Friday, 23 June 2017

With Grate Power Comes Grate Responsibility

Last week I mentioned that KISS were running a really cool competition ... Well, I *have* entered after all. It's a bit of a rush job, on account of work running me ragged, but hope springs eternal, right? And in this instance, I hope the promoter loves drains...

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Another voice: Hello Nikki Hunter-Pike!

As any pro athlete will tell you, rest days are as important as training days. The same holds for comping - at least, that's what I tell myself when I take a break in order to neb at what other folks in the game are talking about.

The great thing about checking out other comping blogs is that you never know what you’re going to learn.

Well, that's almost true - you know you won’t learn much from Gary Wasabi’s Golden Luck Muscle. Still, as a pretty average comper who happens to like blogging too, at least I’ve got tea and sympathy in spades.

Nevertheless, I’m acutely aware that any blog benefits from a bit of glamour now and then. To this end, It's my pleasure to introduce the one and only Glam & Geeky Mum - Nikki Hunter-Pike!

On the off-chance you don’t recognise Nikki’s name (where have you been?! She posts in a whole bunch of comping groups!) I’ll let her introduce herself in her own words…
It's Nikki Hunter-Pike - that's who!
I’m a retired optician, blogger and mum of three (sometimes five). I’m also known as Glam & Geeky Mum (more geek than glam) over at my blog, which I started as a side project back in December when it became clear that having a day-job was frankly incompatible with meeting my son’s medical needs. Having a blog is a great way for me to gain back some identity - it makes me feel like an individual with something to contribute rather than just a full-time carer. I’ve done a few guest posts here and there, and love to blog to inspire and raise awareness. This can range from showing all the amazing inclusive things that my disabled son can do to sharing tips and suggestions about my hobbies (including comping!).

Your blog may be relatively young, but anyone who reads your monthly win lists can see you’re a premier league comper! How long have you been in the game?

I’ve been a comper before I even knew what one was! When I was a child, I constantly bugged my mum to enter competitions. Eventually she gave in and bought me a pack of postcards and some stamps so I could enter them as I found them. I thought I entered LOADS. In reality, I probably only entered about 20 (I was limited to the number of stamps I had!). I do, however, remember winning a giant Jelly Baby filled with Jelly Babies, a massive box of Nivea goodies, and a Planet Hollywood leather baseball jacket.

That might not be a huge number of prizes, but it was enough for me to realise that winning competitions was something I could do.

You lived my dream! I was desperate to be a comper when I was a kid. I think I’d seen an advert for Compers News (or whatever it was called at the time) and thought - yes! I had it all figured out. The reality, however, was that I entered a couple of competitions on Saturday Superstore then lost interest. But you kept it going then?

Actually, no - I think my Mum couldn’t afford to keep buying the stamps. Also I probably got interested in other things ... such as the opposite sex!

Ha! I guess hormones and comping aren’t natural bed-fellows… So when did you pick it up again?

Shortly after broadband internet was first launched in 2000, I realised that there were competitions that you could enter online. I decided entering competitions for free was even better than paying for stamps. (I still didn’t know that there was an entire movement of people who just entered comps - I thought I had stumbled across a genius idea that no one else had thought of.) I spent a few evenings trawling my way through the net and entering comps, but even after two months of doing this I didn’t win anything. Not a sausage. So ... I gave up.

I’m sure two months must be the peak burn-out period for new compers - certainly, my first couple of months were completely fruitless too. So what made you come back?

About three years ago, I read an article about a woman who had won £16,000 worth of prizes in a single year, and decided that if she could do it then so could I. Things were slow to start with and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or how many competitions I should be entering.

After I found a competitions listing website, I started religiously entering at least 30 comps a day. And I noticed I had started to win every now and then! It’s at that point that I felt I first became a true comper. That said, 30 comps a day is nothing compared to my comping routine these days! I put a lot of effort in now, but it does reap rewards. So far this year, I’ve won over £10K worth of prizes. Who knows - I may even surpass the figure in the article that inspired me to discover the comping world properly!

Outstanding! Performance at this level is incredible - not to mention inspirational! That said, it’s worth underlining the sheer graft that goes into results like this: this isn’t luck - it’s time and effort, routines and systems. That's something I’d love to chat about some other time - I don;t suppose you'd be willing to give us some insight into what it takes to be this successful?

Of course - it'd be a pleasure!

I hope this introductory interview has whet your appetite for more - personally, I can't wait for a sneaky peak at what it takes to be a top-end comper! If you've got any questions for Nikki, please add them to the comments below...

Friday, 16 June 2017

WIN! £2,000 + gaming notebook + drone

KISS is celebrating the imminent release of Spider-Man: Homecoming by running an amazing competition for vloggers. The prize - as you can see from the headline - is pretty tasty. As for the gig, well that sounds fun too:

Send us a link to a video which you’ve made which you think is awesome - it can be about anything you like ... music, film, fashion, dancing etc, you decide!

Sadly, my video skills are pretty limited. Even if that weren’t the case, my main pursuit outside of comping is photographing drains - a pastime yet to grasp the public’s imagination.

I’m not saying I won’t enter, but if I do, it’ll be purely for the fun of the challenge. That and raising the profile of one the more esoteric hobbies out there.

The first finalist will be chosen (and contacted) on Friday 23 June and the second on Monday 26 June.

For more information, check the KISS site.

Or just watch the trailer for the movie - because it does look awesome!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Flipping bottles

Entry forms leave me cold; retweets and like-shares positively frigid. So any competition with a novel entry mechanic has my attention from the off. As a matter of fact, the more fun it is to enter the comp, the less I care what the prize is - and sometimes about winning full stop.

Buxton Water ran such a promotion about a fortnight ago, with goodie bags for the first 50 people to tweet video evidence of them flipping a water bottle (Buxton, obvs), along with the #buxtonflip hashtag. The video with the most retweets also won a much bigger prize, but I didn’t pay that part much mind as (a) it was tickets for something I couldn’t attend and (b) spending the weekend acting adolescent was never going to get me into my (teacher) wife’s good books.

I should add that I don’t typically buy into purchase-necessary competitions, but as my first-born was already pestering for a plastic bottle to lob around the back yard, I figured this one might also buy me a half-hour of peace. As it happens, it was a mere five minutes, but peace is peace, right?

After a few practice flips, I captured some passable footage and called my lad in, flipping the bottle once more - looking, for all intents and purposes, like I’d pulled it off first time. Momentarily speechless with awe, he looked at me like I was some kind of god. What can I say - seven-year olds are easily impressed, and as a parent, you’ve got to get your jollies.
And indeed, further jollies ensued a week later with the delivery of a tee-shirt, USB stick, iPhone case, earphone case, keyring containing a disposable shower poncho, and a rubbery trumpet accessory that makes phones marginally louder when on speaker mode.
I wasted no time in using the cable tidy, which is why I forgot to photograph it along with the other goodies!
Out of interest, I did a quick sweep for the #buxtonflip hashtag just a few days later. As far as I can tell, less than half the prizes were given out, providing a textbook example of the extent to which odds can shorten once a little effort is required - there’s a lesson there, my comping friends!

What effort-based competitions have you enjoyed lately - and were you lucky?!

Friday, 9 June 2017

My Lucky Patch

How many daily lotteries do you play? I’m down to two - any more than that and I get all panicky if I forget to check in each day.

The main one I play, however, is My Lucky Patch, which is like the Free Postcode Lottery inasmuch as the winner is pretty much selected by sticking a pin in a map, but broadly speaking, the similarities end there.

As with the other free lotteries, the size of your potential win increases by a nominal amount every day you check in. Unlike the other lotteries, daily check-in also rewards you with additional lucky patches (ie entries into the daily draw), theoretically improving the odds of you winning. In this way, regulars are rewarded with additional entries into the daily draw (unlike with other lotteries, where your odds diminish as more people join the game).

I’ve now checked into the site sufficiently often to have a potential prize pot of £250, so you can imagine how excited I got a couple of weeks back when I saw that the day’s lucky patch was in Norwich. Check out my near miss - two squares closer and I’d have hit paydirt! I've had the Free Postcode Lottery miss me by a couple of streets before, but this was a couple of car-lengths!
Screen grab from My lucky Patch
If another free lottery sounds like your cup of tea, sign up here [disclosure, I get a 15 patch bonus!]

Be lucky!

Do you play the free lotteries? How are they working out for you?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

My first spa #win

Just before Christmas, I won a £300 voucher for Virgin Experiences. A sensible person might have spent some time browsing the catalogue, as it were. Not me. In about the time it took to write that last sentence, I’d blown it on a spa break. In my day-to-day life, I waste hours deliberating over the merits of Decision A versus Decision B; not this time, however - I just went arrow-straight to the nearest place with chips and a dressing-gown dress code.

That place was Clarice House, in Bury St Edmunds, and I booked the break to coincide with my 15th wedding anniversary. Given that we hadn’t so much as grabbed a pint to celebrate any anniversary since the delivery of our first-born in 2010, I figured that back rubs and jacuzzis would make a pleasant change. (Here I should add that the package also included unlimited use of the hotel gym, though why anyone would entertain an exercise bike when they could spend the day in a fizzy bath escapes me.)
Clarice House, in Bury St Edmunds
Clarice House, a fancy old pile in Bury St Edmunds
So, after half a year of waiting, the day finally came. We bundled the children off to my mum’s house, fired up the Astra, and broke down 20 minutes away from our house.

The RAC promised to arrive within three hours (three!). Such faint reassurance invariably puts my stress into fifth gear, and indeed, for the next 90 minutes there was a bona fide risk that my anxiety would boil into a violent but ultimately pointless assault on my vehicle; that or vomiting on the grass verge. I try not to be a control freak, but I had seen the day going differently. Thankfully, the hotel was sympathetic, and rescheduled the treatments for later that day.

In the end, we lost only two hours of R&R. Small mercies, I suppose, but my state of mind was plain to see, even by the time we arrived at the hotel another hour later. Indeed, two hours of pool, jacuzzi and steam room made barely a dent on the residual tension, as evidenced by the therapist’s unrestrained awe vis-à-vis the incredible gnarl of my shoulders (largely accumulated since I last relaxed, some time in October 2016).

Credit to Michelle, however, for delivering one of the most effective back rubs of my life - I dread to think how much lactic acid she released from my knotted muscles. Judging from the way I stumbled out of the treatment room like a zombie on mogadon, it seemed pretty clear that those toxins were the only thing holding my body together. I collapsed in the relaxation room until reality came back into focus.

Regrettably, that was a little quicker than I would have liked, if only because of the piped music. I’m clearly the minority, but I’d rather listen to extra-mild cheddar than the emotionally vacant tedium of “relaxing music” - there’s more soul in a tape full of ZX Spectrum games. So I schlepped back up to our room and sat in the vast bathtub until it was time to eat.

At the risk of dwelling on things not going to plan, dinner didn’t start by going to plan. That was because we were given a complimentary bottle of prosecco, however, so I can let that stand - everything goes better with bubbles, after all.

As it was only a few pounds more, we upgraded to the perfectly cooked and deceptively large steak meal. I say deceptive because, as a doltish bumpkin, I am unaccustomed to eating from rectangular platters, and before I knew it, had over-eaten. I then compounded the matter by shoving down a humungous crème brulée.
Fancy truffles
The lovely kitchen crew gave us some bonus truffles, which I couldn't eat until breakfast time
Good times did not ensue. My belly thre its rattle from the pram, and I spent the rest of the night feeling horribly ill until, by the grace of God, I fell unconscious. Indeed, it wasn’t for another two days that I could eat anything without feeling like I’d ingested cast iron. Again, this wasn’t high on my list of objectives for the break.

Nevertheless, when dawn came with rosy fingers, I felt many times better than the night before. Perhaps not man enough for the full English, but sufficiently strong for eggs royale and a sneaky pain au chocolat before the digestive predicament came to light.

Still, we had full use of the facilities again, so a lie-down in the relaxation room (this time with suitable distractions) was just what the doctor ordered. That and another hour and a half in the jacuzzi and steam room.

Sadly, of course, all good things must com to an end, and so we loaded up the car and promptly ducked back inside to order lunch, which we ate on the terrace, and followed up with a leisurely walk around the grounds. Well, there was no need to rush, was there?!

This was one of my biggest ever wins, and while it might not have gone exactly to plan, it was still the best time I’d had in months and a brilliant reminder of why I love this hobby!

Spa breaks are a permanent fixture on my wish list - is there anything you couldn’t win enough of?

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Unboxing May 2017

Second-born wanted to help out with the unboxing this month, making it very hard to get a word in ...

Monday, 22 May 2017

WIN! NOW TV Sky Sports day pass

Want to watch the big game but don't want to pay? Read on!

You may recall that I've recently been playing Snatch. Well, to cut a long story short, as one of the in-game prizes, I won a Sky Sports day pass. I won't be needing it, however, so I figured I might as well see if any of you guys wanted it.
To this end, I'm running a quick blink-and-you-miss-it giveaway with the aid of the Gleam widget to make sure everything stays above board.

The pass comes in the form of a voucher code which must be redeemed by the end of this month. In other words, please don’t enter this draw unless you’re in a position to redeem it right away. (You don’t have to use it right away, just add the code to your Now TV account and activate it when you’re ready).

Don't be put off if you don't have a Now TV box - you can also watch via smart TV or laptop/tablet.

Get your entries in by the close of Friday 26 May ... Good luck!

NOW TV Sky Sports pass giveaway
Terms and conditions
1) The prize is a NOW TV Sky Sports day pass There is no cash alternative.
2) The closing date for entries is 23.59 26 May 2017. No further entries will be accepted after this point. You can still comment if you like, but there has to be a line in the sand.
3) The giveaway is restricted to UK residents only, excluding my family.
4) The winner will be automatically selected via the Gleam app.
5) The winner has two days to claim their prize. If the prize hasn’t been claimed in this period, I will redraw.
6) I will announce the winner on this blog post and on Twitter within seven days of the winner claiming their prize.
7) This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter, Blogger or any other social network; neither is it endorsed by Sky or Now TV.
8) I will not use your information to sell you encyclopaedias, or to get anyone else to sell you encyclopaedias.
9) I reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of my control. Yes, that does include zombie apocalypse. Any further clarification of terms will be clearly added to this blog post.
10) Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
11) I think that’s it, but if I have forgotten anything fundamental that might void this endeavour, please let me know.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Où est la madeleine?

One day last week, as I decanted the final box of Maldon sea salt, an exquisite memory prevailed over me, and at once the monotony of the chore became indifferent to me - the travails of the day innocuous, the grind illusory. This new sensation had on me the effect which fortune has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the salt, but whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?

OK, let’s not over-egg the pudding: I recently decanted some salt. It was the final box from a set of three 250g ‘limited edition’ packets I won back in 2015. Although the prize was one of the most modestly valued items I’ve ever won, its arrival sticks in my mind more than most. Partly that’s because it turned up out of the blue, and partly it’s because I remember remarking how the cost of mailing the best part of a kilo of salt was three times what that salt was actually worth.
salt in a jar adjacent to empty box that contained salt just minutes previously
The salt in question (decanted)
Mostly, however, the prize sticks in mind because salt is such an elemental part of our very existence: our bodies become chemically unbalanced without it, our muscles and nervous system cease to function and, well, I guess we die.

To be honest, I consume less salt than I’d like. That’s not a conscious choice; rather, it’s because, like many parents of small children, we cook without it and then fail to season our food as we’re too absorbed in whatever argument we’re having with the aforementioned beasts. That’s why I seize moments to enjoy it as conspicuously as possible. I’m talking super fresh, crusty bread with unsalted butter, a sprinkle of salt flakes and NO INTERRUPTIONS!

But that’s by the by. The important thing is to notice how and remember that even the smallest of prizes can touch you on an absolutely fundamental level - in my case, the absorption of an essential daily mineral for somewhere in the region of 24 months (and counting).

Or, to look at it another way, two years of literally seasoning my meals with lucky dust.

Small wins are great! Which ones have been your favourite? Did any change your life?!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The BiBs

Apologies for the short post, but I just thought I’d mention that if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, and you also enjoy nominating things, you’ll be delighted to learn that Gary Wasabi’s Golden Luck Muscle is eligible for consideration in the Fresh Voice category at the annual Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (the BiBs). Just saying ... 

This voice fresh enough for you?

Friday, 12 May 2017

That’s the way to do it!

Competitions with great big prizes are fantastic - obviously - but how often do they stick in your mind? Sure, if you’re a winner, you’re going to get a warm fuzzy feeling every time you hear the promoter’s name, but what about those comps you entered but didn’t win? Let’s say you’re desperate to win a PS4, and in the last six months entered every last competition to win one - how many of those promoters can you still name, and how many have been lost in the general haze of comping noise swirling round your head?

Are comps with lots of smaller prizes any better? Certainly, the physical footprint of the promotion is larger as more people will be touched personally by the brand, and their affection for said brand will flourish accordingly. But again, what about the folks who go without? What impact has the promoter’s marketing (for that is what the competition is, after all) had on them?

For some promoters, that’s simply the price of harvesting contact details for a future mailshot. They’ve done the maths, and they’re happy with that. Promoters looking for something more touchy-feely, however, such as raising brand awareness or improving customer relationships, may well be disappointed. I know I am - if only because I hate to see effort go to waste.

For this reason, when I see a promoter execute something technically brilliant, I think it’s only right to single them out for praise. To this end, consider the recent flash competition from PayPal.

Let's start by bearing in mind that a key aim of advertising is to strengthen brand associations through well-timed repetition. In this instance, the comp pounced on a topical event (the demise of the paper fiver) to leverage its ongoing ‘New Money’ marketing campaign.
The precision timing of the competition was textbook: the old five pound note ceased to be legal tender on Friday, 6th May and the competition ran on the following Monday, with the catchline, ‘New money doesn’t expire’ - a great example of using a competition to reinforce the campaign message.

Second, advertising with an emotional message, rather than a rational one, has a greater impact on customer attention, memory and behaviour. Here, the competition targeted frustrated members of the public who had just missed the window of opportunity for spending their paper money and gave them the chance to add a silver lining to their cloud. In other words, PayPal offered to make a virtue out of their fail. That kind of touchy-feely stuff is manna for positive brand sentiment.

Third, 100 people won a tenner’s worth of PayPal credit - that’s a great prize pot by any measure!

Fourth, to redeem the prize, the winners had to log in to their PayPal account, which is to say, they had to experience the brand, the positive emotion associated with their win combining with the familiar visual elements of the brand to create the best possible impression on their long-term memory.

Winners without a PayPal account of course needed to set up one tout suite - another win for PayPal, as all marketers like to grow market share.

Finally, I was one of the winners, so naturally I feel GREAT about the whole thing!

What comps do you think have been well executed this year? Let me know in the comments below…

Friday, 5 May 2017


What a hashtag scramble that was! On Twitter alone, this was probably the most flash comps I’ve seen in one day this year. They just kept coming, even into the afternoon, as the Johnny Come Latelys realised they too wanted a piece of the pie. Perhaps most amazing of all - and I can’t believe I’m saying this - it looks like #StarWarsDay has become even bigger than #EdBallsDay - who’d have thought?!

Quite how things transpired on Facebook I couldn’t say - I only saw a couple, but they were gooduns, by which I mean they shew more wit than your common or garden like-shares. So, hats off to Music Magpie for their Star Wars treasure hunt that kept me trawling their website way past my bedtime, and to Hollywood Bowl for encouraging the public to upload their best wookie roar in the hope of winning a Chewbacca mask.

For the record, my Chewbacca impression was dreadful so I’m not going to share it. However, I *will* show you one of these masks in action.
There may yet be a few web comps still running, so if that’s your bag, you best get on Google tout suite. Good hunting!

Did you drop everything for Star Wars Day? Did you find any good comps? What hashtag day are you looking forward to next?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Unboxing April 2017

It’s fair to say April was better than March. Here’s the proof.

Friday, 28 April 2017

My big one

Being lost for words is nothing new for me - the imbecilities of my two children leave me in perpetual shock and awe. Less often, however, am I struck dumb by the peaks of life’s loveliness.

And then something like this happens.

A few weeks ago, I made a video for WD40 … Well, I was a lucky winner. A very lucky winner.

For a start, there was the merchandise - the hats and gloves. Then there was the heap of bike maintenance stuff - all manner of lubricants that I had no idea WD40 manufactured. And then came the bikes. Four Diamondback mountain bikes - utter crackers! And then - as if that wasn’t more than enough - was the GoPro Hero 5.
All my WD40 swag
Stunned doesn’t cover it. When I first read the congratulatory message, I sat there slack-jawed, with the butterflies in my belly pulling some some shocking manoeuvres. For the last few weeks, my wins had been infrequent and modest. And then this: a year’s luck in one great dollop! I messaged back to check it wasn’t an administrative error. Surely, they didn’t mean *all* this prize was for me?
Two of the bikes I won from WD40
But they did. My biggest ever win - by an enormous margin. Nice, with ever so many ‘i’s. The bikes alone are worth more than my car!

Even now I’m struggling to come to terms with my good fortune - and I don’t mean the logistics of where to store four new bikes at short notice (that’s easy: two in the dining room, one in the hallway and one in the master bedroom), or the matter of procuring whupp-ass locks (no way am I leaving these babies out with only my old D-lock for protection!). No - I mean that every time I see them, I just think: gosh.


Has your luck ever left you lost for words? Tell me your story in the comments!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

My scarf is IN

Back in 2010, the bookies discovered social media. They gave away so many free bets that, for a few months, I had a nice little side hustle in free gambling. By no means did I make a fortune, but I did take sufficient money from one company that they flagged me as The Wrong Kind of Customer and effectively barred me from placing any more bets.

This was especially disappointing as these guys ran loads more competitions than any of the other bookies, with the result that, on top of the free bets, I’d also won branded hoodies, poker chips, playing cards and a polo shirt. Without doubt, I was having a ball (literally - it was a rugby ball).

The merchandise was great, but there was icing on the cake too: I accumulated something like £200 of credit at a store specialising in soccer apparel, both modern and retro. This explains how I ended up with, among other things, an Atlanta Chiefs jersey that is every bit as flammable as its 1981 counterpart and an exquisite replica of Zaire’s 1974 World Cup strip that I’m no longer able to wear since becoming a biscuit shovelling snack beaver (yes, I do blame the children).

The credit came in the form of gift vouchers, so it was a case of use it or lose it. And being the sort of person who wouldn’t buy so much as a cheese straw without first checking in to Quidco, there was no way I was going to fill my basket with big stuff and then let the chump change slip through my fingers.

Goodness knows how long I spent trawling through the bin-ends, most likely with spreadsheet and calculator to hand, but eventually I found a scarf and a couple of keyrings to round out the order. I possibly had to write off as much as seven pence worth of prize money, but somehow I summoned the inner strength to stomach such egregious waste.

Keyrings, of course, are both subtle and useful, and they began to earn their keep almost as soon as my prize parcel arrived. Football scarves, by contrast, are bluntly ostentatious statements of tribal identity, and - when they deviate from the designated colour scheme - arguably iffy in one-horse towns.

That’s not to say that the fine citizens of Norwich would have given me a good pitchforking had I openly allied myself with Paraguay, but I was certainly unsure whether wearing said scarf would actually have been cricket. To this end, it sank to the bottom of the winter accessories box, where it lay, cruelly neglected, for the next few years.
You can, therefore, imagine my excitement when I read - in the Guardian, no less - that football scarves are presently a la mode. My scarf is now out of the box, around my neck, and officially holding my wardrobe together.

With hindsight, you might say that the scarf represents a watershed. Certainly, it was after this prize bundle that I started thinking that winning stuff was a highly agreeable experience, and that maybe I should look into making it a more regular event. If nothing else, I’m going to treat it with more respect from now on: it’s not just an accessory - it’s the symbol of the moment I decided to be more lucky!

What got you into comping? Did you win a prize and decide you wanted more, or did you just wake up one day and decide to be lucky? What prizes contributed most to making you the comper you are today? Do you still have your first prize? Let me know in the comments...

PS: I meant to post this the other week. I’ve a strong suspicion football scarves are OUT again.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017


I’ve won football tickets before. Thanks to Barclays and Aviva, respectively, I’ve seen Norwich hold Man City to a goalless draw and beat Rotherham 3-1 (honestly, that first one was a corker!). This match, however, was the one I was *really* looking forward to. Not because it was going to be a high-stakes promotion dogfight (that much was written off weeks ago), and not because it would be a chance to see a world-class team show off its silky skills (with all due respect, Fulham, you’re no Barcelona); no - this matchday was going to be awesome because I had golden tickets. The fact that the match was a half-dead rubber was irrelevant: these tickets *guaranteed* a good time.

I won the tickets back in January, when Green Farm Coffee - sponsors of the South Stand at Carrow Road - ran a Gleam comp on their website. I already knew who I wanted to be my plus-one, so I got my mate to enter too. Thanks to this referral, I got an extra entry into the draw. Whether that was the straw that tipped the camel’s back in my favour I shall never know, but for the sake of the narrative, let’s just imagine it was.

The prize, simply put, was an afternoon of top-notch hospitality at the finest football club in East Anglia (yeah, you heard me Ipswich), comprising a tour of the ground, fancy lunch and exceedingly comfortable seats to watch the game.
Carow Road stadium
The lull before the storm
Without doubt, the tour was incredible. Happy to chat both football and the business of football, our guide showed us all the special little nooks of Carrow Road, from the dugouts to the dressing rooms, the press conference suite to the post-match interview cubicles, and, lest we forget, the trophy cabinet.

To be sure, Carrow Road will never rival, say, Old Trafford, for silverware, but even so, there were so many stories in that one room that it was nigh impossible to digest even the highlights. But with lunch beckoning and a queue building up behind us, we had to make way for the next party to see the spoils.

On the touchline
Getting 110% Out of the lads
Speaking of lunch, the meal was (as you’d expect from Delia’s staff) impeccable: a champagne aperitif, followed by a salmon fishcake starter, succulent roast lamb main and something I’m tempted to call a bakewell cake for dessert (sorry - I totally failed to cross-check the bill of fare!), and - of course - coffee. My photos of the food don’t do the meal the slightest justice, however, so here’s another picture of me, mugging for the camera.
In the press cubicle
To be fair, you never can tell. The lads did well at the end of the day and I think the ref's going to feel that in the morning. It was a game of 90 minutes, and, fair play, two halves. That said, I'm sick as a parrot.
Now, about those seats. I had no idea that anyone outside of the squad was allowed a comfy seat. I acknowledge my error. At the top of the terrace, opposite the dugouts, is where the posh people sit. The view was fantastic and my riff-raff buns were over the proverbial moon.
Seat at Carrow Road
Check out the padding!
As we got to our seats, the Barclay was in fine voice, the team having pounded Reading 7-1 in the previous game. No one was expecting a repeat of that, of course. Much like no one was expecting Fulham to go a goal up in the first five minutes. Suffice to say, I'm disinclined to discuss the subsequent 85 minutes; that is, unless you want further intel on the euphoric state of my buttocks.

This was the first time I've ever been vipped, and it was, without question, brilliant. How I'm ever supposed to cope with being a civilian again I will never know!

Have you ever had the VIP treatment? Tell me more!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Unboxing March 2017

I don't normally do unboxing videos - I don't win enough prizes to make them worthwhile. Then I figured, hang on, there's probably enough compers out there who feel exactly the same. So here it is, my first unboxing video, dedicated to our daily disappointments!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Take one

This year, one of my personal challenges is to enter as many video-based competitions as possible.
That’s not because I’m some bright young camera-wielding hotshot - quite the opposite in fact: I need the practice (and yes, it *is* way too late for me to be bright or young).

So what’s the rationale? Simply put, I suspect the number of video-based competitions is going to increase over the next few years. Why? Because we all have the technology.

Technology is plainly changing the comping landscape. To state the obvious, there were no web-based comps before the internet, no follow-RT comps before Twitter, and no selfie comps before the world and his dog had a front-facing camera in their smartphone.

Of course, today’s front-facing cameras don’t just take half-decent photos - they’re also capable of capturing respectable video footage too - and things will only improve.

I’m not born-digital. Aside from berating retailers, I get little joy from Twitter. Likewise, Snapchat, with its vacuous filters and counterintuitive interface, has done nothing for me except pacify my children during weddings and funerals.

In short, I am, despite my best efforts, a 42-year-old Luddite, guilty of spawning children purely so I have someone to sync my iPod when I retire.

Today’s children will be playing with video like we played with Chuckie Egg. Sure, they’ll still have written assignments at school, but video-based assignments aren’t going to be limited to drama and media studies lessons. Their media literacy is going to be all over ours. And this is where I draw the line - I’m not going to let the next generation outdo me when it comes to video comps!

Right now, I have only my phone and the video-editing software that came bundled with Windows. I’m sure there are plenty of free or modestly priced video editors out there, but for me the priority is such basics as lighting and narrative.

By way of example, here’s my entry into the recent WD40 life-hacks competition.
I really should have looked more closely at the contrast on the purple ink I was clearing up, as the light bleaches it out somewhat - I can only hope it’s sufficiently visible for the promoter. I also hope the promoter enjoys the footage of my lad’s apology that’s woven into it.

Here, I confess that he was actually apologising for a different misdemeanour - I just had the footage on file, as it were, and saw an opportunity to use it! Nonetheless, such confession bears emphasising. Compers already prepare for photo comps by snapping everything from sunsets to messy bedrooms - because who knows when those pictures will come in handy… All I can say is that a change is going to come, so start saving those video clips too!

How do you find technology is changing comping? Do you yearn for the "good old days", or do you embrace each new development as it comes on scene? What are your tips for video comps?

Monday, 20 March 2017

Do you remember the first time?

The dry spell is over. All wins are great, of course, but some make for better copy than others.

For example, there’s only so much spin you can put on being the only entrant in a Twitter comp to win a branded beanie hat from a company specialising in cattle disinfectant.

I also won some teabags. Well, technically, I was tagged in a comp won by an Instagram tag buddy, but any port in a storm, right?

So, in the absence of exciting stories, I’ll fall back on throwback and tell you about my very first win.

It was the summer term of 1999, which would have made me 14. A chap from Cambridge University Press came into our English class to talk about something - I’m guessing publishing, but the memories are hazy - for all I know, it was the mating habits of the Palawan stink badger.

At the end of this clearly memorable session, we were, as was the norm, set our weekly homework. What made this week different, however, was that (a) it would take five minutes instead of the usual hour or more, and (b) there would be prizes.

I wasn’t the kind of pupil to need reward-based incentivisation; however, I did have an admirable track record when it came to rushing my homework to get my parents off my back so I could get on with my R&R. Thus, when I was tasked with writing a story in a sentence, it was as good as giving me a week off.

Mine wasn’t the best entry. The best entry was (I later learned) plagiarised from Stephen King. The judges clearly suspected something was afoot, however, and awarded first prize - a concise Chambers Dictionary - to my hastily tossed off guff about a radioactive worm. (Stephen King, since you ask, bagged but a pocket dictionary.)
My story in a sentence, aged 14, as recovered from the July 1999 Parents Newsletter. 
I still have the dictionary. The dust-jacket is long since perished, of course, and the spine flaps around in the draft, and if you want the skinny on latte or for that matter any other contemporary term such as LOL, vape or emoji, it’s plainly no use at all. That said, if I want slumpflation or perestroika, then it’s totally my go-to reference book.
Dictionary cover
I’ll be honest though, it’s not the win that got me into this game. Half my class didn’t bother with the homework, so I didn’t feel like I’d won fair and square. What’s more, the plagiarism wasn’t even confessed for another couple of years, so I simply couldn’t understand how I could possibly have beaten Stephen King. It didn’t sit right.

Oh the innocence! I love that it never even occurred to me that someone might cheat. But more than that, it makes me laugh that I didn’t value my win because the odds weren’t long enough. Coming from someone who did a victory dance after scoring a cow soap beanie against zero opposition, that really is incredible.

What was your very first win? Did it give you the bug, or did that come later?

Monday, 13 March 2017

Prize piles

The last few weeks haven’t been kind. I blame the change in routine. No longer can I use my lunch break to search Twitter for short-lived comps with precious few entrants. Instead, I’ve been sitting down in the evening to run my searches and trawling through page after page of irrelevant US posts. The fact that I’m exhausted by this point only compounds matters.

I’m working to fix this, of course. But in the meantime, I’m reminding myself about my luck credentials by dusting the virtual trophy cabinet, which is to say, working on my Winspiration Pinterest board.

Mostly, my prizes come in drips and drabs, so I can only really snap them one at a time. Last December, however, was my most successful month ever - in fact, things went so well that my wins were stacking up on my desk faster than I could find homes for them. At one point I was even thinking: Is this what it feels like to be Di Coke? Because if it is, she must feel BRILLIANT!

And that’s when I remembered prize piles.

When I first started comping, I used to pore slack-jawed over the winners’ stories on Prizefinder, gasping at the heaps of things some people were winning on a monthly basis. And I thought: one day, this will be me. And so it was - I was living the dream!

Dry spells are an inevitable part of comping, but it’s how we cope with them that defines us as compers. So, when I realised that this beautiful moment was unfolding before me, I captured it, intending full well to use it in my next trip to the luck recovery clinic.
Some of my wins from December 2016
When I look back on this picture, I think YES - I really can do this! I may not be able to make an actual pile in any given month (read, most months), but I'm a total advocate for snapping every last win for posterity. The prize spreadsheet is undoubtedly great, but never underestimate the emotional value of those Kodak moments!

Celebrating past glories is just one salve for bruised luck muscles - the best recovery programmes always draw on a combination of therapies. How do you massage your luck back into shape again?!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

#Snatch: Getting grabby

My previous post gave you an idea about how to look after your stash. This one will focus on a recipe for more aggressive growth.

Now, before you even think about who to snatch from, it is essential to think about WHEN to snatch.
First of all, there’s no point snatching what you can’t defend, so don’t snatch before bed or before driving to work. The current radius for snatching is 1,500 metres, so if you’re stuck in traffic, you’re a sitting duck (I’m assuming here that you’re a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t play with their phone while driving).

Second, most collectors, even the early-birds, aren’t going to start collecting before 6AM. Sure, there are shift-workers and insomniacs out there, but we’re talking the Joe Normals here. In other words, if you start snatching on your way to the office, you’ll probably have to sit on the bulk of those parcels for a few hours. Personally, I’d wait till late morning before logging in.

As for whether there's a better time to play in order to find the prizes - no. They're distributed according to a random algorithm. That said, if a major prize is about to be dropped - such as a £1000 parcel - then this will be announced on Twitter.

Next, you have to decide WHO to snatch from. There’s an icon in the bottom left-hand corner that turns green when there are potential targets in the environs. Tap that, and the app will bring up a list of all the snatchers in the area.
List of local players
Bring up a list of local players and choose whose parcel to snatch 
This is when the game starts getting really devious, because it provides intel on everyone in that list - just click on each player’s avatar to learn about them. Crucially, this isn’t personal information; rather, it just tells you about how they play - how many parcels they’ve found, how many they’ve snatched, and how many they’ve lost.
Profile info
Sample profile info

What follows is my theory rather than game science, but I’ll share it anyway:
  • Providers are players who have lost almost as many parcels as they have obtained and are the least likely to put up a fight. In the first instance, therefore, I aim to snatch from these guys.
  • Collectors are players who have collected significantly more parcels than they have snatched. I suspect these guys are more frugal with their coins, so I target them if no providers are available.
  • Snatchers are players who have snatched significantly more parcels than they have collected. These are the most aggressive players. You can, of course, snatch from a snatcher, but for my money, it’s more of a gamble whether they’ll defend and the coins you spent to snatch will be lost for nothing.
It is currently possible to shakedown a single target for everything they’ve got - a process I call mugging, because it’s more aggressive than plain old snatching. It isn’t a particularly friendly behaviour, but if your mark turns out to be holding parcels with only an hour to mature, well, there’s an obvious incentive to keep snatching.

There are also tools for collecting - a radar to extend your collecting radius (200 coins), and black holes and tornadoes to automatically snatch parcels from anyone in range. I've not yet used any of these, however, so I can’t really comment on their effectiveness, other than to say the snatching tools need to be deployed in areas dense with players r you're wasting your money.

If you’re unable to snatch because you’re running out of coins, there are two options: get your friends to play so you can claim referral bonuses, or just collect boxes and be patient!

So, that’s defending and snatching covered. That just leaves revealing what’s in the parcels and redeeming your prizes, and I’m not going to say anything about that because it’s so easy!

Good hunting!

If you haven't yet installed the app, get yourself over to the App Store or Google Play. If you follow my referral link and add “95J73U” as a referral code (on the 500 Free Coins tab) then I get an in-game reward (thanks!).

If you have any more tips, please share them in the comments below.

Friday, 3 March 2017

#Snatch: The art of defence

As I mentioned previously, I’ve recently dropped Pokémon Go like a cold lead dumpling in order to play Snatch, the new augmented reality game where you can win actual prizes rather than virtual monsters. This post is for all the newbies out there who are about to jump in and join me.

The absolute first thing to do is to set up your profile. There’s not much to say here, but I recommend picking a gender-neutral name and a non-female avatar, if only to avoid gender-based mugging due either to trolls or the (flawed) argument that female players are more likely to have their phone in a bag where they can’t hear its notifications.

After watching the tutorial (I’m not going into the basics here), the next thing to do is check out your environment. Don’t start snatching. Don’t start defending. This will only eat up your very limited wallet of coins.

Your environment will largely dictate the way you play this game. If you’re out in the sticks on your own, then you’re going to be a collector - picking up parcels in the street, taking them home, and waiting for them to mature (or, to use the lingo, waiting till you can lock them down). Your game will be a relatively sedate affair, but rewarding nonetheless.

If you’re in the city, however, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Before snatching anything, just spend a day collecting parcels. Parcels take six hours to lock down. That’s a long time to defend, so unless you’ve got multiple parcels due to mature within a couple of hours, don’t bother defending. Your goal at this point is to see how aggressive the locals are, and if it is possible to hide from them.

About that defence. It comes in two forms: reactive and proactive. Reactive is more expensive, but when you need it, you need it. Proactive is more of a gamble. It’s insurance. It might not actually be necessary, but what price peace of mind, right?

There are two forms of reactive defence:
  • Snatch-proof vest (40 coins) - unless you’ve less than 50 coins, don’t bother. It offers protection from a single attack, and frankly makes you look vulnerable to a second.
  • Smokescreen (55 coins) - gives you 15 minutes of protection.
Proactive defence, meanwhile, comes down to the following:
  • Tent (75 coins) - 60 minutes of protection. Great if you’re not going anywhere and much better value than four smokescreens. [note: this has been a little glitchy this week, but the developers are aware of the problem]
  • Invisibility cloak (125 coins) - 60 minutes of protection. Great for snatching in crowded areas. 
  • Emergency battery (60 coins) - 30 minutes of protection. Can be deployed only if your battery is down to its last 19%. Yes, I have deliberately run down my battery to use this.
There are also safe houses. Safe houses are the little green buildings on your map where you can check in for an hour of free protection. In real life, these are commercial premises such as Pizza Hut, Top Man, the Apple Store or All Bar One. So, if you’re out and about in town, plan your route carefully and you could well lock down a whole bunch of boxes without spending a penny. Bear in mind, however, that you can only check into each safe house once in a 24-hour period, and your safe house time is limited to three hours per 24-hour cycle.
To show what a safe house looks like
There is of course another form of defence: truces with your neighbours. That of course is easier said than done: players can snatch your parcel from 1.5km away and there's no way to communicate with them. You'll just have to find out who is playing, and what their usernames are - good luck with that!

What you can't do is switch off your phone or your mobile signal, or hide in an otherwise "dark" spot, as the game will just park you at your last known coordinates leaving you totally open to attack.

For best results, always carry as many parcels as possible. In this way, the unit cost of defending each parcel is lower. It makes little sense to deploy a cloak for a single parcel, but if you have ten, well, that's another matter. (EDIT: If you find a parcel while you're snatching your tenth parcel, it's technically possible to hold 11 parcels - see below.)
Extreme snatching: Proof that it's possible to hold 11 parcels (pic provided by Tara Barrett)
Note also that you've 90-100 seconds to defend against a snatch [EDIT: 3 minutes according to the T&C], so don't panic if someone starts grabbing at your stash. In fact, if you're about to deploy a smokescreen anyway, let the clock wind down a little in order to nab yourself an extra minute of defence (it all counts!).

Finally, it's also important to know when to fold, as it were. If you've got, say, nine parcels ready to lock down within the hour, but one that's going to take three hours or more, then unless you plan to stock up on another armful of parcels to go with it, it's collateral damage. Just because you paid to snatch it, doesn't mean you have to keep throwing coins at it.

So, that’s the defence, what about the snatching? Tell me about the snatching!

I'd love to - but haven't you read enough for one day? Tell you what, how about you practise locking down a box or two and I'll wrap this up in my next post.

If you haven't yet installed the app, get yourself over to the App Store or Google Play. If you follow my referral link and add “95J73U” as a referral code on the 500 Free Coins tab then I get an in-game reward (thanks!).

If you have any more tips, please share them in the comments below.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Let's #Snatch

This week, I've been mostly playing Snatch.

For the uninitiated, the simplest way to describe the game is Pokémon Go but with real prizes. However, that doesn’t do it the slightest bit of justice. Imagine a game where "rational" individuals might not cooperate, even when it might be in their best interests to do so, and you’re getting closer.

The aim is simply to collect parcels. Once those parcels are six hours old, they are locked down, and you can claim the contents. So, more precisely, the aim is to hold parcels until they mature.
There are two ways to collect a parcel: find it on the street or snatch it from another player.
In a perfectly cooperative world, players would go for a walk, collect a bunch of parcels, and sit on their stash for the next six hours. Life, however, isn’t like that. Unless you drag your stash off to a giant field or sit in a dinghy a couple of kilometres out to sea, the odds of you getting through the next six hours without someone trying to pinch your parcels are low to nil - especially if you’re in an urban area.

There are ways to protect your stash, of course, and these can be grouped into reactive defences, proactive defences and safehouses. I’ll talk about gameplay in my next post. Before that, however, I must mention the prizes: cash and vouchers are the bread and butter (with some golden parcels containing up to £1000), but you can also win other prizes, including (at the time of writing), t-shirts, flights, tickets to see Justin Bieber, and a PS4. So far, I’ve won a two-month NowTV voucher and £1, but I’m sure there’s a cheeky Nando’s round the corner.

If that’s enough to whet your appetite, go get the app from the App Store or Google Play. If you follow my referral link or add “95J73U” as a referral code when prompted then I may even get an in-game reward (thanks!).

My next post will discuss the gameplay in more detail, so if you’re worried about splurging your coins too quickly, you might want to wait until after the weekend.

Chat soon!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Comping beneath the radar

What if I told you there was another way to win? A competition with no other entrants and no closing date. No terms, no conditions, and, erm, no guaranteed prizes either. Would you stick around to hear more? (You don’t have to answer that … but I will check my analytics!)

OK, so here’s the disclosure: it’s not technically comping. But when it works out, it most definitely feels like winning.

So what is this Hot New Thing? I call it karmic comping, but if anyone has a better name then I’m open to suggestions.

Why karmic? Because goodwill generates goodwill. (Disclosure 2: I originally put “good vibes” but didn’t want to turn off my non-hippy readers.)

Let me be clear - this isn’t for everyone. If you’re going to be cynical about it, you may as well leave the room now, because without genuine brand affection, this absolutely will not work.

Shrugging off that cloak of cynicism can be hard - I get that. After all, being a grown-up can often seem like one long grind. If this sounds all too familiar, you might want to take a step back and let your children do the talking, as it’s a well-known fact that the mouths of babes are ripe with spontaneous (and if you’re lucky, ill-informed) sincerity.

Case in point: My eldest lad’s most prized possession is (at the time of writing) a Pilot Frixion pen. He loves that pen. No toy comes close. So I thought I’d make a video about him and his pen.
And then I sent it to Pilot.
They loved it. They shared it. And they sent my delighted son another four of their fancy Frixion pens.

So what’s the lesson here? Brands love to share user-generated content because it’s genuine, grassroots love. It shows how their product makes a difference to real people. In turn, people connect with it, because it’s completely shorn of corporatism.

In other words, if you love a brand then let them know. And if you can let them know in a way that tickles their chestnuts, who knows … maybe they’ll love you back. That’s karma.

Have you ever tweeted unsolicited love to a brand? How did it go?!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Win! LEGO Batman Movie prizes

Lego is cool, Batman is cool, and Lego Batman is cool squared. Throw in a competition too and, well, that’s where my cool maths conks out, but trust me, it's cooler than an Ice Age pavlova.

Can’t imagine that much cool? Allow me to elaborate.

This competition is being run by Blocks magazine. The prizes are awesome sets from the Lego Batman movie: first place wins 70909 Batcave Break-in, second place wins 70908 The Scuttler and third place wins 70904 Clayface Splat Attack. On top of that, all three winners get a copy of Blocks No. 28 signed by the movie’s director, Chris McKay and producer, Dan Lin.

What’s the brief? Convert a regular Lego model into Batman Lego model.

Here’s one example from Block’s Mod Squad - the (formerly yellow) Batsubmarine.
The Lego Batsub
I wish I was entering this, but sadly I lack the materials. Should you, however, have an abundance of black (or very, very dark grey) bricks, I suggest you get cracking!

The competition closes midnight 27 February. For more information, check out the post on Brick Fanatics.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Breaking the duck

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well, it stops him being a lucky boy, at the very least. For the last few weeks, I’ve either been drowning in work or parenting duties (or both), which puts an uncomfortably low ceiling on comping time. And, as everyone knows, a lack of comping makes for a lack of prizes.

As a case in point, I’ve had just one proper win this month, although it’s fair to say that it *is* a bit of an animal. Which is to say, it *smells* like a bit of an animal. That’s right - I’ve won salami-scented cologne, or to give it its full name, Porc by Peperami.

To be sure, had I been on a winning streak, the giveaway would have been less eye-catching, but let’s just say I saw an opportunity: a photo contest where you had to show off your best impression of the Peperami animal. There aren’t many times where being bald is an advantage.
My impression of the Peperami animal

I’ll be honest: I’ve not actually sampled this inspired fragrance as I’m planning to gift it to a friend - a very special friend. However, the packaging is so excellent, and the press release so perfect, that I just had to share.
Porc by Peperami

Peperami press release

Without doubt, this is my oddest prize ever - it makes my lucky pants seem positively sober!

If you’re having a dry spell, do you get more tempted to comp off-piste? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever won?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Win! A night in London

Just before Christmas, I had my biggest win of the year:  an Instax camera and £300 Virgin Experience Days voucher. The camera alone would have been a great prize, but the voucher … well, the voucher got me really excited, because I knew from the off what I wanted - what I needed - a spa break.

I’m a relatively recent convert to the spa experience, but my word have I found them life-changing … To be honest, if it meant I could escape the incessant din of my children, I’d be happy just sitting in a tepid bath for two days. At least I’d be able to hear my own thoughts again. But a spa break - a spa break for two, no less - a spa break for two with massage, dinner, bed and breakfast - not to mention all you can eat jacuzzi time, well, what’s not to love?

I recognise, of course, that once back in my own home, the warm glow of relaxation will recede at a frightening rate of knots, but it’s reassuring to know that my body does still have the capacity to unwind.

The competition itself was simple: share your favourite photo memory of 2016, and Virgin Experience Days would pick a winner. Given the awesomeness of the prize, surprisingly few people entered - maybe 200 or so - so I can only guess folks were distracted by the advent comps.

I had no idea what the promoter was looking for, so I just submitted a snap taken when we went for a family walk in the countryside. It was a beautiful - if cold - day, but I think our youngest found it all a bit much.

But that’s all by and by. Virgin Experience Days is running another competition, this time to win a night away in London, packed with activities. All you need to do is tell them the funniest situation you’ve got into with your other half - before 9AM, 13th February.

I’ve been scratching my head for a story but have so far drawn a blank - I hope you have better luck!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Win! Goodies from the Tooth Fairy

The tooth fairy came back this week, but this time her visit was unscheduled. No money changed hands, for there were no body parts under the pillow. Rather, the Tooth Fairy was making a special delivery.

This extraordinary visit followed the extraordinary circulation enjoyed by the letter my son received from the tooth fairy just a couple of weeks prior.

When the early-years toothcare specialists Brush-Baby got wind of my son’s failure to supply the Tooth Fairy with a perfect specimen, they sent him and his younger brother a brand-new electric toothbrush each, as well as two tubes of toothpaste: spearmint and tutti-frutti.

I confess, the whole concept of sweet toothpaste makes me twitch. But that can be explained by a lifetime of indoctrination: cars should be pine fresh, household cleaner should be lemon fresh, and toothpaste should be minty fresh. My desire to use sweet toothpaste is about as strong as my desire to use bacon toothpaste. But that’s not to say it’s wrong (well, bacon toothpaste is wrong, I stand by that) - if it motivates kids to clean their teeth properly, then it’s simply a gateway to better oral hygiene.

But did the children enjoy it? Oh yes - in fact, my youngest cried when I wouldn’t brush his teeth for a third time. (Cruel parenting is a forte - thank you.)

If you’d like to see how well the brush and toothpaste were received (as well as the Tooth Fairy's most recent correspondence), my son's reportage will explain more.

Now, as if Brush-Baby hadn't been kind enough already, those all-round good eggs have also offered to give one of my friends an age-appropriate oral hygiene pack for their own littlun. So whether you have a gummy little bairn or a gap-toothed schoolgoer, this is a great starter pack for encouraging best practice in oral hygiene and ensuring Sparkly Pegs receives a steady stream of pristine ivories.
The Brush-Baby range (pictured) is divided into three stages: Baby (0-3 years), Toddler (3-6 years) and Child (6+ years)
The winner may select which starter pack they would like to receive; contents will vary

All you need to do is enter via the Gleam widget below.

The closing date for entries is 26 February 2017. More T&C below!

Brush-Baby Giveaway

Terms and conditions
1) The prize is an age-appropriate early-years toothcare pack from Brush-Baby. The winner may choose either Baby (0-3 years), Toddler (3-6 years) or Child (6+ years). There is no cash alternative.
2) The closing date for entries is 23.59 26 February 2017. No further entries will be accepted after this point. You can still comment if you like, but there has to be a line in the sand.
3) The giveaway is restricted to UK residents only, excluding my family and employees of Brush-Baby.
4) The winner will be automatically selected via the Gleam app.
5) The winner has seven days to claim their prize. If the prize hasn’t been claimed in this period, I will redraw.
6) I will announce the winner on this blog post and on Twitter within seven days of the winner claiming their prize.
7) Brush-Baby is responsible for supplying the prize.
8) This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter, Blogger or any other social network.
9) I will not use your information to sell you encyclopaedias, or to get anyone else to sell you encyclopaedias.
10) I reserve the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of my control. Yes, that does include zombie apocalypse. Any further clarification of terms will be clearly added to this blog post.
11) Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
12) I think that’s it, but if I have forgotten anything fundamental that might void this endeavour, please let me know.

Disclaimer: I received the Brush-Baby products in exchange for writing this post.

Thanks for hosting on your linky Di Coke & Loquax!
Thanks also to Prize Finder and Competition Database for listing!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Reasons to be cheerful

January is the worst. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. It’s like the first few weeks of parenthood - an awful lot of grind without the slightest smile of validation.

Historically, January has been the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me. It doesn’t make me a good person to be around - sorry world!

This year, however, has been better - my best January for a few years, in fact - and that’s in no small part down to comping. That’s not to say comping is the panacea to poor mental health; this January is already less grim than the last few for the simple fact that it’s the first in some years that I’ve not had to watch my father dying by degrees. But I digress; my point is simply that when the balance is right, the hobby has rewards beyond the prizes themselves.

Most obviously, there’s the community (hey there, community!). As with any hobby, it’s good to mingle (if only virtually) with like-minded souls. But the comping community also contains so many helpful folks, who will share tips with newbies and comps with their competitors, who will point you in the right direction if you’re looking for a competition but can’t recall the promoter, and who will massage your mojo when it has taken a bruising. Friendships are out there just waiting to be made - and who doesn’t need friends?

But what has worked really well for me, particularly in recent weeks (or the lean season, as some might say), is the creative aspect of the hobby. I’m going to make a confession here: sometimes I enter competitions with absolutely no intention of winning. That’s not to say I enter comps for prizes I don’t want; rather, I like the brief so much that I enter for the joy of the challenge, without the slightest hope of winning or worrying what I could have done better to impress the judges.

My entry for the Malta competition last week is a case in point. I can’t imagine it ticked many boxes for the promoter, but it made my mum and my sister so happy to reminisce about those holidays - and about happier times with my dad. That’s a prize in itself.

I’ve likewise written entries for creative writing competitions that have veered so far from the brief that they’ve been quite unusable. I then end up saving my work in my own little creative writing folder, before butchering the text into something vaguely in line with what the promoter has asked for. The result is a blatant hack job, as by this point it’s invariably too late to do anything about it. But I can live with that - I’ve got the director’s cut on file, ready for me to use in a way that suits me, some time in the future.

My dad used to say that sometimes it’s better to travel than to arrive. To that end, I suppose, there is reward to be had in dedicating hour after hour to the completion of entry forms. But when the grind of that mindless toil is over, what’s left? God willing, there may be some prizes; the value of those prizes may even be vaguely proportional to the hours invested in winning them. But beyond the material goods? Again, I confess, none of my fondest memories relate to web forms or retweets.

Winning might be the most obvious benefit of this hobby, but it isn’t the only one. YOLO, as the youth say, so if this is your hobby of choice, don’t let a single drop of pleasure from it escape you.

Friday, 27 January 2017

The last of the admin?

It is, by definition, a work in progress, but I've set up a Pinterest account to link up with this blog - so if you're that way inclined, then do please follow @garywasabi.

So far, I've set up three folders: two for picture competitions (one of winning pictures and one of, erm, not winning pictures) and one for my prizes.

I'm not sure that my prize history will be overly inspirational - though I'll happily stand corrected - but I, for one, am a big fan of seeing what works and what doesn't when it comes to creative comps. To this end, I hope this will ultimately prove useful to the comping community.

Some of the pictures I know I've taken will take a bit of scratching around to find, but once this is complete, I'll finally have my comping history compiled and ready for public scrutiny.

I hope it cuts the mustard!

Do you have any further suggestions for comping-related Pinterest boards? If so, please let me know in the comments!