Bargain Hunt, motorway cops and those blissful moments of being a house-husband

Fabien McQuillan enjoys a well-earned break in the company of daytime TV in the latest instalment of his diary of his new life in rural Tyrone

Fabien McQuillan

Fabien McQuillan

Fabien McQuillan writes a weekly diary about getting to grips with his new life in rural Tyrone

Bargain Hunt with presenter Tim Wonnacott
Bargain Hunt remains the king of daytime TV

There are times in the life of a house-husband that are miserable, lonesome, intolerable and glum; I won’t go into them, we don’t have long enough. And there are times that are sheer bliss.

They can be left-field, I grant you: Windolene-spraying in the en suite, singing Mirror in The Bathroom by The Beat at full pelt; said en suite so gleaming you could eat your dinner off the floor; looking out into the garden at the daffodils; coffee and a newspaper on a long, slow morning; heading home from the swimming pool, the car full and quiet.

But far and away my happiest moments in my new life in rural Tyrone are when my little son, Dermot, falls asleep on my knee after lunch. Once he’s out for the count, I can switch SpongeBob SquarePants off (only because I’ve seen them all) and put some daytime TV on. So bad it’s good. Or, as Fionnuala says, so bad it’s bad. Soap operas with plots slimmer than a bride before her wedding; courtroom shows with showbiz judges, their sincerity as shallow as a summer puddle; and motorway cops and river cops and airport cops...

SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob SquarePants

But king of them all is Bargain Hunt and no matter how I try to force myself to find a more informative, educational programme, I end up back there, fully absorbed.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Bargain Hunt is a TV programme where the blue team and the red team (they get fleeces so you can tell them apart) go to antique shops and bric-a-brac markets and buy artefacts – they have a minimal budget though I can’t remember how much – and then take their purchases to an auction, with the team with the most profit the winner. I don’t know what they win but it can’t be very much, if anything at all. All along the teams are guided by colourful antique experts desperately cajoling craic out of Shelia and Sam from Scarborough and mugging the camera.

If I could turn back time, as Cher so eloquently says, I would be an antiques expert. You get away with wearing eccentric but attractive clothes, you drive a nice classic car, and there are endless possibilities for TV work.

Contestants in blue and red on daytime TV show Bargain Hunt
Do they get to keep the fleeces on Bargain Hunt?

Dermot sleeps deeply and I look down at his innocent wee head. All of this is innocent, I think.

The blue team wrangle with a shop owner over a 1950s egg-cup set and the red team find a toy tricycle at a market stall. “My grandpa had one of these!” cries the presenter.

They head off to the the auction and the pressure mounts. A quick recap on the tat they have overpaid for, and when everything is done and dusted, the totals are totalled and by making a loss of £37.50, the delirious red team win.

As I said, brilliant. They have all lost really, having sold their items for less than was paid, but the joy on these people’s faces is real. And the viewer gets to share that joy. I always pick a team to root for, based on how I warm to them at the start, and this intangible investment allows me to adopt an advisory position.

“Don’t give him any more than £15! I’ve seen those not even sell at auction.”

“Oh God, why did I pick the reds?”

“Go on! Go on! Somebody bid £38!”

If I could turn back time, as Cher so eloquently says, I would be an antiques expert. You get away with wearing eccentric but attractive clothes, you drive a nice classic car, and there are endless possibilities for TV work

And they all kick their weak legs, Moulin Rouge-style, at the end, as a sort of button on the show. The credits roll and Dermot stirs and I think perfect timing, son. But something always puzzled me about that show. I was thinking about the contestants going home, wherever they come from. I was wondering if it was cold outside and if they got to keep the fleeces. I was wondering if they got to brag and have a laugh, wear the fleece as a house-coat. I wondered if Bargain Hunt had loads of those red and blue fleeces.

But in my heart, I knew rightly they didn’t.

“He’s just up.” Fionnuala had rang. “Yes, he fell asleep on my knee. I have a dead arm. I watched TV. Ok. Love you too.”