An evening with Lulu, Alex and Sparky

If we must have cuts we need to know exactly why

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My charity auctioneering skills were required last week for the Prince’s Trust Gala Ball, held at Eaton Hall near Chester, on the 10,000-acre estate of the Duke and Duchess of Westminster.

My wife and I took an early flight to Manchester and taxi to a hotel in the centre of Chester. As we were waiting in reception the event host, TV presenter Anna Williamson, introduced herself and her partner Alex.

When we arrived on the red carpet, it was amid tight security. This was the biggest Prince’s Trust event for the north west and would be attended by 350 guests, with entertainment provided by Lulu.

There were 25 silent auction lots including 4 VIP X-Factor final tickets, holidays and meet ’n’ greets with Bryan Adams and Michael McIntyre.

There were only six ‘live’ auction lots, including a tour of the Prince of Wales’ private residence, Highgrove, followed by a champagne reception and three-course dinner for 20 people.

Exclusive jewellers Boodles, whose owner Nicholas Wainwright had sponsored the event and was hosting our top table, had donated a platinum and diamond ring.

My favourite lot had to be the use of the Duke of Westminster’s private jet for eight people for several hours.

After some sky-high bidding, the flight was knocked down for £14,000 and the Boodles ring £8,000.

Dinner at Highgrove was the most popular lot and one bidder was former Man Utd legend and current Stoke City manager Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes.

But he missed out when it was eventually knocked down for £17,000.

Afterwards I said seeing him had caught me by surprise.

‘Surprised it was me, or surprised a Welshman would be bidding?’ he replied!