’s 7 may be a grade for the future romantic potential. And, unlike Vic and Bob in Shooting Stars, she really did not want to see those fingers, especially jammed into a dessert.

Would you meet again?
As friends, absolutely!

Landlords of terrible pub chains, lower your flags to half-mast.

Next week’s Blind Date review will be the last before I go on a short hiatus; I have a novel to write. If you would like to support my work, consider doing one of the following:

Preorder my next book, The Fake-Up, which is out 7 April. It’s quite hard to explain how important preorders are to books that aren’t by already hugely famous and wealthy authors, but they can be very influential in a book’s success and to be very frank, I need them to do well so I can be allowed to write more (and continue doing this blog for free). It is a romantic comedy and has lots of acidic one-liners but also some emotional bits. It’s also about how annoying privilege, class, and nepotism are if you benefit from none of them.


Buy one of my two already published novels, The Last Romeo, and The Magnificent Sons. Again, comedies, but not especially romantic tbh.


Support me by leaving a small tip on my Ko-fi page, but only if you have the means. And if you do have the means, I would probably rather you bought a book, but that’s not my decision to make.

And if you can’t do any of those things, don’t worry! I am very grateful for your continued readership, thank you.

About the review and the daters: 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, they seem very nice, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. There has been an increase in readers being quite horrible about the daters – this isn’t what we should be about. I will not approve nasty below-the-line comments and will report any abusive tweets. If you reply to my tweets about the date, please don’t embarrass yourself or assume I agree with you. 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. Seriously, what was the pudding? And did you wash your hands first, at least?

Claire and Tom ate at Lina Stores, Greek Street, London W1. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. They kind of look like siblings. Or maybe the kind of cousins whose parents have been at passive aggressive odds for decades.

  2. How would Tom know that Claire is “good at baking, music, photography, cooking, flowers and more” unless she told him? I’d say that makes her very conceited as well as (giving her the benefit) accomplished.

    1. Or that Tom extrapolated her interest in those things to mean proficiency. Which is pleasingly optimistic. Maybe she showed him her instagram? I’ve had people who have never tried my food say I am a good cook and it always strikes me as weird – on a good day I am but it’s more that I am interested and they don’t have to eat my failures.

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