Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Apprentice, again

It is now a WhyNotSmile tradition to come home from the Wednesday evening thing at church, get a bite of supper, put my jammies on, and tuck myself up in bed with the laptop to watch The Apprentice.  In a shocking move, though, last night it got to 11pm and the latest offering was still not available on iPlayer, so I went to bed in a bit of a huff.

This morning the alarm radio went off as normal, and I'm lying there listening to the news, and then, suddenly, the announcer says 'And last night Howard Ebison's Apprentice dream came to an abrupt end when he became the latest candidate to be fired by Sir Alan' (oh, yeah, spoiler warning for this post, by the way).  And I thought 'Damn.  That's that ruined' (and since when did Citybeat start announcing what happened in The Apprentice?).  Anyway, it's still interesting to watch when you already know what's going to happen, and in any case it's not like I had anything better to do.

We haven't yet discussed last week's visit to the Baby Show, in which James displayed a worryingly so-near-and-yet-so-far understanding of childbirth, and Debra bludgeoned the rest of the team into trying to sell a £1000+ rocking horse, all of which led to a not very interesting episode, but one which proved its worth by getting shot of Ben.

This week, however, proved much more lucrative, as the candidates were packed off to flog tat on a shopping channel.  To summarise who's left and the teams and so on: on one team, we have Howard, Kate and Lorraine; on the other we have Yasmina, Debra and James.  Also, we have reached that point that you always get to in things like this, at which none of the girls can safely be left together unsupervised without an almighty bitch-fight breaking out, and so we know we are guaranteed a good night's entertainment.

Step 1 is picking what they are going to sell, and we are subjected to the biggest pile of glorious guff outside of my grandparents' attic.  My personal favourite was the robot dinosaur, but the teams neglected this (on the reasonable basis that it costs a miniature fortune) and instead, between them, went for the following: a scarf/snood/fleecy thing, a chip fryer thing, an air guitar thing, some hair clips, a radio controlled car, a polystyrene cat, the most gloriously dreadful leather jacket imaginable ('polyester with genuine leather leaves, available in gold, silver or bronze'), and an assortment of other tat.  An excellent start all round, then.

Step 2, they get in a bit of practice, which is horrendous, and then they have to decide who on their team will form a presenting pair, and who will present alone.

On the Yasmina-Debra-James team (with Yasmina in charge, but only after a great deal of screaming in a car park, with James interjecting things like 'Well, I think', 'Well, my opinion is', 'Well, what I was going to say' and the other two squawking him out), it is deemed best to separate Debra off; Yasmina and James make quite a good double-act (prompting, as we later discover, a viewer from Lancaster to write in and congratulate the shopping channel on its new comedy hour) but almost take the model's head off when they try to demonstrate the hair clips.  They also get the price wrong:
Yasmina: "THREE of these hair clips for just £9.99 - what a BARGAIN!  That's £9.99 folks!  Just £9.99 for THREE!  Absolute bargain!"
Meanwhile off to the side, James puts his finger in his ear and looks worried; cut to the director's chair where Debra is screaming 'You've got the price wrong, they're £17.99!'
Back to James: "Actually, they're £17.99"
Yasmina (getting higher and higher in pitch): "£17.99 for THREE!  Absolute bargain!"

Next up is Debra with the weird headscarf thing, in pure man-made polyester (James: 'They can make polyester these days?') and an array of ghastly colours.  It is, she informs us, "the answer to the scarf" (Eh?  What did the scarf ask?), and she goes on to demonstrate some of the hundreds of ways in which it can be worn - round your neck, or on your head, basically.  We see Sir Alan in the boardroom saying 'Ew de bladdy 'ell would want a wear DAT?'.  As we find out later, half the population.

Team two (Howard in charge, with Lorraine and Kate) have less of a decision to make about who should go it alone.  It's like that quiz thing you used to do where you had to get a chicken, and fox and some birdseed across a river in a boat.  If the girls are left together, it is clear that Kate will club Lorraine to death with the polystyrene cat.  If, on the other hand, Lorraine is on her own, something bad might happen.  So Howard gamely pairs up with Lorraine, leaving Kate to try to flog the cat and the air guitar.

Howard and Lorraine are selling the hideous jacket and the chip fryer.  It is hard to describe how ghastly this jacket is; but if I tell you that it's exactly the kind of thing people buy on shopping channels, and that we later learn it is one of their best sellers, you should get the general picture.  So Lorraine models the jacket, and Howard says how lovely she is, and Lorraine claims she'll wear it the next time she's invited to a party, and Howard says he'd be honoured to have her on his arm at the party, and we're left with a horrible image of being so desperate for people to come to your party that you would actually invite Howard and Lorraine.  Onto the chip fryer, which they can't really work, which Lorraine knows nothing about, but which makes such nice chips that they basically spend most of the segment scoffing them and don't bother to tell anyone the phone number.

And finally, Kate pops up with the polystyrene cat (and matching dog), into which you are supposed to stick sequins and pins, a point which she labours unto death (a tip, Kate love: once you've seen one sequin stuck into a lump of polystyrene, you've seen 'em all).  She then sends dog and cat off for a little love-in, and moves on to the air guitar.  This actually looks quite good fun - it has infra-red beams which you 'strum' to make the noise, and buttons you press to do something else that I didn't quite pick up on, and it's only about 15 quid, so it shouldn't be hard to sell.  Again, Kate goes off on one, and we are treated to minutes of her air-guitaring and flicking her hair about.

And so to the boardroom.  Please remember that at this point I already know who goes home, and hence I already know which team is going to win, but now I can't quite figure out how it's going to happen because surely the chip pan will have wiped the floor with the snoods.  It seems not, because no one wanted the chip pan and everyone wanted the snoods; on the plus side, only one person wanted a polystyrene cat.

So Howard's lot lose (by a couple of hundred pounds), and it gives me immense pleasure to see James actually being on a winning team for once, and getting a treat.  He's like a little puppy who's been given a new tennis ball, all grins and twinkly eyes and 'yes, yes, yes'.  So they head off to fly planes, which prompts Debra and Yasmina to do even more screaming, although this time it's not at each other.

Howard and co go to the cafe and sulk and snipe a bit at each other, and then come back, and at this point I really am sorry that I know that Howard's going home, because it seems to come from nowhere and I would've enjoyed the surprise.  Up until the last second, you're thinking 'It has to be Lorraine.  It cannot be anyone else; it HAS to be Lorraine', and then suddenly Howard is picking up his little suitcase and getting into the taxi and it's all over for another week.

There are only 2 weeks left now; never having seen this before, I'm not sure how the last bit works (do they do a normal one next week and have 4 people in the final?), but next week appears to be every man for himself as they are grilled on their CVs.  We learn from the little trailer thing that James has claimed that his job involves 'Putting people on a leash to stop them from spunking money up the wall'; I'm not sure what he actually does, but I'm fairly sure it was never presented at any careers fair I ever went to.

In any case, we shall look forward to it, and if it's any good, I'll tell you all about it.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Happy John Wesley Day

Well good evening and Happy John Wesley Day. Yes. John Wesley Day. Bet you didn't know that, did you? Y'all thought it was just Ascension Sunday, but no, for 24th May is John Wesley Day and is celebrated marked mentioned in passing in Methodist Churches worldwide. Especially when it falls on a Sunday, as it has this year.

John Wesley Day, insofaras I can tell, marks the anniversary of John Wesley's conversion. John Wesley, of course, was the founder of Methodism, along with various others including his brother Charles, who wrote lots of songs. On 24th May many years ago, he was at a meeting in a place called Aldersgate House, when he 'felt [his] heart strangely warmed'. Now you or I (well, I) would think we had missed our mouths with our coffee again, but John Wesley was a spiritual man (in fact, he was a Church of England minister), and recognised the work of the Holy Spirit when he felt it.

And so he was renewed and began to preach a lot and so began the movement known as Methodism.

Or at least, this is what I remember from reading his biography several months ago.

Some Facts Which You May Not Have Known about John Wesley:

1. He had 18 brothers and sisters
2. His birthday is the same day as WhyNotSmile's
3. He travelled to Ireland quite a lot
4. He died an Anglican, not a Methodist
5. He summarised his teaching in the Four Alls of Methodism:
  • All people need to be saved;
  • All people can be saved;
  • All people can know they are saved,
  • All people can be saved completely.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Spelling, and the importance of the meaning of words

Today I had a most unusual experience. I wrote a cheque in a shop. This I have not done in a long time, and for reasons which came flooding back: I have no idea how to spell '14'. Like, in letters, I mean.

So today I had to send some packages (on behalf of Alex, of whom more presently), and they came to £19.14. Since I was paying out of my business account, I tried to use my business account card, but had forgotten (or, more likely, never knew) my PIN, which left the options: pay out of own money and do complicated bookkeeping manouvers manoveurs (hmm, another word I cannot spell) things, or write a cheque. So I chose the cheque option, and realised that it is a looong time since I wrote a cheque in a shop, and that I did not know how to spell '14'.

But back to Alex, who has asked me to tell you about getting her house painted, as a warning to you all. This happened some time ago, when Alex (who lives in Omeath) decided the house could do with brightening up (the outside of the house), and toyed with Doing Something About It. Other Half Peter had got some ludicrous quotes of millions of Euro and so on, and Alex suspected that she could get a better deal.

So one day when out for a walk, she bumped into a chap whose name I cannot recall (for the purposes of this lesson, we shall call him Derek). Anyway, they got talking, and Alex mentioned she wanted her house to be painted, and Derek said that he had a friend who could do it. He gave directions and told her to ask for Redbeard. Yes, Readbeard.

So Alex goes and finds the house and finds Redbeard and asks if he can paint her house and how much will it cost and so on. And he says €300 (0r some such amount; I can't remember the exact details). So Alex thinks 'my my, this is good', and asks whether paint is included and he says it is. She asks whether he needs to know dimensions of the house etc and he says 'no'. She also asks him to do it much the same colour as it is, and he agrees, and they decide that Redbeard will come some day when the weather is nice, and get started.

So Alex has signed up a chap called Redbeard to paint her house for about a quarter of the price that everyone else was charging, and he claims he does not need to see the house, the current colour or the dimensions in advance, and that the price of paint is included in his quote.

Which did not make a lot of sense until he turned up at the house one day... wearing a smock and carrying an assortment of little paint tubes and an easel.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Apprentice, Week 8

I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about last night's Apprentice, after Philip being booted out last week (oh, yeah, sorry, this post contains spoilers). With only Ben left to be obnoxious, would it be worth watching? Thankfully, yes, because Debra stepped in to fill the breach.

So the task: do for Margate what was done for the Millennium Dome, a re branding so awesome it will make Siralan's eyes pop out. Or something. Anyway, 2 teams: Howard, Debra, James and Mona on one, and Ben, Lorraine, Yasmina and... whoever the other one is who's still in on the other.

So Project Managers must be selected. Team 1 (the Empire/Ignite thing has lost all meaning since they shuffled the teams so much) are debating between Howard and Debra. Howard is keen and would be quite good and would be so grateful for the opportunity that he would give a million percent, but Debra is scarier, so she wins. On the other side, Yasmina takes up the reins and they trot off.

Next, they have to decide which 'market' they're pitching at. Team 1 go for the 'gay market', because they have loads of money (obviously). Mona is delightfully unsure that it is wise to focus all their energies on 'those people', what with being gay not being particularly common in Kent, and you can immediately tell that we're in for comedy gold. Team 2 play it safe, aiming their campaign at all those South of England families who are unable to go abroad this year; they are confident that Margate is a suitable alternative to Mauritius.

We'll do a quick summary of Team 2's campaign first, because there's not a lot to say and we might as well get it out of the way. Yasmina and the other one... oh, yes, Kate! - stay in London or somewhere and interview models by looking at the men's bodies and the women's legs. Meanwhile, Ben and Lorraine are sent off to Margate itself (well, someone has to go) to see the sights and take pictures for the photos. If ever there was potential for an explosion of personalities, it is surely Ben and Lorraine, but in the event they get on disappointingly well. Ben appears to be happy as long as he can make little frames from his fingers, ostensibly to set up the shots, but judging by Lorraine's reaction it is some sort of primitive mating call that the rest of us have never come across. Anyway, it seems to work.

So Team 2 make reasonably decent posters and leaflets, and it's all a bit sedate and run-of-the-mill but they get the job done and there's not a lot to comment on (except that Lorraine seems to spend half the episode wearing knitted body armour).

Back to Team 1, and their rainbow roulette. Debra and Howard, who can by now barely look at each other without snarling, stay in London and interview the models - several blokes who look a bit awkward about holding hands. Meanwhile, Mona and James get sent to Margate where James buys ice cream and Mona looks a little anxious about the 'gay market' again. They interview a few people to see whether Kent is really a reasonable cash till for the 'pink pound', and find that the locals think it's a great idea (which is good, since they're going with it anyway).

Highlight of the episode, however, is Mona's interview with an actual real life gay person in a club. Actually, it's not really with a gay person, as we discover when she discretely asks 'So what is your sexuality?'. In fact, the person is a transsexual who is about to have the operation. Mona is simply delighted by this, and asks 'so what are you now, a man or a woman?'. 'A man', as it turns out. 'Really?' gasps Mona (although by this stage all attention is on James' face in the background), 'I'd never have known!'. It's worth asking what an appropriate response might have been, but clearly she should have stopped after the initial 'So what do you think of Margate's gay scene?', at which point it was all going not too badly.

Next stop is the beach, to take photos of lesbians running through the sea with rainbow flags (as they do), and two blokes holding hands and eating ice cream. This goes not too badly, in contrast with what is happening with Howard and Debra back at the ranch. Somehow, these two have spent all day with no obvious productive activity, and then start the poster and leaflet with about half an hour to go. Needless to say, they only get half the leaflet done, and the posters and leaflet look crap, but at least it's a hack-up - because frankly, we were in danger of falling asleep. Oh yes, and Debra yells some more.

The teams have to present their campaigns to professional people and the people of Margate. Howard is selling the gay thing, and starts off with a winning question to the professionals:
'Do you know Margate?'
'Yes', they reply, in unison.

It goes badly, the team lie about the blank space on the leaflets (it's 'advertising space', they claim) and generally look worried.

For the other team, Kate pitches well, and their 'boring but safe' campaign gets a lukewarmish reception but is not completely slated. Their slogan is 'See Margate through children's eyes' or something.

Then they are hauled off to the boardroom, where Siralan doesn't understand the 'children's eyes' thing ('Why are there no children in the photo? You're looking through children's eyes, there should be children in it.' No, Siralan, we're looking through the children's eyes, like we were inside their heads. They can't see themselves, can they? Oh, never mind.), but is otherwise not too distressed by it. He is less impressed, however, by the gay leaflet, and when we see it in all its glory, we see why, for it is truly appalling. A map of Britain, with a rainbow on it, and 4 towns marked (Manchester, London, Brighton and Margate) - why? Something about nice restaurants. Some blokes holding hands.

So the family lot win and go driving, while the gay ones are off to the Caff Of Loserdom to fight. Essentially the whole thing is Debra's fault, but we can't have that coming out too strongly, because she's quite entertaining, and into the boardroom go Debra, Mona and James.

Debra squawks and yells a bit more, James blames everyone else and Mona looks worried. It's as if last week's 'selling giant people-shaped sleeping bags' triumph has never happened, and she is told by Siralan to take a long walk off a short pier. With regret, though. It's the first time he has said 'with regret' as he fired someone, and let's get real here, he might as well be honest about it: 'Mona, you're not as bad as these two clowns, but you're not as entertaining either, so I'm afraid it's telly and my hands are tied.'

So Mona is gone, and we are left with 7 contestants.

Ben: twit. Arrogant, twitty, obnoxious twitty twit. Walks funny and wears braces. But entertaining.

Kate: the one Philip fancied. Also one of the few to have shown any kind of discernible talent, being quite good at sales pitches. If we forget the 'blinis' thing.

James: one to watch. Mainly because, as far as I can tell, he is receiving a disproportionate amount of airtime for all that he's doing. It's like they really, really want us to meet James.

Howard: another one to watch. If only he did anything, ever.

Debra: please get rid of her.

Lorraine: seems to fancy Ben, a little bit. But still quite scary.

Yasmina: she'll go far, but she'll never win. Was responsible for the cedarwood/sandalwood thing, and yet seems to have ducked out of it, so she clearly has some business nous.

For the record, my money is now on Howard, with James and Kate as strong contenders.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Logos Hope: WhyNotSmile Investigates

You may have heard of the Logos Hope: it is a large boat which sails all over the world (well, the watery bits) and has a bookstore which brings all kinds of books to people who would not otherwise have access to them. It's the latest ship belonging to OM (Operation Mobilization), which is a Christian organisation which aims to take Christian books and stuff all over the place. But they also take other books as well.

Their website is here.

Anyway, the point is that the ship is currently in Belfast, and is open to visitors, such as WhyNotSmile, for instance. And it's free, and you know what WhyNotSmile thinks of that.

So this afternoon saw me saddling up Fifi and setting off for the docks. Fifi and I do not like to do things too directly, of course, and tend to have what we might call an 'iterative' approach to finding our destination; so it was that we had 3 laps of the St George's Market/Victoria Square/Laganside area of Belfast before we managed to spot the large sign saying 'Docks' (or at least, before we managed to spot it before it was too late). Rather helpfully, once you get to the docks there are signs pointing you to Logos Hope, although they do leave you guessing at the final turn (I think the large ship surrounded by a car park is supposed to be a clue, but you know how it is), so after an unscheduled tour of the new Stena terminal, and a little fun chasing pigeons, our 40-minutes-to-do-5-miles journey was completed.

The first thing that struck me was that the boat was really very big; the second was that the car park attendant was frantically signalling to me to go left. I hate those car parks where they tell you where to park; Fifi and I are not the sort of people who just fit into any old space. We like our parking spaces to be... well... big, mostly, and also extremely accessible. Anyway, I eventually got Fifi parked and headed for the boat.

Everyone is very friendly, and I was welcomed on board several times and directed to a video thing in a little boat-shaped theatre telling us all about Logos Hope and various related topics. By this time I had spotted the books through the far door, and was itching to get among them, but thought it might be rude to skip the video, so stayed there for the 5 minutes and quite enjoyed it.

On entering the book shop I started to feel a little seasick; it is extremely unlikely, of course, that this is actually possible, but I really am not that keen on boats. Anyway, the book shop is really rather big, with lots of books, many of which are at bargain prices. There are Christian ones, reference books (atlases and dictionaries and stuff), children's books, cook books, and also other things like CDs and keyrings. And lots of Bibles: if you want a Bible, this is the place to go.

I was having a nice time browsing away, debating whether or not 'How To Write A Christian Novel' was worth the money, when I bumped into my old physics teacher. We had quite a chat about How We Are and What We Are Doing and so on, which was nice. And then back to the books. WhyNotSmile can go mad in situations like this, and buy recklessly, but I restricted myself to a world map (for the little girl I sponsor), and a book on church finance (which is extremely relevant to Our Present Situation). I realised with slight horror how many Christian books I have actually read, and skillfully avoided the immense range of 'Christian Life' information, AKA (in this case) 'How to have a nice married life'. There was a rather fabulous-looking book entitled something like 'How to really enjoy sex', but when I'd already met someone I know, I didn't think it was safe to have even a peek.

Anyway, by the time I'd done all this, I was ready for home, so I paid for my book and map and headed out (at the tills I overheard a conversation between 2 staff members, one of whom must have been foreign and the other of whom was trying to explain 'No you shouldn't do that, that's a rude sign over here. Yes, the other way round is ok. But not that way.'). There's a photo exhibition telling the story of the ship, which is quite interesting, and there is also an offer of Logos Hope bag and 3 books for £5 - the books, however, are from a Certain Selection, in which the Left Behind series appeared to feature prominently, so I beat a hasty retreat.

The cafe looked and smelled extremely nice, but time did not permit, so I passed on through, picking up my free copy of LifeTimes (argh) on the way through.

In a final burst of generosity, they gave me a free book for signing the log book (and have promised me a digital photo in my inbox, but it hasn't arrived yet, so they might be lying - you know what Christians are like. Or I might have typed my email address wrong. I dunno).

And so my voyage aboard the Logos Hope concluded, although the walk down the... what is it?... steps? gangplank? big metal bridge thing? had potential to add a more unfortunate tone to the day. Thankfully the journey home was less eventful than the journey there; I think knowing where I live really helps.

Anyway, if you get a chance to visit the ship (it's in Belfast till May 11th, and then goes to Dublin, Cardiff, London and Cork), you should probably jump at it. Unless you don't like books, boats or Christian things, in which case probably don't.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Results

Well the phone has been found and it's time to announce the results of the competition.

In third place, we have Dave, who claimed to have seen the phone outside Maynooth. Technically, it's not possible to disprove this, but since I didn't actually find it there, full glory must be denied in this case.

In second place is Emma, who claims to have gone as far as checking her Iraqi friend's car. Close, but no cigar.

But the winner, for sheer volume of attempts as much as anything else, is Chrissie, who, while not getting the exact place, was closest with her suggestion of 'under the duvet'. So please give immense respect to Chrissie And Her Treasure-hunting Skills.

The phone was, in fact, down the side of the bed; presumably I left it on the bed last night and then it slid off during the night.

All's well that ends well.

A Competition

OK, today we're going to have a little competition.

I have lost my mobile phone, and I need you to help me find it.

The story so far: the last place I definitely remember having it was last night in the living room, when I remember it falling off the arm of the sofa and onto the floor; I remember picking it up and setting it on the little table. Since then I have not left the house; after that I pretty much had supper and went to bed.

I have checked the obvious places, like the table, my handbag, all over my bedroom, the fridge, and all manner of floors and armchairs and cushions and things.

Needless to say, the battery has run out, so I can't just phone it.

So, your task is this: suggest places to look. Whoever gets the correct place wins the respect of all my readers.

Monday, 4 May 2009

WhyNotSmile Does The Marathon

OK, first things first; clearly WhyNotSmile did not actually do the marathon, if by 'do' you mean 'run'. But if by 'do' you mean 'got involved with the general spirit', then we're on the same training schedule, as it were. WhyNotSmile is not, by any stretch of even the stretchiest imagination, a runner; WhyNotSmile has a body made for blogging.

Before we start, please be aware that this post may make more sense if you have access to a map of Belfast, or a general sense of geographical awareness of the area.

Anyway, as has been mentioned, Sister Smile was doing the Belfast Marathon today, and Mama Smile had suggested (I thought) that we go and watch. So I'm lying in bed this morning, thinking that it would be nice to do a few bits and pieces and then go over to Ormeau Park - catch some atmosphere, as it were - and see her finishing, before moseying home for a bite of lunch.

So at 8.30, the doorbell goes. Mama Smile comes in, with maps. I am still about 80% asleep, but catch various things about going to the Antrim Road with energy drinks and jelly beans, and decide it is best to just go along with it. So I have a shower, and we plan our route. It seems that we are to carry a bag of energy drinks, Nutrigrains, energy gel and jelly beans, and meet Sister Smile at the Antrim Road, and then at the docks; we also have a larger rucksack thing which she wants at the end. We are aware that much of the city is closed off to let the marathon through, and decide that taking the car would be foolhardy, and public transport would not.

By the time we leave the house, I feel like I've run the marathon several times over. So we drive to the Ravenhill Road and leave the car there, and start walking into town. We somehow seem to end up in the middle of the Fun Run, although no one is running, and they don't look like they're having fun. The entire project comes close to implosion when WhyNotSmile drops the map of the route, but it is quickly retrieved from the gutter and we carry on.

So we get across the bridge and find a bus stop, and decide to get a bus the rest of the way into town (because we're now running late). We meet a chap from Derry who cheerfully tells us that we're mad to try to get up the Antrim Road, and we'd be better to go to the docks. In the entire 5 minutes we have to wait for the bus, he tells us this about a million times, and I can see Mama Smile seriously contemplating pushing him into the Lagan. Anyway, eventually the bus comes and we all get on; Derry Man spends the remainder of the journey alternating between his own running exploits and the insanity of trying to get to the Antrim Road.

We have a quick discussion with the driver as we get off, and he's not sure about the Antrim Road buses, but says we could ask an inspector; unfortunately the only inspector we can see has been commandeered by Derry Man. After lurking in doorways until the coast is clear, and a discussion with the inspector, we are told to walk to the other end of Royal Avenue and try to get a Number 2 up the Shore Road. By the time we walk this, find a bus, and get on the bus, it's around about the time we were supposed to be intersecting with Sister Smile's route, and it is clear that we need to Rethink.

We get out maps and suddenly the entire bus, including the driver and 2 ladies who are trying to get to the Abbeycentre, are involved in Route Planning. Eventually it is decided that we will get off at Donegall Park Avenue, and WhyNotSmile will run (yes, run) to the other end (the Antrim Road end) and try to intersect things there. She will take her mobile, a bottle of energy drink, a Nutrigrain, and the jelly beans; Mama Smile will follow at a more sedate pace with everything else. As we step off the bus, we feel like we're emigrating to Australia, so heartily are we wished 'farewell and good luck' by our fellow passengers.

So we get off the bus and I start running - if things have been going to plan, I have about 3 minutes to run the length of Donegall Park Avenue, which is about half a mile long and mainly uphill. So I set off, jogging. About 20 yards in, I hit what runners call 'The Wall': that point at which everything hurts and you can't breathe. I keep going for about 20 yards more, but the expected 'second wind' does not materialise, and I have to walk a bit. I'm too warm, so take off layers and briefly wonder about leaving them hanging from a gate for Mama Smile to pick up, but in the end I hold on to them, and am now running while carrying a bottle of energy drink, a hooded fleece and a hat, in addition to things in pockets. About half way along, I stop and drink some of the energy drink, and have a jelly bean, because you have to keep your glucose levels up.

So I finally get to the end, and am lying against a traffic light pole, almost sobbing. There is no sign of Sister Smile, and no way of knowing whether she's still to come, or we've missed her. After about 10 minutes, Mama Smile catches up, and we debate what to do. So we walk back along the route, and after 10 minutes have almost given up hope (and I'm considering cracking open the Nutrigrain), when Sister Smile comes along. I hold out the energy drink, the Nutrigrain bar and the remaining jelly beans, and she shakes her said, says she's ok, and runs on. Ungrateful brat.

Now we have to get back into the city centre, and across to the docks. We wait in vain for a bus, which has of course been held up by the marathon, and then give up and start walking. Back on the Shore Road, we try another bus stop; we wait for about 10 minutes (me having had a bit more of the energy drink), and then a young girl (well, about 18ish) comes up to the stop, asks if we know anything about the buses, and then (as I try to answer that we don't), gets out her mobile, calls someone and says (in a voice that would cut glass at 20 paces) "I'm nat gonna f***in make it like, 'cos 'ere's no buses here and ere's two women at the bus stap and they don't know naffin bout the buses, like, so like I'm nat gonna make it. Like, I blame you, for you said ther was buses". We don't wait to hear the rest, and decide to keep walking.

So eventually we get to Yorkgate (having stopped to buy a couple of bananas on the way, which we were supposed to have done earlier), and have time to gulp down a cup of tea and half a scone each, before we need to get going to reach the docks for the appointed time. So we wrap the remaining scones in napkins and set off; we would have done better if there hadn't been the motorway in our path, but we made it in the end, and had time to eat the rest of the scones and get the cameras out.

When there is no sign of Sister Smile, we walk a little bit further back along the route, and as we round a corner, bump into Derry Man, who is now 'giving it large' for the competitors, and heartily encourages us to do the same. He demands to know whether we made it up the Antrim Road, and starts on about his running exploits again. Thankfully, like a blessed angel, Sister Smile appears on the horizon and we make our excuses. We have been told that this is the vital place, where we NEED to be with our energy drinks and our jelly beans, because otherwise she will, like, DIE, but yet again, she just smiles and waves and runs on, not looking at all interested in glucose.

So now we have to get to the end before she does, which is easier said than done. Mama Smile comes up with a complex plan which involves 2 trains and a bus, and we execute this without any real incident, thanks in part to several very helpful Translink employees. We eat one of the bananas and more jelly beans.

The finish is in a swamp, essentially, so I leave Mama Smile leaning on a barrier and go to take stock of things. I get lost in a madding crowd, and yet somehow, under someone's armpit, spot Sister Smile as she crosses the finish line. Mama Smile, on the other hand, lined up in a perfect viewing spot, gets distracted by a guy dressed as Batman and misses the whole thing.

Sister Smile finishes in a very respectable time of 4 hours 35 mins or so, plus it took her 10 minutes to get across the starting line, but declares herself 'a bit gutted'.

We have not, of course, managed to get back to the car to pick up the bag of Things We Are Supposed To Bring To The Finish Line, so there is a flurry of trying to get hold of friends' phone numbers (stored in Sister's mobile, which is in the bag, which is in the car) so that Sister Smile can call and say where she is and the friends can come and see. Eventually we give up, and go back to the car. On the way, Sister Smile gets in touch with the friends and Mama Smile goes off to get the car, so I wander along next to on-the-phone-sister and eat more of the jelly beans.

So all in all, it was a more hectic day than I expected, and now I am quite tired and feel like I have run the marathon myself.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

On Whether You Have Pig Flu, Or Not

It has come to WhyNotSmile's attention that people are panicking about having pig flu.

So, with this in mind, I refer you to the following page so you can check.

Results may be invalid in about a fortnight's time.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Two More Things

Now, I know this is 2 posts in an hour, but I have Things To Say, and if it's too much for you all at once, you can always save one post for tomorrow.

Firstly, if you are a 'person of faith', you can take part in a survey by the Irish School of Ecumenics. And if you are a pastor, minister, priest etc., you get your own special survey. Go here and tell them WhyNotSmile sent you.

Also, I meant to share this video with you all. It features Sister Smile (someone not heretofore much mentioned on the blog, I have to say), who is insane and therefore running the marathon on Monday. She's doing it in aid of something, so you can sponsor her if you want.

Quite clearly, this is the closest I will ever get to running a marathon, unless you include going and watching. Maybe you should all sponsor me too...

More From The Apprentice

I am now officially addicted to The Apprentice, and am delighted to report that this week's offering served up some gems. Notably, we were introduced to an entirely new collection of strange wannabes. Not, of course, the contestants themselves (who we have already met), but an apparently random selection of The Great British Public.

These included a fishmonger who was prepared to pay £15 for a bucket of half-defrosted jellied eels. Seen from the point of view of the contestants, this is (at first glance anyhow) fairly reasonable - they have jellied eels, he has a fish shop, they make a transaction. But from the point of view of the fishmonger, he's in his shop, and these 3 strangers in suits come in with a load of jellied eels that they want to sell to him. I mean, is that not just a teensy bit odd? Would you not want to know a bit more about where those jellied eels came from? Is this even legal?

But then, you see, there's a tv camera behind them, and perhaps he realises that paying £15 and whatever it costs to dispose of a bucketload of jellied eels is worth his 5 minutes of fame. Unfortunately, he had to share those 5 minutes with 3 obnoxious idiots (well, 2 obnoxious idiots and Nooral; the boy may be an idiot, but he's quite nice) and a fly which could be clearly seen on the fish, but still.

The next glory-snatcher was the bloke who bought the rug from Philip. Again, at first glance, he's a chap who wants a rug, who meets a bloke who has a rug, and he buys the rug. But again, let's turn this round. You're walking along the street, and a bloke with a TV camera, a couple of grinning girls and appalled-looking Margaret behind him offers to sell you the rug he has over his shoulder. You've been vaguely thinking you'd like a rug to cover that burnt patch where you knocked the ash tray off the sofa during the Royle Family Christmas Special, but you'd been thinking of something more... well, blue. Fortunately the bloke only wants £50 for it, and promises you that you can imagine it's blue, and !PLING! you instantly want it. Without even seeing it. You don't even know it doesn't have burn marks on it. But you pay 50 quid for it regardless.

Essentially I can see 2 possibilities: either these people are desperate for fame but too uninteresting even for Big Brother, or the whole thing is a big set-up. The latter case is not an option which I like, so it must be the first.

I also have 2 more things to say about The Apprentice; both concern Debra.

1. That's not how you spell 'Deborah'.

2. She looks like someone, but I can't think who. Someone in something I read pointed out that she looks like her face was drawn by a small child, which is true, but is not what I was thinking of. After a great deal of consideration, I have concluded that she looks like someone from Guess Who?, but I can't find any pictures from it in order to advance this theory. Can anyone help?