For nearly two decades, Paul Martin has entertained millions with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the antiques market, his infectious enthusiasm and friendly style of presenting on the cult daytime show Flog It!
And so it’s no surprise to learn that the 59-year-old is so completely addicted to antique buying that he jokingly likens it to his own form of drug.
As energetic and charismatic off-screen as he is on it, Paul laughs as he admits, ‘I buy all the time. I have a barn full. I can’t stop. My wife goes potty!
‘But I love what I do. I do live and breathe it. I am the luckiest guy. I have got Willie Wonka’s Golden Ticket.
‘I have presented an antiques show for 18 years, I get paid to do what I love, I go to interesting locations and I have learnt so much being a part of that. It’s fantastic.’
From students, mums and part-time workers to retired couples, Paul has won over a wide spectrum of fans and the daytime star says he doesn’t mind in the slightest being stopped for advice all the time – even if it’s in the most unlikely of places.
‘Flog It! has such a broad appeal now as it’s a long-standing juggernaut of a show. I am Mr Flog It,’ he says cheerily.
‘My German Shepherd, Bluebell, was “dog Flog It”. People would be like, “Oh look there’s Mr Flog It and Dog Flog It.”
‘I could be in the middle of nowhere and people will come up and talk about items.
‘We have all got this clutter, some of us have stuff under the kitchen sink, and all of a sudden experts flag it up and say it’s worth £600 and they can say, “Great, I hate it, I can sell it and go on holiday to Greece.”’
We ask whether he ever gets mistaken for a paler David Dickinson and Paul roars with laughter before saying, ‘When I first started, they said “There’s Dickinson’s son”. We had the same haircut!’
Last month, the BBC announced it was axing Paul’s beloved Flog It! Given the programme turned him into a household name, it would be very understandable if Paul were annoyed.
But the likeable presenter is incredibly philosophical about the decision as he assures fans he is not disappearing.
In fact, he has a brand new series, Make Me A Dealer, which has all the ingredients to become a cult hit like Flog It! did.
‘It was a tough decision,’ he muses. ‘But the BBC is the best in the world.
‘We have made enough Flog It! episodes for the new ones to last another year and a half, so it has given me some breathing time to actually make some new shows for them, which they were keen for me to present.
‘I have been doing Make Me A Dealer for the last six months and I’ve got another one in January, which is still under wraps. It’s like Crystal Maze. It’s going to be epic.’
He pauses, then jokes, ‘I was waiting for that moment of no more Flog It! 15 years ago. It has gone global. They put repeats on which are seven years old and they still get two million viewers a day.’
On his new show, Make Me A Dealer, two antique lovers compete against each other to snap up bargains at an auction and then sell them to private clients or interior designers.
And a twist sees the contestants stumping up their own money. Paul has clearly had a blast making it.
‘There has been a lot of negative press that the antique shows’ money is spent in markets and then they go off and sell at the auction,’ he says.
‘It’s a**e about face. With this one we are buying at trade prices in auctions and then going to find a private client, so you are selling the right way around.
‘I also liked it because people were using their own money and not the BBC’s money. There is real tension, it’s the right format, it’s educational, competitive and on edge.’
Are there any disasters where the contestants lose some of their own money? ‘Oh there was one poor guy who was a student,’ he replies.
‘He was in the middle of his medical exams and he had a lot on his plate. He unfortunately did lose a bit of money, but that’s dealing. I have lost money. You make it up on the next one.’
As well as Make Me A Dealer, Paul is also doing some more Countryfile Diaries – a show he also loves because of his passion for nature.
He and his wife Charlotte live in a period cottage in a small village called Seend in Wiltshire with their two children, Dylan, nine, and Meredith, seven, surrounded by a 25-acre small holding.
It’s home to his children’s ponies, ducks, geese, a partridge, quails, three stray cats and three dogs. There is also some cattle and his land is used as a release site for hedgehogs and owls from a rescue centre.
‘When I finish filming, I go fence mending and sit on my lawn mower,’ he says cheerfully. ‘I love it and I love being outside.’
So is his house crammed with antiques as well as his barn?
‘Everything is quite minimal inside,’ he reveals. ‘But there are some choice antiques too.
‘I really do think antiques shouldn’t be stuffed in cabinets and never held. You should look after them but use them.
‘I’ve got lots of quirky things made by artisans with love and care. I bought a skeleton of a horse. It’s Edwardian and a wonderful piece of sculpture. It’s in the barn and I can’t possibly move it.’
Also sitting inside his home is a drum kit, which harks back to his early 20s when he used to play. He actually went on tour with the Average White Band.
‘I wasn’t in their band,’ he stresses. ‘I was their warm-up band. I loved it so much and I still play. The BBC took me out recently and we had a party.
‘Unbeknown to me, they had arranged for me to play at Ronnie Scott’s and I played with the house band. I didn’t drop a stick and I gave as good as they gave.’
As well as drumming, he also worked as a scene painter on film sets including Santa Claus: The Movie. So how on earth did he move from drumming to antiques? Is he Mr Everything?! ‘I can’t do anything else,’ he chuckles.
‘I did art because most musicians went into art. All my heroes like Eric Clapton went to art school and I thought I have
to go to do art.
‘I didn’t really want to do art, I wanted to play music and then I realised I was never going to make it. I’m not the brainiest person in the world and so I kind of got into antiques at the age of 23.’
He credits much of his success to his wife Charlotte, who he met on Flog It! and married in 2007.
He reflects happily, ‘She was a production coordinator and went on to work with Sir David Attenborough.
‘She is into budgets and I spend all the money on antiques! She is TV minded and my kids love it. They don’t mind me being on TV – they want to see me on Strictly!’
Would he like to go on the show? ‘Oh gosh, yes,’ he replies, enthusiastic as ever. ‘I keep applying.’
As we chat, Paul’s energy and passion is hugely infectious. He is also looking sensational and far younger than his soon-to-be-60 years, which he celebrates in January. It’s a landmark he isn’t dreading.
‘I feel younger and younger,’ he confides. ‘I am in a good place at the moment and your health is the most important thing. As long as you are healthy, you can tackle anything.
I’ve actually lost a stone over the last eight months. I had IBS so I cut out gluten and dairy products. I’m solid muscle now.
Is there anything else he’d still love to do? ‘More of the same,’ he replies. ‘Make Me A Dealer is following the footprint of Flog It! I hope this lasts as long and takes me all over the British Isles…’
And with that, he’s off to enthusiastically hunt out some more antiques for the ever-expanding collection in his barn.
How do you spend your Sunday?
Lie in or up with the lark?
Up with the lark. My wife is out with all the horses on our small holding whilst I make the breakfast for everyone and then I bundle the kids into the car at 8.15 as they have hockey at 9am. That lasts an hour and a half rain or shine and so I am one of the dads standing there freezing!
Describe your perfect Sunday
After hockey, we come back and we will have croissants, coffee and then all prep for a home made Sunday roast. We do buy the Yorkshire puddings but I peel all the potatoes and do the roasties. We grow our own vegetables and we then take the dogs for a walk. In the afternoon, we go out on the ponies, ride around the village, go for a hack and we sometimes go for a family swim after that. Then it’s home and time to light a fire.
Sunday night telly or movie
We have loads of movies as we have kids but we do love Sunday night telly – things like the X Factor, Strictly and Britain’s Got Talent. I also love anything with Tom Hardy in.
Pony ride or a trip to an antiques fair
I get enough of antiques from my job. Weekends are a time with the family, catching up paying the bills and being a normal person!
*Make Me a Dealer runs every weekday on BBC1 from tomorrow