How do you find life on the road?
As a petrol-head I find that life on the road is better if I arrive on my 1050cc Triumph Sprint motorbike or in the bright Asbo-Orange Focus ST with Mountune 260bhp upgrade. ‘Let’s go Top-Bargain-Hunt-Gearing!’ Now there’s a concept(?)
What is your favourite part of your role?
When Bargain Hunting it is the post shopping debrief I enjoy most. The pressure is off and the adrenaline is still running so I get to tell the team exactly how we avoided losses bigger than our whole £300 budget on individual items. Then they know why my pre-shop advice was ‘we have 1 hour, when I say NO, don’t ask why – just trust me.’ Beyond that absolute, I always let the teams go with their choices and give them the best advice possible, it’s their show. And the best role? Without doubt it is auctioneering - If I could go on the rostrum 5 days a week that would be perfect, I love every moment of it, whatever I am selling.
Why did you choose a career in antiques?
It was not really a choice, but simply the first job I saw in the newspaper for ‘manager’s assistant’ at The Bourne Auction Rooms. At 18 I did not know what an auction or an antique was. All I knew was the place looked interesting enough to warrant cutting off my 9” orange mohican for an interview. I suppose the only professional regret I have is that I had to have the haircut and pretend to conform.
What would you do for a living if you weren’t working in the antiques trade?
Motorcycle courier has enormous appeal, but I would relish being a Politician. I think I would make the perfect cabinet member for any government and become Minister for Stating the Obvious... a specialist portfolio established to have someone allowed to say what everyone thinks.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in antiques?
Hands-on experience is the essential way to learn, read the books, ignore certain infamous websites and when you have got it, prove it to everyone by getting the respected professional qualifications.
How did you get involved in Bargain Hunt?
My first involvement was to fail a screen test as an expert in the autumn of 2002 – I still have the letter of rejection! A few months later we hosted the "Bargain Hunt Christmas Day Special". The series producer was so impressed and I got snapped up as an expert – I keep the nice letters too.
Who has been your most memorable Bargain Hunt team?
It has got to be my very first team, the Reverends Phil and Helen, or as I affectionately remember them, the ‘Vicar & Vicaress’. They were great, I can remember the dialogue, the humour (and the sheep dog’s tongue) as if it were yesterday. As can often be the case, what we all thought were the funniest lines never went to air! They knew it was my first time out and really made me feel so comfortable in front of camera. To this day I always assume it is my team’s first time on TV and do exactly the same. I am very mindful to ensure everyone looks back at the experience with a big smile too.
What has been your best ever Bargain Hunt find?
My best buy has to be the gormless Murano glass fish bought as a the experts swap item. It resulted in a team with actual tears streaming down their faces, a director delighted by a piece of Bargain Hunt gold... and of course that rare commodity a profit too.
Which fairs do you particularly like shopping at when ‘bargain hunting’?
Bigger the better and with plenty of outside stalls. I take the hour as a personal challenge to get through as many items and stands as possible with teams. Showgrounds are the best by far, so give me 2,000+ stands and the stopwatch every time. Experts top tip(?) If it’s raining or even better, snowing, avoid making eye contact with any of the crew and get the team outside amongst it as quickly as possible and get to work on knocking down prices while everyone is miserable.
What’s the most profit / greatest loss you’ve made at auction?
For profits I’ve had a quite a few teams take home £100/150 over the years but I’ve never had the one ‘big-lot’. There have been plenty of £60-100 buys selling for £150-200 including an old rug pegged on the side of a van at £60ish selling for £240/260ish... Worryingly the memory is going on the detail of this and it’s really not that long ago.
But it is funny how I can remember the pain and date of the biggest loss – Prime Time Series 4, Friday 19th March 2004. My team bought an oil painting by Duncan Fraser McLea (1841-1916) for £300 in perfect gallery condition (£500 budget per team). We arrived saleday to find the artist was miscataloged and hung on the floor next to the radiator for viewing. It sold for £90 to a buyer whom I asked if he knew he bought a sleeper. He said he didn’t know the artist and that he was colour blind too. My team of chefs Gary & Michael made their finest recipe custard pie to celebrate my record-breaking lot.
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
I suppose I need to apologise to buyers on the internet for when the sound goes off for a few seconds and then comes back with laughter in the background. My guilty pleasure is accidentally (?) turning the microphone off when selling to say something mildly humorous. Clearly the majority usually find it funny... but you know there will always be that one person!
How do you spend your free time?
It generally takes me 15 to 20 minutes to get completely bored with ‘free time’. I just cannot stay still for any longer. If I come home to an empty house I’ll put on an album at full blast and live the moment. It’s just long enough for me to realise everyone else is clearly doing something more interesting, so I am straight on the phone to find out what. The albums are usually punk music, but I have mellowed into a lot of metal over the years. I am still gigging when I can and if the diary permits, trips to Leeds United and Peterborough Panthers speedway with family and friends happen occasionally too. It makes free time, full-on time.
Fortunately at work there is never any free time as there is always something exciting to do next. My daughter Kirsty caught the saleroom bug and is now a qualified auctioneer in the firm. I find the only down-side is people telling me she’s the better auctioneer. They must have ‘free time’ to analyse such things; its clearly over-rated.
Finally, if I struggle with anything on Bargain Hunt, it is those small pockets of time on the auction day when you are waiting around for the next slot of filming. I just don’t sit still.
Do you collect anything?
Collecting really doesn’t interest me at all. I see great things in the day job without having to spend a penny.
Why do you think Bargain Hunt has such appeal?
A great format, continued development & on-screen continuity. Obviously it is a great original format in which everything still evolves around the contestants; they are the show and Bargain Hunt is still with us.
BH never stands still and one reason it retains such impressive and coveted ratings is the continued development of content and those subtle tweaks that keeps it all so fresh. For the first time in years I looked at snippets of mixed era old shows. I had completely forgotten how much change and improvement has actually taken place over the 15+years; and rightly so.
Another major factor is the on-screen continuity. Whilst at the heart of the show there is a core of long-standing experts to maintain that all important continuity, everyone has to stay at the top of their game as BH has constantly brought in new talent whenever an opportunity presents itself.
In all, it seems to be what the watching public want. The value of the whole is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts. And that’s from an RICS Registered Valuer!
Why would you encourage anyone to appear on Bargain Hunt?
There is only one reason to go on BH – it’s great fun. What other excuse do you need? Get you application in NOW!