There was something of the Artful Dodger about their son, though: he found a way of making cash by pleading for scraps of material from a dressmaker, then taking them round to the rag-and-bone man.‘This is where it gets a bit difficult,’ says Sugar, doodling on his blotter.‘If I wrote what I’m about to say now, you’d say, “You’re a right big-head.” But I’m hoping that you’ll start to understand that I was perhaps something special.If you lock me in the room with a piano teacher for a year I might be able to knock out a rendition of Roll Out The Barrel, but will I ever be a concert pianist? It’s just there and it comes out.’Psychologists will love his book, which tells the story of a boy driven by the desire to escape poverty, but also by the need to prove himself to those who doubt or slight him - including his own mum and dad. They don’t know what they’re talking about half the time. I ended up helping myself, and pulling myself out of it.’He scorns their theories, but in the next breath talks about being ‘tormented’ by the other kids because he looked different. The black kids got it in the neck also from these people.’‘Nah. In cases where they may be thinking something, they won’t dare mention it.’One striking thing about the book is the way he names people who slighted him in the past.I could charge £100 an hour to sit and listen to people and talk a load of rubbish. To save money, his dad used to make his school uniform - with disastrous results, including shorts that were way too long. ‘The jacket wasn’t right, the arm pads weren’t right. There’s this silence on the subject from everybody you come across, whatever their thoughts are. A childhood friend for example, a boy who snubbed him over a misunderstanding about bar mitzvahs at the age of 13.
The Amstrad PCW 8256 was a huge seller, with its blinking cursor and dot-matrix printer. I don’t understand the intricacies of the software and electronics, and to a businessman pleb like me the hairy hippies who made the computers were like alchemists.
You sit there,’ barks Alan Sugar, jabbing a finger at an empty chair.
The bully boy of business is everything you’d expect, at first: gruff, aggressive and intimidating.
He’s dressed in the same kind of dark power suit he wears on TV, but his boardroom, in contrast to the stylish futurism of the fictional one, looks like it was last decorated in the late Eighties. Sugar lives in a mansion just up the road in Chigwell, and he was born half an hour’s drive from here, in Hackney, in 1947, to a struggling tailor called Nathan and his wife, Fay.
They lived at the top of a block of flats with no lift, and hadn’t much money.
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He makes me sit at a boardroom table, but seats himself behind a massive desk, which seems to have been raised up so that he can look down on people.