TO viewers it was just another TV game show. But to 45-year-old Chris Birkett this was one final chance to give his family the life they dreamed of.
Nerves were high, he hadn’t exactly got off to a great start on ITV’s Tipping Point and the prospect of returning home empty-handed to his two-up, two-down in Essex, seemed a racing cert.
And then host Ben Shephard asked the question that convinced Chris fate was on his side.
“In which British Overseas Territory would you find Barbary Macaques?”
Chris, grinning from ear to ear, replied: “I got married there so I should know this one: Gibraltar!”
Now let’s rewind a bit …
The year is 2014. Chris, wife Natalie and three-year-old son Ethan are living in Ilford but dreaming of sun, sand and sangria (well, Ethan doesn’t know about the sangria yet).
Chris had previously lived in Ibiza (party-lovers might recognise him from his DJ days) so cold, grey England was far from paradise.
He had been working as a presenter on a shopping channel for four years, but they were desperate to move to Spain.
“I went freelance after leaving shopping TV to help us move to Spain but it wasn’t going that well. I was working in dribs and drabs,” reminisces Chris.
He applied for Tipping Point, not expecting a whole lot, and after a lengthy application process was eventually invited on the show in September.
Tipping Point, for those without an IPTV box, sees contestants answering general knowledge questions to win counters, each worth £50, via a large arcade-style slot machine. Only the winner takes home their accumulated money. The rest go home empty-handed.
As Paul recalls, it didn’t start too well for him and the others were soon racing into the lead, until serendipity seemingly intervened.
“There was the Gibraltar question, then one about Egypt where I had been on holiday the year before, and one about Maldon salt which is where I used to work as a chef,” laughs Chris.
“I knew that it was meant to be at that point.”
And it was. Not only did he win the show, the jackpot counter dropped on his final go, scooping him the full £10,000.
Before his wife knew of the win, he cheekily sent her a picture of him and the host, captioned: “Oh well, at least I got to meet Ben Shephard.”
“You gave it your best shot, well done,” she replied.
Then he sent a photo of the £10,000 jackpot and rang her. Her exact words aren’t suitable for print, but she also wept tears of joy, knowing that this was the moment their lives changed forever.
Looking back now from his Duquesa village home on a sunny February morning, Chris says: “If we hadn’t won the game show, we would still be in London.
“We moved here just over a year ago now and chose Duquesa because it’s so close to Gibraltar and a great area to bring up a kid.”
“I owe a lot to Ben Shephard too, he is a great guy and between the rounds he calmed me down.”
Chris joined the Olive Press sales team last April and was rewarded for his hard work by being made Head of Sales just three months later.
Perhaps, along with luck and a little help from Ben Shephard, sheer determination and willpower also played a hand in dealing Chris and family their shiny new life in Spain.