What Am I Bid? by Philip Serrell – Review

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By @Roger Crow

I’ve spent more lunchtimes than I can remember watching Bargain Hunt; usually the last 15 minutes when I find out which team won. And star of many episodes has been Philip Serrell, that solid-as-a-rock antiques expert who doesn’t play up to the camera like some regulars.

Often quietly, wittily he has been that guy you admire for his depth of knowledge. Phil, as he’s sometimes known, is the guy you want on your side if you’re up against the clock looking for those all-important bargains which might make you a pound. Or, dare you dream to make a profit on all three items you purchase, the holy grail of TV rewards, a golden gavel. (The Blue Peter badge is so 1980s).

When I heard his autobiography was hitting the bookshops (remember them?) and there was a chance to review, I didn’t need to think twice. A little frisson of joy shot through me when it landed on my mat one Saturday morning. As expected, it did not disappoint.

what am i bid phillip serrell book review coverPhil’s recollections about his early days in the business, and about working with a flatulent colleague (Windy), are as witty and engaging as I’d hoped. There’s also a feast of insider knowledge about the industry too: why some folks in the antiques lark dress in an unusual way. It certainly explains a lot about some of the more colourful characters we see on Bargain Hunt.

“Eye-watering sum”

There are details about his romantic life, and why Philip once had to fake enthusiasm for a dish he hated because he confused moussaka with lasagne. Not to mention the limited appeal of Smash and Spam, which he endured during his formative years.

There are glorious anecdotes, such as the time he sold some items on behalf of travellers and the confusion that kicked off between seller and buyer; the guy who really should have checked if he had enough room before he closed the car door on his purchase, and why you should always put precious items in the footwell of a vehicle when driving from A to B. There’s a story about a bowl which attracted an eye-watering sum, and Philip’s cars also get a glowing tribute where necessary, especially the ones that didn’t quite do the job.

Though a few photos or even cartoon illustrations would have been nice, it’s still a terrific read, whether you zip through it in one sitting, or like me, savour a chapter a night.

I’m not sure if I ever become a contestant on Bargain Hunt the intel will make me a fortune, or if I decide to pop off to auction whether there’s enough knowledge to turn me into an expert. I do know it’s an entertaining diversion from the horrors of the world.

So if you too have been a fan of Mr Serrell over the years, this is one bargain worth a *high kick over. (*It’s a thing they do at the end of the show in case you’re none the wiser).

‘What Am I Bid? My Life Under the Hammer’ by Philip Serrell is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £20 hardback


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