JAMES BRAXTON


Before the Blog:
Celebrity Bargain Hunt



With David 'The Duke' Dickinson

Monday 11th November 2002

8.30am The start of a rollercoaster week: Celebrity Bargain Hunt, for Children in Need, comes to Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The saleroom is looking marvellous, with furniture around the edges of the room and most of the pictures hung. However, I cannot resist tweaking, and find myself wobbling at the top of a ladder re-hanging pictures. I cannot stand nails, preferring to hang them from picture rail hooks, thereby bringing order to a disparate collection of pictures. In fact, I am surprised the walls are still standing after being punctured by so many nails. My next multi-tasking job is to sweep the car park. I would have gladly delegated the job, but the rest of the staff are trying to get our December catalogue to the printers.

2pm Effort rewarded. Bargain Hunt's producer and director arrive and are thrilled with the room. A quick change into my finery, a Boden suit and Turnbull & Asser shirt and tie. As always, the auctioneer's chat between David Dickinson and I goes smoothly. We make a good double act - almost a "one take" wonder.

Ainsley Harriott and Anthony Worrall Thompson have bought well. Their experts, David 'The Master' Barby and Pippa Deeley, have steered them in the right direction. The pick of the items are a Royal Worcester porcelain claret jug and a 1920s German teddy bear. Thankfully, the claret jug's silver mounts share the same date letter as the Royal Worcester year mark, and the teddy bear could possibly be by Bing, certainly in the same league as Steiff, with a long snout and a humped back.

5pm Ainsley Harriott and Anthony Worrall Thompson arrive, walk the course, and make for the Winniebago, closely followed by 2 bottles of wine. I pop in and feel like a stranger at a rather jolly drinks party. My wife is engaged in animated conversation with Ainsley. He is tall, charismatic and has the benefit of an expressive face. I leave with David Barby on errand for more wine - thirsty lot, these chefs. I wish I could join in, but a glass of wine now could lead to tragedy on the rostrum.

8pm Half-an-hour until Bargain Hunt's first live prime time show. My worries over ticket sales have been unfounded. 130 tickets have been sold; some of my colleagues were expecting no more than 50! The room is warming up nicely, helped by the fact that the attendees have had drinks and canapes thrust upon them since 6.30pm. I clamber into the rostrum, which was reclaimed from a Methodist chapel, regrettably not reconstructed with the same enthusiasm as its removal. I am joined by the soundwoman who wires me up with the director via talkback in my left ear. I feel a bit like Ant and Dec. Butterflies beat as I introduce the floor manager who reminds all that they could be filmed, so if you shouldn't be with the person you have brought, now is the time to move! I have broken out in a sweat, so Ali, the makeup girl, comes to the rescue. Her delicate dabbing of my widows peaks prompts peals of laughter.

First up, it's Ainsley Harriott. The Worcester menu card holders make a 330 profit. We're away! Claret jug, 160 profit and silver cake slice, 130 - a record for a cake slice. Next, Anthony Worrall Thompson, gaiters 69 profit. "A favourite number of mine," Anthony adds. The teddy bear opens at 300, then on and on, talkback coming to life with the director urging me to sell. It falls at 1,300 to a man from Herefordshire and his pregnant wife. Finally, the toleware champagne cooler bought for 170... The bidding goes on and on and talkback leaps into life again. It finally sells at 800. David Dickinson has just 15 seconds to wrap up the show. Ainsley and Anthony finish the evening with aplomb, auctioneering a lot of their signed cookery books. We have raised over 4,000 for Children in Need. Let's hope we can repeat the same magic tomorrow.