Articles From the Team

The Apprentice, Purgatory and Bruges

I found it impossible to watch this week’s Apprentice without thinking back to that wonderful film of 2008, In Bruges. If you haven’t seen it, make a date to do so as it is excellent. There is a lot of swearing in it. And I mean A LOT. It’s not politically correct, but it is very, very funny.

The central conceit of In Bruges is that our protagonists, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) whilst nominally in Bruges are actually in Purgatory; that is to say Bruges, represents Purgatory. In this week’s Apprentice, our contestants opened the trap door marked “Abandon All Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” and went that step further and portrayed Bruges as a living Hell. Or, to quote Ray in the film...

“Maybe that's what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in ******* Bruges.”

Yes, the one thing worse than being stuck on an ocean liner is a day spent with the Apprentices in Bruges. There are many circles to this particular hell and I will attempt to recall them here.

Imagine a Hell where you have stumped up £85 to be guided around by a bunch of idiots who didn’t know where they were. Yes, you could have wandered around aimlessly with a map, going “No, Derek, it’s this way – that’s the way to the Market Square” but instead you can be “led” by a man with funny glasses who will make circle your destination, St John’s Hospital, without ever letting you enter. A very Dantesque vision of Hell. Charles would later explain that he was not actually lost; rather he simply couldn’t find the entrance. And still he wasn’t fired.

Moving on, picture an eternity of being shown beautiful buildings, churches, squares and canals and yearning to learn their stories, for some insight into their pasts only to be left with a guide who “isn’t any good with facts”. Anisa, what goes on behind those glasses? So large that they hint at a higher intelligence, and yet the simple task of buying a highlighter pen, memorising a dozen or so key facts is beyond you. And still she wasn’t fired.

Picture if you will, a glimpse into Hell which would see you have to listen, eternally, to the Club 18 -30 style ramblings of Andrew, a man with more piercings than brain cells. Yes, there you are middle aged, middle class, Daily Mail folded under your arm, whilst Andrew explains that he will “get you off your nut” on Belgian beer. Not for you the quiet contemplation of life’s complexities as you sip a “normal beer” (to quote Ray), the sun dappling on your face in Burg Square – no, it’s a case getting leathered with an overgrown man - child called Andrew. And still he wasn’t fired.

All this might leave feeling the same way as Ray about Bruges:

Ray: So Harry Waters wants me dead…

Ken: He said this whole trip, this whole being in Bruges thing, was just to give you one last, joyful memory before you died.

Ray: [Absolutely stunned] In BRUGES? The Bahamas, maybe. Why ****** Bruges?

Ken: I suppose it's cheaper.

It could, of course, be worse. You could be on a tour of modern Bruges with Elizabeth’s team. Elizabeth, with the listening skills of a slab of concrete, was advised by her team to keep it simple and stick to a tour of classic Bruges. Elizabeth opted for modern Bruges. I have googled “modern Bruges” and what came up are some pieces on modern hotels. There’s one link through to a website on architecture – it shows a library extension, a diving platform and some yuppie flats. Now, who, in the right mind, would choose that? As it happened the modern tour was actually an ancient tour but with the added delight of being cattle prodded around at breakneck speed by Elizabeth; barked at by Brown Owl like a bunch a yellow capped Brownies who had misbehaved. And still Elizabeth’s team didn’t lose.

Sarah Jane’s team had Anisa as lead tour guide and as we have seen, she is not very good at remembering things. In Elizabeth’s team, Harrison overcame a similar inability by talking rubbish. Entering Burg Square, Harrison explained that the way old and new buildings (what new buildings?? Where are they??)Had mixed was “literally ingenious” and faced with being able to describe one of Europe’s historical jewels, Harrison beseeched us to “look at the square…it’s full of people…literally”. Back home, punting down the river Cam, passing by King’s College Chapel, Harrison reflected that it was all “actually unreal”. Oh Harrison, stick to singing in the shower, because there are eight year olds with larger vocabularies than you. Literally. And still Elizabeth’s team didn’t lose.

Anyway, back to hell. Imagine, please, a Hell where you forked out £50 for a Segway tour, only to be led around on foot by Elizabeth and have Harrison bore you with banalities and then to get half an hour riding a Segway in the rain, before being herded onto a horse and cart being driven by an Elton John impersonator. After which you will be gang planked back onto your ship where you will be Shanghaied into paying over the odds for souvenirs you don’t really want and which will serve only to remind you of the worst day of your life. And still Elizabeth’s team didn’t lose.

So Sarah Jane’s team lost to a team which offered a Segway tour of modern Bruges but delivered a walking tour of old Bruges and had Harrison literally talking nonsense. Her team included a guide who got them lost, another who had no memory for facts and a Club 18 – 30 reps, and yet Sarah Jane got the fired. I am lost for words. Literally.

In the film In Bruges, the demonic Harry (brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes) wants, in his warped way, to give Ray a send off in a beautiful city. And Bruges is a beautiful city, but our tourists on The Apprentice, might be feeling the same way as Ray felt about Bruges, that it “wasn’t his thing”, leaving us to feel a little baffled like Harry, perhaps:

Harry: It's a fairy tale town, isn't it? How's a fairy tale town not somebody's ******* thing? How can all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and those churches, all that beautiful ******* fairy tale stuff, how can that not be somebody's ******* thing, eh?

I know how he feels.

For more information contact Rob Barklamb at BCL Legal.

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