Saturday 31 December 2011

2011: A Review

So, 2011. Turned out to be quite the year, here at WhyNotSmile. It started inauspiciously enough, with an extended stay at the parents', due to the Water Crisis in Belfast. Nice and cosy, I was, as I sat there all clean and with full access to basic sanitation, watching the news to see how many people I knew in the queues. Good times.

Rapidly, however, world affairs took over, and it is thus that 2011 will go on record as the year I stopped understanding the news. I've been losing my grip on it for several years now, what with the financial thing that I understood none of, but this year, finally, the Arab Spring tipped me over the edge (I still don't know if 'Spring' refers to the season, or to the sudden rising up of the people in the manner of a tightly-coiled length of pliable metal, or to the refreshment offered by a newfound democracy, such as is found by a lonely wanderer who happens upon a small steam).

Then they promised the end of the world, and when THAT didn't happen, well, there we all were with our empty diaries and no milk in the fridge.

Of course, giving up on international affairs has left me with nothing but my own so-called life. Or, in summary, has left me with nothing.

Sister Smile got engaged in June, and was married just before Christmas, but I'm not allowed to speak of her here. I assume the same goes for Brother-in-law Smile, which is a shame, as he could have been worth having on the radar.

In more interesting developments, however, I am pleased to introduce Boyfriend Smile to my dear readers, and to report that, as I specifically requested, he made the application for a first date in writing, and, as all was correct with the spelling and grammar, I had, of course, to accept. He hasn't written a word since then, probably due to sheer terror.

It was also a year in which various things happened which were utterly tragic, in the actual sense of the word (not in the wearing-a-tweed-jacket-and-thinking-it's-cool sense). A respected, good and gentle friend is in heaven too soon, a family devastated. Other friends stopped work at Christmas, not knowing if they have jobs to return to in the new year; those they work to help don't know if anyone will be there for them in 2012.

And depression has come calling at my door again. I tried not answering, but it freaking leaned on the bell until it was easier to give in, stick the kettle on, and crack open a packet of French Fancies.

Happy new year, y'all.

Saturday 3 December 2011

On Why I Am Not Married

In a worrying move, Claire-who-is-married-to-Creideamh has declared me to be a wise woman, and has asked (via Facebook) for an opinion on a thing.  So here goes.

The article in question is  It's quite long, so I'll summarise it for you.  The basic point (i.e. the title) is that "marriage is a declining option for women"; it is a little hard to establish from the article exactly why the author believes this to be the case, but her reasons seem to boil down to the following:
  • Us 'post-boomers' "value emotional fulfilment above all else", rather than needing to get married so we'd have help with the lambing
  • Men today are useless fecks who either don't earn enough to impress us, aren't smart enough to impress us, or are to geeky to tolerate; in any case, they don't like to commit and we no longer need them to pro-create, so why would anyone bother?
  • Couples nowadays are way too couple-y (I'm not quite sure how this supports the actual argument, but it made for an interesting tangent)
Now, my opinions were invited, and my opinions shall be provided.

First of all, let me say that I do not view marriage as a non-option; indeed, it is very much an option, and if only it were as simple as ticking a box on a survey, then married I would be.  I speak, of course, as someone who is apparently chronically incapable of attracting anyone of the opposite sex, and from time to time I have given some thought as to why this might be.

The main reason (and one which is, I suspect, 99% of the problem) is that I am chronically incapable of flirting.  I just cannot do it.  Perhaps this stems from my utter lack of self-esteem which leads to me believing, at heart, that there is no conceivable reason why the other side would be flirting with me; whatever the reason, anyone who wishes to be considered as a marriage prospect would do considerably better to state the fact clearly and outright (perhaps in a letter, because face to face I might throw up) and to directly request my own opinion on the matter.  If I am interested (and provided the letter is grammatically reasonable and the spelling is good), then off we shall go; if not, I shall politely decline and it will never be spoken of again.  This seems to me a much better course of action than me pretending to be all 'damsel in distress' or him making corny comments about how my dad must be a thief because he stole all the stars from the sky and put them in my eyes.  Seriously.

But there may be some truth in what Kate Bolick says (let's be nice to her; she has an unfortunate surname).  I have, I suppose, no particular need to get married, in terms of my survival.  I earn enough money to get by, I'm quite handy with a hammer, and frankly, I see no need to enhance my house by having someone playing an XBox in it.

On the other hand, I would very much like to have children; I like them, I think I might be an ok parent, and it would a change from spending most evenings watching re-runs of the X Factor.  For this, I would need a man.

Fundamentally, however, I think she may be closest to the mark with the point about couples being too couple-y.  I don't want a lot of what is often held up as the ideal of marriage - the nuclear family, mum, dad, 2 kids and a spaniel, living in a nice home in an area with good schools, hosting pleasant dinner parties and always having the latest TV.

I don't aspire to much of that - if it happens, it happens, but it doesn't represent the things I value.  If I marry, I want it to make a difference not just to me, but to the people around me as well.  I want to marry someone who makes me be a better person; who enhances who I am and who is a better person for having married me.  I want him to value me, but I also want him to value the things that matter to me - my friends, my community, my interests - and I want to do the same for him.  I want us to love each other for who we are, and to push each other to be the best we can be.  It might sound ridiculous, but I want the part of the world I spend my time in to be a better place because I've married the man that I have.  I don't want to be in a marriage which only looks inward, to how we can get more stuff or impress our friends; I want to be in a marriage which also looks outward to bless other people, and which ultimately looks upward to God.

But I like to think that that's something that I get, in some measure, from all my close relationships - my friends inspire me to see things differently, to be creative, to hang in there when things are tough, and to do lots of other day to day things that make my life better - and I hope I sometimes inspire them in similar ways.  If I marry, I want my husband to become a part of my community, and I want to become a part of his - I don't want being in a couple to pull me away from people who matter to me.

I don't know whether this is in any way part of the wider issue raised in the article, that marriage (particularly marriage for life) is declining; maybe it is that women everywhere have rid themselves of the need for a man, and are getting along just fine, thank you very much.

After all, it is not unheard of for me to not think in exactly the same way as other people. 

Sunday 20 November 2011

An Open Letter To Northern Ireland Water

Dear Northern Ireland Water,

I noticed that you seem to be running a radio advert at the moment, in which you take the opportunity to tell us how bad it is to not have water, and to have burst pipes, and all manner of other Water-Related Bad Things which can happen when it gets cold outside.  I assume this is costing you a tidy sum, so I'm sure you will appreciate some feedback on how it's going.

Here's the thing.

We KNOW all about having no water, because last year you fecking left most of us without it for the best part of a week (and in many cases, you allowed the demonstration to go on for even longer).  We therefore KNOW that having no water is a Bad Thing, and that it means you can't flush the toilet or make a cup of tea, because we practiced having no water last year, and we practiced really really hard.

So, I have an idea.  Rather than spending lots of money telling us how bad it is to have no water, how about you spend the money in ensuring that this year we actually do have water?

Just a suggestion.

Thank you kindly,
(who admittedly did not go without water at all last year, due to staying with the parents, who had water throughout, but who nonetheless heard one or two people mentioning the inconvenience on Facebook, and the news, and on the phone and things)

Young Apprentice 2011: Weeks 3 & 4

I didn't say anything about Week 3, because, to be honest, it mostly went disappointingly quite well.  Apart from Lewis leaving his mobile phone on in a meeting, being told to turn it off, and then still leaving it on and getting hysterical because he didn't know how to turn it off.  And also Sir Harry of Posh being generally very posh indeed.  They had to sell flowers, a task which James was terrified off, since flowers are for girls and he's a proper man and therefore couldn't be expected to touch them.  But apart from one of the arrangements for a wedding or some other important function Lord Sugar had laid on (he needs to stop going round lying on things, heh heh) being a bit on the small side, they generally did fairly well for a bunch of 16 year olds who've never done flower arranging before.

So that was disappointing.

A girl called Hannah got fired.  It is possible she had been specially drafted in for the firing, as I'm pretty sure she hadn't appeared up till then.

Onto week 4, and they were summonsed to a museum because (wait for it) the task is all about old people (specifically, the over-50s), and museums are full of old things, like people over 50.  Glorious.  A few weeks ago we had casual racism; now we're targetting the elderly (and not even elderly, since they're only over 50).

It's the one where they see some naff inventions and then flog them at a trade show; in this case, a trade show for people who are over 50.  Which is weird.  I didn't know those existed.  Did you know those existed?

Haya gets put in charge of her team (Sir Harry of Posh, Lewis and a blonde girl) because she spends lots o' time wiv 'er gran; James gets put in charge of the other lot (the other Harry, Gbemi, girl with red hair and the other blonde girl) because he says so.

As ever, the inventions are a heap of toot: an electric pie maker, a posh shopping trolley, a bird box camera, a really really sucky vacuum cleaner, a cushion which you can sit on AND put behind your head, and an inflatable thing you can bath your dog in.  Like a paddling pool, but smaller and therefore less useful.

James' strategy is to be really really really enthusiastic about everything they're shown, even if it's a device to recycle human bones into a handy drinks dispenser.  Lewis, on the other hand, goes down the route of burbling incoherently at the shopping trolley guy while Haya tries to figure out if she can bump him off before Nick's eyebrows entirely leave his face and go into orbit.

So Haya and co end up flogging the pie maker and the bird box camera, and James' lot have the shopping trolley and the vacuum cleaner.

Their sales techniques leave a bit to be desired - Haya nabs an old woman and starts yelling "Let me introduce you to our pie maker!" (what?  "Old woman - meet Pie Maker; Pie Maker, meet old woman"?) while Lewis hollers "Don't be shy, come and try some pie!".  So the old people spend the morning eating the pies and not buying the pie maker, because why would you bother making yourself a pie when Lewis is going to stand there all day making them for you?  Their pricing is insane - they upped the price of the pie maker, because Haya thinks people should pay more for it.  Also, old people have a serious sense of entitlement when it comes to a discount, and that is exactly what Haya is not offering.

James, meanwhile, tries to talk another old woman into buying a shopping trolley for £125; when she politely mutters that she'll "come back later", James screams "You better not be lying!".  Poor not-posh Harry gets a lecture from an old lady on his sales technique, who thinks, basically, that he'd sell more if they were a bit cheaper, which you can't really argue with.

Sir Harry of Posh and the other blonde girl, meanwhile, are just randomly making up prices, and not even the same ones.  Sir Harry threatens customers that he'll put the price up later in the day; meanwhile blonde girl next to him is practically paying people to take them.

What senior citizens do not seem interested in, at all, is what the birds in their bird boxes are up to, so Sir Harry and blonde girl decide that instead of selling the bird box cameras directly, they'll flog them to the other traders and let them worry about getting money for them.  It's genius.  And it works.  Mainly because he lies like mad about how well they sold in the first place.

Back in the boardroom, James' lot win, and they get to go and see a guy doing magic on the London Eye.  Haya and co go off to Cafe Losers, where they drink tea and look miserable.  Especially Posh Harry, who has probably never been anywhere so working class in his life.  Back to the boardroom, where they argue a bit about the relative merits of cushions and bird box cameras, and Haya brings back Lewis and the blonde girl.

Haya says she brought Lewis back in because he talked bubbles; Lewis then chips in to disagree, not with being brought back in, but with her reason for bringing him back.  As he points out, he didn't sell anything, so he should have been brought back in for that.  Eventually, though, they talk him round and he agrees that the talking bubbles thing was also true, so he talks about that for a while.  Unsurprisingly, he gets fired.  I think the nation agrees that it's for the best.

We love Lewis, though.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Some Things I Found On The Internet

Here are some things I found on the internet this week.

kimjongillookingatthings is a blog which shows Kim Jong-Il looking at things.  Actual genius.

Hyperbole and a Half is a blog you should all subscribe to.  NOW.  Go on.  I'll wait.  This particular post is all about depression, and is way better than anything else you will ever read on the subject.  Way better.  Also, on a vaguely similar note, this is very good.

I've recently discovered Relevant Magazine, which is a Christian magazine, but actually, like, quite good.  This week I liked this article, which is all about being a member of the local church, and sticking it out, and how people inevitably suck.  You should read it.

And I think that is all the things I found on the internet this week.

Young Apprentice 2011: Week 2

The Apprentice is starting to stretch our credulity to breaking point.  First, we're all pretending that Lewis is not just Rhys Rosser one year on, that Gbemi isn't Edna without gloves, and that James is not, in fact, the result of throwing Ben-who-didnt-go-to-Sandhurst, Stuart Baggs and Jedi Jim into a blender and then accidentally reanimating the whole darned mess.  And second, we're meant to believe that when the two teams come up with completely, entirely new, never-before-thought-of inventions, that Lord Sugar has a Big Machine out back that can make them overnight.

Anyway, this week's task was babies; specifically, passing them round the group and looking terrified (apart fromm Gbemi, who has a 9 year old sister and therefore is, like, a baby expert), and then inventing something to do with them that hasn't been done before and that people might buy.  Then it's the usual design it - make it - make a box to put it in - pitch it to retailers thing.

Lewis ends up in charge of the boys, if such a thing as being 'in charge' of this lot is really possible.  James and Sir Harry of Posh immediately start sniping and yelling and taking credit for every invention known to man.  Somehow, in the middle of this, someone (James or Sir Harry of Posh, according to each of them respectively, or someone else entirely, according to the rest of the planet) decides that what the world needs is a hippo-bottle-storage-insulaty-standy-upy thing.  It's basically a softish hippo, which the baby can play with, and then you rip its head off (the hippo's, not the baby's) and there's a bottle of milk in there, staying warm or cold or whatever temperature you put it in at, and the baby is all happy because even though its hippo is dead, it has a bottle.

Surprisingly, the boys have trouble settling on a unique selling point for this... unique... device, with Sir Harry of Posh thinking it's all about the hippo being familiar to the baby, and the rest of them thinking that maybe it's quite handy that it keeps the milk warm.  Not that it matters, because when they get to the pitches, wee Lewis is so nervous he can hardly get a word out, but then reliable Harry steps up for the final one and does very well.

Chez girls, Gbemi is in charge because of having a sister and all, and one of the generic blonde girls is all "Ooooh, design, how innovative that would be", and eventually they come up with a sort of sling thing that you put on your arm when you're holding a baby, and it supports the baby's head.  Which is not totally awful, but sounds a wee bit like a cushion.

Anyway, their big drama comes when they have to take photos for the box, and one of the generic blonde girls (possibly the same one as earlier, possibly not) casts a black mother and a white baby.  Chaos and hysterics ensue.  Because we all know that NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO PICK UP A BABY THAT'S NOT THE SAME EXACT COLOUR AS THEM.

At the pitches (which Gbemi insists on doing, thus adding further fuel to the "Edna in non-disguise (apart from not wearing gloves)" fire), the retailers' concerns are more basic.  "What does it do?" asks one of them, after several minutes of Gbemi telling them it's both washable AND handable, oh yes.  Mercifully, Gbemi lets the previously-unseen Haya do the final pitch, and she does it well.

In the boardroom, Nick and Karrrrren do that thing where they read out the results in the order that makes you think the team that has lost has actually won, and LO! the girls are victorious, and go off to Dance with Diversity, which they would have been a good tag line for their box image.

In Cafe Sombre, the boys are disconsolate, and I feel sorry for wee Lewis, because I quite like him.  They all blame each other, of course, so we needn't dwell on that, and then it's back to the boardroom to bicker there, and now Lewis has to choose his 2 fall guys.

He opts for Sir Harry of Posh, and Ben-who-seems-nice-but-hasn't-been-seen-much-but-is-now-wearing-a-bright-pink-shirt-presumably-in-a-bid-for-attention.  Unfortunately for Ben, this is the moment he chooses to open his mouth, and even more unfortunately, what he says when accused of not doing a lot is "I have a relaxed approach to working".  The nation facepalms.

So Ben gets fired, for not doing much, which seems unfair as he seems quite pleasant and possibly reasonably competent.  On the other hand, he wouldn't be great viewing, and basically that's our only requirement.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Young Apprentice 2011: Week 1

I know I said I mightn't do this, but I'm here on the basis that:

1. I watched it so I might as well jot down some thoughts
2. I've only watched it once, and I didn't take notes, so it might not be accurate
3. You're not to assume I'll do this every week.

Are we all on board with that?

Great. So we have the usual intros to the various forms of obnoxious that we'll come to know and love, and then it's off to the board room to meet Lord Sugar. I can't tell you how much security is brought back to my life with the sight of him sitting there, grinning, with Nick and Karren on his flanks. Then he tries to be cool and down wiv da kidz, and fails, but since none of these kidz are down wiv da rest ov da kidz, it's fine.

First crisis is the two Harrys, because How Will We Tell Them Apart? Lord Sugar comes up with a master plan - let's call one of them Harry H, and the other Harry M. "So 'oo wants ta be 'Arry H?" he asks, jocularly. The one whose surname starts with H solemnly sticks up his hand, and the first decision of the day is made.

The task is to make frozen treats, by which, it transpires, we mean ice cream and stuff.

On the boys' team, the Northern Irish one (James, possibly) stamps all over everyone, and then they all refuse to lead. They suggest and then bicker over a range of crappy team names, before landing on something which I've since put out of my mind. James wants to make frozen yogurt and dress as pirates and then call it Shiver Me Timbers, which is actually not bad.

The girls are all hysterical; I assume they choose a name and a leader, but in all honesty it was too high-pitched for me to hear. They're making ice cream and calling it something stupid like "taste and thin" because everyone nowadays is obese but they also want to eat ice cream.

Next, they have to make the stuff. The boys leave a tap open in their big ice cream mixy bowl, and milk goes everywhere. The girls demonstrate their incompetence at maths and then don't buy enough bananas (although they do get them for £2.50 instead of £3. Mad skillz).

Somehow, they all make ice cream and frozen yogurt and stuff, and some of it is fit for consumption, and some is not entirely rancid.

Day 2, and they're on the beach. One of the boys freaks out because their ice cream stand says "Shiverrr Me Timbers", with 3 'r's, and he's worried people will think they can't spell. They can sell ice cream, though, mainly because they only charge a quarter of what normal people would charge.

Not so the girls, who have hiked prices up and are even charging for the cones. Their approach is to lure in small children, as if they want an ice cream, make it anyway, add all the toppings, and then chase the parents until they can rip all their money out of their hands.

Mind you, it works, because they win, and get to go zorbing, whereas the boys are off to Le Cafe De Sadness, where they all try to claim credit for everything.

A small chap called Mahamed gets fired, and his eyes go really really really small.

Next week: something to do with babies, I think

Sunday 23 October 2011

Technical Plans

Also, I'm currently trying to work out if I can live blog The Apprentice to save time.  So far, no joy.

An Offer To Tourists

Now here at WhyNotSmile, we are not Big Fans of corporate greed, bankers getting large bonuses, and capitalism in general (although we admit to having very little understanding of any of them; since our understanding is roughly as much as our influence, this is not a problem). The latest way to demonstrate this angst, is, apparently, to go and camp outside churches, because apparently sometimes stocks and shares are traded in the vicinity, and also because they don't let you camp in actual banks, and also the vicar might make you tea or something.

So, because of this, St Paul's Cathedral has had to close (although there is some debate as to whether it had to close, or just chose to close). Now, I think this is a little unfair, since the people of St Paul's have by all accounts been Quite Nice to the protestors (who have apprently also been Quite Nice) and are not generally Big Fans of corporate greed themselves. On the other hand, they are claiming to be losing £16000 - £20000 per day.

This makes me wonder a little. They charge £14.50 admission at St Paul's. That strikes me as quite a lot, although I imagine they have quite big heating bills and so on so it's probably just about covering the costs of running the place. I don't know.

However, WhyNotSmile has decided to make you all a special offer, if you are a tourist who wanted to visit St Paul's but now cannot. If you come to my church, you can see round for only a tenner, PLUS we will make you tea (I say 'we', I mean whoever's about, which may not be anyone - if it's the caretaker, you should probably slip him a fiver, cos it's not really part of his job to show random tourists around. Also, I haven't actually told anyone in the church about this, so they might look a bit surprised when you arrive).

I think we can offer at least as much as St Paul's, particularly if you have a reasonable imagination. I checked their website to see what they have. Attractions include:
  • "Climb the dome" to the "Whispering Gallery". At the back of the church, up the stairs, there's a wee room where we store boxes of random stuff, some books, and an old keyboard. Climb the stairs, go into the wee room, and then discover that if you stand at one side of the room and whisper, people at the other side can hear you (please note: this only really works if you stand against the long wall so you're only whispering across the width of the room).
  • "A touchscreen multimedia tour". As long as you bring your iPad so you can browse the photos on the website while you walk around.
  • "Explore the crypt". Yeah, ok, we don't have a crypt. We have a bouncy castle though.
  • "Travel back in time in an immersive video experience". Viewings of "Ben Hur" on the screen at the front every 2 hours.
  • "Treat yourself to afternoon tea". If no one's around, there's a kettle in the kitchen; it takes a while to boil, and you may have to jiggle it a bit, but what do you think this is? Also, I'd bring your own tea bags because all the ones we have are under lock and key in case someone from one of the other organisations nicks them. There's a Co-op across the road though.
Now, admittedly, we don't have a gift shop, but WyseByse across the road is good value and has a wide range of items for all ages.

Also, we're quite nice*.

And we do not have £16,000 per day; indeed, an extra £16,000 per year would be a significant increase in our income. And also, we do all manner of things in the community which are sometimes helpful for the sorts of people who are not bankers or corporate giants and who therefore could make quite good use of part of the £16,000 in ways which would not at all fund the corporate machine.

Advance booking is advised; guide dogs only.

*mostly. Some of us also offer opportunities for you to practice forgiveness.

Tuesday 18 October 2011


So. Junior Apprentice is back.  Only this year we seem to be calling it "Young Apprentice".  Trust me, I just saved you a LOT of googling, with that last fact there.  Now, I can't promise that I'll be able to bring you a weekly review, because, frankly, I'm so busy right now it's STUPID (on the plus side, I may actually earn enough this year to pay tax - my life is just a series of victories, n'est ce pas?), but there's no harm in taking a quick look at the candidates.  Not all of them, because I want to go to bed.  But the ones we'll be wanting to punch by this time next week.


Harry Hitchens:
"I aim high. I don’t aim low ever, what are you ever going to gain from that? I aim high and I get there because of that determination, because I’m pretty ruthless in how I get there."

What do I gain from aiming low?  A quiet life, Harry, that's what.  And achieved ambitions.  And a haunting sense of unfulfilment, of course.

Moving on.

Harry Maxwell.  Apart from the obvious CHAOS which will ensue from having 2 people with the same name (remember that Christopher Farrell and Chris-quite-cute-but-boring-voice from a couple of series ago, and how we never knew which was which?  Yeah.  That.), this Harry is a polo and water sports enthusiast, and has already started 3 successful businesses.  I'll need a lie down just watching this guy.

Hayley Forrester wears wellies and "passionately disagrees with people claiming benefits when they could be working". Sometimes simultaneously. Also, she sells eggs. That's what that girl Emma did last year, innit?

Lizzie Magee is a rounders champion.  I was not aware that was a thing.

Zara Brownless "used to be a baby model and won a sock design competition when she was seven years old". She says:
Dreamers dream; people who achieve wake up, get out there and start doing stuff to make their dreams happen.
You know what that quote needs?  Ponies.

Sunday 2 October 2011

On Liking Cake

One of my favourite parts of teaching Sunday School is the bit where we ask them what they want to pray for this week.  The suggestions generally range from 'my granda is sick' through 'I have a test tomorrow' to 'I like cake'.

This always gets me wondering: at what point in life does it become unacceptable to announce in a prayer meeting that you like cake?  For I can guarantee that if I did this at the church prayer meeting, I'd get 'looks'.  What is the point at which we think we have to be all grown up and serious?  And also, why?

It's almost as if we think it actually matters to God how we pray.  As if we think we can, in any way, approach the Creator of the universe as anything other than ridiculous creatures who should, by rights, be flicked away to stop us cluttering the place up with our crappiness.  As if we think He'll only hear us if we say it all proper, instead of just coming and enjoying being overawed by the fact that we're there at all.

I think God likes it when we come and tell Him that we like cake, or that we don't like cake, or that we saw a cloud shaped like a chicken today.  I think He maybe likes that better than when we pretend that we are proper serious creatures who can only bring 'worthy' things and when we are a little bit proud that we have managed to learn about another worthy thing.  I don't think He minds us praying about serious things either, of course, but mostly I think He just likes when we pray about things that delight us, and things that matter to us, and things that are in our hearts and on our minds, whether those are serious or not.

I wonder if God has more fun being at the church picnic where people are chatting and having fun and talking about how their week was and what's happening in the week ahead and whether they should plant the spring bulbs yet or wait till after the first frost and probably not being very spiritual at all, than He does at the Bible studies where we're so focussed on finding out more information about Him that we forget how crazy it is that we can know anything about Him at all, so instead of just laughing and appreciating what we have we get all earnest and furrow our brows and look up things in Greek dictionaries.

Sometimes when I watch people in churches squabbling about stuff, I'm amazed by how much both sides seem to think the stuff in question matters.  I mean, sometimes it does, and sometimes difficult issues need to be debated.  But, when people fall out over the time of the prayer meeting or the colour of the carpet or the length of the hymns or the content of the hymns or the age of the hymns or anything to do with the freaking hymns for Pete's sake, I picture them as small children squabbling over who drew the nicest picture for mummy, when neither of them is exactly Monet and in any case mummy's just happy they drew her pictures at all, and that they were on paper and not on the wall, and also that it kept them quiet for an hour so she could put the dinner on and mop the kitchen floor, and I think I've lost the thread of this analogy now.

But the point is that when we think there's a 'right way' and a 'wrong way' of doing things, we start to deny how great God is and how not great we are, and we start to make it all about who is the most 'correct', as if any of us is capable of coming close to the goodness of God, and then we get all arrogant and that is Not A Good Thing.

Friday 30 September 2011

Now THAT is foresight

So, apparently, ancient Chinese Feng Shui says that in a year in which October has 5 Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays, if I post this information to my Facebook wall, I will become rich.

Those ancient Chinese knew the future.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

An Open Letter To The Tesco Self-scan Machine

Dear Tesco Self-scan Machine,

people who know me will tell you that I am a person of modest ambitions, who does not expect a lot from life, so it may surprise you to learn that I am writing to you to suggest that you raise your expectations.  Specifically, you seem to have a very narrow mind with regards to things that might be expected to appear in your bagging area.  Bags, for instance, are something that you should probably start to expect.  The clue, you see, is in the name: bagging area.  In order to bag things, one must sometimes put bags in the bagging area; and while I appreciate that in general you can be confused when non-bought items appear in there, I think that saying my Bag for Life is 'unexpected' is a little extreme. 'Undesirable' might be a better way to express yourself.

Furthermore, I am concerned that you run the risk of being "the machine that cried wolf" when you get all over-excited by the presence of a plastic bag.  If you do all your screaming at that, what options are left when I lob a horse in there?  Eh?  Or a cello?  I just think you need to make sure you leave yourself a bit of leeway, because you don't know what a day will bring forth.

That is all.

With best regards,

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Things That Make Me Want To Eat My Own Head

Heck, it's been a while.  Sorry.  Busy summer and all that.

Anyway, I'm here about the Haribo advert.  Never in the field of my own history have I so much appreciated the licence fee, and freedom from advertising.  I'm not linking to it, because it makes me want to claw my own ears off, but you'll know the one I mean.

If you're thinking, "yeah, I hate that wee girl screaming 'sign the fession!'", then count yourself lucky, for that's not the one I mean.

This one has a family of 4 at a shop in the middle of nowhere, singing the most banal song you can imagine, out of tune, while grinning like banshees and leaping like the lords from a Christmas song.  It's what you'd get if you took a bad X-Factor audition, a sanitary towel advert, and one of those photos of happy families that you get in Christian magazines, blended them, and then added an overdose of hyperstimulant.  The whole, is, inexplicably, much worse than the sum of its hideous parts.

It marginally improves if, after the line that goes "Squidgy squidgy baby!" you yell "Bodyformed for yoooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!", but only a little bit, so I wouldn't do it in public or anything.

Like I say, Google it if you want to know what it's like to find yourself uncontrollably ripping your ears from your head.  Otherwise, don't.  But in any case, can we all stop buying Haribo until they get this abomination off our screens?  Thanks.

In happier news, I enjoyed this story, although it contains some impolite language, which I ask you to censor by mentally replacing it with the word 'puppy'.

Sunday 24 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: The Final

Never in the field of human history has it been so clear from so early on who was so going to win The Apprentice.  Or so we thought, until that week when Helen screwed up the whole 'flogging tat' thing, and blew the field wide open.  I feel I have inappropriately mixed some metaphors there, so let's move on.

Well, we've come so far, and we've reached so high, we've looked each day and task in the eye, and now... well, now it's the final.  The remaining candidates, for those who have saved the space in their brains for actual useful information, are Jim, Helen, Lovely Tom, and Susan.  Of course, here at WhyNotSmile, we're rooting for Lovely Tom, although we would like to marry him, so we don't want him to be too busy.  We are not fond of Susan.  Other than this, we do not mind.

Not 2 minutes after we left them at the end of last week, the phone rings in the house, and Lovely Tom answers, and is told they have 48 hours to get their business plans together.  Now, you and I would have put the phone down, pretended it was a wrong number, and then sneaked off to get the upper hand, but Lovely Tom is not the mercenary type, so he tells the others, and they all start scribbling numbers in little charts, and saying how great their business ideas are.

48 hours later, they're all snazzed up and off to some hotel/posh place somewhere with their little folders under their arms.  Ridiculously, they still seem to be acting as if they're in teams, with Lovely Tom and Helen in one car, and Jim and Susan in the other.  They hand the folders over to Nick and Karrrren, and then go and sit in the foyer.  Susan is talking like mad, and I imagine they all want to hit her.  Helen is cool, calm and collected, so equally irritating.  Jim and Lovely Tom seem to be sweating like mad, and trying not to throw up.  We like them.

We meet the 4 people who're going to interrogate them about their business plans.  There's Nasty Claude, who, as one commentator pointed out, is so evil that if you cut him, he'd bleed spiders.  There's lovely Margaret Mountford, she of the raised eyebrow.  There's someone called Mike, who has something to do with "the free magazine industry", and someone called Matthew, who looks about 12.  I'll probably get those two mixed up.

So, how do they all get on?

Margaret is astounded at the length of Jim's application form, and at the percentage of it that's almost entirely crap, which is quite high.  Jim talks entirely in cliches, which annoys Margaret a lot.  She asks him to describe himself without using cliches, and he says he's "exactly what it says on the tin". *facepalm*
Jim's business idea is a bit weird.  It's all got something to do with going into schools and encouraging children to be entrepenurial.  He thinks it's amazing, brilliant, impactful and unique.  He hasn't actually asked anyone else for an opinion yet, because that would take too much time and effort; but he thinks it's class, which is the main thing.
Nasty Claude thinks Jim is making stuff up, because he's not earning as much as Nasty Claude thinks he should be, which is a strange argument.

When asked to summarise her business plan succinctly, Susan jabbers out that she wants to scale up her market stall to global levels and make lots and lots of money and sell skincare to all manner of people and have a really nice time making all this money and making people all happy because they have nice skin and they love that they bought her products.  It is the very opposite of succint.  It seems that she thinks 'succinct' means 'really really fast'.
Margaret gets all interrogatory about how Susan paid her workers in cash, and therefore didn't pay any tax.  Oooooohhh, sneaky.
The essential problem with Susan's business plan is that she seems to think that if one market stall can sell £1000 of stuff in a day, then by having 7 market stalls she could sell £7000 of stuff in a day, or with 178 market stalls, she could sell £178,000 of stuff in a day.
Matthew asks Susan about whether it's ok to just lump a load of chemicals into a bottle and then flog it to unsuspecting passers by.  Did the man not see the fast food task?

Helen's business plan is largely to have a nationwide chain of people to book your dental appointments and wait for your Tesco delivery to arrive.  She somehow gets into a row with Matthew over whether a dentist does or does not text one to remind one that one is due a checkup; then she admits that she doesn't really know anyone who could book you a dental appointment anyway.
Mike takes a different approach, and asks Helen to tell him a joke.  Man, they are testing ALL the key business skills in this one.  Eventually she comes up with "A fish swims into a wall, and says 'dam'", and makes it sound even less funny than it actually is, which is pretty darn unfunny.

Lovely Tom

Tom's first interviewer is Nasty Claude, who opens with "Would it be fair to say that your career is floundering at the moment?".  "Umm" says Lovely Tom.  Nasty Claude also points out that every number in Lovely Tom's business plan is wrong, and that he hasn't said anything about his costs.  I think this is unfair.  You hit one wrong button in Excel, and it fecks up the rest of the document.  We all know that.  Shut up, Nasty Claude.
Lovely Tom's business plan is to do with chairs.  He's going to visit employers and check whether their employees need to use his chair, and if they do, then he will sell it to them.  The chair stops you from getting a sore back; Lovely Tom has a way of knowing who will get a sore back, and he can sell them the chair in advance.  Mike complains that 100% of the business plan doesn't use the word 'chair'.  I don't care, Mike, and your grammar in that sentence was appalling.  Leave Lovely Tom alone.
He has a very awkward conversation with Matthew, during which he utters the phrase "I'm not surprised at all that you have a very nice wife".  We hear more about Lovely Tom's previous invention, which is a curved nail file, and I want one.  Lovely Tom is accused of not being a 'starter-finisher', because he got bored of nail files and started to think up other ideas.  On the way out, Lovely Tom falls over a chair.
Lovely Tom is also the first person EVER to break the First Rule Of The Interviews, and to not come out crowing about how well it went and how they loved him.

The next day, the 4 interviewy people go back to the board room and sneer about the contestants, while said contestants wait outside, all convinced they're going to win.  Snigger.

They're not keen on Helen; they'd all employ her tomorrow, but it is generally agreed that she cannot be left to her own devices for more than several seconds at a time.  They also agree that trying to get Jim to be specific is like trying to "nail custard to the ceiling", a harder task than Nick's "nailing jelly to a wall" from a few weeks ago; Nick describes Jim's business plan as "one long seduction letter" to Lord Sugar, an image which makes the nation feel a little nauseous.

Everyone loves Lovely Tom, of course, but there's a worry that he lost interest in nail files before he had fully exhausted the (presumbaly) extensive (and, to my mind, unimaginable) possibilities offered thereby.  And they all think Susan's ridiculous.

So the four candidates get hauled back in to the boardroom.  We begin by questioning Susan's ridiculous figures, because they are absolutely ridiculous.  We turn to Helen, and look disappointed at how pants her idea is, and that it's not to do with bakeries, since she works in a bakery.  Over to Lovely Tom, and Lord Sugar is virtually apoplectic at the very idea that he should give a flying fiddle about the health and safety of his employees.  This does not demonstrate that Lovely Tom's idea is bad; it merely demonstrates that Lord Sugar is not very nice.  I'm not sure I want Lovely Tom to work with him.  And onto Jim and his letter of seduction; Jim admits that initially he was going to set up the business as a non-profit, and when pressed, calls Lord Sugar "Sugar".  Seductive.

Time to start firing people, and Jim gets the boot first, for being a smarmy, cliched, annoying git.  Then there's a bit of teasing of Helen, before the Finger is pointed at Susan, for being a bit dim.

OOOOOHHHHH, Lovely Tom is still there!  Lovely Tom might win!  Go Lovely Tom!

At this point, however, Helen chucks in a grenade in the form of a SECOND business plan.  oooh.  She wants to set up a chain of bakeries.  It's not a stunning plan, because let's be honest, there are a few bakeries out there already.  Lovely Tom points out that if she's had all these great ideas, she should have done them already; Helen lobs back that if she'd had a business for 5 years, she wouldn't have to be in the boardroom asking Lord Sugar for money, because she'd have made a success of it.  It's a bit of a low punch, but Lovely Tom takes it in his stride, and Helen is suddenly standing on thin ice.  Then Lord Sugar asks Lovely Tom how he got Walmart to sell his nail files, and Lovely Tom tells a story about creating a little parcel and hand delivering it to the buyer, and Helen's face is falling and falling, and I'm getting more excited, and Lord Sugar waffles a bit more, and then he announces that LOVELY TOM HAS WON and I rejoice and my mobile starts going nuts with congratulations texts, and I am very happy indeed.

But also, you have to wonder how it happened that the person who has lost more tasks than everyone else in the history of the programme EVER has managed to actually win the series, and you have to think that maybe they need to look at the tasks they set next time.

Thursday 14 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 11

Normally, this being the penultimate week, we'd be watching the interviews, and that seems to be what the candidates expect too, because when they're summoned by The Telephone Voice to the City, they rush off to snazz themselves up and put on suits and stuff.  Jim even has a waistcoat for the occasion.  All of which is of no use, because what they're actually doing is setting up fast food chains.

They have some ridiculous time limit, like 2 days, to invent, brand and set up a fast food restaurant.  The teams are left alone, for once, so Helen is in charge of Tom (they barely even debate who should be PM), and Jim is refereeing Natasher and Susan.  You'd think the team with 3 would have quite an advantage, but then Natasher reveals that she has a "BA Onz" degree in this sort of thing, so technically they're at a disadvantage.

Helen (who seems extremely tense and worried throughout the task) and Tom actually make quite a good team; mainly because they're both fairly competent and organised.  They decide to go with a British-themed 'Pie and Mash' as their menu; they make it all feminine by having mini pies.  We'll summarise their efforts now, because they're so good that nothing really goes wrong at all; in fact, the only thing the editors had to work with was when they decided to name their pies after famous British people, and include Christopher Columbas (he's Italian, I think, but I couldn't honestly swear to it).  We see this relatively minor error from all angles, repeatedly, and I think we can tell from an early stage who's going to win.  Anyway, they call their place 'My Py' after Lovely Tom mis-reads something, and it's all red, white and blue.  At one point they debate whether Byron wrote at the same time as Shakespeare and was a vegetarian.

Mercifully, what Helen and Lovely Tom have in competence, the other three lack in every conceivable aspect of business acumen.  They decide to have a Mexican restaurant, because that way Susan gets to perpetuate some racial stereotypes, and have cheery sombreros everywhere.  Jim thinks Natasher's degree will come in handy, because her BA Onz was in hospitality; unfortunately she didn't ever really like the cooky bit of it, and refuses to have anything to do with that side of it.  Since they have a cook, it's hard to see exactly what the problem is, but in and case, she and Susan get sent off to think about branding.  They wander the streets of London going 'ariba, ariba' and pretending they're wearing sombreros.

Jim is doing market research, by going to a Mexican restaurant and asking what they don't sell, so he can do something different.  It's an intersting strategy.  Figure out what no one else will touch with a barge pole, and embrace it wholeheartedly.

Still, it's more useful than Susan and Natasher, who hate each other and everything each other says.  They're trying to come up with a name:
"Lots of them have names that start with el.  What's el?"
"I dunno".
They phone Jim, who suggests 'Caracas', after "those wee Mexican shaky things".  Or the capital of Venzuela, alternatively.  Your choice.  They love it, add an apostrophe, and "Caraca's" is born.  Which is much like calling your Hungarian restaurant "Pari's", but also thinking that a "paris" is some kind of Hungarian folk dance.  And then branding it using strawberries, or, to fit in with the Mexican theme, peppers.  That was Natasher's idea, which Susan hates (quite reasonably, and also because she hates everything Natasher says).  Susan is the Mexican food expert, so they go with her idea of sombreros instead.  Her expert credentials, incidentally, are that she eats more Mexican food than the other two.

The next morning, they see their restaurants for the first time, and meet their chefs and waiters and so on.  They have a few hours to practice.  Helen's lot do all manner of rehearsals of pies, customer service, removing foil trays and so on.  Over at Caraca's, the chef is having a wobbly, because no one has a clue what's going on.  Jim comes in and says that what they need to do is to heat up all the food and then serve it to customers.  When the doors are thrown open, My Py greet them with a cheery "Hi!  Have you eaten 100% British before?"; at Caraca's, there are nails and a hammer on the floor.  Jim is creating a box of nachos which looks like someone sneezed on it, while Susan whirls around yelling that there aren't enough chairs.

The queue grows and grows, and people are giving up and leaving.  This is probably for the best, because the food, when it comes, is stone cold and vile.  Say what you want about Lovely Tom, but the man can heat a pie and put it in a box.  And look quite fetching in a red hat.

After the test run, Susan is hysterical.  She goes to Jim and says he needs to stop serving cold food.  Jim asks for the solution.  "Heat it up" she says.  They've got a pile of customer feedback forms, which are making for depressing reading: "Food was cold", "Friendly but slow", "crazy waitress".

At My Py, it's like reading the report card of the school swot: "Loved the food", "Great idea".  The only thing that went wrong was that the cardboard box was a bit hard to eat out of, so they swap it for a plastic one, and that solves that.

Susan has a solution to Caraca's woes, which involves a diagram and some arrows, and keeping the food in the oven for a bit longer.

Lunchtime, and Lord Shugagh swings by with some industry experts.  I really, really want Ronald McDonald and Colonel Saunders to walk in, but unfortunately it's a crowd of people in suits who know all there is to know about vegetable oil.  Natasher successfully convinces Lord Shugagh to add nachos to his order of "fah-heee-taaas" (can he not pronounce any non-English word?); they are still taking a year and a day to fulfil orders, though, but at least the food seems to be edible, and with the sombreros and all, they all agree that it's obvious that the place sells Mexican.  The team are grilled on their business plan, which (as quickly becomes painfully apparent) did not exist until that moment.  Jim says that if he has 60 customers in 2 hours, spending £7 each, then he's making £4800 in a lunchtime, which is impressive.  He gets out of it by accusing Lord Shugagh of not paying his bill, and everyone laughs awkwardly.

Over at My Py, it's going quite well, although the wee plastic boxes are a bit too small to fit the pies in.  Still, they serve it all quickly, and hot, and without incident, and when it comes to the business plan, the only problem is that Lovely Tom keeps distracting Helen as she's explaining profit margins and percentages.

They go back to the boardroom, and we talk about the Caracas = capital of Venezuela thing; Karren dobs them in and points out that they all thought it was a made up word.  Lovely Tom talks about how they had a 'dummy dummy run' before the dummy run before the actual run, and all of them had gone really well.

The industry experts were rating them on all manner of things, and then they got the score by working out the average.  Caraca's had an average of 4 out of 10, which is a bit wick; My Py got 7 out of 10, and LOVELY TOM IS IN THE FINAL!  They don't get a treat, because that would be Just Too Much, but they go back to the house with Lovely Tom looking stunned.

In Cafe Ooops, Jim says he was like Mother Theresa trying to keep control of Natasher and Susan; they all defiantly state that they're not going home, and then it's back to the boardroom.

It's not an epic boardroom battle; they start by looking sadly at Helen and Tom's Business Plan, and then try to pretend that they had all those figures in their heads, and anyway IT WAS ALL JIM'S FAULT!!!!  Karren sticks the boot in and says that they were just generally not very good.  Natasher's contribution seemed to have been to try to distract customers so that they wouldn't notice how long they'd had to wait; while we're talking to her, we turn to the matter of her degree, and I kind of wish we'd shut up about it. Unfortunately, it seems to be some kind of fixation.

They go out, they come in.

Susan and Natasher both think Jim should be fired because he has a scary dark side; they may have a point, but Natasher plays it up a bit too much and comes over like someone who's just read Dan Brown and felt he had a case worth hearing.  Back to Natasher's degree, and she says again that she didn't really like the cooky part of it, and it shouldn't be all contextualised, and she didn't "claim" (she does the little finger wavy things) to have any expertise at all.  Lord Shugagh goes on about his degree in First Aid, a skill which may have been handy a little earlier in the day, for the patrons of Caraca's.  I think he's making up the First Aid degree, because it's not on Wikipedia, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, Natasher get fired, innit, and Jim and Susan join Helen and Lovely Tom for the final.

The final, incidentally, is this Sunday, and sees the return of Mount Margaretford for the interviewy bit.

Stay tuned, because it looks hysterical.

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 10

Right, we have to ratchet the reporting up a gear, because we're now 2 weeks behind and the final's on Sunday.

Last week we spent a lot of time disliking Melody, and that's where we pick up again today.  They're all hauled off to a big warehouse, where Lord Shugagh, with a tear in his eye, talks about how he started out in business by buying a truckload of toot and flogging it to unsuspecting passers-by; and lo! that's this week's task.  Each team gets a pallet-load containing £250 worth of the kind of plastic tack you find on market stalls up and down the country, and they have to sell it, and then come back and buy more.  It's all about selling what smells, or something.  I may have got that wrong.

The teams are Helen, Lovely Tom and Melody (boooooo), against Natasher (innit?), Susan and Jim.  Susan is appalled by the quality of the goods.  Snob.  She also thinks this is right up her street, as she does every week; Natasher (yeah?) slaps her down for the millionth week in a row, and wins the right to lead.  Melody appoints herself in charge of Helen and Lovely Tom.

Jim has a great morning touting umbrellas to people who don't really need them, on the basis that it might rain, some time in the distant future, and until then you can use the umbrella to point at things.  Natasher is selling nodding dogs to small unsuspecting children ('of appalling taste' says Nick).  Susan, for some reason, is stuck in traffic outside Buckingham Palace (whining and moaning about why can't the horses go faster); eventually she arrives in Knightsbridge or somewhere, where she attempts and fails to sell a pile of duvets door-to-door.  She gets very upset that no one's home.  It's so unfair.

Melody and Helen, meanwhile, decide that they're going to sell their stuff to shops, because why wouldn't you add in a middle man wherever you can?  Especially if you go into a pound shop and try to sell him £25 watches.  Idiots.  They also go into a hardware shop and try to sell duvets and towels.  It's so ridiculous, it's not even funny.

Thankfully, they have previously dumped Lovely Tom and a box of nodding bulldogs off at a tourist spot, where he gets outwitted by 5 year-olds and continues to be extremely lovely.  He sells all the dogs very quickly, and I'm quite proud.

Natasher and Jim have a fight about what they should re-invest in; they phone Susan to ask, but she's out for the count in the back of a cab.

Melody and Helen, for some reason, have become even more fixated on selling their stuff to shops, and finally find a guy who'll resell the duvets for them; if they can get another 30 by tomorrow, he'll buy those as well.  Despite the fact that they're now making about 20p on each one, they think this is great.

Now, the point of the task, you will recall, is to figure out what sells, and buy a ton more to sell tomorrow.  Susan, however, lives on another planet, and spends half the team's takings on random tacky-looking bracelets.  They would be doomed, except that Melody is also on another planet, and is buying random electrical tat.  Lovely Tom is in despair; all he wanted were some more nodding bulldogs, and he would've been happy, but no: he's being given travel kettles and alarm-clock-photo-frames.  Clearly the notion of figuring out what sells and buying more of that seems to have been entirely abandoned.  Heh.  Never mind, I'm sure Lord Shugagh won't be too fussed.

The next morning, and a shock on Team Melody, as Helen stages a coup and offers to take over as project manager.  They snark a bit, with Lovely Tom sitting in the middle thinking 'feck', and in the end nothing changes.  Off to a shopping centre, and the random electrical stuff is not popular.  It's a shame they didn't get a day to try out their stalls and see what would sell.  Helen's in a random square trying to press gang passers-by into buying bike lights.

At Shepherd's Bush, Jim is already flogging nodding dogs like there's no tomorrow; he's also offering hugs and kisses, and Nick's coming round to him.  While this goes on, Susan and Natasher are fighting it out at Portabello Road market.  The two of them seem incapable of coming within earshot of each other (and with these two, earshot is quite a distance) without screaming at each other, exchanging snide glances, and slagging each other off to the camera.  Natasher is being particularly obnoxious, but somehow I find Susan more irritating.

In all of this, it's tempting to forget that Helen has promised to sell 30 duvet covers to a random bloke for about 20p each.  She phones a duvet cover wholesaler, but it's closed for the day, so she heads off to another one which is 2 hours' drive away.  After a 4 hour round trip, she phones the duvet-sellerman, who has already gone home for the day.  Bummer, huh?

Jim is trying to get Natasher to re-invest, since that's the point of the task; she refuses because they already have plenty of stuff to sell (please note that their end-of-the-day-total includes any stock they still have, so it doesn't matter if they have stuff left over).  Also, Jim is now running out of things to sell.  Eventually, Natasher agrees to let him buy some more umbrellas.  He does this, but not in time to sell them, which kind of sucks.

They all head back to the boardroom, and it's a bit hard to be sure who has done better.  Helen spent a lot of time trying to acquire duvets; whereas Susan and Natasher spent much of the day trying to strangle each other.  In the boardroom, Helen says Melody was an awful team leader, and had no strategy.  Lord Shugagh says the strategy should have been to flog the crap they were given, which makes it sound less complex.  Natasher gets in bother for not re-investing in new stock; she says something about 'going heavy' on day 1, and Lord Shugagh nearly rips her head off, and then fines her £100 for being so impudent.

Melody & Co have assets of £728, which is ok; Natasher's lot have (after fines) £751.  Feck.  They still won.  But, Lord Shugagh is not happy, and they are NOT getting a treat because they were useless.  What with a coup earlier, and now this, it may be the most dramatic episode EVER.  Back in the house, Natasher tells Susan that she was really annoying all day.  I imagine she was, somehow.

Helen is in Cafe Dreadful for the first time, but it's ok, because Lovely Tom's a regular and can show her where to get napkins and stuff.  Melody brings up the coup incident, and says how much it demoralised her.  She's almost sobbing.  I still don't feel at all sorry for her.  I'm beginning to like myself less, and I blame Melody.

Back in the boardroom, and we can only hope that somehow Lovely Tom stays and Melody gets the boot.  This is most likely to be accomplished by Lovely Tom not saying a lot.  We start with Helen's attempted coup; she says she wanted to take over so they could go to retailers and get big orders.  Melody is all like "ha ha, you're so stupid, that's not what we were meant to do", and then Karren points out that Melody wanted to do it as well.  Lovely Tom says he asked for more nodding dogs, and Melody says she didn't want him to have more nodding dogs, and he says he felt all let down.  He calls the duvet thing a "fool's errand".  Oooooh, Tom, I love you.

Lovely Tom is doing ok until he somehow ends up taking responsibility for the duvet fiasco, which had nothing at all to do with him.  STOP TALKING, LOVELY TOM!  Helen and Melody do some yelling about the closing times of wholesale duvet cover suppliers; Melody then declares that she should be fired herself, and I can only agree.

They go out; they come back in.  I'm all nervous for Lovely Tom, but Karren seems to be standing up for him, so I like her a lot.  Melody gets all intense, and shouty, and full of herself, and I wish she'd shut up.  She looks all huffy when she shuts up, though.  I think I just wish she'd go away.  She says that when she was 13, she set up "one of the most successful democratic bodies in the world".  What, she founded America?  Also, she was on the Queen's speech one year.  Yippee skip.

Helen pretty much sits there being very cool and calm and a little bit scary.  She reels off some actual experience, which is actually relevant and might be useful.  She's safe.  I suspect she's been put up to the duvet thing by the producers, to try to throw us off the scent, because surely she has to win.

We turn to Lovely Tom, who's right up Lord Shugagh's alley, apparently.  I desperately hope Lovely Tom doesn't say much.  He does, though.  But he also points out that Melody runs a business which is all about talking, and I like that.  Melody is outraged, of course, which is even better.

Finally, and to the rapturous applause of the nation, Melody gets fired.  And I rejoice.

Lovely Tom almost faints with relief, and Helen's in a bit of a sulk with him because he was mean about her in the boardroom.  I don't think Helen really 'gets' the boardroom.

Sunday 10 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 9

So, after last week's trip to Paris, we're back in Blighty, and still really hoping to get rid of Melody (well, I am.  Hoping to get rid of Melody.  Not back from Paris.  Never was in Paris.  Well I WAS, but not since you've known me. Do you see?).  It's a Sunday afternoon, and they're all lounging around in the house when Lord Shugagh turns up on the doorstep.  Mean Melody is wrapped in a towel.

The task is thus: they are to create a new biscuit and then flog it to supermarkets.  It's a bit like the dog food thing, but without the relief of the advertising part.  So, teams:  Helen, Natasher (yeah?) and Jim in one; Susan, Zoe, Mean Melody and Lovely Tom in the other.  They appoint leaders: Helen sells food, so that's quite relevant, so she gets chosen.  Susan thinks this is right up her street, because SHE ALWAYS DOES.  Every week.  Every. single. freaking. week.  But Zoe works in the food industry, and slaps her down to take the lead.  "That's SO unfair, Zoe" says Susan, for about the millionth time this series.

Anyway, they start drawing pictures of biscuits.  Melody wants to do Valentine's Day biscuits, which is a bit crap when it's not Valentine's Day.  She gets sent off to the biscuit factory with Lovely Tom, mainly, I suspect, to get rid of her.  Jim has also been packed off from his team.

Lovely Tom wants to make an emergency biscuit, called an Emercrunchie.  The best that can be said about this is that he's very cute the way he says it.  They spend a while at the factory, watching a Welsh guy making biscuits and playing with ingredients.

Helen's lot are making a biscuit for children; Jim puts fizzy poppy stuff on a his and nearly chokes Karren.  Lovely Tom comes up with the idea of having a biscuit inside a biscuit; Mean Melody thinks that's a bit complex.  Meanwhile, she is trying to make popcorn out of a pile of squished Corn Flakes, marshmallows and biscuit mixture.

Cut to London, and ooooooh, Susan says she can't stand Zoe.  This should be good.

Jim takes a tray of biscuits to some children, and then steals all their ideas.  They suggest that he makes star-shaped flapjacks called Special Stars, so that's what they do.  In fairness, these are the best ideas we've seen all series, and since the kids are only small, nicking their suggestions is probably quite an astute move.  He phones Helen and Natasher, who are drinking coffee and doing feck all, and tells them about the star thing.  They like it, but they need a tag line.  The biscuits are going to be for after school.  So they need a tag line that suggests that these are biscuits which you would give your child after school, like in the afternoon, between the hours of 2-4pm, roughly.  That sort of time.  "Any time is treat time!" they yell, and, despite some resistance from Natasher (who, rather sensibly, points out that "after school" is quite a specific time), that's what they go with. *sigh*  Now Jim just has to make a truckload of the things.

Lovely Tom and Mean Melody go into their focus group with more plates of biscuits.  They hate the emergency biscuit, but - and here's the critical bit - Lovely Tom REALISES this, and moves on.  To something else. He actually listens to a focus group.  They love his biscuit-in-a-biscuit thing, though.  Mean Melody tries out her popcorn biscuits, and calls them 'popsquits', which is just as dreadful a name as one could imagine.  On the other hand, they like her heart biscuit.  Probably because they're so relieved that it doesn't sound like something you'd catch on holiday.  Of course, by the time she phones Zoe, Melody is claiming "They didn't like any other biscuit shape, apart from the heart".  That's because the ONLY OTHER SHAPE you showed them was 'crumbling landmine'.  Lovely Tom explains his biscuit-in-a-biscuit idea, and Melody stands there going "I don't like that", as if anyone cares what she thinks.

Helen and Natasher are at the designer, trying to explain how "Any time is treat time" goes with "After school".  Natasher is "opening up time".

Susan and Zoe are thinking up names, and come up with Bix-Mix, which is actually not too bad.  The biscuit looks quite good too - it's a digestive with a buttercream bit in the middle, and half is covered in chocolate.  The idea is that you can snap it in half.  The designer comes up with a box that looks quite nice and classy, I think.

The ones who were at the factory are now on their way home, and Melody is spending the journey coming up with what may be the worst idea of the series so far.  They're discussing tomorrow's pitch, see. "I think we should do a role play.  We'd be silly not to".  She forces Lovely Tom to rehearse it.  He takes the piss A LOT, and we hope he is humouring her.

The next morning, the biscuits arrive.  Bix Mix looks quite good, although it snaps in half so that one person gets all the chocolate, and the other person gets no chocolate at all.  Foolish would be the person who tried to give me the non-chocolate half.  The star things look quite good too.

Into the pitches.  Mean Melody thinks Bix Mix needs to be aimed at someone, but Zoe thinks anyone should be allowed to eat them.  We barely get time to ponder this, however, before being hauled into the pitch and being made to sit through the Role Play.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes, they actually do it, and it is the most cringe-inducing piece of television I think I have ever seen.  Seriously, go and Google it.  We'll be here (I tried to get it on YouTube, but the only version I could find had added swearing, so I decided it was Inappropriate).  It ends with Melody saying "Where was this made?  In Heaven?", which leads into Zoe saying "No, actually, it was made here in the UK".  It is dreadful.  It is mind-bogglingly awful.

Special Stars, in comparison, seems lovely and clean and wonderful, even though they're basically saying that children can have treats at any time.  Natasher tries to explain the time-bending thing again.  And fails, again.

Lovely Tom is stuck in a car with Melody, going to Asda.  Melody decides they need a target market.  When they get to Asda, she tells Zoe this.  Zoe disagrees, and they have a screaming row in the midde of the supermarket.  The role play happens again, this time with Zoe and Melody in the main roles, as best friends.  We know they are more likely to stuff the Bix Mix down each other's throats or clobber each other with the boxes than they are to 'snap and share'.  The Asda people think the biscuit is a bit gross, so Susan tells them about its unique selling point, which is that it can be snapped.  Kit Kat, anyone?

Jim and co go in with their Special Stars, and get asked about how they would launch them.  Jim starts waffling about TV advertising, and how it'll be endorsed by Harry Potter and all sorts of other things, and he promises that they'll spend millions on advertising.  I think this is quite clever - if it's all fictional anyway, you may as well pretend whatever you want - but Karren is nervous.

To the boardroom, but not before Zoe moans about Melody a bit more.

In front of Lord Shugagh, Melody actually tries to defend the role play thing.  It does not work.  We all have a laugh about Jim's advertising promise; we can only hope that that's next week's task.

The results are in.  Bix Mix has bombed; no orders at all.  Special Stars, on the other hand, received an order for 800,000 units, which is worth about £1,500,000.  I rather feel they should deduct the £30 million they were planning to spend on advertising, but they don't.

Jim, Helen and Natasher get sent off for afternoon tea, which is a bit of a crap treat at this stage of the game.  The others go to Cafe StareAtEachOtherAndSnarkABit, where they all stare at each other and snark a bit.  Lovely Tom seems to be in bother, because nobody liked the biscuit he made.  I think this is unfair on Lovely Tom, because he tried very hard, and because I love Lovely Tom.  Back in the boardroom, Lovely Tom says that he didn't know that he was making a luxury biscuit.

Anyway, we quickly descend into Zoe and Melody yelling at each other.  Zoe has the most boring voice in the world, and Melody (who, as someone fabulously pointed out, looks like Jimmy Carr) over-enunciates everything, so it's a very weird argument.  They both just yell whatever comes into their heads, which doesn't help, as the stuff that comes into their heads is not of that high a quality to begin with.

Zoe brings Lovely Tom and Mean Melody back in.  I want Mean Melody to go.  Please please please.  Lovely Tom is accused of not knowing that £1.99 is a premium biscuit price.  I do not think that knowing how much biscuits cost is a key part of being a successful business person.  Zoe yells a bit, and Lovely Tom says "umm, err, umm" in reply.  Melody finally decides she's had enough of no one talking about how great she is, and butts in with how great she is.  Lovely Tom points out that the focus group didn't like her ideas, and she says that 10 people do not represent the biscuit-buying public.  She was not saying this last week, when 4 people in a Metro station represented all of France.

Eventually, Zoe gets fired for not going to the factory, even though Helen didn't go to the factory either.  Outside, Melody stalks off with her nose in the air, and Lovely Tom gives Zoe a very awkward-looking, but extremely endearing hug.  In the taxi back to the house, Melody goes on about how awful Zoe was, and Lovely Tom looks like he wants to chuck her out the window.

Over on You're Fired, we learn that Zoe has had Cancer twice, and then she gets presented with a copy of 'Coffin Dodger' as her firing present.  Which is a little unfortunate.

Monday 4 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 8

I know, I know, I'm now 2 weeks behind, and you're all hanging in there, waiting, patiently, but getting a little bit less patient.  Don't think it's because I don't love you all (I do), or that I've gone off The Apprentice (I haven't) or even that it's not been worth mentioning (very much the opposite). No, I've just been quite busy, and then yesterday I got sick, and now it's Monday again and we'll have to do at least one episode or it'll be so far gone that you've never speak to me again.

Now, I have to point out that I've been in bed for most of today, with a Tummy Thing which also made me very very sleepy.  Concentration levels are low, and if I nod off in the middle of this, well, it's just because of how sick I am.  I will also have to take frequent breaks; best not to ask.

So, a fortnight ago, we had the Foreign Task.  You know, the one where they go over to Europe and yell at foreigners in funny accents?  Yes, that one.  The premise behind this one was that they were selling the 'Best of British' to les magasins de Paris.  And, apparently, the Best of British is a teapot on a string and a tangle of pipe cleaners that holds your mobile onto your car vent.  Now, given that Lord Shugagh tells us at the start of every episode that he's "not looking for bladdy salespeople", I'm not quite sure what we're meant to make of this task, but let's run with it anyway, because it's a good one.

Melody is immediately obnoxious, because she used to speak 6 languages, and has worked at the highest level, and other things we REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT.  Also 'used to'?  But then what happened? Oh, you taught yourself Italian and brought it up to 7?  I see.  I still don't care.

Everyone else speaks no French, or comedy French (petits pois, says Jim), so this should be good.  Team 1 is Lovely Tom, in charge of Leon, Natasher (yeah?) and Melody; Team 2 is Zoe, Helen, Jim and Susan, and they can choose their own leader.  Susan, as always, thinks this is right up her street, because sometimes she buys things; she does not, however know ANYTHING about France, at all.  Never been there, never spoken to French people, couldn't find the place on a map.  So they put her in charge, of course.

I'm scared for Lovely Tom.

Leon and Melody, and Jim and Helen are off on the recce to La France (Leon hoping someone, somewhere in the country will speak English, but mostly looking forward to breakfast).  The rest of them stay behind to decide what they're going to take to France to sell.  They key here is to know something about France, so Susan starts asking inane questions. "Do the French like their children?  Do a lot of people drive in France? Do the French breathe air?".

Susan and Zoe want to sell a booster seat / backback thing, and a beanbag / bed thing (I'd describe these, but you'd be none the wiser).  Lovely Tom also likes the booster seat, and a pop-up postcard with cress seeds in it, and the teapot light.  They phone ahead to the others in France, to get them to do market research.  Melody hates the booster seat, and sneers at lovely Tom, and says they're going to Paris, and not like, Manchester or some dirty place up north, and I REALLY CANNOT STAND HER.

I really do not want Lovely Tom to choose the postcards, because they're going to sell at about 10p each, and they're going to have to sell MILLIONS of them.  I want him to choose the booster seat, which has won "over 36 awards" (that'd be 37 then, I'm guessing).  He phones Leon and Melody to find out more about La Redoute, which they're pitching to tomorrow, and Melody looks all sceptical.  She then takes Leon into a train station and bulldozes about, asking people whether they'd rather buy a lovely teapot-shaped light, or a stupid booster seat.  Leon draws pictures of teapots, because he doesn't speak French.  Thankfully, when people say they'd much prefer the booster seat, she's able to tell Leon that they think it's a rubbish idea, because he has no clue at all.  So she phones Lovely Tom, and says that they all take trains in France, and no one drives there, so they won't buy the booster seat.  Jim and Susan, meanwhile, are doing actual market research, and everyone LOVES the booster seat.

Next step: phone around and try to get people to let them across their doorstep with this tat tomorrow.  Jim's calling a French woman:
Jim: "Hallo, 'Allo, parlez vous Anglais?"
French lady: "I can try"
Jim (in French accent): "Ah, excellant.  We 'ave two products, they are very populair in United Kingdom.  We could call tomorrow, demain, at 12 noon."
I mean, I know from experience that the Northern Irish accent doesn't always travel well, but really?  populair?

Meanwhile, Melody is using all her French-speaking skills: "Bonjour.  Parlez vous Anglais?", and then, when they say 'yes', talks in normal English, like a sane person (but I still don't like her).  Leon cannot join in, because he can't speak French, so Melody is doing all the work.

At the end of the day, the ones who stayed in Angleterre arrive with the products in tow.  On Team Susie, they see the products, like the products, and then go through the appointments which have been set up for tomorrow, and decide who will do what.  Much as I'm not a big fan of Susie, I have to concede that this is sensible.

Team Lovely Tom laugh at the teapot light, because it looks like a plastic teapot on a string.  Yeah, Melody, and YOU made them choose it.  They don't show the reaction to the cress postcards.  They also don't show them organising their pitches, because they're leaving that till the morning.  At which point they discover that Melody is keeping ALL the appointments she made.  She's not giving her appontments to ANYONE else.  Even though they were all busy doing other things, and she had been sent to Paris to make appointments for everybody.  For so many reasons, I want Lovely Tom to punch her in the face, but he doesn't.

There are a few clips of people going to high-end shops to sell pipecleaner mobile supports, and then we see Leon and Melody stuck in traffic.  Melody is whining because all the people yesterday said no one drives in France.  OH THE IRONY.  They go into a shop and sell some teapot lights.  Well, Melody does.  Leon does not, because he can't speak French.  Which is odd, because Melody is speaking English.

Natasher and Lovely Tom are playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who will pitch at La Redoute.  Please, for the love of Lovely Tom, never let this be mentioned again.  Natasher is wearing low-rise jeans, and we can see her tummy button.  This is La Redoute I have heard of them!  Natasher, spruce yourself up!  Seriously... oh... what's that?  Lovely Tom just offered to sell them 10 teapot lights?  La Redoute?  Isn't that like going to Asda and offering to sell them 3 apples?  Yes, yes it is.  Awkward.  Natasha ups it to 50 units, which is like an entire packet of apples.

Anyway, here come Helen and Susan.  Helen has done her research, and has bought from La Redoute before.  She does an impressive pitch, slapping down their objections in style, while Susan whitters about and sits on the childs' booster seat to show how comfy it is.  I like Helen.

I do not like Melody, who has taught Leon to say 'un... deux... trois' before he lifts the teapot out of the box.  So he can't speak French?  Well THAT is letting the funky music do the talking.  Lovely Tom is having less success, after Mean Melody refused to help him AT ALL and was mean to him, and now he has to make appointments all by himself.  He phones up a place, and, when they don't speak English, he gets in a panic and asks to speak to the Postcard Manager.  But at least he says it in French.  Really, really, poor French, but French, nonetheless.  Natasher (innit) tries next, and is no better.  This is not good.

Good news, though: Leon and Melody are stuck in another traffic jam (irony upon irony!), and decide that since they're going to be late for their appointment, they'll pretend they made it for Lovely Tom and Natasher, so they phone them up and tell them to get on with it.  I really dislike Melody.  Then they get there, and Natasher (innit, still wearing jeans), tells the guy to take a seat (in his own office), and then the guy growls at them because the teapot is an idea, not a concept.  In other news, Melody lets Leon have a go at selling lights, because she's nice like that.

And so to the boardroom.  We revisit Susan's stupid questions, and Helen sniggers at her.  Then we move to Team Lovely Tom, and Melody is horrible and irritating again.  She brings up the market research that she lied about.  Lord Shugagh calls the Champs Elysees the 'Champs Elysees'.  Like, literally.  We skirt past the Rock, Paper, Scissors incident, thankfully.

On sales, Team Lovely Tom have sold about £11,000 worth, while Team Susie have sold about £14,000.  Or maybe that was in Euro.  I'm not sure. La Redoute, however, bought about a million booster seats, which is over £200,000.  Let's hope they REALLY, REALLY liked the postcards.  Um, no.  Nor did they like the teapots.  Ooops.  So Lovely Tom has lost by, like, £200,000, and has at least achieved a boardroom record.

Team Susie get sent off to learn to fly.  I think Lovely Tom would have liked to learn to fly, and I am a little bit sad.  But mostly I'm kind of worried, for Lovely Tom.  What we need is some way to turn this all into Melody's fault, since it was, really.  But Melody is not having that.  She points to her market research, but she does not mention that she lied.  Lovely Tom has also not sold anything, so at least it is clear that he's not a bladdy salesperson.  He has that in his favour.

Back in the boardroom, Lovely Tom points out that Melody and Leon were feck useless at market research, and Nick backs him up that they didn't do what they were told.  Melody yacks a bit.  With every word, I like her less and less.  We are well into negative numbers with how much I like Melody.  Leon tries to defend his uselessness by saying he couldn't help at all because he couldn't speak French, and Melody was speaking in French the whole time, and he didn't notice that actually she was speaking in English.

Melody spends some more time subtracting from how much I like her.

Lovely Tom brings Leon and Melody back in.  Please let it be Melody who goes.  Please please please please please.  Or Leon. Or Nick.  Or Lord Shugagh or the lady who answers the phone or Karren, but please not Lovely Tom.  But also if someone could punch Melody in the face, I would also be quite happy.  I dislike how she makes me want to punch her.  We go through her awards, which include "Woman of the Future".  Oh help, oh please, oh for the love of Lovely Tom and all that is lovely, let this not be the future of women.

Unfortunately, Lord Shugagh seems to like Melody for being all obnoxious.  I hate this.  I really really hate this.  I don't want Lovely Tom to work with Lord Shugagh.  I do not want Lovely Tom to go over to the dark side, I want him all for myself.  I want Lord Shugagh to take Melody and go and be evil somewhere far away from me and Lovely Tom, who will frolick through meadows with the sun on our backs.

Then the Rock, Paper, Scissors comes up again, and I imagine my dream may be realised.  But then, curveball from Lord Shugagh, and Leon gets the boot for doing nothing at all, which is both reasonable and a relief.  This is a little bit sad, but at least we have a bit more of Lovely Tom to look forward to before he comes to find me.

At the house, Melody boasts about how Lord Shugagh read out all of her awards, and said how great they were, at which point they all start talking about how great Helen is.

Sunday 26 June 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Episode 7

I'm a bit behind, I know.  I can only apologise.  It's been a good (i.e. bad) couple of weeks with our friends the apprentices though, so do stay tuned.

So, week 7, and they're off to Fleet Street, but not before a shot of Leon putting on his socks, which are The Same As Mine!  How exciting.  They're from Next, in case you're interested.

Apparently The Big Thing at the moment is free premium magazines ('Freemiums'); personally I have never encountered these (you tend not to, when you never really leave the house), but it seems they're big in London and other Important Places.  The idea is that you produce a magazine and then people pay you to advertise in it.  So that's what they have to do this week.

Jim is put in charge of his lot (Zoe, Glenn and Susan), and Natasher (yeah?) is put in charge of her lot (Leon, Lovely Tom, Melody, and Helen).  They go to see a bloke who tells them that it's a good idea to have stuff in on time and to produce stuff people will actually read.  Glorious.

They have to start by identifying target markets.  Natasher (yeah?) is quick to decide that (yeah) a lads' mag is the way forward, innit, although the rest of them don't really like it, and the team consists of Lovely Tom, Leon, Melody and Helen.  I've seen more laddish WI flower arranging demonstrations.  They have a brainstorming session, with Lovely Tom on whiteboard duty.  He writes down their ideas: "fashion", "boobs", "women" and "nacked girls" [sic].  Bless.  They're all a bit worried that classy advertisers might not want to tout their wares opposite pictures of nacked girls, apart from Natasher (yeah, innit?) who screams that "porn sells".  Heh.  Yeah.  Sells more porn mags; and I heard that Mercedes-Benz are thinking of edging into that market.

Lovely Tom hauls the tone out of the gutter, suggesting that they focus on business and entrepeneurs.  "Does that translate into boring?" says Natasher.  No.  No, Natasher, it does not.

Team Jim opt for the over-60s market, which they know absolutely nothing about, at all, in any way.  Fortunately, they find a focus group they can ignore.  They go to a bowling club, and patronise a roomful of people who hate every single one of their ideas.  Mainly this is because their ideas are crap.  One guy says he reads The Economist; Susan asks if it would be good to have puzzles in there to aid his memory.  Susan annoys me.  Their ideas for names are also universally dreadful: they seem to be confusing the magazine with a cheap margarine. Vitalife. Joy. Radiance. Eternal.  The old people suggest 'Zimmer'.

Lovely Tom and Helen go to see a rugby team, who want their mag to be tasteful, and businessy, and classy, and to not involve boobs or nacked women at all.  Natasher's having none of it.  Helen suggests calling it 'Covered', and Lovely Tom agrees, and it's actually not at all bad.

Susan and Glenn are stunned at how their ideas for names are all very cliched, so they phone Jim and come up with some even worse ones.  Pension Mention. The Old Boot. Golden Oldie.  For The Old-Looking Young-Hearted.  Zoe saves the day with 'Hip Replacement'.  Susan hates it, not because it's hideous, but because it's a bit sensitive.  They're going to be all satirical, is the thing.

Leon and Natasher (innit) are doing all they can to drag Covered back into the gutter, with an article called "Blow your load", and cover photos of a woman in a bikini, carrying a surf board, and wearing a hard hat and Lovely Tom's glasses and jacket.  Over at Hip Replacement, some over-60s are giving each other piggy backs and doing star jumps, because it is clearly so ludicrous that anyone of that age can still stand up.  That's where the satire comes from, see.  Glenn choses the final image, which is of a lady in a cardigan and a man in a sensible jumper holding on to each other and smiling. Meanwhile, Jim is sucking every last ounce of satire and irony out of the thing, and they end up producing a booklet which would not be out of place in the leaflet rack of a GP Surgery.

Now the mags need some content.  'Cos otherwise they'd just be crap.

Melody and Natasher (yeah?) are out on the streets asking random strangers "How do you blow your load?", and not really getting any answers, because it's not 1991.  Jim's lot have come up with a ton of patronising drivel, including an article on how to make a phone call.  Do these people really not know anyone over the age of sixty?  Given that they are largely in their late 20's or early 30's, one assumes they have parents, or aunts and uncles, or friends of parents, or neighbours in the over-60's bracket.  Give my mum a magazine on how to make a phone call, and she'll beat you round the head with it and put the photos on Facebook.

Anyway, now that they've made their mags, they have to sell the advertising space.  Covered doesn't look too bad, but Hip Replacement is truly dreadful.  Still, Jim's not backing down on the price; he loves his mag, and the advertisers ain't getting in there for free.  Or cheap.  Or at any kind of reasonable price.  This is probably ok, though, since they all hate it anyway.  They don't so much despise the idea, as the actual execution.  But even the idea is probably ok only when placed next to the execution.

We do get to see some quality negotiation though.  Natasher (yeah?) wants to charge £2000 per page.  The advertising woman only wants to pay £1500.  So they agree that she'll pay £1500.  Then Jim goes in, and for some reason she's now prepared to pay £2000 per page, which he accepts without discussion.  In the final pitch, he does go for a bit of wheeler-dealer; the guy wants 50% off the price; Jim thinks this is 'bold'; the woman says they should give it to them free; we go back to the 50% idea.

Off to the boardroom for the results, which are largely that neither magazine was great, but that the nacked girls were less terrible than the threat of age-related orthopaedic surgery, so Team Natasher get sent off to go fencing, which I'm not sure is that much of a treat, and Lovely Tom nearly gets killed.

The concensus on Team Crapski is that it was all Jim's fault for not reducing the price, although Susan points out that it was ridiculous to aim for a market as foreign and unknown as senior citizens, and Jim blames Zoe for coming up with a rubbish name.  Which is not an argument he was using a couple of weeks ago, after the Every Dog farce.

The back-to-the-boardroom bit is a bit dull, with a lot of shouting at Susan for not being against their terrible idea loudly enough, and Lord Shugagh being all offended at the article about making a phone call, because even Nick the Dinosaur knows how to do that, and look how old he is.  Jim describes Susan as Bambi and 'a meek little mouse', and then proceeds to club her round the head with a baseball bat.  Not literally, although that would have been worth watching.

Nick seems to hate Jim,and  Karren's not that fond of him either. Susan thinks it's all very unfair because she said all sorts of wonderful things and no one seems to remember.  So Glenn gets fired for being an engineer, because that's always a good principle to use.

Thursday 16 June 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 6

Apologies for the delay in transmission; I have been doing Important Things like working and going on Outings.  But The Apprentice has been rumbling on, and it's time to get up to speed. After last week's dog's dinner, this week's task is a load of rubbish.  Heh.  Literally.  Or should that be litterally?  Ha! Aha ha ha ha ha!

Ahem.  *stands up and puts on serious voice*

It's a shame we've gone off Jim, because the episode opened with a pants shot; a fortnight ago we would have swooned, but we're past that now.  Anyway, it's off to a scrapyard (or 'waste transfer station', as we appear to be calling it these days), because this week's task is to get a ton of junk and then flog it.

Since there's hardly anyone left on Team Logic, we do another shuffle; Helen (has never lost a task) moves to Logic (has never won a task), so it now consists of Jim, Lovely Tom, Melody, Natasha (yeah, innit?) and Helen.  Team Mental, or whatever it's called, is made up of Leon, Glenn, Susan, Zoe and Scary Edna.  Helen and Zoe take charge, and they all wear hi-vis jackets and big boots, which looks ridiculous.

Now, it has to be said that this is not a straightforward task; you have to look at a pile of junk and figure out if someone might buy any of it. Do you charge the person because you're providing a service and taking it away?  Or are you really buying it off them, so you should pay them?  Anyway, such questions are beyond the scope of the programme, because otherwise mayhem might not ensue.  Suffice to say, it's one of those tasks which is so contrived as to be ludicrous, and any actual resemblance to anything you might ever do in real life is purely accidental, and slightly despised.

First we have to pick team leaders.  Chez Mental, Glenn and Leon seem to think they'd be best suited to lifting piles of rubble; Susan is all up for being project manager, then Zoe appoints herself and tells them all to shut up.  A La Tragic, Helen's the obvious choice, as she's the only one with any competence at all (apart from Lovely Tom, but no one listens to him, so he can't be in charge).

Glenn and Leon decide to target cafes, because they're well-known as being places which produce a lot of valuable re-sellable waste.  Jim and Lovely Tom, meanwhile, drive around the suburbs in a lorry with a megaphone, yelling at people to give them junk.  When this, surprisingly, fails, Lovely Tom tries to nick barbecues from people's front gardens.

Natasha, Helen and Melody are at a place that's been refurbished, and there's a ton of crap and some metal.  They have to decide how much they're going to charge the guys to take it all away; Helen comes up with the idea of not charging them, which is either very very stupid, or very very clever.  Of course, it all sounds good until afterwards, when they think about it.  As Natasha says, via interpretive dance, "The horse has left the station"; Melody responds "And now we're going to the next station", as if that explains it.  Zoe's lot go in, and fight over how much the stuff weighs, and whether they can sell it, and everything, basically.  They quote £150 to take it all away.  So Helen gets that job.

Jim and Leon wander round houses asking people if they have any spare radiators lying around, and generally, they don't.  They start raiding skips.

Helen and co are at an office, and again they're not charging, because they're getting a load of desks and chairs and stuff that they could probably actually sell.  Their strategy is risky, but at least when your quote is £0 you know where you stand.  Zoe, Melody and Susan are not so clued in.  They debate what to charge, and it becomes apparent that Susie thinks £150 is a better offer than £100, at which point they realise that she thinks they're giving him money for the stuff, and laugh at her.  Until, that is, he phones them up later, and says that he doesn't really want to pay them money to give them stuff.  And so, Susan is happy again.

Back at the house, Zoe cries, Edna huffs and puffs, and Susan just... is.  Glenn and Leon come back, and are all encouraging and promise to fix it, and I fancy them both a little bit, despite them not being Lovely Tom and me not really liking either of them that much before.

And so to the next morning.  Team Zoe are in a bit of a panic, but decide to focus on getting as much metal as they can, which is at least an Actual Plan.  Helen's lot are sorting through all the stuff they agreed to take yesterday, and have realised that one of the places is up two flights of stairs, which means much running about with heavy things.  There's  a lot of Chuckle Brothers-esque 'to me, to you', some shots of things falling off lorries, a bit of shouting, and a lot of people looking at a lot of piles of rubble.

Susan strikes some kind of deal for some copper cylinders, which seems quite good, but what would I know?  Jim negotiates with a builder to clear a garden; when he goes back to pick it up, the builder has (quite brilliantly) added a couple more skip loads of bricks, and they have a bit of a row.  Zoe's team do a great job of clearing a yard, and then try to get the guy to agree to pay them more than they originally stated, which I suppose is a nice try.

Back to the boardroom, and it's a tough one to call, mainly because nobody has the faintest idea what they're trying to do or how they should be doing it.  In the interview things they show before the boardroom actually starts, Melody (who is really starting to irritate me) says she was very excited that she got dirty yesterday, while Susan moans about how much she doesn't want to work with Zoe EVER AGAIN.

Everyone in the boardroom is in top form, and there's lots of banter.  They all tease Lovely Tom a bit because he hasn't won anything yet, and he smiles very endearingly.  Helen admits that not charging for taking stuff away might have been a mistake.  Then Zoe says she messed up the contract things and she's very sorry.  It's all getting a bit self-flagellating, until Scary Edna steps in and bigs up how great she was at phoning people.

The results are in: Zoe's lot made a profit of £706; Helen and Co made £712.  And Lovely Tom has won a task, and we all rejoice.  He's so excited, his glasses steam up a little bit.  I love lovely Tom.  They're all off to a spa, which is actually not an appalling treat.  As they float around, Lovely Tom asks endearingly "Is this what all the treats are like?".  Bless.

Over at Cafe Disaster, it's all "I gave 110%, I shouldn't be fired, he did nothing, it's not my fault".  Etc.

Back to the boardroom, and Zoe gets a pat on the back for having a go and for admitting she fecked it up.  Susan thinks it's all very unfair, and Edna claims credit for everything.  So the two of them get brought back in, and Glenn and Leon go back to the house. Nick seems to have some kind of grandfatherly affection for Susan, and points out that she actually seems to sometimes have a clue what's going on.  She and Zoe start a fight about who closed a deal or set up a phone call, or something.  Edna pitches in with how well she did.  She also points out how she took over on day two and made really good decisions and set up really good appointments.  It's a shame they didn't show us any of that.

So we move on to Edna's CV (we do not appear to be calling it a ray-zoo-may this year), and how great she is at everything.  She points out that she has an MBA.  This goes down so badly that she panics, and can do nothing but keep repeating it.

After the obligatory run-down of everyone's bad points, the finger is pointed, and Edna is the one who goes.  In the taxi, we hear a bit more about the MBA.

Meanwhile, in the other taxi, Susan is lecturing Zoe about how she should have done everything.  I imagine Susan goes on a bit.  I think I'd want to slap her.

Next time, we're making magazines.  Stay tuned, because it's Quite Good.  Not the magazines, they're crap, but the episode is good.