Thursday, March 29, 2007

APPRENTICE - And the winner is...

Brand new season and a brand new collection of suckers prepared to demean and humiliate themselves for our viewing pleasure.

Okay, I know it's early days, but can you guess who's going to win yet? One candidate was obviously going to be for the chop early on, and that was Andy. But, what about the rest? Well, here's a handy tip when it comes to trying to predict who'll be amongst the last few candidates... ready for my super-hot tip?

Check which few candidates are getting a suspiciously high proportion of screen time.

You see, this show isn't live, what you see each week, didn't happen last happened months and months ago. Hell, I'm sure you knew that anyway. They shoot most of the series long before it airs, edit it, tart it up, add on all that spooky mood music. And all that of course takes time.

But, what it means is that the production team already know who has won, or atleast, which candidates are in the last couple of shows. And as they go through the hundreds of hours of footage and edit together each of the sixteen shows they'll edit-in a bias towards the final two or three candidates...almost implying to the unsuspecting viewer, that their wisdom is far-seeing, that they always had an inkling as to who was going to make it through to the end.

So watch for that. Keep your eyes peeled...who's getting the predominant share of screen time. So far, to my eyes it looks like the winner will be among these candidates:

Jadine: the men's boss this week
Tre: this season's 'Syed'
Gerry: this season's 'Ruth'

Obviously it's early days yet, but keep watching and I'm pretty sure by the end of next week's programme, the editor's I-know-who-wins bias will become more evident.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


This was once my problem, when I was a kid, a long time ago. I was never into the stuff all the other lads in my class were into, which was basically football back was everything. I never had an interest in it, consequently I very quickly found myself alone at play times. I remember, as young as seven, being aware of the pressure being put on me by my class mates, to conform.

As it happened, eventually I did.

One Christmas I asked for a West Ham strip (since that was the it team back then) and a football, instead of what I actually wanted, which was an ActionMan and the ActionMan Scorpion Tank. I remember opening my presents on Christmas day feeling somewhat deflated...the football strip and the ball weren't the things I wanted, they didn't interest me in the least, and I remember really resenting missing out on my tank. But, this is what I had to do if I wanted any sort of company come play time.

Now I'm 40, and I have son who is nine. And I see him going through the same situation. He has no interest in football, or any sport. He doesn't get all his clothes bought from JJB Sports, he doesn't wear a burberry baseball cap perched back on a shaved coconut head. He doesn't have Wayne Rooney lunch box tucked under one arm.

And I think he's beginning to pay a heavy price for that.

He tells me the other boys in his class call him a girl, because he has longer hair than theirs. I've seen him emerge from school at the end of the day, alone, shoulders slumped and worn out from a day's worth of being isolated and ignored. And my heart aches for him. He asked to have his lovely blonde hair shaved which I happily agreed - after all it's his hair. But then he said later on he didn't want to have it shaved off, but other boys in his class, were teasing him, telling him he should look like them.

It makes me feel so angry. My little lad is different. I'm not saying his special, or better, just different, that's all. And yet, the other little bullet-headed football clones out in the playground are crushing his individuality, crushing his spirit...coercing him to look like them, or face isolation, ridicule. As a kid, I just didn't have the strength of personality to fight back...I gave in and became a rubbish facsimile of them, going through the motions, pretending to be interested in West Ham, learning a few footballer names.

And it breaks my heart that he's having to deal with this same crap now. Only that pressure to conform is so much more intense now than when I was a kid. The whole sports label thing, the £45 football shirts, the £100 trainers. It's almost too much to bear...that soon, very soon, I'm going to have to part with lots of hard-earned money to dress my lad in labeled clothes that some unimaginative, slack-jawed football drone child, insists my lad must wear...before he'll accept him as a friend.

I hate that playground peer fascism thing...the way children can be to each other. And I pray that the sixteen year old lad that emerges out the other end of this deppressing, threatening, period of his life, otherwise known as his 'school days', will retain some of the individuality he went into it with.

Shit. If I ever, ever, earn enough as a writer...I'll pay for him to be home-schooled if that's what he wants.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Somebody sent me this link recently Linky

A fascinating article that discusses just how fragile our modern, centralized, societal system is. It's basically the root theme of my 2nd novel, LAST LIGHT - a novel that examines what would happen if oil production was shut down overnight.

Do you know, whilst I was writing this book, I kept asking myself how plausible it was:- I was describing a week, starting on a Monday when oil begins to dry up, ending on the Sunday with riots murder, anarchy turning the UK into something resembling a post-apocalyptic landscape.

I kept thinking...'nah, you're making things fall apart too quickly.' But I kept to that timescale of 1 week, because I felt it had the dramatic tension. I wish I'd stumbled upon that Times article above whilst I was in the process of writing the book would've meant a lot less agonizing over the believability of the scenario.

Anyway, for any blog readers who have stumbled upon this blog for the first time, here's a link to the trailer for LAST LIGHT - it should give you a feel for the book.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I was going to do a little piece to camera for this. See, like smoking, it took a couple of attempts to quit. The first two times I rang up SKY to tell them their services would no longer be required, the customer services operator (Indian) transferred me to her supervisor (Scottish) to...ahem...'confirm the details'.

On both occasions, this guy (and I'm sure it was the same guy) harangued me, haggled with me, berated me into staying with SKY, and finally, at the end of about twenty minutes of brow-beating offered me three months of the £45 package at about £10. I found myself saying 'yes', because he made me feel like I'd negotiated a fantastic bargain.

Hmmmm, very clever. The guy was a proffesional 'u-turner' - no doubt extensively trained at some secret SKY training camp, to turn customers around and keep them with SKY.

Anyway, three months elapsed recently. The only two programs we watch as a family now are BattleStar Galactica and Ugly Betty, and that really is it. So I figured, this time round, whatever happens I'm quitting for good. And, because I thought it would be fun, I recorded the phone call. See...last time, it was just unbelievable. The guy was telling me how SKY offered the best quality TV programming in the world, best priced, most variety....yadayada. It was like dealing with a bloody time-share salesman.

So I set up my video camera, eagerly looking forward to recording this telephone duel. I linked in the phone line to record the audio and started to record the call, knowing this was going to make for a very entertaining video for my blog.


It all went horribly wrong. The operator (Indian) took my details and then passed me on to this hardcore 'u-turner' (Scottish again)

SKY: I gather you wish to cancel Sky completely sir

ME: Yes. (Waiting eagerly for him to ask why so the fun could begin)

SKY: And...can I ask you...why?

ME: Ahhhh!!!!...I'm so glad you asked. I'm cancelling because it is shit.

A pause. (And I'm grinning like a Cheshire cat, waiting for him to start berating me. See, I've got all my smart-arse comebacks ready for this. This is going to make an excellent bit of video. I'm gonna look pretty cool, SKY will look crap...heheh, bring it on.)

SKY: Fair enough sir. It's not to everyone's taste is it? I'll arrange this immediately, sir. You have a good day now Mr Scarrow.