Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Honours List 2010

So another year, another New Year's Honours List without my name on it.  Does anyone know how they decide these things?

Do they start with a list of categories, and then fill them with people?  'Cos if they do, there are some mighty odd categories.  "Services to cricket".  "Services to helping small children cross roads".  "Services to the distribution of milk".  But there's no "Services to snarky blogging", so you can't have one, WhyNotSmile. We don't care how much you did, how much you made us laugh, how much effort you put in to watching The Apprentice and then being sarcastic about it, that award is not on our list so you get NOTHING, although we may, at some point in the future, re-examine our extensive constitution and give due thought to recommending for consideration the addition of a category into which there is a small chance you will fall.   This is what we might call the "Virtual Methodist" approach to giving awards.

Or do they start with people who deserve awards and then make up categories for them?  Like you do for small children.  "Oh, that is the most... umm... colourful picture I have seen today!  What's it meant to be?"

Anyway, for a while now I've been meaning to compile a list of blogs I've started following, and decided I might as well kill two birds with one stone and post it as my New Year's Honours List.  I've left out all the 'Big Blogs' I follow, like Cake Wrecks and It's Lovely, I'll Take It, because we all know they're hilarious.

Services To Ulster Scots
This has to go to "1690 and all thon", a splendid foray into all things Pratestant, and chief organiser of the campaign to get Ballyhalbert made into the 2015 City of Culture.  Even though Ballyhalbert is right next to Ballysmile, and Ballysmile is better.  But still.  We'd get passing trade.

Services to Unpronounceable Blog Names
Not actually a new blog, but Zoomtard has moved over to what, in my head, I pronounce as Cream Tea, although it's some sort of Irish name and I should probably not be displaying my ignorance.  Anyway, I'm giving him an award so he can't get cross about it.

Services To Maths
I very much like New Math, which uses equations to explain how life works.

Services to Pretty Pictures
In much the same sort of vein, Information is Beautiful is a very splendid way of showing how things are.

Services to Funniness
Bresker is always good for a laugh.  Also he sent me a link to a thing, but I haven't listened to it yet.  But thanks.

Services to Always Being Quite Interesting
A friend recommended Tcsoko, which is another one I can't pronounce (in my head: Tea - Costco), and which is quite good.

So there you have it, and if your name's not there, it's not because I don't love you, it's just because I did this quite quickly and mainly wanted to mention blogs that aren't in my blog roll (must update that), and possibly also because you didn't give me an award.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Apprentice 2010: The Final

I'm doing this from memory, as I'm at home and The Parents are insisting on watching the weather, as The Sister has to go to The Boyfriend's this afternoon.  So I can't have The Apprentice on the background, in case we miss something.

Anyway, this week was The Final, with Stella and Chris, and it was so obvious that Stella would win that the main entertainment was always going to be seeing how many ways they could try to make it look like Chris was doing better in the task, and in having Mel back.

We started off, of course, with Sports Personality of the Year, which seemed to over-run so interminably, that had The Apprentice come on and they announced that we were all just going to watch Chris watching paint dry for the episode, we'd have been over-excited.  In the event, we start with our finalists getting up and answering the phone, Stella chirping excitedly and Chris looking ravishing in his dressing gown.  I'll say this for him, he can carry off nightwear.

The task itself is to come up with a new alcoholic beverage, and make it and market it and so on.  It's The Germinator Redux, basically.  Splendid.  In time-honoured fashion, the previous contestants are brought back, although, interestingly, not all of them.  No sign of Baggs, Laura, Dan, Raleigh, Joy or Sandeesh, but we do have Mel (yaaay!), Paloma, Joanna, Jamie, Liz, Christopher, Alex (yay!) and Shibby.  We begin by picking teams.  Chris has a sudden upturn of fortune, and gets first pick.  He opts for Jamie.  Stella's first choice is Joanna.

We end up with: Chris in charge of Jamie, Liz, Alex (? Alex?  You choose Alex over... well, over Paloma and Shibby... ok then) and Shibby; Stella in charge of Joanna, Christopher, Melissa, and Paloma (nice quiet team that, then).  Thankfully, we've ditched that Apollo/Synergy nonsense.

They have 3 days or something.

Day 1: Decide what they're making.  Well, you'd think, at least.  They begin with a bit of "let's all forget about being mean to each other in the boardroom" and then launch into talking alcohol.  Alex thinks mojitos are where it's at.  For dear sakes, Alex, even I've heard of mojitos, they can't be that on-trend.  Liz suggests adding gooseberry, but Alex points out that pomegranate is the fruit de jour. Right.  Stella's off to do market research - you know, that bit where they talk to people who think their idea's resoundingly dreadful, and then they take all the negative points and cram them together to get the final product?  Yeah, that bit.

Chris wants to call his drink something British, like 'crumpets'.  He also doesn't want it to be a weird colour.  It's important you remember this point, as we'll be revisiting it presently.  Stella's going for some kind of bourbon, and they decide it should be blue, for the following non-reasons:

1) Then they can call it "summink like "Blue Bourbon", know 'ot ah meeen?"
2) "Blue means you're happy, dunnit?" according to Joanna.  "No, it means sad" say the others.  "Oh, yeah, blue's like gay innit" corrects Joanna.

Oh holy goose, they're visiting marketing professionals, who are all too man to carry a brightly coloured drink, so that knocks the blue on the head.  Chris has a great idea for a frosted bottle with a clear drink inside (again, please note, a clear drink).  He thinks if they add three fruits to it (we seem to have abandoned deciding between gooseberry and pomegranate), then they could call it 'cubed'.  You know what, that's not great, but it's actually not appalling.  But then they talk to a man in a liquor shop, and he doesn't like the idea of it.

In a fit of inspiration, Stella comes up with "Urbon" as her drink name, knocking back Joanna's idea of "Young Heritage"; Chris has dumped Cubed and come up instead with Trinity.  Alex suggests Trio.  That's a chocolate biscuit.  They want to call it whatever Italian is for '3', but no one can count above 2.  They're dangerously close to being right back to "OctiClean".

Meanwhile, the drinks have to be made.  Mel and Christopher sup shots thoughtfully. Liz and Shibby try out the pomegranate stuff, and it's fairly foul, so they dye it bright pink.  Heh.  Shame Chris is, at that moment, naming the stuff "Prism", owing to its purity and clarity and how a nice clear prism would look really cool on the shelf.  They tell Chris about it being pink, and he's so annoyed that the edges of his mouth go up a little bit.  He's all worried he's going to lose because of this, but I don't think he need worry - there are plenty more things going against him.

They design their bottles (Prism = something you could take out a gladiator with; Urbon = one of those bottles you get really, really, really extra-virgin olive oil in), and then have to get clearance from the ad people so they can start filming in the morning.  The rules of alcohol advertising are essentially that you're not allowed to make it look like the drink is in any way associated with fun, sex, having a good time, or anything other than complete and utter sodding misery.  But don't worry, these people used an octopus to fail to sell a cleaning product, so I imagine we'll be thinking outside of all societal norms.  Oh, wait, no... Chris is basically planning on showing a guy using Prism to get a girl paralytic and then have his mediocre way with her.  Back to the drawing board then.

Next morning, it all gets more cheery when the samples arrive.  They don't look dreadful, so everyone's relieved.

Day 2's task is to shoot adverts.  Chris manages to get landed with an actor who is absolutely incapable of getting ice into a glass without also scattering it all over South East England, and ends up spending most of the day trying to film that, leaving himself having to film the remaining 90% of the advert in half an hour.  It is supposed to consist of 3 people walking into a room, looking happy, but since he has hired the worst actors in the world, it turns out more like 3 reject Blue Peter presenters escaping some kind of Ritalin-antidote trial.

Stella's lot are equally bad, and have even less raw material to work from.  The script is this:
2 girls in a bar, with Christopher Farrell slouching on the end of it
2 guys come in
Guy (to girls): What would you like to drink?
Girl: We'll have Urbons please
Guy (to the barman): 4 Urbons please.
If this is how pulling works, I think I've realised why I'm single.

It remains only to write and practice their pitches.  Stella gets Paloma to help, and Paloma comes up with a lot of marketing nonsense.  During the run-through, the girls realise they haven't had a good squabble in a while, and start making up for lost time.  Christopher sits there looking like he'd rather be in Afghanistan, to get a bit of peace.  Chris delivers his pitch to his team, who are beyond looking interested.  Jamie takes him aside and has a wee word, so Chris ends up looking like a man who's not very good at pitching trying to look like he's good at pitching.

The Industry Experts arrive, and then Lord Shugagh appears.  Chris comes on stage with some more escapees from the anti-Ritalin thing and then quickly slows the pace when he opens his mouth.  He talks a bit, we have a snark at the advert, and we're done.  The Industry Experts are worried about the weapon potential of a pointy-pointy bottle with alocohol in, but Chris isn't that bothered since children aren't likely to get their hands on it.  Yeah, 'cos all the bar fights I've ever seen involved 5-year-olds.

Next door, more manic dancing, and then Stella appears and sounds like she knows what she's talking about.  We watch the advert, and I almost want a glass.  There's some discussion about whether the drink is for men or women, and then about whether people who live in the country will want to drink something called something that sounds like Urban.  Stella says if she wins she'll move to the country and drink Urbon there, which puts the final straw in the coffin.

Back to the boardroom, where everyone thinks their project manager was wonderful fab brilliant; Alex would hire every single person in the room if only he had a successful business and wasn't a completely unemployed communications manager.  Something of a change of tune for someone who, not 6 weeks ago, was well up for seeing both their skinny asses fired forthwith.  Stella and Chris both get in trouble for sending other people to make the actual product, since taste is the main point of the whole endeavour, even though from this point onwards no one mentions how it tastes ever again.  Shibby points out that you drink with your eyes, or something.

Everyone out, quick chat with Nick and Karren, back in and STELLA WINS!


So that's that, and no doubt we'll do it all again next year.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Weather-related Questions

Here's a thing I don't understand.  Let's say the forecast for today has minimum temperature -10 and maximum -5.  Then tomorrow the forecast has minimum -3 and maximum -1 (it doesn't, by the way, before you all get the sun screen out).  How does that work?  What happens at midnight?  How does it go from -5 to -3 in the blink of an eye?

Also, how come, if today's minimum temperature is -5, it is currently -10?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Crisis Resolved

So I did a bit of blasting with a hairdryer, fiddling with pipes etc., and then went outside and tipped a kettle of boiling water over the pipe.  It make alarming crackling noises, which was probably the ice melting, and then the sink began to drain freely.  Phew.

Thanks to Wesley and 1690 an' all thon for the advice.

So now I have to try to stop it from icing up again.  Here are my plans:
1. Stop the dripping tap.  Now, I can't actually stop it dripping, but I figure if I catch the drips in the washing up bowl and then tip them all down at once, that'll be ok - it's just when they're little drips they freeze more easily.

2. Construct some kind of lagging device to keep the outside pipe warm.

You see, what I'm worried about is if I go home for Christmas and then it ices up and the washing basin overflows all over the floor.  I'm trying to think up some kind of device which would catch the drips and then periodically tip them all out into the sink, but I can't.

The Latest Domestic Crisis

You'll remember the Q&B Saga. We all thought it was finished, but the snow has revealed otherwise.  Technically, it's not entirely their fault, but they started it.

When they were planning the kitchen, the process involved moving the sink a little to the left.  This seemed fine, but when it came to be executed, the washing machine ended up covering the stopcock thing that you use to turn the water off.  "Meh." I thought, "It's not like I'd know what to do with it anyway".

Fast forward a couple of years, and the tap starts dripping.  At first, it's quite a small drip, and then gradually, it gets bigger, until, two years later, it's really Quite Something.  I have a washer, but I can't change it until the water is switched off at the mains, and I can't do that because the stopcock is behind the washing machine (this is where the thing about whose fault it all is gets a little fuzzy, as it may be merely opportune that I can blame them for hiding a stopcock I don't know how to use anyway).

Then it snows and gets very cold.  So the drips are quite small, which means that they freeze quite easily; there are also quite a lot of them, and therefore they eventually club together and block the pipe out of the sink.  So, to summarise, the outlet pipe from the sink is frozen and the sink won't drain.

I'm on my own, as The Sister got laser eyes in yesterday and had to stay at The Boyfriend's overnight to make up for it.  There is a reasonable chance that it makes no difference whether she's here or not, of course.

Also, the bathroom light switch has stopped working.  I think the spring has broken.  It's stuck at off, which means I have to pee in the dark, but at least it's better on account of The Planet and so on.

So I need someone who could come and unblock the pipe and change the washer in the tap and fix the light, but as it's only 3 sleeps till Christmas, I can't be bothered thinking about it.  Also I have lots of work to finish before then.

So my main question is whether there is any danger in leaving the pipe frozen.  I suppose the difficulty is that it may have burst, and then thaw when I'm not here, but since I think it's frozen outside, that may not be a problem.  Also, it's not like it's a mains pipe, so there'd only be the water that's actually in it.  It wouldn't flood the whole house.

And all of this leaves out the question of whether there's enough anti-freeze in the car.  It was done in January, and I'm told it should last 2 years, so I think it's ok.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Apprentice 2010: The Interview Week

I'm the sort of person who gets asked for help by people trying to fill in job applications.  I'm not sure why, as it's something I'm resoundingly hopeless at (I have this awful fear of accidentally telling lies and then ending up out of my depth in a job, and therefore refuse to put down anything beyond "I'm fairly smart and quite like reading").  I'm also, I think, not that great at interviews, although I have, several times, been offered a job on the strength of the 15 minutes of blushing, sweating and stammering which filled the time until I could flee.  I sometimes worry about the job offers I receive.  Most of the time, I wouldn't employ me, based on my interview performance.

Anyway, this is all by way of introduction to this week's episode, for herein we see our 5 remaining candidates (Jo, Jamie, Stella, Chris and Hairbaggs) being forced to sweat it out and tell the actual truth about their abilities (so far, in order, we have seen the ability to flog 10000 packets of honk-flavoured crisps to a single German guy, an impressive knowledge of facts about mass-murderers, being Quite Good at taking charge of a team of boys, lots of mediocre, and a not-entirely-dreadful Terminator impersonation).

We start off with shots of them all in bed (different beds, it's not Big Brother), and a quick glimpse of Hairbaggs' tootsies.  They're all getting nervous, but the cars will be here in half an hour to take them to Viglen, or Vigilen, or Vilgen, or something.  They all have a good laugh at Jamie's tie, and off we go.  While they're in the cars, we hear more about why they should all get the job, and the music switches, appropriately, to something a bit more doom-and-gloom.

They reach Viglen and stand half way up the stairs, awaiting Lord Shugagh's arrival in the elevator (I think the elevator must be like the one in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, which can go anywhere, because no matter where they are, he always seems to arrive by elevator), while Nick and Karren watch from above.

The 4 people who have been charged with whittling us down from 5 to 2 are Claude (Grumpy Cop), Alan (Bad Cop), Bordan (not a cop) and the Blessed Margaret Mountford.  Please pause for a small bow of the head.

Obviously the one we've been waiting to see is Hairbaggs (and I think it's fair to say that the producers are as keen on a train wreck as the next person, given that they let him get this far), but the others throw up a few gems as well.

Sitting in front of Mount Margaretford, Jamie dares to smirk slightly.  She flicks through his CV and starts reading extracts:
"The question asked 'What's the most interesting thing about you?' and you put 'I owned a porche and a house and a big load of stuff* before the age of 25, and I have a third nipple'..." (Jamie laughs) "...and then two pages further on 'What's the worst lie you've ever told?' - 'That I have a third nipple'."  By the end, she's distinctly snarling, and yet Jamie goes on smirking.
Margaret: "  Is that supposed to be funny? Think of a word that applies to that"
Jamie (suddenly serious): "Stupid"
Margaret: "Puerile"
(* slight paraphrase)

He tells the sob story about how his parents didn't push him, and that's why he got pants grades at GCSE.
Bordan interrogates him about his playing fast-and-lose with the definition of 'selling', since he hasn't actually 'sold' things as such for quite some time.  Jamie blames it all on his ass of a business partner and also the recession, and Cyprus.

Stella's not going down without a fight, and immediately disagrees with Alan, who wonders why she's having a change of career.  Claude calls her a 'very very good PA' and she nearly decks him.  And... that's about it.

Bordan starts by asking what job Joanna thinks she's applying for.  "Do you mean, wot duz Lord Shugah do in this Vig-i-len?" "Viglen" "Oh, yeah, Viglen".  She stammers something about selling computers to schools, and other than that doesn't have the faintest idea, much like the rest of us.
Claude's a bit cross with her for letting her cleaning business be enough to 'get by', instead of being a megalomaniac big corporation, and she looks like she might cry.

Chris has claimed to be a "revered and outstanding Theology scholar", and impresses himself even more because he's not even remotely religious.  Margaret pokes a bit, and we establish that he means he's done all right in A-Level RE, and sometimes talks God after a few drinks.
Claude is more concerned that Chris changed courses at university, and that he thinks you have to be a lawyer if you do law, and then he did politics and didn't become a politician, and then become an investment banker and gave it up after 9 months, and is therefore obviously a quitter.  It's all a bit ridiculous - how many of us don't know someone who changed course at university once they realised the variations in the number of lectures for different courses, and discovered the student union?

Stuart seems to alienate the interviewers as quickly as he did the rest of the nation.  On walking into the room and seeing Margaret, his little face lights up. "Margaret!" he exclaims, only to be flattened immediately for his impertinence. Undaunted, he goes on to tell her about a thing he has invented that she can stick to her cat when it goes to Bermuda, or something.  She does not look impressed, but he says he'll work 24/7 and give 110%, without irony.
Alan gets straight in there: "You're not very nice, are you?".  He then goes on to list all the ways in which Hairbaggs is not very nice, and it is lengthy.  Baggs explains how he is a character of integrity, which seems something of a contradiction when he's just admitted falsely announcing to the newspapers that a rival company has gone bust, but then he gives an example: if he's up for promotion, against 3 other people, he'll tell the boss how rubbish the other 3 are.  Ah, THAT definition of integrity.  Alan's face is like a bulldog's bum chewing a lemon-and-poo-flavoured wasp.
The conversation with Claude cannot be easily summarised, so here it is:
Claude: 'I'm Stuart Baggs the Brand'... what on earth are you talking about?
Claude: You're a 21 year-old kid, you're not a brand.
Baggs: a brand is... err...
Claude: Don't tell me what a brand is. You are not a brand.
Baggs: I think I might be
Claude: Why does someone as successful as you want to work for Lord Sugar?
Baggs: At the moment I'm a big fish in a small pond
Claude: You're not.  You're not a big fish.  You're not even a fish.
Bordan asks about Baggs' 'fully licenced' telecoms company, which turns out to be a broadband provider.  He does have a licence, much in the way I have a TV Licence; i.e. bought from the Post Office.  There's a little light-hearted banter about how much they love technology, and then Bordan sticks the knife in again and makes Baggs admit he's been lying.

At some point in the above, I got confused about who was Claude and who was Alan, by the way.

Back to the boardroom, where the interviewers give Lord Shugagh the rundown, while the candidates wait outside and look nervous (if I was the mysterious Hand Who Answers The Phone And Sends Them In, I'd have suggested a game of Pictionary, I think).  They all liked Joanna; thought Chris was monotonous;  found Jamie a bit dull and full of cliches (we see a snippet of him going on about being a key cog in a wheel, and making no sense whatever); worried about Stella being corporate and good at admin (because those are things you'd run a mile from in business); and had a good slagging off of Stuart's ponciness.  Then Bordan reveals the Big Lie About The Telecommunications Company, and that Baggs has nothing Karren couldn't get.  Ooooh.  Things have turned against the Hairbaggs.

So they all get trekked back in to the boardroom.  We talk about Chris' academic record, and his obsession therewith, and then there's a bit more about why he dropped out of law.  Oh, shut up about that, nobody cares.  Something else about Stella being all corporate.  Blah blah blah.  Onto Joanna, and a bit more about her not being a megalomaniac and expanding her cleaning business to take over the world.  Jamie has another whine about his business partner doing no work.  It feels like one of those moments where a small child comes up to you and starts on about how another kid took the lorry off him, and you just can't really bring yourself to wade in and sort it out, but he's only 2 and can't do it himself.

On to Stuart, who admits the process was tough.  He then lies again about the licence.  AND GETS FIRED!  Even more gloriously, Lord Shugagh actually loses it a little bit, and shouts at him.

Two more to go, and, to cut a long story short, it's Joanna and Jamie who get the chop.  He's nice to Joanna, who cries, and not quite so nice to Jamie, who's still smirking.

So the final, tonight, is Stella vs Chris, with everyone else back to help.  Hurrah!  My money's on Stella, but I'm not without hope that Melissa and/or Baggs will somehow clinch it.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Helpful Guide

In case anyone's thinking of giving me sweets for Christmas, I made a list of my favourites:

Small Bars:
1. Dairy Milk
2. Anything FairTrade
3. Galaxy
4. Regular milk chocolate
5. Mint chocolate (After Eights etc.)

Selection Boxes:
1. Cadbury's
2. Mars
3. Nestle

Roses etc.
1. Roses
2. Quality Street
3. Miniature Heros
4. General mixture of chocolates
5. Celebrations

I'm not saying you have to buy me sweets, I'm just saying.  And of course, any sweets are appreciated.

Christmas Song!

Do you think, if we tried really hard, we could get this to number one for Sunday?

Because I think we should try.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Week 10

This is going to a be a lightning-quick tour of last week's events, because I just haven't had the time.  Also, I'm doing this from memory, rather than watching it all again.

So they get hauled to a bus station at the skrake of dawn, and told that this week's task is to organise bus tours of London.  Heh.  Some of them look like they've never been on a bus in their lives, nor spoken with anyone who's been on a bus, but they smile gamely as the teams are swapped again.  On one side we have Liz (the leader), Stella and Stuart, and on the other, Jamie, Chris and Joanna (with either Jamie or Joanna as leader, I forget which).  Clearly Lord Shugagh is liking his New Plan to always put his 2 least favourite people on opposing teams, so that he's pretty much guaranteed to be able to fire one of them, and surely we'll be saying farewell to the Baggs or Mediocre Chris tonight, no?

Step 1 is to plan the tours, a process which both teams spend a good 30 seconds on.  Liz's lot decide tourists are gagging for a Cockney Tour, while Jamie and co opt for 'Ghosts and Ghouls'.  There's some kind of deal to be made with a tourist centre; whichever team gives the better offer gets to sell their tickets through the tourist place, thus guaranteeing more sales, you'd think.  Baggs goes in and offers them 25% of the price of all the tickets they sell; they point out that generally it would be around 35%, so they'll wait to see what the other team offers.  Chris goes in and basically offers them everything he owns, including various internal organs, and they hastily agree.  Just in time, as it happens, since Joanna, on getting wind of the deal, heads straight down there to explain how it was all a mistake and really they didn't mean to offer so much and is there any chance Chris could have at least one kidney back, and Tourist Centre girl laughs at her.

Up to this point, Joanna and Jamie had been busily engaged in the most polite argument I've come across, which went something like:
Joanna: moan moan honk honk moan
Jamie: You're annoying me, shut up
Joanna: Jamie! I have never been spoken to like that by a man, you're scaring me!

Meanwhile Stella swots up on her apples and pears, while Liz and Stuart are researching possible locations for their Cockney tour.  Too late, they realise that their chosen area of London is, essentially, a building site.  Fortunately, there's a jellied eels seller, with a quaint-looking stall, so, clearly, he's going to be the highlight.  Liz asks him to 'up the cockney' a bit, and a customer nearly decks her. 

And so to the day of the tours, which can apparently only take place if our Young Hopefuls are dressed like failed extras from an Easyjet ad.  Each team splits the responsibilities: 2 people to sell tickets, and 1 to lead the tour.  First the ticket sellers: Stuart and Liz on one team, and Joanna and Chris on the other.  Joanna and Chris have the advantage that the tourist place are selling for them, but Baggs is not to be outdone, and stands right outside the door telling everyone how crap the other team's tour is, until the tourist centre girl comes out and tells him what he's doing is illegal.  He tells her to call the police, which, unfortunately, she does not.  Baggs skulks off to tag Joanna instead.  Every time she sells a ticket, he runs up to the customer and yells 'Their tour is rubbish, our tour is 4 quid cheaper than theirs and theirs is rubbish and ours is 4 quid cheaper!'.  Eventually this leads to a mediocre face-off with Chris, who tells Stuart to f-off.  Stuart tells Chris to punch him, which, unfortunately, he does not.  That's twice in 2 minutes the nation's hopes have been dashed.

On the buses, things are going equally well.  Jamie is leading his lot around places where Sweeny Todd murdered people, describing the deaths in such grisly detail that several people are close to collapsing.  He informs them that 'the Thames is the second biggest river in London', but, quite properly, does not follow up with the name of the actual biggest, because no one would want to know that.  He also imparts the information that Big Ben is '12 diameters wide', causing a young swotty student-looking type to visibly quiver.  However, things take off a bit when he leads the upper deck in a reasonably energetic rendition of 'London's Burning'.

Cut to Stella, who's on a bus with 8 people who are politely, if impassively, observing her singing 'Knees Up Mother Brown'.  She manages to get lost on the way to the jellied eel man, miss Downing Street and the Cenotaph, and end up trying to pass off a random piece of graffitti as 'a Banksy, maybe'.  To which the woman next to her replies 'no it isn't'.

Back in the boardroom, it's a hard one to call - it looks like Chris-Joanna-Jamie may have had more passengers, but then they've promised Nick's soul to the tourist place and that might cost them.  Some too-ing and fro-ing about how Baggs charged too much (£35 a ticket or something insane) and Chris was a bit dim in the tourist place, and eventually it's announced: Chris-Jamie-Joanna have won!  Hurrah!  Baggs to leave!

And then there's some kind of glitch in the matrix, because when Liz, Stella and Baggs get called back in, something odd happens.  Liz and Stella defend themselves in the usual way "I'm dead good, me", and Baggs comes off with some tripe "Hiring me will be a gamble, but I sold yo-yos in school and my parents only ever gave me a tenner and nothing else ever" and somehow, for reasons we will never know, Liz gets fired.


Yes.  Liz.

One can only assume that they figure that since Baggs got this far, they might as well milk it and throw him into the interview round, which happens this week.  And you have to admit it'll be unmissable.

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Week 9

Apparently I was wrong last week when I said that this week's task was the one where they have to sell miscellaneous tat to unsuspecting members of the public (I was thinking of the one which, last year, brought us Nooral and a skeleton); rather, this is the one where they have to buy miscellaneous tat from unsuspecting members of the public.

They really don't give an ass any more, as evidenced by taking a year and a day to answer the phone (Stella eventually gets down the stairs, wrapped in towelling; Jamie sits up in bad and looks all handsome, and the rest of them swear loudly).  In the half an hour which they allegedly have to get ready, they manage to tong hair, moan about being tired, and do the ironing.  Off to London's Financial District, where they form an orderly line to await Lord Shugah arising slowly through the floor, like some sort of inverted Angel Gabriel.

The task, as we've said, is to buy all the items on a supplied list as cheaply as possible.  They have 10 hours; if they don't get back in time, they get penalised, and if they miss any items they get penalised.  The ones who spend the least, win.  We're back to girls and boys this week, which mercifully means that either Baggs or Laura has to go; no more jammy being on the winning team - this week, Lord Shugah is on the ball.

Jamie and Liz are in charge.  The boys basically explode in a fury of racing around the streets trying to buy anything they can lay their hands on, while the girls stay back at base with their list and their phones and their Yellow Pages, and Plan.  Not well, of course ('What's our strategy?' 'I think we need to figure out where we can buy these things'), but enough that they know what they're looking for.

Jamie is desperate to prove he's not a twit, so he tells the boys they're to aim for 70% off, make up whatever stories they want, and 'negotiate their bloody bottoms off'.  He then sends Chris and Stuart off for half the things, and goes on the hunt for the other half himself.  There's a fabulous moment when he walks into a shop looking for a 'tikka, 22-carat gold', not knowing what it is, and the salesman says 'Yes, that's not a problem... what's a tikka?'.  Now THAT, my friends, is a sales technique.

Stuart and Chris are trying to buy a Blue Book, which they suss out really quickly is a rare American magazine, and they start sniffing round bookshops, where the owners do a lot of teeth-sucking and slow shaking of heads because they've never heard of it.  Meanwhile, the girls figure out that a Blue Book is actually a taxi driver's manual, and nab one from a taxi driver school for 50 quid by telling the guy in the shop that his mate said he'd look after them.  Jamie's having no luck with figuring out what a tikka is, whereas Laura and Stella have Googled it or something and picked one up for £160, having gone into the shop saying 'You have the item and we have the money', which even I know is a crap negotiation technique.  Eventually, however, Jamie strikes gold, and wanders into a jeweller's looking sad because he wants a tikka so much and they are trying to charge him so much money, and isn't it so so sad, and lo! he gets it for £135.  The jeweller's now homeless and starving, like, but never mind.

Stuart and Chris have evidently taken Jamie's command to 'have a story ready' too seriously, and now that they have worked out what a Blue Book actually is, they go to a bookshop and try to haggle.  Chris comes up with some crap about his brother doing a taxi driver exam on Monday but being unable to study for it because Chris borrowed his Blue Book and left it in Nottingham or something... Please consider this for a moment.  Consider that this is a regular shop, and 2 guys in suits have walked in, and one is claiming that he borrowed his brother's taxi driver exam books (? What? Why?!) and then managed to leave them in Nottingham (??!?); these 2 guys are accompanied by Karren with 2 arrs, who you'd imagine they would at least recognise as being off the telly, and a camera crew.  Presumably he imagines it's some kind of candid camera show or something, because he gives them the first discount ever in the history of Blue Book sales, as long as they give a pound to charity.

The basic gist of happenings is thus:
> the girls are fairly rubbish at negotiating.  They hair around Knightsbridge trying to buy truffles from Gordon Ramsey (well, Stella tries, while Laura sits next to her and shreds the Yellow Pages with her laser eye glare, because she thinks it's a stupid idea but doesn't like to say so); they eventually manage to buy 50g of truffles (cost: £2000 per kilo) for £200 and an agreement to come back to the restaurant for dinner some time.
> Jamie is very good at negotiating, but feck useless with common sense; he manages to spend half the afternoon being unable to buy 4 metres of kitchen worktop.
> Stuart and Chris are lying gets, and not even good at it.  Trying to buy tartan, they wander into a Scottish shop and Chris spins some complex yarn about needing the tartan cheap because he has to go to a Scottish wedding next week and he wants to take the tartan for his nan's birthday present.  What?

There's a last-minute dash back to the boardroom, with Liz almost stabbing a pensioner for not being able to write fast enough, Chris begging embarrassingly ('I have no money and I really need truffles'), Stuart racing up the stairs and almost landing on Jamie's knee, and the girls being late and incurring a fine.  In their wake is a collection of robbed, deperate shopkeepers, vaguely hoping that they'll be on tv.

Then it gets interesting: the boys only got 7 out of the 10 items but made it back on time, whereas the girls got all of them but were back late.  This means that the girls get a £50 fine, and the boys are charged as if they had bought the 3 missed items at list price plus something I miss.  The girls explain their planning technique and their route around the various items, and it's all very P5 project.  The boys explain that they ran around with fire in their bellies telling lies.

The girls have spent (including their fine) £1094.40, where the boys have spent (including £500 of fines) £1020.50.  Heck, says everyone.  Jamie witters on about the kitchen worktop again, and then the boys get sent to Paris, to gad about in berets on the Champs Elysees.

Back to the boardroom for the girls, and bizarrely, they all seem to have turned on Stella who, ok, was wick at negotiating, but no more so than anyone else.  Lord Shugah makes some sexist comments about how they'd be better at buying handbags and shoes than computer chips, and then they all turn on Stella again, for being 'too corporate'.  Obviously Laura's going, if only Liz has the wit to bring her back in, which she does.  Stella comes too, so that they can snark at her some more.

It turns out that Liz and Laura can't stand Stella, which is quite exciting.  Also, Laura's 22 and has never had to scream, and reminds everyone that she was a shambles as project manager.  Stella and Liz blame each other for the whole truffles fiasco, and then Laura snipes at Stella again.

Obviously Laura goes, although not before Lord Shugah gives Stella a good fright by pretending he's going to fire her.  Back at the house, they're all snarking about Stella (mysteriously, the boys are back from their weekend in France).  When Liz and Stella come back, Liz complains that Stella was mean about her in the boardroom, and announces that Laura will be missed.  They all agree.  Gulp.

So there are 3 weeks left.  Next week is the final team task, then there are the interviews (please let Stuart get to the interview stage, pleeeeease), and then the final.  It is time to begin predicting.  Obviously it depends a bit on who's on which team, but I suspect that next week will see the end of Jamie (or maybe Stuart), and that the final could be Liz and Chris.  Anyone else?