Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Apprentice 2012: Week 1

Ah, week 1.  So full of promise.  A blank slate.  A chance to start again.

"I truly am the reflection of perfection" says chap called Ricky Martin, and WE'RE OFF, donning our cheap suits, plastering ourselves with eye shadow, and packing our teeny tiny little wheely cases with enough clothes for 12 weeks.

Dum de dum de DUM de dum de DUM de dum de DUM!

"I'm a shark, I'm at the top of the food chain" boasts our friend Ricky, who may well be taken by suprise in a Chinese restaurant near you some time soon.  "I will literally roar my way to the top" says Gabrielle, demonstrating something of a misunderstanding of how business works, but promising good entertainment.

Blah blah, more cliches, idiots in polyester, blah, everyone walking across a bridge, blah blah, and it's 8am and we're IN THE WAITING ROOM, looking nervous.  And now we're in the boardroom, and a chap in a red tie is looking nervous.  There's a girl with scary eyeshadow, and a bloke in a shiny suit who has an unfeasibly large eye-to-face ratio and no chin.

"I'm not looking for a friend.  If I want a friend, I'll get a dog" says Lord Shug.  Which would make a good series, actually.  "It's not Where's Wally" he says later, which would also be worth considering, producers, if you're watching.

And so to the task: they have to buy blank stuff, print stuff on it, and flog it.  All very simple.  Red Tie Chap is looking wet. "You look like you're sweating. You're not nervous are you?" says Shug; "No, not at all" says Red Tie Chap, thereby leaving open only the possibilities that 1) he's standing under a hole in the roof, or 2) he's leaking.  Neither of which is a great start, to be honest.

So they go to the house, which looks like an explosion happened in a chemistry textbook, and they start into the important task of team names and project managers.  The team names bit is usually painful, but not this year. "I was finkin, Pheonix" says the boy with no chin, and they go with that, on the basis that it's all about rising from the ashes.  So at least they're starting off with realistically low expectations.  The girls go with "Sterling", because one of them dreamt it.  No, really.  None of the boys want to be in charge, but eventually Nick (not my friend Nick, a contestant called Nick) caves in and it's high-fives all round.  Chez the girls, Gabrielle leaps in because she has a print business, and no one else can hold a candle to that, so we're done with the formalities.

They flick through books of blank stuff, and the girls choose t-shirts.  The boys can't decide between big bears and small bears.  The Irish one on the girls' team goes on about margins a lot.  Off to the warehouse with half of each team, and the warehouse looks GREAT.  Tons of blank stuff that you can buy to print things on.  The other half of each team goes to the print place.  The girls draw a tiger, a lion and a penguin, and that's that sorted. The boys faff about doing not much for ages, and then eventually they open a book of images, go 'feck it', and opt to bung union jacks on the bears (the big bears).  For their bags, they draw a bus, and then write "This is a" above it, which they all think is brilliant.  It's not.  Karrrrren is worried that it doesn't stand out from the other tourist tat out there.  The other boys come back and hate it.

When it comes to making the stuff, the girls have an advantage, because Gabrielle actually knows what she's doing, so they do a reasonable job of printing their animals.  Their stuff actually looks quite good.  The boys, on the other hand, are incapable of making anything other than a mess, but it has to be said that they do it with great enthusiasm.

Next day, they head off to sell their wares.  The boys go to the South Bank, where they bicker about whether they should sell the bears at £12 or £15.  Clearly, they should sell them for something closer to a reasonable price, but they decide to give £15 a go and see what happens.  The girls are at Greenwich Market, where half of them are preparing to set off for London Zoo. Gabrielle starts being very odd and telling passers-by that she loves them, but despite this they seem to be selling fairly well.  Meanwhile, the zoo expedition has got as far as a traffic jam, which turns out to be the most successful part of their day.

They go round in a gang of 4, arguing over whose turn it is to try to sell stuff.  Why they don't split up is a mystery which remains unsolved, and instead Bilyana (from Bulgaria, and dressed as a giant effeminate bagpipe) bulldozes through and doesn't let anyone else speak.

At the end of the day, there's the usual "flog the leftovers to an unsuspecting shopkeeper".  The boys accost a girl in a shop, and make her buy all their bags.  The girls at the zoo decide to find the nearest shop; Bilyana claims to know where it is, and walks them round London for what appears to be several hours.  As with the traffic jam, though, they might have done better if the walk had been truly endless, as they do eventually come upon a shop, in which they all yell, simultaneously, at a woman who clearly doesn't have the authority to empty the bin.  When she says she can't make the decision because they're putting her under too much pressure, they flounce out.  A man, who is presumably the owner, gives them a complete dressing down in the middle of the street.  A nation cringes.

The boys, meanwhile, have been dragged back to the shop they sold the bags to, because they're so badly made that the woman is demanding a refund.  Karrrrren shakes her head, sadly, as they leave.

Back in the boardroom, we're all a bit disappointed in the bus bag, because it's badly designed AND badly made.  We like the girls' penguins though.  Anyway, it turns out that tourists will buy anything you throw in front of them, because the boys have (againsts all odds) won.  They go back to the house and eat food off tiles, for some reason.

The girls go off to the Cafe De Los Failure, which has a new table.  Probably paid for out of Lovely Tom's spend in there last year.  Looks like the same old tea, though.

Back in the boardroom again, and the Irish girl talks more about margins.  Jade-who-drew-the-picture is a bit psycho.  My good friend Nick dobs them in about the trudge around London and the shopkeeper shouting at them.  Bilyana gets in a weird argument with Lord Shug about whether Camden Town is closer to London Zoo than the shop she went to.  Eventually she shuts up, and everyone looks at Katie and asks what she did, which turned out to be not a lot.  Gabrielle senses a weak one, and picks Katie and Bilyana to come back into the boardroom.

In the boardroom for the final time, it's all turning against Katie, for not doing anything, and she looks like she's about to be sick.  Meanwhile, Bilyana starts talking again, and points out that she came from a communist block of flats and made it to the top of Canary Wharf, or something.  Which I suppose explains how she likes long walks. She was also head girl, which is of no relevance whatsoever, but gives her more words to say.

So it looks like Katie's going, but just as she's about to be fired, Bilyana starts talking again, and in a miraculous twist, talks herself out of the process.  Which is a shame, because she had entertainment value.

On The Changing of Clocks

So we have, once more, survived the annual rollercoaster that is the Going Forward Of The Clocks.  It is a time of year fraught with tension for WhyNotSmile, because, to be entirely honest, I get very confused by it.  I understand the concept, and I understand why we do it, I just get very confused the next day about where I should turn up and when.

Now, obviously, it is basically simple maths, which I should be good at, what with having a PhD in it and all, but it's one of those things that will not lodge in my brain, along with symmetry and following directions.

To complicate matters further, I often work with people in America, who put their clocks forward 2 weeks before us.  This spells only disaster for any scheduled meetings in the intervening time, so I admit it's something of a relief when we finally catch up.

Anyway, did anyone else think the time change wasn't publicised as much this year?  Normally you can't move for Huw Edwards reminding the nation to put their clocks forward on Saturday night, but this year... nada.  Maybe because we were all distracted by watching The Voice, a show so mundane that we can safely add the time spent watching it to the grand total of hours snatched from our very hands this weekend.

So, anyway, we've made it this far, and we're safe till October.

Back soon, with a summary of the excellent first week of The Apprentice.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Actual, Proper Excitement

Now, Mama Smile and I are generally calm, quiet, almost shy people.  Until, apparently, we get a whiff of celeb, at which point we abandon all shame.  So you can imagine our excitement when we heard that Nick Off The Apprentice was opening a garden centre/restaurant place near Mama Smile's house.  For several weeks we did nothing but charge camera batteries (well, I paused from time to time to Tweet Nick with how excited I was.  He did not reply).

So today was the day, and, needless to say, we arose bright and early and with great anticipation.  And then we had to sit there for a while, because the place is only about a 5-minute drive away, and we didn't want to turn up 3 hours early and look like idiots.  Still, it was a useful time to practice behaving like normal people.

So we get there, and there's no sign of Nick, so we wander around looking at plants and the bouncy castle and stuff.  And then we spot Nick talking to local politician-and-pointy-man Jim Shannon:

 Then we spend Quite Some Time wandering about trying not to get caught on tv looking gormless (because they're filming this and it's going to be on tv sometime - I will, of course, let you know when I find out when).  We managed to sneak into the speeches, and then everyone trooped outside for the grand opening:

Getting ready for the ribbon-cutting

Nick Off The Apprentice doing his pre-ribbon-cutting speech
 So then I'm all like, I want a photo with Nick, and Mama Smile is all like, let's go, and suddenly we get all nervous because we realise we can't trust ourselves to not gibber like idiots in the presence of actual People We've Seen On Tv.  But some other girl wanted a photo as well, so we followed her (if Nick wasn't doing photos, we figured he could say no to her and then we'd just skulk off and be all like "yeah, commoners trying to get photos with celebs, how naff").  But Nick was quite happy to do photos and was very charming and lovely, and even offered to relocate to somewhere with a better background, and he set up a little photo-shoot place with a blue plastic cow (whose face you can see in the photo above).  So Girl got her photo taken, and then some boys wanted autographs, and they're all like "Oh, we love The Apprentice, we can't wait for it to start again", and I'm thinking "Right, don't say idiot things like that", and suddenly Mama Smile has accosted Nick and is telling him that I'm The Apprentice Number 1 Fan In The Country, and then I'm all like "Oh, and I love Countdown too", but Nick was very nice and charming even in the face of such blatant idiocy, and allowed Mama Smile to take 2 photos:

Me with Nick; going well, not gibbering

Getting a little over-excited, and earning a disapproving grimace... TOTAL WIN!!!

Nick was wearing a green suit with a bright green tie and bright green socks, which I rather liked.

After all that excitement, we went off to buy petunias and bean salad, all of which was very nice.  We did not go to the restaurant, because the entire Ards Penninsula were in there and we're not Big Ones For Crowds, but we agreed that we will go back over Easter when it's quieter, and we're looking forward to it because this is the view:

If you would also like to go, you can get directions and see how nice it is here, but don't go on the day that Mama Smile and I go because we're not Big Ones For Crowds.  Also, I don't think the horse is always there, so don't go just for that.

PS Also, I ought to point out here and now that The Apprentice is back this Wednesday, and there seem to be idiots aplenty - find out more here. WhyNotSmile is, once again, hoping to provide weekly coverage, so I must take myself off and start swotting up on the candidates...  See you all on Wednesday!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Why you should always check my handbag before I leave

Text message to me: Hey, did anyone lift my keys last night?
Me: Nope, definitely not me

* several hours pass *

Facebook message: Did you check whether you have my keys?
Me: I definitely don't have them,  I only have 1 set

* 5 seconds pass *

Me: Hang on, that does sound like something I might do...

* checks bag *

Me: Yup, I have your keys.