Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose, Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Impeccable Table Manners

Tom and Harriet

Thank goodness it’s Christmas at last. As much as I love the month-long Halloween festival, there’s nothing quite like spending two months in a euphoric state with all your brain cells replaced by tinsel and a triple sloe gin and tonic.

You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve already had my first eggnog latte of the season and it’s basically my version of a vitamin shot, so I’m ready and primed harder than Geri Halliwell hovering over the contract for a bakeware sponsorship deal.

Today’s clean shirts are occupied by Tom, a 33-year-old business development manager (do you remember in the Zeroes when people used to shorten that to “bizdev”? Maybe they still do, I couldn’t care less) and Harriet, 29, who works in HR. Ironic, really, (or perhaps not, pedants, I don’t care; go tell it to Alanis Morissette) that the term Human Resources is possibly the most dehumanising term ever to describe actual people.

Anyway, read what happened on the date before I go in there waving a P45 like I own the place.


Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose, Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Tom on Harriet | Harriet on Tom
What were you hoping for?
Someone to have a good chat and a laugh with.

What can they say here, really? Sometimes I wish for something a bit more adventurous or unattainable. “I was hoping for a leather-clad jewel thief to come skidding in on a huge motorbike, seconds after pulling off a multimillion-dollar heist.” “I was hoping for a man made entirely of winter coats.” “I was hoping for Jesus – but fashion.”

What were you hoping for?
A guy who would be happy to share a chateaubriand.

For the uninitiated, chateaubriand is like a huge, tender steak that you share between two people. Yes, a sharing steak. Sigh. There’s a trend at the moment for “sharing roasts” – in fact, the restaurant this hapless pair visit does them – and they are so annoying. It means you have to serve yourself, judge your own portions and, in some cases, carve the meat yourself. I remember once being in a pub round the corner from my flat and ordering a “sharing roast” and they just dumped a whole chicken on the table. I’m such a fussy cow I have to wipe my hands after every individual crisp I eat (which is why I don’t really eat them) but to touch a chicken?! In public?!? I had to get someone over to carve it for me; I could feel their anger at my perceived entitlement seeping into the chicken like a cheap marinade, but if I am paying £££ for a roast dinner, you are carving it.

What did you talk about?
The new Queen movie, Netflix programmes to binge on and where we live.
Music, graphic novels, family, friends, his tattoos.

Queen movie, music. A ✅ I guess.
Netflix binges. I find this whole thing of bragging about sitting in front of the TV for hours and bingeing on shows a bit weird, but especially because such couch potato behaviour would be deemed unacceptable (by whom I couldn’t tell you, but we know this is true) if it were watching anything but “prestige” TV – a soap, for example, or reality TV. I don’t care what you watch or how much of it you watch – it’s up to you – but vegging out with a telly show for nine hours isn’t a personality replacement. The middle-class appropriation of inactivity, junk food, and having square eyes and redefining it  all”self-care” is just so… so exactly what I would expect them to do, the vampiric nothings.

Good table manners?
She’s clearly had a good upbringing.
Yes. He let me choose the sides, but did hint three was enough…

One of my mum’s favourite things to say to me as a child if she felt I wasn’t behaving as well as I could – or had rips in my jeans – was: “People will think you’ve been dragged up”. Amazing. But even I would manage to sit through a meal without embarrassing myself.

There’s a lot to unpack from Harriet’s answer.
“He let me” – I know she is not saying she had to ask his permission to choose the sides and that he left it upon to her. This might seem very gentlemanly on first glance but in fact it’s the laziest form of chivalry. Tom just couldn’t be bothered to pick. This is how you can tell it was a free meal because I bet if his own money were being handed over he wouldn’t be so calm about someone else picking steamed cauliflower for all three sides, or whatever.
“He did hint three was enough” – this meal is free, Tom, back the fuck away and sit the hell down.

Best thing about Harriet?
Her smile, pretty eyes and that she is a very positive person.

If Andy McNab wrote romantic fiction, this is how he would describe a gun.

Best thing about Tom?
I liked the sound of the music nights he runs.

“The best thing about him is his side-hustle.” If this praise were any fainter it would be the print on a crumpled cash machine receipt that’s been on your dressing table since the day after Diana’s funeral.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
I’m unsure about her beer-drinking skills, but can’t see why not.

Being heterosexual sounds exhausting, I’m sorry.

Describe her in three words
Lovely, intelligent, funny.

Lovely, like a word that is basically “nice”, but trying really, really, hard.
Intelligent, like the gang who hack into your Alexa, only to find instead of secrets, your inexplicable taste for 5ive’s greatest hits and asking Alexa if Chicken Cottage are on Deliveroo.
Funny, like that smell when someone is eating a Big Mac and fries ten seats down on the Bakerloo.

Describe him in three words
Friendly, interesting, talkative.

Friendly, like a dog just grateful you’re not taking its picture for Instagram.
Interesting, like a car loan.

What do you think she made of you?
I think she liked me. I got good vibes and we swapped numbers, which is a good sign, right?


You’ve also given away the ending by mentioning the numbers-swapping thing. You would be a NIGHTMARE for anyone three episodes behind you on whatever glossy, but kind of boring and aimless, American show you were bingeing on.

What do you think he made of you?
I found him quite hard to read.

Hard to read. Yeah. Have you tried using a Kindle? You can zoom in on those; really get up close and personal. I mean, if you swapped numbers, what do you think he made of you?

Did you go on somewhere?
No. As it was a Tuesday, we were civilised.

What did Tuesday ever do to deserve such a fun-sponge reputation? No weekday should hold you back. Go on somewhere BECAUSE it’s a Tuesday. Friday and Saturday have reigned as party nights for too long – even Thursday became “the new Friday” a while back. It’s Tuesday’s time to shine as an evening of debauchery, regret, and terrible MDMA.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
It would have been on a Friday, because red wine hangovers on Wednesday mornings suck.

Tom’s obsession with days of the week is a new one on me. Imagine the state of his desk calendar – I bet all the pages are stuck together.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
One more side dish.

I know what this is code for. One more side dish, and one less person to share them with, amiright?

Marks out of 10?

“I think she liked me” followed by a 7 is certainly a LOOK, Tom. Because, as regular readers will know, a 7 is a 1. It’s a 1 which minds its Ps and Qs and would never block access to your double garage with its roomy Vauxhall, yes, but a 1 all the same. UNO.

Harriet’s 8 is just as inexplicable as she seems to have had as much fun on this date as I did that time I went onto the Waltzers eating a Magnum and ended up wearing it.

This date has been the romantic equivalent of spending two hours in Farrow & Ball to choose paint, only to decide “Yeah, let’s just do it all magnolia” and barrelling down to B&Q.

Would you meet again?
I would, yeah – there’s more wine to drink.

My advice to make things more interesting next time? Tip said wine over each other’s heads.

Would you meet again?
Maybe. We swapped numbers.


Tom and Harriet ate at The Coal Shed, London SE1. (Too much sharing, no THANKS.) Fancy a blind date? Email you’re looking to meet someone like-minded, visit

NOTE: The comments I make are based on the answers given by the participants and not what they may actually be like in real life. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story; I’ll publish whatever you say. And get your hands off my side dishes, bye.

NOTE 2: .

NOTE 3: The Impeccable blog is usually published on Sunday mornings, but was on a Saturday this week. What can I tell you? I’m gay – I do what I like.


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