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.