Archives for the month of: May, 2012

Week 11 sees our candidates summoned to Burlington Arcade, apparently offering the finest in luxury retail, which is why I’ve never been there. They rendevouz with Lord Sugar who grumpily assignes them the task of creating an “affordable luxury” brand and prototype shop, then pitching the idea to industry experts. Ricky stands alone on Sterling, as though he’s the bouncer, so Tom is sent to join him. Adam is pressganged to be the Project Manager of Pheonix (comprising Jade and FlopsyNick).

Ricky thinks now is his time to lead, having lost twice, and Tom’s happy not to waste time arguing. Tom suggests the male grooming market, and Ricky, who loves “a bit of cosmetics” is sold. As Nick Hewer observes dryly, they both have the gelled quiffs to demonstrate “obvious personal interest”. This could be the start of a beautiful bromance. “What about the word ‘dapper’?” Tom ventures. “I like it!” Ricky gurgles contentedly. They brainstorm brand names, “Debonair, The Grooming Club?” (Tom), “Men’s Choice?” (Ricky)…”Nah, it sounds a bit like…” (A Gaymosexual Dating Site?) ..”Adult magazine” Tom angsts.

Adam doesn’t ponce about looking at markets and quickfires at his crew “Name? Identity? Logo? Packaging? Er… any ideas?” Nick likes the idea of hot chocolate, but they end up plumping for chocolate in general.

Poor Jade, whilst all the men suck in their guts and announce that it’s time to sort out the men from the boys, she’s like a forlorn Smurfette, still assertive, energetic and full of ideas, but banished to the 2 hours distant sweet factory by Adam in case her womanliness mess (“You know about chocolates, I’m sure you can come up with something” – translation “Get in the kitchen, love”).

FlopsyNick however becomes the long suffering adviser of a particularly thick, red-faced king. Like Blackadder doing a Hugh Grant impression. Adam gets creative: “How about Choco Lite? Or Choco Loco?” FlopsyNick cringes subserviantly before exploding “Stop stop stop! I think I have to remind you it’s meant to be luxury”. All Nick can offer himself is “Co Co Co?” or “Cho Cho Cho.”. “It sounds like a train” snorts Adam. “Yes” admits Nick, “but it’s a chocolate train.” Adam becomes very excited about “Chocolate Bar!” and flopsyNick starts hiding behind his fringe to escape. Mercifully Jade calls and offers the suggestion “Sweet thing”, which she thinks is cool and quirky, and I think sounds about as luxury as the BHS Christmas gift selection during the January sales. Adam predictably loves it. He and Nick pat each other on the back and go off to taste lots of sweets and chocolates, whilst Karren Brady winces at their failure to ask anything about the confectioners business plan. Adam’s especially taken with jelly sweets which clearly transport him back to a freckle faced Northern childhood, and, being told that they are “high end jellies” his face likes up like that kid off the old “Mad” Magazines.

Ricky chooses to be the exiled princess at the factory for Sterling, whilst curiously enough it fells to Tom to do all the market research, design and branding. He’s rather taken with the old skool appeal of a traditional barber’s chair at a salon and murmers happily about “heritage products” (like leeches?).

Yet again it’s off to the derelict spaces of East London (thanks Coalition) to do up the now sadly familiar pop up shops with the aid of an interior designer.

I like how Tom, who clearly has an eye for design (“I want heritage and tradition, so that’ll be charcoal grey and dark wood”), has no stomach for practically, and whines like Henry’s Cat having a vasectomy as he’s forced to actually paint the walls. “Are you used to manual labour?” laughs the designer bloke as Tom scowls at his paint covered hands.

Meanwhile Adam is waffling incoherently to his designer about having the walls in “baby blue” (yuk!) when mercifully Jade interrupts him asking what the final product will actually be (yes they haven’t sorted that out yet according to the edit). Adam insists on his jellies, despite flopsyNick’s misgivings (Adam “Jellies is the next big thing though!”). Nick still thinks there are too many products, confusing the brand but Adam insists “They will all tie in tomorrow. They’re all sweet” (so’s revenge, chastity and love mate but you’re not selling them). In case nobody realised, they’ve plumped for Jade’s “Sweet Heart” suggestion, and there’s a heart motif to the design. How very Clare’s Accessories.

Back at’kitchen Jade decides that if she’s going to incorporate the ghastly jellies, then she’s at least going to get legless, and suggests adding booze and calling them “Drunken Jellies”. Adam and Nick don’t like the idea. “Got any better advice, arsewipes” she asks (sort of), and for all Adam’s eye-rolling and FlopsyNick’s sensitive flinching, they don’t, so Jade gets the green light to play with booze, which makes her a smart lady in my school.

Tom and Ricky are much more sedate as they discuss facial routines and compete to out metrosex each other over the phone (Tom “Gentry?”, Ricky “New Tradition? Oh you don’t like that do you?” Tom “Modern Gentleman” Ricky “That’s it!!!!”. Ricky dips his non phone hand in a vat of Modern Gentleman moisturiser. “I can feel my hand getting more youthful” he grins, as his finger nails fall off and vestigal tails sprout from his knuckles.

The shops open and Flopsy Nick has decided that the buzzwords for the brand should be “Indulgence, Luxury, Ethical and Fun”, pissing off The International Law Enforcement Forum. In a stroke of crushing tedium he also decides that the product should be aimed at females from aged 15 to 80. Or all women, until they are dead.

Karren Brady decides to ask them about pricing. £2.99 insists Adam proudly. “No, £4.99” suggests Nick. “So what is your pricing strategy? £2.99 or £4.99?” Karren asks. “Yes” says Nick and Karren’s facial bullshit alarm explodes.

The Sterling bromance flourishes as Ricky loves Tom’s simple design for both the product and the store (which, with it’s empty shelves and one open cigar box looks like a looted Peruvian tobbacanists), and is taken with the idea of the barber demonstrating the products. It’s all a bit GQ at their dullest though.

Jade decides to liven up Pheonix’s shop by offering alcohol shots to go with the jellies. “Like a little cocktail” she slurs to Karren Brady’s complete lack of being impressed. So Nick welcomes customers in to a “full chocolate flavour” and then Jade confuses them by offering “Drunken jellies”. Not that they’re complaining. “Does anyone need a top up?” hiccups Jade. “YESS!!” screech her merry little band of loyal customers.

Lord Sugar decides to send in some industry expert spies so the teams have at least one customer. For Sterling he ends up being the guinea pig whilst Ricky demonstrates the products on him. If that included the shaving cream then thankfully ut wasn’t shown.

The industry spies think that Sterling’s “Modern Gentleman” are professional but dull, and they prefer the  colours and labelling and general warmth and atmosphere at Pheonix’s “Sweet Thing”. That’ll be the free booze.

Ricky and Tom sit up working on the pitch idea and although Tom admits that his packaging is a “big mistake”, Ricky suggests they talk about developing it by putting it into a box to suggest luxury, before they both go for some refreshing shuteye. Awwww.

Wilst Ricky and Tom fret about the pitch the next morning, over on Pheonix, Nick has hidden in the garden folly with his frosties to express his myriad concerns.

It’s pitch time and Sugar turns up with all his cronies for the spectacle.

“It’s crunch time written over everyone’s face” worries Adam, who seems ironically to have written the salient points of his pitch all over his hand.

Sterling go first and Ricky and Tom’s hours of good hard bonding have paid off as Ricky shows he’s done the market research. They’re asked about the indistinct packaging and manage to fend the query off by admitting that they think that the branding lacks distinctiveness, but they would be prepared to develop a box for the product that was more “synonymous with luxury”. Maybe with a crown and a gooses liver on it.

The eperts all decide that the idea of “retail tainment” (aghh!) was good, but they thought that the brand wasn’t very memorable or unique.

Next Pheonix pitch and Jade froths about “Our conceptual view” before handing over to Adam who appears to have developed a throat tummour and chokes through some lacklustre material about the product being “ideal for Christmas, errr (cough) birthdays, Easter and Valentines or hust erm a girly night in “whilst FlopsyNick glares at him.

Pheonix are quizzed about the impact of their “complimentary cocktail” on retail, and Jade suggests she wouldn’t give the drink away for free but would instead sell it on the cheap. She suddenly realises what she’s said… “Er yeah we’d obviously need licensing”. Oops!

Lord Alan points out that the prices are all to cock and the experts find the mixed messages too confusing (Nick “We are confectioers, not just chocolatiers”) and everyone agrees that though the chocolate (and booze) are delicious that Pheonix didn’t do as much homework as Sterling.

So come the boardroom Sugar suggests that Sterling’s “Modern Gentleman” was boring and that the minimalist look for the shop (which Tom takes responsibilty for) was rubbish.

Pheonix get flack from Karren Brady for Adam and FlopsyNick not bothering to discuss the business model with the chocolate shop, whilst she’s clearly rooting for the girl (Adam “I came up with nearly all the possible names”, Karren “Your ideas weren’t as good as Jade’s.. Choco Holster? Cho Cho Choc”. FlopsyNick does an enormous about face and finally acknowledges that the girl du good this week.

So Lord Sugar decslres Sterling the winner for being more professional (and nowhere near as shit) and sends to boys home to consolidate on thei business strategy. Or bum each other senseless. And he says there’s “No treat”.

Meanwhile Sterling get to reflect in the Cafe of Doom.  “Last time I was PM I lost” blushes Adam, “and this time. yeah I’m gutted again.”

Back in the boardroom and Adam’s blaming Jade for pricing. “Er was I?” she barks. “OK”. FlopsyNick explains that they somehow organically all decided to price themselves between the supermarket and luxury chocolatiers. Lord Sugar points out that they manged that way to be too pricy for the mass market and too cheap for the luxury end. “We went for affordable luxury” Adam misses the point.

Flopsy Nick finally points out that the main issue was due to “very little strategy”. “Nick Nick Nick”, Lord Sugar complains, channeling Jim Davidson “You’re the strategist”.

“Everyone mentions strategy when things go wrong” grips Adam , remembering Azhar.

Sugar’s just disappointed that the “mug’s eyeful” of the shop, which offered so much promise simply disintegrated when they started speaking, whereas Modern Gentlemen actually did their homework before the pitch.

“Where did it go wrong?” sighs Sugar. “It’s hard to say” Adam muses, “It was a really small team?” (against an even smaller one).

Nick and Jade sense it’s “Get Adam” time, Nick blaming the ginger Yorkshireman for “lack of any direction” and Jade pointing out “It would have been better if Adam had done the product” whilst she and Nick did marketing strategy.

Adam’s latent chauvenism in sidelining Jade to food preparation has not gone un-noticed, certainly not by Karren Brady, and he turns a brighter shade of scarlet (“I don’t think I would have said it quite like that”). However he still feels his “Thirteen years” market stall experience makes him more important than whatever it is Jade does (“I work in consumer data!”). Adam thinks Jade should be fired because she’s only good for “emotion” (!!!!) and marketing.

Damningly for FlopsyNick it transpires he used to run a shop selling “high quality ethical cofee”, so he’s criticised for not insisting on his posh hot chocolate idea and therefore focussing the brand. “I did try, but I failed” he stammers all Hugh Grant with rabbit eyes. “You didn’t try THAT hard” insists Karren firmly. Nick decides to join in the manly Jade bashing and accuses her of having no negotiation skills, whereupon she rightly points out that she built the relationship with the spa company that got them 8 grand and won them the last task.

Jade’s no flopsy wimp though and calls both the men out; “If you’re such leaders in business why didn’t you come up with any ideas?” Nice one love.

Ultimately though it’s Adam who’s fired (“It’s time to leave the process”) due to his “lack of shrewdness and awareness” (brain). He leaves the boardroom with a sheepish little smile playing round his chops and the Taxi of Doom returns an idiot to it’s village.

Tom and Rick, who should by now be giving each other little hand massages, agree that strategically they would prefer FlopsyNick to win (Jade of course doesn’t figure in their calculations), and they both give sad little groans when our favourite hairy posh boy bounces back in.

“When it came to who should get fired I said Jade” he announces slightly too enthusiastically. Jade tactfully rolls her eyes “Anyway it’s over now”

So THIS SUNDAY (set your klaxons) thankfully Sugar unleashes Claude, Margaret Mountford et al to grill the remaining four on their business plan. It’s a shame that some potentially better people (Duwayne, Katie) have missed out, and given the attitude towards her, I’m definitely siding with lovely husky champion of alcohol Jade.

But seriously: Jade, Ricky, Flopsy Nick and Tom have all demonstrated plus and minus points throughout the process, but the most interesting have proved to be Jade and Ricky, so much as I love Tom and would like him to teach me about wine and interior decor.

I’m not bothering with the list today as a result. Blame that brilliant programme about John Cooper Clarke that was on BBC 4 last night for the last minute shoddiness of this blog. If you’re readng this and didn’t watch that – get on iPlayer ASAP.

Week 10 treats us to the knowledge that even at 6am Ricky Martin in his vest and boxers and tattoo looks like a wrestler. Not quite “The Fitness” but certainly a Medium Sized Daddy . This isn’t a pretty morning for the candidates, as Jade trowels on mascara and Adam’s ruddy head pokes from the bed like a mewling newborn ginger ferret rat. Flopsy Nick is the only candidate looking vaguely cute, but as he seems to have dressed like a school boy (blue coat, red tie, all he’s missing is a little green cap and tan sandals) I can’t take him seriously.

This week they’re off to the city, and after last week’s emphatic card marking, Steven’s not prepared to lose and will use every cliché in the book to make this point (“I was on the edge of a cliff, one foot over the edge and got pulled back in. I’m gonna give it 110%”). They meet Lord Sugar on a predictably tall building overlooking London, flanked by a grimfaced Nick Hewer in a mac looking like something out of Smiley’s People.

This week the teams have to act as agents for Key Noir, a deal website, by going out and getting luxury establishments (restaurants, hotels etc.) to offer deals for people to buy and for employers to fob off their employees with in lieu of pay rises. The website will then choose the viable deals and run them on their site for 24 hours, after which time, the team which has taken the most money in sales wins.

Obviously Steven is automatically Project Manager for Sterling, leading Gabby and Ricky. Pheonix are told to “Sort it aht amongst yourself”, and Jade thinks she’s “the best person for the job” (Warning Klaxon!), and her team of Tom, Nick and Adam are only too happy to agree with her.

The teams get a pep talk from Graham the CEO of Key Noir, who empathises the “higher end” aspect of their website and tells them to always try to consider whether the discount on offer is “enough to attract a customer”.

Steven thinks he’s got it sorted (“It’s very simple… it’s all about negotiation and persuasion”) and thinks the secret is to get multiple deals from each location. And with that they’re out of the starting blocks like whippets on red bull as Steven’s trusted Man’o’War Ricky is sent off alone to a luxury restaurant, whilst Steven chooses to chaperone Gabby, because he’s a cheeky little bulgy eyed bastard who thinks “some things are a little beyond” her.

Jade’s still slow to start, but in this case she does seem to be doing some proper brainstorming and planning rather than banging her head repeatedly against a wall. Tom gets to show off about all the posh restaurants that he knows and how amazing they all are. Well done Tom.

The voiceover tells us Steven and Gabby are “making appointments on the move” which sound impressive until you realise they’re just sitting into a car shouting things at a phone cupped in Steven’s hands like they’re about to feed it to a horse. Gabby doesn’t even get to talk to people. First they go to see an evil money grabbing twat who amazingly also happens to be a cosmetic dentist with a nice line in “power whitening systems” that cost £475. Because people who buy high end discounted goods all have grubby teeth, Steven tries and fails to negotiate a 40% reductions, and gets a couple of deals with £100 off instead. I get a bit worried when it’s clear Gabby, not being allowed to negotiate by Steven, has been entrusted with the calculator, but she somehow manages to grasp this manly tool and get the sums right.

Steven wants Ricky to go far away. To Tring to be precise, which is like being sent to Coventry, but with more pre-1940s architecture. Having worked out that the travel alone will take an hour each way, Ricky’s not convinced. First he has to go to El Posho restaurant in London. Gabby goes all mumsy telling him not to forget to ask how long the period of discount will be. Ricky goes all “Oh mum!” as though she’s just wiped his face clean with her spittle (“I know all that… you don’t need to teach me how to suck eggs.”).

I love Ricky’s time at the restaurant (I think it’s Galvin at Windows) with the ever attentive Andre, who spots the TV camera and gives Ricky a long involved tour of his premises (“I must just show you the view”). Ricky starts to worry that they haven’t discussed business yet, and tries his best (“I know you’re pressed for time”), but Andre merely whisks him off to the kitchens (“I want to show you something else!”), as though Ricky is an old friend. In the kitchen Ricky gets offered the restaurant’s “Signature dish”, a plate of scallops (that old staple reality TV foodstuff) and does an “I’m really not sure…” face, before wolfing it down and trying to turn the talk tentatively to discount websites. “I want to show you something” Andre insists, dragging him off to look out of another bloody window and pouring him some wine. Eventually Ricky somehow manages to blurt out that he’d like to negotiate, but Fred (the manager known to many as being a lovely maitre d’ on “Service”), having got a virtual tour filmed for prime time BBC,  resolutely says “No. We never do discounts. We couldn’t even give you 10%”. He icily refuses to negotiate, and Ricky slumps off, a morning wasted and Tring looming ominously.

Meanwhile, Pheonix finally limp out of the office. Jade and FlopsyNick head towards Sanctuary (billed as an “exclusive female only spa” even though it makes me think of Quasimodo). Jade’s keen to pitch. “I would like to do it” ventures FlopsyNick, adding slyly “It’s very important isn’t it”. “I’m sure I’ll manage” insists Jade brusquely, rather than just hitting him with something like I’d be tempted to. It doesn’t seem to be going to well at first for Jade as Sanctuary insist they don’t do big discounts and she says she’s looking for 50% and they look at her like she’s just farted and followed through in one of their jacuzzis. Nick keeps darting nervous little looks between Jade and the snooty Sanctuary ladies. Looks that say “Please let me speak and I will save this pitch with my boyish charm” and “I’m so sorry about her. I had to give her a go. We’re not all shit on this team, honest” alternately. Despite all this, Jade’s persistence gets them a 50% off deal on some sort of unspeakable pamper package from Sanctuary and FlopsyNick looks a bit shocked and sheepish and like he’d quite like to go to chess club after school.

Tom continues in his sentimental education of Adam, this time taking him to another posh restaurant, where Adam gets to try another signature dish (Scallops, natch) without asking for ketchup. Tom’s not very good at pushing for big discounts as he’s too keen for the restauranteers to see him as a man of taste and distinction, so he fails to get 50%, but they offer 35%. Adam doesn’t give a monkeys what they think of him and asks if they can chuck in free “teas and coffee” as though he’s in a greasy spoon. Bless him. Everyone looks at him as though he’s suddenly started sticking scallops into his anus, but his unflinching insistence on joyous post meal mugs of beverage eventually breaks them and they agree.

“I don’t want to go to Tring” insists Ricky, like a Home Counties Elvis Costello. Steven is convinced there are more potential deals at the Hertfordshire Health Spa, and as he agrees to “put his neck on the line 110%” Ricky agrees to go, muttering “It’s illogical Captain”. Gabby finally chips in “He needs to come out with more than one deal” and Steven, put out at a slightly flaky creative woman calling him out on a decision, completely panics, working out that it would take too long for Ricky to go. He calls Ricky and asks him to go to restaurants in London instead.

Jade tries some cold calling from the car. “Hello is that Thai massage” she rasps, getting a strange cacophony of noise in response to her mentioning “discounts” before the line goes dead. “I think that was a whore house” she chuckles. We all did, Jade.

Adam’s stumped on luxury idea (“It’s not going 10 pin bowling with your mates”) and Tom seems too quiet to contribute. “Takeways?” suggests Adam. “It’s not exactly high end” Tom advises before plucking up the courage to offer “Hairdressers?” “Nah!” harrumphs Adam manfully.

Gabby’s convinced Steven that a “Fish spa” represents high end luxury, even though all the ones I’ve ever seen are now closed down and the small shabby room that they end up in contains only a red seat that Steven sits on as he plunges his feet into a small goldfish tank for the tiny shoal-ette of chubby fish to chow on, making Karen Brady gag. Gabby manages to get 3 offers of 50% off, but Karen’s not convinced it’s luxury enough for the website.

At St Pancras (again!) Jade and Nick sit with Marcus Webb at his posh restaurant. Jade’s after a “magical experience” discount package (“2 course meal and a glass of bubbly”), but Webb’s not helping them. “Show me in numbers” he insists and Jade can’t use the calculator. Nick has a go but only succeeds in offering Webb some SHELLOIL and BOOBIES, which, tempting though they are, don’t make up for their unprofessional approach. Webb gives them 5 minutes to find some intelligence and accuracy. Because every chef who isn’t Michel Roux Jr has to make up for this by being all spiky and impatient and making cooking look less fun than it is.

Meanwhile Ricky goes to Rhodes and gets them on-side for a 50% discount for one day. They’re even asking him how many discounts they should go for. And Ricky says he doesn’t want to go for too many even though that’s what he should be saying. So why not say “SHIT LOADS” you suddenly polite eedjit? Instead he takes 100 for both lunch and the set menu.

Finally Nick has done the hard sums and he shows his homework to Marcus Webb (“You should have said that earlier”) who agrees on 30% off dinner for two.

Nick Hewer pops up, like a tramp shouting “Nobody ever goes near the old Henrikson’s place. Not since the tragedy…” in a Horror movie, to point out that the teams are running out of time (“The deadline’s rushing towards them like a steam train at 100mph and they don’t look up and see it coming”. However Ricky still manages to close another restaurant deal AND get to eat another plate of scallops (“Our signature dish.. on the house”), this time with an almost rueful grin.

Steven and Gabby run around like headless chickens looking for the shittest experiences imaginable in the hope that wealthy perverts will get their jollies by buying them and then not showing up. Next is a tatty “golf experience” (hitting balls at a green screen) for posh people who have to avoid golf courses due to hay fever or an allergy to ugly clothes. They manage to get some discounts though. Woohoo.

Tom and Adam are still struggling, but as the deadline honks it horn they rush into a perfume shop, and Adam, who had snortingly dismissed hairdressers has to pitch blind to the bemused retailers of scent. “Do you know our shop?” they ask him, and I’m not sure if Adam is being honest or just trying not to look effeminate when he admits that “Tom’s a lot more familiar, his girlfriend shops there”. For some bizarre reason they go for a deal on a candle set. Tom gives his best embarrassed smile (which makes me forgive him for being so rubbish of late), “We’d need to sign the contract in the next 4 minutes, I don’t want to put that sort of pressure on you”. I wonder if they fall for it.

Steve’s eyes are bulging like a surprised thyroid problem. “I feel a bit of pressure, I’ll be honest with you Ricky” he blubbers over the phone. Ricky talks him down (“We have some good deals”).

The teams hand in their discounts (6 deals on Pheonix, 9 deals for Sterling) for 7pm, so the Key Noir bods can laugh at them for a bit then choose what to run on the website. Deals go live at midnight for 24 hours and then it’s boardroom time. Can the candidates really be deprived of internet and phone access for so long (so they don’t tell their mates to order or plug the discounts)? It’s making me itchy just thinking about it.

Steven already looks a beaten man as they wait outside the boardroom and Jade looks him up and down and licks her lips like a husky lioness.

In the boardroom, Ricky quickly grasses Steven up for buckling under pressure, but Lord Sugar’s more peeved by Ricky’s time wasted at Galvin at Windows (“Would you be interested? Yes or No!? BOSH!” barks Lord Sugar, “I made a bad assumption” Ricky confesses). However everyone gets brownie points for making multiple deals at each location.

Pheonix didn’t go for multiple deals as that’s how Jade roles (“We needed quality rather than quantity” – actually both would be nice) so Sugar doesn’t give them a gold star even though they managed a deal with everyone they saw (good planning?). They also get some flack for fucking up their sums in front of an irritable chef. Tom’s deals (35% at the posh French restaurant, 50% off the candle sets) are rightly mocked (Sugar “It’s gotta be a bladdy good candle”). Sensing a potential firing Tom gets in a jab at Jade for not communicating with her subteam. Oh Tom, your wimpishness is not unexpected but it still disappoints me.

We find out what deals the website accepted

Pheonix – of 6 deals only 2 were accepted. Oh dear.

Sterling – of 9 deals only 3 were accepted. Ah. I think this may be the usual completely predictable “surprise result” already.

The sales results come in.

For Sterling

Steven and Gabby only managed to get the “golf for the friendless” experience online which sold 7 units making £350

Ricky’s dinner deals sold out and 90 lunches sold making £6090

So Sterling made £6440

For Pheonix

Tom and Adam managed to get no deals at all onto the website. Losers!

Jade & Flopsy’s Marcus Webb lunch deal made £5950

However the Sanctuary deal (of course) made £8613

So Pheonix made £14563

I guess that means Pheonix won. Steven’s already starting to look sweaty and twitchy (more than usual). Pheonix get sent off to posh afternoon tea, and right after I suggest that Adam could get a deal on it he makes the same joke. “I really love winning” growls Jade happily. The boys all should admit that it’s down to her that they didn’t lose, but they just drink their expensive tea and eat truffle butties triumphantly instead.

In Bridge Café the tea’s cheap, but it doesn’t console Sterling. Steven thinks the answer is that they “didn’t sell enough” (no shit!) before his eyes dart around for somebody to blame. Oh surprise it’s Gabby.

I don’t know why Steven just doesn’t get automatically fired given Sugar’s threat last week. However Ricky gets a verbal spanking for limiting the dinner deals (which sold out) when he was effectively given a blank checque by the restaurant (Sugar “sickening”).

Steven gets stick for his rubbish non luxury choices, but surprisingly the Health Spa in Tring would have been a good er ting as Sugar reckons it’s famous. (Oh it’s Champneys – I have heard of it, but I never knew it was in Tring). Steven insists he was prepared to take the risk of losing Ricky for three hours, so um why did you change your mind Steven? He then blames Gabby and Ricky for talking him out of it, but Sugar rightly asks “If you felt that strongly about it why didn’t you go?” Steven argues that he and Gabby knew London better than Ricky (as though the pointy haired wrestler is some sort of bumpkin), but Sugar points out it didn’t particularly show as the team of two did sod all compared to Ricky the Hick.

Gabby holds up her hands to the fish spa (and hence has no unsightly dry skin), but Karen Brady intervenes to say Steven and Gabby were both as shit as each other. Sugar muses that it’s the fourth time that Ricky has been in the final three (erm that’s because there’s only three people left). “If there were three of me, we’d beat the other team” Ricky insists modestly, adding that Steven was “cracking”. That makes Steven crack and he throws all his best random sequences of power words at Ricky (“I’m gonna put something out… ” before getting flustered by Ricky’s refusal to allow him to interrupt. “You’re talking none stop” gasps Steven after trying to talk over Ricky none stop. “May I actually speak then?” he asks. “No you may not” Ricky counters politely and I start liking Ricky a little bit.

Steven knows he’s toast, so he starts trying to blame Gabby, but she comes out fighting “Maybe I’m not as articulate as the other two boys, but I’m a better all round candidate and have sold things which I don’t do day to day”, adding that “Steve lost the plot”.

Steven can’t help himself and goes into full on patronising mode. Maybe he can get a job advertising Cillit Bang when all of this blows over. “This is the most passionate..” he starts, adding “I like it” as though he’s James Bond telling a woman she’s beautiful when she’s angry before slapping her and shagging her, “ have been in the whole process.” he states. Gabby, who is very sweet and scatty, refrains from hitting him with a chair and merely looks as though she would like to be a million miles away from him right now.

It’s time for everyone to argue their cases for being there. Ricky thinks he’s “Fantastic at everything” and even owns up to his mistakes fantastically. Gabby’s accused of being a nice girl (ouch) and losing her fight. “I do have fight” Gabby says proudly, and Steven immediately starts trying to interrupt. “Can you let me FINISH please?!” Gabby squeaks, but Steven can’t stop belittling her (“I think you performed to your capability”) and eventually Ricky Martin is moved to intervene, quietly yet potently (“Can you stop being so condescending. Let her speak”) and I decide that I very much like this Ricky Martin but don’t like the business one (and I’m completely unmoved by the Latino pop sensation one).

Still despite Sugar noting Steven’s “air of panic” he fires Gabby for being a nice person, and not contributing much.

Steven starts to relax in his chair, having gotten away with it. Lord Sugar gives him just enough time to get really smug and then fires him too, for losing.Steven deflates and looks like a sad thyroid problem Iain Lee.

In the Taxi of Eternal Regret, Gabby is lovely, with no regrets, just a positive wish to show people “behind the smile there is a brain”. I hope someone employs her as a designer as that’s definitely where her strengths lie.

When the Taxi returns to get Steve he just moans that he wishes he’s sent Ricky to Tring.

There’s a point where I almost think Sugar will fire Ricky too, which would be cool, having the other candidates wait around for hours and then nobody come back, but he just gets a final card marking (“It’s the last time I’ll be telling you to get back to the house”). Ricky returns and proves the incredulous housemates that he is alone and yes Steven has gone. Jade puts up bunting.

Next week the candidates have to develop an affordable luxury range (what the fuck? That’s like trying to develop a John Steinback novel with a happy ending, or a trustworthy cabinet minister).

Anyhow as the final looms (and there had better be bloody interviews!), here’s my fickle like-list.

Liking: Jade

Warming to a lot: Ricky

Disappointed by: Tom, FlopsyNick (I was clearly blinded to their nesh ways by their relative beauty)

Refusing to like: Adam

Bye bye: Steven, Gabby, Jenna, Laura, Azhar, Katie, Duane, Jane, Michael, Maria, Bilyana

Week 9 slaps us in the face with a 5.45am shot of Steve in his bathrobe, taking the call to assemble at St Pancras International Champagne Bar (the longest champagne bar in Europe, enabling thirsty commuters to be ignored by unmotivated bar-staff by record breaking distances . Yet again any candidates hopes of being allowed to leave the country are dashed as Lord Sugar (I’m calling him LudSugar from now on. It won’t catch on, but it’s quicker to type, hope that’s liveable with) sets them the task to brand English Sparkling Wine so every thinks it’s much better than Champagne and we don’t end up importing so much of that French fizzy rubbish every year (apparently 35 million bottles). The teams have to design a website and an online marketing campaign then pitch to industry expert. Best one arbitrarily chosen wins.

First the lop-sided Pheonix (Adam, Jade & Tom) get to pick a member of Sterling to even up the teams. Adam goes all school football captain and picks flopsy Nick, confident that he has the finest website and hair-flicking skills of them all. It’s taken for granted that wine merchant Tom will lead the team and Nick will do all the online stuff.

Over on Sterling; Jenna puts herself forward as Project Manager. Ricky does too. As does Gabby (who’s done websites). And Stephen (“I am SO motivated”). “Shall we have a vote on it?” suggests Jenna our resident maths expert. D’oh! Ricky somehow wins most votes as he does a rousing 300 style “Spartans! We may be few in number and lack a wine merchant and a website expert with flopsy hair. But prepare for glory anyhow!” speech.

First of all Adam needs to clarify an important point with Tom. “Is Sparkling Wine nothing to do with champagne then?” he queries uncertainly. Tom of course is keen to share his vast knowledge and informs Adam that there are in fact many brands of sparkling wine from different regions, one of which is called Champagne. Adam flushes with happiness. “I get it! Brilliant!” Enjoying his role as wine guru, Tom takes his ruddy faced young acolyte on an apparently pointless wine-tasting tour (where a scary gruff man instructs them on how to taste wine) so that they can say things like “I’m getting notes of vanilla; that will be the French oak” (Tom) and “I can taste a tangy flavour like Granny Smiths” and “Can you smell Christmas cake?” (not Tom) and get steadily pissed. Meanwhile Jade and Nick have to do all the boring designing websites and not getting shitfaced work. As Tom and Adam lurch from a focus group/ tasting session where Tom “taught” a roomful of people how to drink wine, Tom declares “I’ve really enjoyed myself today.. we’ve really got to grips with the English win sparkle sorry English Sparkling Wine.. tee hee!”. Adam merely belches in agreement and they both agree that they’ll definitely win the task as they are in fact brothers.

Stephen’s eyes bulge from their sockets with creativity as he self brainstorms words as his sub-team-mate Gabby looks on incredulously. “I’m looking for one word that will represent English Sparkling Wine” he declares, before suggesting “cert” or the quintessentially English “grandeur”. Finally he comes up with the Father Ted-esque “chink”, and Gabby can’t hold her laughter in any longer. Stephen really is proving himself to be a prize donut as they then go to Tescos to research colours, designs and names for the website and branding (which is their job), and he starts snappily insisting that he speaks to a sales adviser about English Sparkling Wine (which is not their job). “Are you happy to leave here without seeing an English sparkling wine” he huffs at her. “Yes” she exclaims firmly. Back at their media hideout, Gabby designs a halfway decent logo (a wine glass in the shape of an English rose ), which I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone actually using.

Sterling’s other sub-team, Ricky and Jenna meet grape growers to ask them how they can bullshit about wine. The word heritage is important, but quality is so important that the plummy English grape grower lady has to say it three times in a row in that way people do when they think it will magically make something true (think Tony Blair). Ricky actually hates wine (he’s definitely more of a WKD man), but as he seems this as a pure marketing task he thinks it doesn’t matter as he reckons “Tom will do too much talking to prove he knows so much about wine”. Fair point.

Ricky plans the video shoot for the online advert. He wants a wedding reception to be shown to emphasise the point that you don’t always have to buy Champagne for these occasions. He and Jenna choose props in advance, although Ricky wrinkles his nose at a lavish throne that Jenna selects. Ricky thinks the Beckhams might have got away with thrones (they didn’t), but nobody else would without it being really cheesy. “When I get married I want a throne” Jenna giggles. Ricky then puts Jenna in charge of the video shoot, insisting that it must represent quality, and although there can be humour, it cannot be gimmicky or cheesy (sparkling wine and cheese don’t mix. You should aim to be fishy) . Yes that’s the Jenna who’s sitting in a throne pretending to sip wine and looking happy as Larry. Good luck with that one. The next day Jenna and Stephen arrive at Kenwood House for the shoot, and Steve contributes the half decent line “Less fizz, more sparkle”. Ricky’s sure that by organising the props in advance that even Jenna and Stephen can’t screw this one up. Cue a clip of the old boy playing father of the bride declaring woodenly “And finally our glasses are charged with a fine English sparking wine! Less fizz and more sparkle!”. Subtle like.

Tom also wants “quality” in his video, and he sends Adam and Jade (who really doesn’t like working with Adam on creative tasks) to capture this elusive er quality in an East London Gastro Pub where a group of diverse thirty something actors unite at a fake dinner party to celebrate the end of their careers. Now Adam’s learned how to drink wine, his role is to tell everybody else how to do it (“I’m not patronising everyone by any means”) and he insists to “choreographing” them, down to how high up the stems they hold their glass. Next he’s telling the make-up lady what to do (“Just touch everyone up a bit”). Jade rolls her eyes and growls “he can pretend he’s in charge and I will make sure the vision happens”. “Do you even know what choreography means?” Jade mocks him as the shoot ends. “I know! It’s having people in the right places and stuff.. it does mean that.. I checked with people” Adam insists, and to be fair he’s partially right, although I’m not sure he knows why.

There’s a suggestion that Pheonix have seriously misunderstood the brief when Tom advises Nick to add links to suppliers websites, and Karen Brady observes “They seem to have designed a website for existing users. They should be attracting new customers”. They also seem to have come up with a logo (some grapes with ESW on it). Exhausted by doing this much work without sustaining alcohol to help him, Tom falls asleep in the car home after the admittedly dull advert screening of “Holly oaks mums and dads go out for some English Sparkling Wine and nobody learns anything about themselves”.

At 7pm, Steve and Jenna finish their ad shoot (Jenna “Let’s hope it’s a win or it’s on my neck”) and Gabby and Ricky join them for a viewing. Ricky looks especially perturbed as a simple tale unfolds of an unconvincing posh bridezilla offered champagne (“Ugh! It’s a horrible! I want English Sparkling wine”) before gagging and collapsing (“She obviously needs English Sparkling Wine”). Stephen is all gurning grins and high fives as Ricky ventures “It’s a lot cheesier than expected” but Steve insists that it’s classy.

It’s pitch time and Ricky Martin wants to take us on a journey. One in which he says the word “heritage” a lot, and the word quality is said three times in a row just to prove how true it is. It’s all going quite well for them with the Anglo-vinophiles as they scroll through the website (in colours of “gold, black and white which are synonymous with luxury”.) with it’s free prize quiz which collects potential customers email addresses for their database and English Rose logo. They even think “Less fizz, more sparkle” has mileage as a slogan. So now it’s time for the thirty second video, which they watch with increasing bemusement until the last, killer line (“English Sparkling Wine. Oozing luxury with every pour” (oozing pores. Nice imagery, Stephen). It does seem to have livened them up a bit. In fact the oldest wine expert bloke is positively livid. “Why is it necessary to make it so flippant?” he demands, oozing rage with every pore like Roger Scruton looking at a picture of a living fox. “Could you find a Champagne website which would portray itself in that way?”

Pheonix go subtle to the point of invisibility apart from their idea of displaying the ESW logo on the neck of bottles (which I think is actually quite natty, apart from you need to make people aware that that’s a good sign too). Even the wine buffs are bored by the video and ask what’s specifically English about it. Adam defends it patriotically “The people were very English, the setting was very English, the occasion was very English”(they weren’t watching football or fighting though. Heritage fail!). Nick shows off his natty link to stockists via the website, but the wine experts point out a problem with getting stockists to interact. “They can just call up if it’s not up to date” ventures Tom, missing the picky wine man’s point that “it’s potentially more annoying to the customers if things aren’t up to date”.

We get treated to a montage of the wine experts opinions designed to make us think that Sterling have this one in the bag as Pheonix didn’t deliver according to the brief and then it’s Boardroom time.

Tom’s backed by the rest of Pheonix despite him going off on a wine jolly on day 1. Nick’s proud of all the pretty pictures on his website (LudSugar: “It’s a field”), but along with the video LudAlan finds it all a bit “” and suggests it seems more like a sales pitch than awareness raising.

Over to Sterling and Ricky says he saw it as an online marketing campaign, suggesting that given the teams skill sets that on paper it seemed like “David versus Goliath, but David always wins” (Tom laughs at this, but to be fair he’s probably still pissed. Sterling failed to come up with an overall name for ESW oh sorry English Sparkling Wine, and Stephen’s “grandeur” only ended up on the bottle label in the advert due to what Ricky describes as its “French connotations” (Nick Hewer “It’s a French word”). Sugar quite likes Gabby’s English rose logo too, although again it all falls apart with the video screening (Sugar: “This is a serious product, where’s the quality in that?”). “Our passion can overcome our lack of expertise” insists Stephen emptily and you just know he’s a crap shag.

Anyhow without actual numbers it’s all down to how LudSugar interprets the feedback from the industry experts and although they thought Pheonix missed the point and were boring, he’s convinced that Sterling’s advert was so unforgivably shit that they must be punished. So Pheonix get to win by default and are sent to a London rooftop Jacuzzi to soak in bubbles whilst inhaling smog (the only one I can think of is on top of the backpackers hostel on Borough High Street. I’m so classy. But I do drink champagne). Anyhow Tom feels fantastic to have won (by sheer luck) and gloats in the Jacuzzi about “More Fizz Less Sparkle”. Oh dear, it’s all going to his head and that’s going to make him a bit of a tit.

In the Bridge (of sighs) café, Ricky’s upset at being beat by a boring campaign. Jenna insists that everyone agreed that humour was acceptable and even Stephen states “I’m as accountable as anyone on that video”.

Back in the boardroom and Sugar still can’t get over the cheese factor “I didn’t want “Carry on Boozing”. I was expecting Kenneth Williams to pop up going “oooh! Maître d!””. Jenna’s in trouble for telling Ricky it wasn’t cheesy and she admits she “went for a bit of comedy” but it may have backfired. Nick Hewer, ever the force for justice reminds her that “Stephen was actually with you” and predictably Stephen starts talking his way out of the picture, telling Jenna “Maybe you had a bad day at the office and made a mistake and bad decisions”. Sugar’s not buying it “What about you? Didn’t you make decisions?”. Stephen ignores this and next starts suggesting that Gabby lacked contribution, which even Ricky has to refute given her design skills and the fact she did what he wanted her to.

I’m loving Gabby as she actually sticks the knife right back into Stephen by relating the story of him looking for a wine connoisseur in the supermarket when they only went in to look at the colours on the bottles. Stephen, knowing he’s beaten on this front then pats Gabby on the head for her “very good” logo. What a tool.

Uncontroversially Ricky brings back Jenna and Stephen, with Nick Hewer championing Jenna with faint praise (“She’s a good sport who tries terribly hard”) and Karen pointing out that given Stephen’s “articulate” (an incoherent buggle eyed babbler) in the boardroom, that he should have been able to step in and help Jenna out when she was going wrong with the video.

Anyhow the three are called back before LudSugar and Ricky’s asked what his aspiration for the video was other than it not to be like a bad episode of Midsomer Murders. He explains that his idea of humour was the bride refusing champagne and preferring English Sparkling Wine. Nick Hewer backs him, having written down that “Ricky pushed for quality and not gimmicks or cheese” (I like them reading the notes, it makes the boardroom a bit like the Leveson inquiry). Ricky finally susses that Stephen “let her run with her idea with no input” (Stephen “Is it my job?”).

Each of the contestants has to try to save themselves and although Jenna speaks sense I think her accent may doom her. Stephen insists that having never been in the final 3 before and because he’s been such a WINNER he would definitely win if he was Project Manager again. “Definitely?” muses Sugar. “I’d put anything I have on me right now on that” Stephen gambles. So that’s one shiny suit LudSugar stands to win.

It’s summing up time, and as much as I dislike Ricky, he gets an unfair beasting as Lord Sugar accuses him of a defeatist attitude towards the skill set of the other team which lead to “bad project management”. I must have missed that bit. Ricky’s also blamed for not going along to supervise the filming, but predictably and with an almost “with regret”, Jenna is fired “despite your hard work”.

Stephen’s card is double stamped with the word “Twat” and Sugar tells our bulgy eyed anti-hero “You are this close to going outside that door… But you did say give me a chance… so you are going to be the Project Manager next and I expect you to win even though you don’t know what the task is”.

Poor Jenna thinks that LudSugar missed out, but she’s even more “determined to go it alerrrrrn”

Back in the house whilst most people think Ricky or Jenna will go, Gabby thinks Stephen “has nothing left to back himself up”. I’m liking Gabby again. She may sometimes seem like she’s on drugs, but she’s pretty astute tonight. Ricky and Stephen return, and Gabby can’t hide her sad face as Stephen finds yet another way to dishonestly aggrandize himself “I made a bet to Lord Sugar… and he took it”. I can only hope they’ve got something pretty good on this prat that they’re saving for the interviews round.

Liking: Nick, Gabby (surely one of these has won?)

Liking with reservations: Tom, Jade

Disliking: Adam, Ricky

Really fucking hating: Stephen

Bye bye: Jenna, Laura, Azhar, Katie, Duane, Jane, Michael, Maria, Bilyana

It was the message on Twitter and curiosity that bought me out to Colchester’s Lion Walk on a drizzly Thursday afternoon. “X Factor mobile auditions in Lion Walk finish at 2.30pm”. Well I thought I’d better give it a look. I had a cheque to pay in at the bank and some Funny Farm posters to put up. It certainly wasn’t a dream and I hadn’t spent hours rehearsing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush, tennis racket or personal massager. In fact I hadn’t really figured out what I was going to sing. Not that it mattered, I knew I didn’t have a chance after all I have a voice that’s good enough for pantomime (“a strong singing voice” no less), but hardly superstar material. I’d also woken up feeling grotty and full of cold with a swollen face and a coldsore. Nice. Additionally, since I’ve quit smoking for some reason my voice has sounded like Tom Waits with TB gargling Calgon. Plus I’m 40, short and fat.

Lion Walk looked quite ghostly given the circumstances when I arrived to have a nosey. Two ominous black tents sat in the space outside the church, with a queue snaking around the little wall, but ending after only about 20 metres at most.

The hordes assemble for the X Factor audition. Colchester 1.30pm

It soon became clear that most people were simply rubber necking, although a few like me were dithering over whether to take part and wondering where the actual queue started. Some people were just your typical flotsam that float round Lion Walk on any given weekday afternoon. And then there were your obvious contenders, pimply youths, with low trousers, warbling like adolescent songbirds, gorgeous teenage divas preening each other, smackheads. Eventually I snuck round to what appeared to be a queue and lounged casually at the end. I didn’t have to take part after all. I wondered idly what criteria was on the producers bit of paper making the whole concept of auditions a technical sham once they ticked it off. Would it be bubbly Essex girl, or drop dead gorgeous blonde teenager. At that moment a producer ambled over and gave a drop dead gorgous blonde teenage girl a wristband before leading her over the wall and into the tent. Her friends gasped excitedly “She hadn’t even come along to sing!”

“Is this the queue?” a breathy wide-eyed middle aged brunette asked. “Yes” came the chorus in front of me. Then an X-Factor lackey with a clip board and a strip of plain wristbands (every expense spared). He eyed me and my middle-aged queue-mate dubiously after giving young girls ahead of us brown paper bracelets. “Do you want wristbands?” “Do you not want me to?” I asked curiously, but no it was fine and I soon wore my bangle of shame with pride which apparently guaranteed that we would be auditioned as we were in the queue before 2.30pm.

Behold! The power amulet of the mighty Sycos. I promised never to take it off. I lied.

We all ended up chatting and I hoped nobody would notice my sneaky attempts to do vocal exercises whilst passing it off as a coughing fit. Middle aged brunette was Lena who introduced herself as a funeral singer (she also does weddings, you can probably get a special deal on the double) and busy housewife. In front of me sat nervously on the wall trying to learn the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” from a rapidly dying iPhone was Heidi, a bag of nerves in her 30s who had forgotten to arrange for her kids to be picked up, forgotten her umbrella, forgotten to eat and forgotten any money to buy some with. I gave her £2 to go to Danny’s Bakers which we were standing outside (she agreed to pay me back with interest if she want through. She didn’t get through so the cow now owes me. Just kidding Heidi) and we all advised her to avoid anything too stodgy and cheesy.

Heidi. Smiling prior to her ritual humiliation.

Heidi came back from the bakers with an ice cream and a bag of chipsticks. I’m not sure whether all the greats actually swear by this combo to help the voice (Pavorotti could have) but it seemed a bit insane. And where was my change. As I held my umbrella over her she ate what wasn’t dripping everywhere from the icecream (until Danny the baker took pity on her and ran out with a napkin) then she borrowed my pen and paper to transcribe her lyrics onto paper before her phone finally gave up the ghost.Paul the sweetly crazy Colcestrian busker (he’s usually by Sainsburys or in Lion Walk putting his heart and soul into gently murdering music) passed by and I tried to encourage him to audition, but he was a bit put off by the idea of queuing. Not so crazy then. Every so often someone got a yellow bit of card meaning they would be called for a second unaccompanied audition. When they did there was a frenzied whooping and squealing from them and their friends. I tried to encourage my queue neighbours that we should do this anyhow if we didn’t get through just to spread a little confusion. The cool older lady a couple of places ahead of us agreed energetically. She wasn’t there to sing but to offer moral support to her daughter Georgina ,a button cute 17 year old with a fluffy affro who sort of looked like she could sing. We all held each others places in line while we popped to the lion walk loos, chatted and gossiped and chivvied each other up as the queue got shorter and bums started squeaking. What was inside that tent? Was it the eye of Sauron?  Or Olly Murs? My throat tightened and my nose got runnier as the tent of reckoning drew near, and I almost hoped my final loo break would mean that I missed my chance, not that I really had a chance. Did I mention I was fat, short and 40. However when I got back to where my place was held (some bloke taking himself FAR too seriously shouting “Jump in front why don’t you?”) I barely had time to take a few pictures of Heidi at her behest and it was time for Georgina to go in, her mum crouching vigil outside with her ears to the black canvas making thumbs up signs. Georgina however left without a golden ticket and Lena was stunned. Clearly the man with the piece of paper had ticked off his quota of cute ethnic teenagers. A producer called “Next”, pulling the tent flaps enticingly open, and I hesitated, not sure if it was my turn before bouncing self consciously into the unzipped tent which closed up behind me surrounding me with blackness.

The tents of doom.

The interior was dingy aside from a seated figure, it’s curly heard almost silhouetted by the dim white light behind him. When my eyes focused he looked like Seth Rogan only younger, chubbier and hairier. He looked like his name might be Barnaby. He asked my name, age (ouch), what I do and why I had applied (I gabbled that I thought I maybe had the X-Factor but I wasn’t quite sure what in). Sadly there were no questions related to personal tragedy and dead relatives, as I’d have been quids in there. I knew I should have learned a Coldplay number. What are you singing he queried? Now was crunch time. In the queue I’d written a version of New York New York (Lion Walk Lion Walk) with localised lyrics, reckoning that if I couldn’t sing at least I could be entertaining. But hearing the lovely voices floating through from the tents made me feel cheap for taking the mickey out of the process. I’d tried to think of other (clean) songs I could remember. “Yesterday” was a possibility, as was “Lady is a Tramp” or “Queen Bee” (Streisand in “A Star is Born” if you must know). Either that or Radiohead’s “Creep” (as I usually get Singstar on it after a few glasses too many of red wine). Wow what an arsenal of contemporary beats I’d amassed during my hour in the drizzle. “Lion Walk Lion Walk” I said, knowing I sounded stupid and oddly relishing it. “Go on then – give me a verse and a chorus” he demanded and I began. It’s a shame I couldn’t have rehearsed as finding the right key to start in would have been marginally less excruciating – as going too low with a sore throat made me sound like that bloke with the voice box out of Alan Partridge (“Dr No Vocal Chords”). Knowing I’d fucked it already by virtue of being 40 and croaking like a dehydrated frog I decided to give it some well. He laughed a couple of times. Once from the line “I want to wake up on an Essex pedestrianised street”, later when the lungs started working and I belted out the last bits like Shirley Bassey’s rape alarm – even waggling a finger in time, a massive grin on my face. There may even have been jazz hands. Surely this would qualify me as at the very least the mental of the day. I finished – arms akimbo and he smiled gently before saying that this time it would have to be a “No”. I smiled and thanked him, saying I hoped he’d enjoyed it (What was I on?) before unzipping the tent and skipping out, where at least my little bevvy of friends I’d picked up on the day greeted me with cheers and applause. Bless.

We listened to Lena’s beautiful, clear voice drifting out her number, then she joined us in our little huddle of fail (yes she can sing. But she’s 43 for sods sake – unless she’s a nutter she’s not getting on telly). Heidi was still seething about the ageism factor, adding that only blonde 16 year olds were being selected to soothe poor Georgina’s feelings. A wonderful Whitney-esqe warble escaped the tent flap and we all turned to admire it. “She’s going through” hissed Heidi. Surprisingly the willowy blonde teenager in possession of the voice didn’t get a yes either, so as she mooched away with her two male friends we all stopped to congratulate her on her singing and commiserate on the decision-making process. “Let’s set fire to the tent!” I suggested enthusiastically. Everyone laughed. One of the blokes looked half heartedly for his lighter.

We all exchanged contact details and good luck wishes for the future before eventually melting in different directions into the streets of Colchester. So in conclusion, is the X Factor cyncial, shallow, fixed and ageist? Of course it is (although if I had been what they were looking for visually I would still have sounded crap for the first 10 seconds of my audition), but hey it keeps Simon Cowell in yachts to lounge about on being all butch. My advice would be if you’re talented use that talent and if you’re young, cute and can warble go and audition (I wouldn’t bother travelling for it or waiting more than an hour though), just don’t get disheartened if you don’t fit the bill – it’s probably not you, it’s them. Anyhow, I wasn’t too put out and meeting the other prospective talents was great fun (Lena’s promised to sing at my funeral if I snuff it first, although she hinted that it would be less morbid to do it at my wedding) and they all seemed pretty grounded about not getting through, even Georgina who apparently plays piano and sings, so hopefully she will make something of her talent without relying on the whims of a production company’s fictional narrative or the fickle Great British Public. As she laughed stoically “I didn’t want to go on TV anyway”. Plus I got two laughs from the “judge” – which is more than I can get in a whole night of MCing the Funny Farm!

No dreams were smashed in the making of this blog.

A beautiful 6am orange filtered sunrise heralds the candidates travelling to the Waterloo underpass to watch Lord Sugar on a plasma screen telling them he’s too busy to be there right now, but their surroundings hold a clue to the task. They look at each other confused, but no it’s not selling tramps piss, Lord Sugar is referring to the vibrant graffiti adorning the cold concrete surrounding them. This week’s task is buying and selling urban art at “cutting edge galleries” in Brick Lane. The team with the most commission wins.

Sterling (Nick, Steve, Ricky, Jenna, Gabby) wisely head to Cubana bar where Steve (who’s already willy waving about having been on the winning team a couple of times). Gabby trumps his footballers knowledge by declaring she’s worked with artists and helped run exhibitions, and she’s unanimously selected as team leader (I love how Steve says “OK that’s three votes versus one, when he actually voted for himself and Gabby clearly didn’t think of that). Steve does sulky faces.

Over on Pheonix, Adam can’t be doing with the nightmare of losing again. Tom modestly mentions that he knows a little bit about street art and there’s a resounding show of hands in his favour (I don’t even think the vote had started). Adam looks on with his aghast ruddy caveman face as Tom talks about how to read graffiti that doesn’t have spunking willies on it, but instead has a “message” and some “history”. Everyone else smiles and nods.

Jade takes Adam off on their roving art inspection mission, talking about the mystery of Banksy “Nobody knows who he is?”, “He’s like the Stig int he?” gasps Adam, finally impressed. They meet “Anti establishment artist SPQR and stare at his Banksy-esque tanks and sticking it to the man art. Adam’s determined to interact with the artists and offer his own interpretation on their work (unfortunately without listening to what their interpretation is). “It gets your mind going, dunnit” he whimsies, like Brian Sewell after years of steroids and black puddings.

Gabby cleverly briefs Sterling to listen enthusiastically and patiently (in other words to suck up, no matter what the bullshitometer is saying) although Ricky (off on a roving subteam jolly to Bristol with flopsyNick) manages to find a way to undermine his Project Manager.

Meanwhile Tom is meeting with Pheonix’s Corporate Client (Renault) who they must buy some art to suit. Tom establishes that Renault want something typically French for their UK Office (they just haven’t got over Waterloo Station have they?) , and wisely he establishes that their budget is about £5000.

Gabby, Jenna and Steve head to the Beefeater Gin distillery where their corporate client talk about establishing a heritage London brand and their art choice reflecting that whilst Gabby looks all enthusiastic, Steve boggles his eyes as though something is happening behind them and Jenna.. well maybe Jenna’s doing the numbers again as they fail to ask what the Beefeater budget is or even how big the Beefeater wall might be. Karren Brady is enormously unimpressed. Next they head to ex-builder Nathan Bowen who has devised squiggly urban characters (apparently based on the Queen’s Royal Guards – which Steve immediately connects to Beefeaters). Gabby decides that Nathan is ideal to pitch to Beefeater.

Meanwhile on da streets of Bristol, the Sterling subteam of Ricky and flopsyNick, unwittingly witness some of Nathan Bowen’s artwork on a big scale. They’re unimpressed. “That’s just some crazy alien workman peeing on another alien” scoffs Ricky. What a philistine. It was clearly a stormtrooper. Next they trip off to “CopyRight” a kind of urban version of that bloke who painted the Chinese lady and the crying boy. They ask all the right questions, but somewhat robotically. Outside flopsyNick says he liked all the different textures (shame he couldn’t have told the artist).

Next up is PURE EVIL. Firstly Laura and Tom visit the man who likes to paint cartoons of women with black bleeding eyes and guns. Tom launches into a lecture on how he knows so much about street art, but fails to engage with PURE EVIL, yet leaves thinking it’s his first choice.

Oh dear. Next Sterling approach Pure Evil and whilst Gabby gushes madly, Steve gabbles “Nothing’s what it seems” (there’s any number of reason women might have black stuff running from their eye: mascara, pen related accident. haemorrhage.

Jade and Adam are next to visit “Copyright”, who they love (Jade: “Really good innit?”). Adam feels he has connected with quite a few artists with his “interpretations” of their work, and throws his critical eye over the more user friendly stencilled and painted ladies of “CopyRight”. “You could look at it for hours and come up with several different interpretations”, he manages masterfully, adding “It’s .. very good.”.

All teams quake in the shadow of James Jessop‘s “The Big Green Monster” (really called “Demonology” but that’s less fun) an enormous (and wonderful) 50s B movie inspired piece. Sterling discover that James deals in serious money as he discloses that he recently sold 2 pieces for £15K. As soon as the money starts taking, Steve gets enthusiastic “He represents everything about arts … I mean Van Gogh chopped off his ear, but this guy…..”

James then tells Pheonix how proud he is, of his latest work “The Horror” (Like a B movie poster – with “The Horror” as a dripping creepy title and only priced at about 1000 times more than I would pay for it. Laura in particular can’t seem to get the amounts of money involved, which makes her even more slack jawed and robotic.

It’s time for the teams to choose their 2 artists, and Gabby’s adamant on having Pure Evil, although Steve insists on Nathan just to prove he’s a key decision maker.

Meanwhile on Pheonix Jade likes CopyRight and Tom thinks Pure Evil is a must. artist decides. Of course this means it’s down to Pure Evil to decide and he predictably plumps with Gabby’s flaky creative charm, gutting Tom who doesn’t have a plan B for Pheonix. Tom calls Adam and Jade who goes for SPQR on her gut instinct, but wimps out on endorsing him as Adam thinks he was “controversial” and used anti establishment “subliminal messages” (No Adam, that’s IDEAS. Do you see?). Therefore “having lost pure evil” (I love that phrase) Tom gambles on James Jessop’s monstrously expensive art.

Meanwhile Pure Evil lets Gabby know and she skips around trilling “Thank you pure evil!” like a remedial witch.

The teams have to set up there galleries in Brick Lane, spiritual home of the pseud, and have to open from 5pm til 10pm. There’s lots of lovely shots of Nick Hewer creeping around making sniffy faces at the paintings. Ricky’s unimpressed with Sterling’s choice of Nathan Bowen (“This is not the message we want to give to a corporate client”).

In the Pheonix gallery Adam’s gob is well and truly smacked by the size of The Big Green Monster (price-tag £10K) and thinks the collosal art work is a collosal risk.


Here’s some art:

Grrr puny human I will lazer beam your eyes out!


Ouch!!! I can’t see!!! Hang on, what was that? It sounded like a gunshot…

Gabby press gangs Nathan into drawing live during the exhibition, which is a nifty idea but Steve phones thinking he can go one better (and hide Nathan away) by getting Nathan to do his live art round the back so nobody actually sees him. Everyone agrees that this isn’t “live art”, but Steve doesn’t take it as a put-down and speaks (not entirely) for everybody: “Thank you for loving the idea, but not enough to take on board”. He really is getting more massively punchable every week.

The doors open, with Adam manning them like a bloody bouncer for Pheonix. Tom’s main priority is to sell the Big Green Monster, and he’s reasonably upbeat, although it’s the more accessible and manageable CopyRight art which is flying off the wall (Jenna sells a couple – using her voice!). Even Adam manages to sell it, looming over someone twirling a till roll on his finger and wittering on about the artist capturing “My innocence, my naivety”, although the customer buying the painting just wants something to hide a stain on the wall of her bog or something. Adam, who appears to be getting pissed on the complimentary white wine, confesses to camera that when he was asked “Which medium did the artist use” he thought they were talking about Derek Acorah, but he’s still cleaning up, selling to the flock of customers running away from Laura with her grating, insincere “soft sell” tactics (“Are you enjoying it? Good stuff… errr”).

Over in Sterling’s gallery, Steve’s not doing so well and wanders round forlornly being rejected by potential customers (“Is there anything you like in particular?” “No”). Nathan’s work isn’t selling despite the live art and it “only” costing £500 a pop, whereas Pure Evil’s going down a storm with starting prices at £1200 (there’s a lesson for us all there). I like Pure Evil’s most expensive piece “JFK’s Nightmare” – a Warhol-esque lithograph of Jackie Onassis with bleeding eyes. Art is all in the name. I’d have messed up and called that one “Should have gone to Specsavers”.

Tom’s showing his desperation to clinch a 2 painting deal with a beardy smartarse, knocking off a couple of hundred quid and throwing in more drinks (aren’t they free?), but gets the handshake. Another couple have discovered a novel way of getting their glass attentively replenished is to toy with Tom’s emotions by standing thoughtfully in front of The Big Green Monster. Team Renault walk in and Tom’s able to show them round, leading them wisely towards the more budget appropriate Copy Right.

Beefeater Gin turn up unheralded at Sterling gallery, and don’t even get offered a drink at the door. Eventually Steve spies them and goes for some sales patter, and they’re not amused. He eventually offers them a drink. “Well we were hoping for a G&T” cracks Beefeater man (not entirely joking). Steve takes it as a joke: “I wish” he splutters pathetically. Tumbleweed rolls by. “Nobody’s explained to us what’s happened so far.” snaps Beefeater woman. “Have you selected Nathan for us?” Steve witters on about Nathan’s work representing London, before leaving them to show themselves out, utterly pissed off. Sterling don’t even say goodbye, and they don’t get to talk to Gabby. “I just witnessed a master-class in how not to treat a corporate client” gasps Karen Brady.

In the boardroom, Sugar loosens everyone up with a wisecrack about graffiti (“The irony is that it’s the writing on the wall for one of you”). How does he do it?

Pheonix all back Tom, and Market Greengrocer Adam is commended for working outside of his comfort zone (Sugar “More the Turnip prize than the Turner prize” – arggh somebody stop him doing it!) and Sugar admits the whole task is about throwing candidates into something they don’t know and seeing how they operate. Which doesn’t bode well for Tom who proved a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing by failing to suck up to Pure Evil (Sugar “Maybe you were too interested in trying to put yourself forward as an expert”). It’s established that Tom rolled the dice and lost with the Jessops.

Poor Gabby, most of Sterling refuses to enthusiastically endorse her aside from Nick and a reluctant Jenna. Steve and Ricky truly are arsehats par excellence. Karen appreciates Gabby’s strategy for getting artists on board (“You fawned, you flatted, you listened”). However Sterling get a slapping for failing to ask intelligent questions about budget of Beefeater gin (Gabby: “I will explain why – they are willing to pay any price”. Lord Sugar and everyone in the world who isn’t a space cadet “You need to ask what kind of ball park!” – it was about £10K apparently). Ricky twists the knife by reiterating “The question wasn’t asked by the London team unfortunately”.

So it’s time for results from the corporates.

Unsurprisingly Beefeater didn’t order anything.

However Renault bought a £5K painting, giving £2K commission.

In general gallery sales Pheonix sold £5980 worth, making a total commission of £4442

Sterling sold £11,630 worth (£10K of which was Pure Evil, ohoh), meaning a total commission of £4579.

So Sterling win by £137. Blimey that’s tight.

Gabby’s team get their treat – painting on a giant canvas. Oh come on Lord Sugar, how cheap can you get? Are you going to give the winning team play-doh next week.

Poor Tom strokes his chin thoughtfully in Losers café. “It was my fault both times” he murmurs. Adam is incandescently gutted and blames Tom “as he bought a canvas big enough to make a boxing ring out of” (but what a cool boxing ring!).

Back in the boardroom, Tom manfully takes responsibility for the way he approached artists and for putting all his eggs in one basket with no contingency plan. Let’s face it, if Big Green Monster had sold, he’d be hailed a genius right now (and enjoying a crap reward). Even Sugar admits that there’s nothing wrong with taking a gamble. Tom implicates Jade, saying he relied on her opinion for his decision, and she didn’t give one. Jade goes all shouty and raspy (she’s starting to sound like Jenny Éclair) retorting that Tom should have realised the Jessop paintings were too big “THEY WERE 12 FOOT TALL!!!”, which Sugar confirms would have limited the market.

Laura’s looking pretty vulnerable on sales, having only flogged £750 worth (Adam managed £2480). “I cannot question my sales ability” she squeals modestly. Maybe she should start – after all it’s easy to sell wedding dresses in a wedding dress shop to people who are desperate to buy wedding dresses. She complains that Adam was blagging, but it doesn’t matter, I think Sugar’s made his decision at this point. “You couldn’t get any more out of your comfort zone than him” he indicates the gurning Yorkshireman, “He’s a fruit and veg man”. Lets hope this means Adam stays to get torn apart so much in the interviews that his crimson face finally explodes.

Tom (who appears to be wearing some fetching yellow eye-shadow) doesn’t mess about and brings Jade and Laura back in, sussing that Adam is currently Sugar’s barrer boy pet.

Laura’s application says sales are her best skill, and she witters on incomprehensibly, concluding that she “didn’t work smart last night” (please fire her just for saying “Work smart). Tom thinks Laura took a back seat.

Jade reinvents history, claiming “I really pushed for what I thought”, but nobody’s convinced, and Tom, who’s taking the brunt of the criticism from Lord Sugar and the two shouty women points out “At least I make decisions”.

“So you’re saying it’s your way and no other decision” queries Lord Sugar (and what’s wrong with that when you’re surrounded by numpties?).

Yet again Laura comes under fire for her crap selling and yet again she screeches “That is completely unfair” (hasn’t this happened whenever she’s in the boardroom). “I’ve got the talent, ambition and determination to go through this process” boasts Laura, boring Lord Sugar too, so he fires her, sending her off to make bitchy Scottish threats in the taxi of doom.

Meanwhile Jade’s card is marked over her decisiveness, but Sugar sees Tom in a new and positive light over his ability to take risks and stick by his decisions.

Next week the teams have to help rebrand sparkling British wine – and yes there’s more video making. Excellent.

Liking: Tom, flopsyNick (surely it’s a two horse race now)

Not on the same planet as: Gabby

Disappointed by: Jade, how crap the women have been this year.

Disliking: Ricky, Adam

This week I am mainly loathing: Steve

Bye bye: Laura, Azhar, Katie, Duane, Jane, Michael, Maria, Bilyana

Week 7 sees the increasingly lazy candidates called to a Wholesale Warehouse in Essex at 5pm. Surprisingly it’s not Amstrad HQ, but a dodgy shed full of tut in boxes (just like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, if it was set in Brentwood) where Lord Alan tells them they will be starting “a business from scratch” (just like every week) by using £150 to buy stuff, selling it at a choice of Essex locations and then “smelling what sells” in order to wisely replenish the stock. The team with the greatest total assets (sales plus assets) wins. Lord Alan tries to wake us up with another team reshuffle – so Steve joins Nick, Jenna, Gabby and Ricky on Sterling, whereas Laura goes to Pheonix with Azhar, Tom, Adam and Jade.

Lord Alan drops a none too subtle hint that anyone who hasn’t been Project Manager yet should think about volunteering, which, as the boys lead by Azhar have already pointed out means Jade. She duly puts herself forward and nobody objects.

Meanwhile Ricky jostles for pole position on Sterling (“I want to do what Lord Sugar did”), but much to the fin-headed tits chagrin, he’s gazumphed by a stuttering FlopsyNick, who actually manages to quickly decide on locations (Romford Market and Romford Shopping Centre) and get the team checking out products. Steve bizarrely guarantees he can sell a flimsy looking “beard trimmer” for a tenner. Jenna offers her Northern fake tan selling skillz (“Essex girls like to be really dark”). Overseeing their antics is Nick Hewer who’s impressed by their efficiency, despite their key product being “ghaastly fake tan”.

Jade’s getting a bit rattled by Azhar continuously challenging her authority by using big words (mainly the word “strategy”) organised into largely meaningless sentences like he’s in a real world team meeting. He then starts banging on about working out whether to buy cheap products and only travel a short distance or expensive ones and go further. Erm wouldn’t just working out the nearest place to the warehouse with a decent footfall and then working out what might sell well there make more sense? Sterling are already at the checkout and Jade’s still dithering away with a map in her hands until randomly Azhar suggests Pitsea market (about three times as far as Romford) and Ilford Shopping Centre, which leaves them 10 minutes to do a haphazard warehouse sweep, only aided by Tom working out that the hot water bottles have a pretty good margin.

FlopsyNick seems pretty on the ball, taking Jenna and Gabby with him to Romford Shopping Centre to set up a beauty product stall, and consigning Ricky and Steve to a doomed bromance selling household products in the market.

Jade however decides to take only half of their random shit (and Adam) to Pitsea even though it’s sodding miles away (to be fair, Azhar does try to warn her, but the magic of the word “strategy” means that neither Jade or I hear what he says as little bunnies in pinstripe suits dance in front of our bewildered eyes). Tom, Laura and Azhar get to make Ilford shopping centre look even messier than usual whilst Adam and Jade set up stall, realising belatedly that Pitsea is full of cheap shit too. “Do yer wanna look at what we’ve got today?” Adam bellows enticingly to passing women. “No” comes the instant retort. “Thanks” he perseveres.

Steve has worked out a Brechtian dialogue to perform through their protesting PA system to help sell “Supermops”, whereby Ricky convinces Steve (feigning a spinal injury of some sort) that the extendable (and most usefully, blue!) mop will solve all his back problems and make him more attractive to women and or men. The grannies lap the mops up.

I’m not convinced by FlopsyNick trying to flog hair trimmers for a fiver, whilst sporting a barnet so apparently untroubled by trimming that it’s probably got green belt status. However Jenna is certainly shifting the fake tan at a tenner a can. “Soon everyone in Essex will have them” Nick Hewer shudders, troubled by visions of a white stillettoed Terracotta army rising from Canvey Island.

Unsurprisingly Tom is finding the weird mix of products hard to shift at Ilford, but Jade’s ignoring any phone calls from her subteam in case she has to hear the word “Strategy” (arggh!) again, and she concentrates on slashing all her prices so that she and Adam (who’s turned into a Ginger Del Boy) run out of stock, reduce their margins and have to shut down the stall and go to Ilford via the warehouse because it’s too far away to simply restock. Ruddy and happy at having proven his barrer boy potential, Adam even tempers his sexism with what he feels is generosity and offers Jade a job with him on his market stall for not having answered back to him or anything.

Happily it starts raining on Ricky and Steve in Romford, and as the market empties, Ricky calls Nick who advises them to go to the warehouse and buy all the fake tan they can find then come back and help sell it after a little training from Jenna (Hissy Fit Ricky “How hard can it be to sell a bit of tan?!”). In the absence of bronzing elixir, Gabby’s forced to try and market the beard trimmers as bikini line trimmers. After a nightmare journey our shoppers arrive at the warehouse to find there’s only 84 bottles of tan left. Gabby looks like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown, but Nick simply plumps for hot water bottles as well.

Jade’s back at the warehouse and gets to talk to Tom, who thinks the little toy bugs are selling well and have the best margin. “It’s good to have different things though” barks Jade, completely missing the point of the task. Azhar gets on the line and says strategy again, and it’s back to the dancing bunnies.

After two hours stalling punters waiting for fake tan before they drift away like beige zombies, the boys arrive with messy great boxes of the stuff and Jenna’s immediately flogging it to gullible Essex girls. Almost immediately it’s time for a second restock and Nick asks our hapless market traders to go back to the warehouse (“I feel bad asking”). Ricky’s nose is now well out of joint (“Me and Steve are the best sales people”) but he still goes, well, flounces.

Both teams get late night shopping pitches at Lakeside, and Jade asks the subteam what they need for the second restock. Azhar wants some strategy. Tom requests a “large proportion of insects”, but Jade over-rides him saying they should get “Hot water bottles, fake tan and er whatever other things you think” (Either it’s a wonky edit or she’s going to be disappointed). Even Tom looks a little bit annoyed as Azhar declares triumphantly “No strategy!”

Steve’s finally gets to unleash his selling skills indoors for Sterling and he sounds like a bloody Scientologist, yelling “Sometimes in life you make a decision, it may be a good decision or a bad one” at hapless punters. Sterling keep their prices high and still sell, whereas Jade insists that Pheonix try to get rid of everything like it’s got AIDS (“Everything is half price!!! Two for five quid on fake tan!”). As trading ends at 8pm, Jade thinks that although her strategy (arggh!) was risky that they still made a profit on everything so she’s sticking by what she’s done.

Back in the boardroom and Nick Hewer presents Lord Sugar with Sterling’s fake tan and fingernail wraps (“Kind of an Essex kit”), but Sterling still get a verbal spanking for Ricky and Steve failing to drop off their unsold stock with the rest of the team in the shopping centre before they went to the warehouse. Because extendable blue supermops would have really added to that “beauty stall” feel. Maybe Gabby could have marketed them as anal bleaching mops?

Pheonix are mocked for spending lots of time picking Pitsea as their faraway market location, although Karen is worryingly impressed by Adam’s market patter. Azhar thinks it all looks bad from a strategic perspective. “Strategy was mentioned a lot of times by Azhar” Jade snaps sarkily.

It’s time for the scores:

Pheonix made £422 in cash and had £415 worth of stock left, so their total assets were £838

Sterling took £681 cash and had remaining stock worth £273 – meaning their total assets were £955 – so they are sent to get pissed on smoking cocktails in thatLondon, whilst Pheonix weep into steaming bitter beverages in the Bridge Café. Jade’s still confused as she thinks they did really well. Azhar thinks it may have been down to str… oh for fucks sake stop saying strategy!

Back in the boardroom, Lord Sugar gives them a dark Nookie bear stare, pointing out that Sterling’s average selling price was £6.71, whereas theirs was only £3.50. Tom admits he wasn’t sure on the beauty price products so went with Jade and Laura’s advice, and Jade (who pays between £7 and a tenner on fake tan, fact fans) only thought the self tan was worth £2.99 (which lets face it is what Jenna probably thought – but as a beauty professional she wouldn’t think twice about ripping people off with potentially dodgy chemicals).

Next Jade gets some stick for not getting more stock to sell at Pitsea, and she goes into a husky breakdown, babbling about Azhar talking about strategy all the sodding time. “You could have shut him up” Lord Alan suggests, “It’s nonsense”.

He’s still looking for a reason to get rid of Laura who insists that she did as much as everyone else, but as usual doesn’t go into detail apart from excusing herself for buying more of the fake nails she’d complained hadn’t sold because Jade told her to.

It transpires that Pheonix failed to sell out any of their products, suggesting they didn’t smell what they sold. “There doesn’t seem to be any strategy” grumps Sugar, getting in on the act.

Anyhow it’s time for Jade to choose who to face a firing with her, and despite all the obvious hints that Sugar might fire Laura, the silly cow chooses Azhar and Tom, who makes a quiet pop about her decision making skills. Jade just loses it, and it’s clear the word strategy has rendered her, like many of us, a gibbering wreck. Still it’s a bit crap that Tom has to gently tell her he doesn’t mind her wrongly taking him back in. “I don’t know what else to do” Jade gasps pathetically.

It turns out that Jade’s application says her worst fault is making hasty decisions and not analysing things thoroughly (and clearly not being able to count). She admits Tom shouldn’t be there and that she didn’t expect to lose so had to make a decision under pressure. This is embarrassing. Tom asks why Jade didn’t bring Laura in and Jade may as well answer “cos she’s a girl… like me”.

She is right on Azhar though (“He just comes out with big long sentences and no solutions.. it hinders what you’re doing and wastes time”). “I think the word strategy was out of Jade’s depth” slams Azhar.

Jade argues that she should stay as her business plan will make Lord Sugar a group of multi million pound global companies. “I’m thinking about today” retorts Lord Sugar, clearly thinking about the money as although he blames Jade for the task’s “strategy” (arggh!) fail, he admires her plucky spunk (and hypothetical multi millions) and fires Azhar.

In the cab of broken dreams, Azhar isn’t bitter much but thinks Jade should have gone and that the other candidates saw him as a threat. He says strategy only once, but then he says strategic and annoys me again.

Back at the house, Adam’s big stupid twatty red face flushes with joy when he realises that Azhar has gone. “Lord Sugar knows what I’m about” he declares proudly.

Next week it’s buying art, usually one of my favourite tasks. It looks like it could be the best episode of the series so far, but that’s not saying much.

Liking: Tom, FlopsyNick

Sweet, but is she on drugs: Gabby

Meh: Jenna

I know he’s a dickhead, but I find him strangely entertaining: Ricky

Disappointed in: Jade

Disliking: Laura, Steve

Enjoying loathing: Adam


Bye bye: Azhar, Katie, Duane, Jane, Michael, Maria, Bilyana