Just desserts. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice
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"There’s nothing about today that I would change": The Apprentice blog series 10, episode 10

The candidates shovel saffron into some trifle.

WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!

Read the episode 9 blog here.


That’s it. The links between Lord Sugar’s chosen locations and the task at hand have plummeted 110 per cent from tenuous to non-existent. Opening this episode, candidates gather solemnly on the Tate Britain’s mighty spiral staircase to be told they have to make “premium puddings”. Does the Grand High Grouch not know that there’s more to this central London art gallery than the overpriced carrot cake in the members’ café?

Anyway, if it has no other value whatsoever, it’s at least a chance for The Apprentice’s perpetually bored voiceover to say things like “just desserts” and “recipe for disaster” with one eye on the application form for Disembodied Voice on next year’s Great British Bake Off.

First, the long-awaited reshuffle. Daniel clenches his way over to Team Summit, and Sanjay bounces along to Team Tenacity, finally splitting up the unholy alliance of boorish bulldozers Daniel and Mark. Roisin leads the former because she’s got big business dreams about ready meals, and Katie becomes project manager for the latter because she wants to open a restaurant that serves healthy food in Sunderland. Dream big.

Supermarketeers. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

“I just want to raise the fact that I don’t drink tea,” is the mea-culpa-non-sequitur from Solomon that means he will be allowed to design Summit’s packaging for its uniquely infused cheesecakes. This leaves Bianca and Daniel to go to a tea-tasting session in Soho, where the latter looks like he's slurping down a glass of wasps when the instructor invites them to, “let the tea roll across all the areas of your palate”.

“That doesn’t resemble tea to me,” he says, shell-shocked. “I’m obviously very uneducated – in the world of tea.”

On the other team, Sanjay and Mark are brainstorming names for their product, which is some sort of ostensibly posh trifle. “Fancy-Full?” chirps Sanjay. “A Trifle Nice?” After frowning in silence, Mark suggests, chillingly, “Sweet Pleasure?”

Eventually, they go for “A Trifle Different”; Sanjay excitedly phones his teammates and informs them of the happy news: “Trifle is also a word for ‘a little bit’”. Also, the trifle has fistfuls of saffron in it.

The premium packaging of this product is a gingham sleeve with words written on it in what looks suspiciously like Curlz MT. “We absolutely smashed it,” booms Mark, high-fiving Sanjay, who chirps, “there’s nothing about today that I would change”. All this enthusiasm, positivity and pride should hint to even the most “obviously very uneducated” viewer at what fate the boardroom will bring for Team Tenacity.

Sipping on some saffron. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

Roisin’s team call their product “Tea Pot”, and are also very pleased with themselves. The goodwill doesn’t last, however, as Roisin outrages Daniel by choosing Bianca to pitch the product with her to three different retailers. “I didn’t realise when I joined this team, Roisin’s actually in love with Bianca, by the way,” he fumes, as the two women embark upon their rollercoaster of romantic trysts: standing in a succession of stuffy meeting rooms with contemptuous retail executives.

When the men eventually turn up to a pitch to Waitrose, Roisin insists they shouldn’t interrupt. So five minutes in, Daniel helps out by calling into question the entire concept of being a tea-drinker:

“I'm not a big tea drinker, if you like, but it really did smack me round the face with the idea of having green tea and these kinds of flavours. I'm not even a tea enthusiast, but yet I really did buy into the concept of having these tea cheesecakes.”

Why does no one on this programme drink tea? Isn’t this the most telling sign to Lord Sugar that they would make terrible colleagues? Always smugly filling up for themselves at the water cooler, never burning their knuckles on the return from a five-mug, two-handed tea round.

Pitching goes even worse for the other team, as Mark croaks and grunts his way through a performance for which he’s spent the whole episode preparing. He managed to convince Katie to let him do it, because “do you go to the racetrack and leave your prize stallion in the shed? No.”

Half-baked. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

Yet in spite of his catastrophic bout of dry-mouth, it’s not quite time for Mark to face the knacker’s yard. Although his team loses, he is somehow saved. Instead, Katie gets dropped.

Sugar’s objection to her is that she wants to start a restaurant business with him, but can’t possibly know about food because she put too much saffron in a trifle. She protests that she has worked back- and front-of-house in a restaurant since the age of 15. “I’ve been to McDonald’s also, but I wouldn’t claim to understand the infrastructure there,” is Sugar’s reply, who presumably also doesn’t claim to understand the difference between serving and being served in a restaurant.

Sanjay is next to go, because although he’s a banker his ambition is to build an online community to do with fitness. Well, let me tell you something, Sanjay. I’ve been to LA Fitness also, but I wouldn’t claim to understand the internet.

The proof is in the pudding. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

 

Candidates to watch

Mark

When he compared himself to a horse, it sounded dangerously close to Stuart “I'm not a one-trick pony; I have a whole field of ponies” Baggs of Series 6. Who was fired.

Solomon

I think he might just be the work experience boy.

Roisin and Bianca

Will they, won’t they?


I'll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here to follow it. Read my blog on the previous episode here. The show will air weekly on Wednesday evenings at 9pm on BBC One. Check back for the next instalments every Thursday morning.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Out with the old: how new species are evolving faster than ever

A future geologist will look back to the present day as a time of diversification, as well as extinction.

Human population growth, increased consumption, hunting, habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and now climate change are turning the biological world on its head. The consequence is that species are becoming extinct, perhaps faster than at any time since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. This is an inconvenient truth.

But there are also convenient truths. Britain has gained about 2,000 new species over the past two millennia, because our predecessors converted forests into managed woodlands, orchards, meadows, wheat fields, roadsides, hedgerows, ponds and ditches, as well as gardens and urban sprawl, each providing new opportunities.

Then we started to transport species deliberately. We have the Romans to thank for brown hares and the Normans for rabbits. In the 20th century, ring-necked parakeets escaped from captivity and now adorn London’s parks and gardens.

Climate warming is bringing yet more new species to our shores, including little egrets and tree bumblebees, both of which have colonised Britain in recent years and then spread so far north that I can see them at home in Yorkshire. Convenient truth No 1 is that more species have arrived than have died out: most American states, most islands in the Pacific and most countries in Europe, including Britain, support more species today than they did centuries ago.

Evolution has also gone into overdrive. Just as some species are thriving on a human-dominated planet, the same is true of genes. Some genes are surviving better than others. Brown argus butterflies in my meadow have evolved a change in diet (their caterpillars now eat dove’s-foot cranesbill plants, which are common in human-disturbed landscapes), enabling them to take advantage of a warming climate and spread northwards.

Evolution is a second convenient truth. Many species are surviving better than we might have expected because they are becoming adapted to the human-altered world – although this is not such good news when diseases evolve immunity to medicines or crop pests become resistant to insecticides.

A third convenient truth is that new species are coming into existence. The hybrid Italian sparrow was born one spring day when a male Spanish sparrow (the “original” Mediterranean species) hitched up with a female house sparrow (which had spread from Asia into newly created farmland). The descendants of this happy union live on, purloining dropped grains and scraps from the farms and towns of the Italian peninsula. Some of those grains are wheat, which is also a hybrid species that originated as crosses between wild grasses in the Middle East.

This is not the only process by which new species are arising. On a much longer time scale, all of the species that we have released on thousands of islands across the world’s oceans and transported to new continents will start to become more distinct in their new homes, eventually separating into entirely new creatures. The current rate at which new species are forming may well be the highest ever. A future geologist will look back to the present day as a time of great diversification on Earth, as well as a time of extinction.

The processes of ecological and evolutionary change that brought all of Earth’s existing biological diversity into being – including ourselves – is continuing to generate new diversity in today’s human-altered world. Unless we sterilise our planet in some unimagined way, this will continue. In my book Inheritors of the Earth, I criss-cross the world to survey the growth in biological diversity (as well as to chart some of the losses) that has taken place in the human epoch and argue that this growth fundamentally alters our relationship with nature.

We need to walk a tightrope between saving “old nature” (some of which might be useful) and facilitating what will enable the biological world to adjust to its changed state. Humans are integral to Earth’s “new nature”, and we should not presume that the old was better than the new.

“Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction” by Chris D Thomas is published by Allen Lane

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder