Any Dream Will Do

After a short hiatus (June), I am back in All The Rage, where the topic for July is “Dreams”. Don’t forget to download this splendid pdf magazine. And below is my contribution.

A little while ago, in order to get my weekly ration of TV filth, I started watching The Apprentice. I came in towards the end, when they were in Morocco, pretending to be alarm clocks. Everyone was talking about the programme, everyone. Adam Buxton, Andrew Collins, even Joe Cornish was talking about it.

To win this game and become Sir Alan Sugar’s Apprentice is the contestants’ dream. Sir Alan Sugar, in the title sequence to the programme, describes the game as “the job interview from Hell”, though given the prize he should really call it “the job interview for Hell”. Haha! That’s why he has to pay them so much money if they win.

It doesn’t say how much they get but it says that it is a “six figure” salary. I’d want something more specific if I were applying for the job. Six figures could be anything from £100,000 to £999,999, assuming you only include pounds. If you include pence, the winner is considerably less well remunerated. Regular viewers will note that the winning team each week is often chosen using 3-2-1 riddle logic, and so how appropriate it would be if the overall winner fell for the practical joke and ended up fly-tipping email phones round the back of Stanstead Airport for £1000.99 a year.

“You think you’re an entrepreneur, you can even count to six, you fackin idiot. You’re hired, hahahahaha!”, laughed Sir Alan Sugar.


The fact that, whenever a dream required him to be in a house, it was always the house in Manchester that he had lived in between the ages of 8 and 18. It was now over 20 years since he’d lived there, and yet his brain, like an overzealous estate agent of the unconscious, had recorded a detailed plan of the layout of the house. Something about those formative years had burnt the particulars into his memory. He reasoned that 8 to 18 is probably the time when we become what we are, that memory knows this, and allocates its resources accordingly.

From How Time Works, All The Rage, December 2007

And, indeed, whenever a dream required that there be a celebrity, that that celebrity should be Bruce Forsyth. What was it about Brucie that he should be held in such esteem by the night shift duty manager of the noodle? The answer is surely in the prime time content that he burnt into our collective unconscious over so many formative years.

The Generation Game was essentially a single dream sequence which moved from the “I don’t really understand what I’m doing but I’m doing it” competitive bread-platting humiliation exercises to the collage of monotonous non-sequitors on the conveyor belt, the recurring elements like cuddly toys and fondu sets juxtaposed with mundane signifiers of the daily routine. The clip I was able to find and catalogue from some undisclosed year in the mid 70s contained the following neo-Dadaist parade: vacuum cleaner; basket of fruit; electric table lamp; mixer and blender; cuddly owl; electric cook pan; spice, oil and vinegar rack; digital clock/alarm/radio; fully automatic electric coffee maker; colour Polaroid camera; electric fan heater; steak fondu set; leather suitcase; ultra-violet sun-ray lamp; stainless steel Sunday set; wine rack and twelve bottles of wine; matrimonial set of sheets and pillow cases; coffee set.

He went on of course to host Play Your Cards Right, the television equivalent of getting stuck in one of those infuriating puzzle-solving non-dreams that invade and occupy the mind all night. Even his career and personal life have followed a path all of their own, rejuvenating and reinventing, apparently dislocated from the logical strictures of conscious reality.

Dream logic seemed to feature heavily in Seventies and Eighties game shows, perhaps to draw attention away from the pathetic prizes. Brucie of course; Bullseye was an extended it’s Sunday night and you’ve not done your homework and now you’re going to school on the bus in the nude anxiety dream that lasted about seven years; and the Ted Rogers/Dusty Bin-fronted 3-2-1. As part of my research for this piece, I watched a typical final segment of the show, broadcast in 1986, selected using the random clip generator that is YouTube. A group called “Wall Street Crash”1 performed a number, and then “Colin” from the group brought in a bundle of paper, and the following riddle:

Peace and agreement at speed
A crash is not what you need

The couple rejected this item, and Ted’s explanation ran more or less as follows:
What is another word for peace and agreement which also has a connection with speed? A crash is not what you need. The group were Wall Street Crash, get rid of the Crash and you’re left with Wall Street where you might have got a tickertape welcome – indeed take a look at this it’s New York!

Cue VT montage of Concord2 taking off and street scenes of the Big Apple3 complete with beautiful women and street-smart guys that seemed to know all the angles. The couple went on to select the miner’s helmet, which turned into a Mini Mayfair.

The blackbird is back, on the lawn. He’s chomping on something – not a worm, as it was a couple of weeks ago when I watched as he pecked and scuffed and jostled away until it was worked loose from the ground, and then swallowed like a big ungainly strand of spaghetti (an odd sensation for both parties, I would have thought) – but something solid, like a crust.4

1 My favourite wiki-based online encyclopaedia informs me that the better-known group “Manhattan Transfer” also appeared on the programme (a different episode, I assume).
2 The Emu-beaked monster that featured heavily in my pre-school nightmares. That thing it did when it dropped its nose.
3 The city that never sleeps, and therefore, one supposes, never dreams. Rewatching the opening sequence of Manhattan though, I am reminded of how many of my dreams involve tall buildings and lifts. Only last night, as I slept fitfully worrying if I would have anything at all to say in this piece, I anxiously ascended a vertiginous skyscraper, almost certainly based on the Rockefeller Center / GE Building in Midtown Manhattan.
4 And then I woke up.