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THE APPRENTICE’S SORCERER

03-04-2008

Watch out Sir Alan – Laurence Inman wants to demystify The Apprentice. It’s all buying stuff at one price and conning people into paying more for it. Simple really.

During the visit of Pope John Paul to Bagington Airport, near Coventry, in 1982, I had a casual job selling newspapers to the vast crowd which turned up.

Not just me, obviously. There must have been at least a quarter of a million people there and the Evening Mail bussed about a hundred of us out there. Our team leader, I remember, was John Osborne, the ex-Albion goalkeeper and star of Quizball off the telly. (‘I’ll go route one, David!’)

We were a motley bunch – students, signers-on, general layabouts, me (who happened to be passing the Mail office when the bus was loading up) and a dozen or so proper paper-sellers, those old gaffers who bellowed unintelligible noises in town during the evening rush-hour.

I managed to make a fair bit of money during the day, the night and the next morning we were there. I quickly saw that if I found a good permanent pitch I would sell loads more than if I adopted the business-plan used by most of the others, which was to walk round and round with a huge bag getting more and more tired and bored.

I found such a place, at a junction of many pathways which, I reckoned, nearly everybody in the crowd would have to pass on the way to the bogs. I’d be too good for The Apprentice.

I mentioned the merits of my retail-system to one of the old-timers on our last morning as we had a cough and a spit over a Woodbine together. He exploded in indignation.

‘Are you trying to tell me how to sell papers ? Are you ? I’ve been doing it forty years. And you’re trying to tell me....’

Now, try as you might, you can’t really pretend that selling papers is a skill that takes a long time to learn. If I tell you that you have a pile of papers, a lot of strangers come up to you, give you money, you give them a paper each, together with their change....well, that’s it, more or less.

But of course, we all like to feel that only we are uniquely gifted in our chosen calling. If any mere tyro could manage it just as well in five minutes – well, it doesn’t say much for either us or the job does it ?

It’s all in Shakespeare. Everything is. In Measure For Measure when the hangman, Abhorson, is told that he must be assisted by Pompey he objects, saying that an amateur would devalue his trade, which he calls ‘a mystery.’

Doctors and lawyers have their own special language (Latin) to keep us brainless oiks in our place.

The egomaniacs who are currently licking Sir Alan’s arse every week will twist and smash words in their quest to convince themselves that buying stuff at one price and conning somebody else to pay more for it is somehow a ‘profession.’

I had a right laugh last week listening to some famous actress talking about the late Paul Scofield’s ‘faultless technique.’

She was asked to explain what this might mean. First she laughed at the breathtaking naivety of the question, then burbled on about timing and delivery for a bit. I looked forward to the interviewer asking her to explain timing and delivery, but he sensed she’d had enough.

I’m no great fan of Phil Collins. This is him ponificating on the drumming in A Day In The Life on one of those celeb-comment programmes (about Sgt Pepper.)

‘Some of the drum-fills by Ringo are brilliant.’

Drum-fills ? You mean the bits of silence filled with drumming noises ? Is that what a drum-fill is, Phil ? Eh ? And why only some of them ? Which ones were brilliant and which were only so-so ? And how can you tell ?

Come on Phil! We want to know. How can you tell ? Eh ? Eh?

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