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Pint-sized princess Nikki Grahame, the tantrum-throwing contestant on the most recent Big Brother series, has teamed up with Ealing’s experienced bin men to clean up local streets and try her hand at a new career. As part of her new E4/Channel 4 series Princess Nikki, the 24-year-old is being put to the test in a series of jobs, including farming and deep-sea fishing. Before the series began Nikki said: “As long as they don’t make me a bin woman or put me on a fishing boat…I’ll be OK.”

Her worst fears came true last week when she was made to wear a high-visibility jacket and protective gloves and join the dedicated refuse collectors from ECT, Ealing’s waste contractor. Team leaders Mick and George gave Nikki a tough induction to the black-sack trade, carefully explaining all health and safety precautions. George, who has been a refuse collector for eight years, explained that the best parts of the job – working outdoors, early finish times and teamwork with a good dose of humour. “It is so much fun to be out there. You need to be able to get your hands dirty,” he said. “She may be a princess, but I’m George the bin man, and if she throws a tantrum then we’ll just throw one right back.”

In reality, Nikki doesn’t have a proper job. She’s a model/dancer with some experience at the Harrods make-up counter. But a life of parties, shopping and luxury holidays must have felt a million miles away as she picked up black sacks of rubbish along residential streets in Southall. True to her tantrum-throwing form, Nikki cried and complained, but after gentle encouragement – and a few kerbside breaks - she got on with the job.

So what was the team’s verdict on Nikki’s performance? George commented, “I don’t think she should give up her day job!” Gerri, the newest member of the team who has been on the job for just over a year, added: “Nikki wasn’t as bad as I thought she was going to be. She threw a few tantrums, but I think she did her best.”

And what did Nikki think of them? “They were good but they were mean to me,” she said in her characteristic child-speak, describing the work as “hard” and “stenchy”. It would be interesting to know whether Nikki would have any suggestions about the perennial problems of fly-tipping and filthy streets which give residents such concern. (see the Filthy Acton and similar threads on the forum)

Cleaner streets are one of the Ealing leadership’s three priorities, in addition to safer communities and value for money. Councillor Will Brooks, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “The council is making huge efforts to restore Ealing’s reputation of being the Queen of the Suburbs, and we are glad that even Princess Nikki was happy to get her hands dirty and help out. “Later this month, the council will start its Showcase Streets programme, a coordinated makeover of local areas, kicking off with the Medway Estate in Perivale.”

Princess Nikki is produced by Brighter Pictures (an Endemol company).
The series broadcasts on E4, Wednesdays at 10pm (repeated on Channel 4, Saturdays at 9.55am). Nikki’s refuse-lady episode is expected to air this week.

September 25, 2006