Thursday 24 June 2010

Win a year in the Winnin Post Club

THE WINNIN POST CLUB is now taking members for 2010-11. Members receive Winn Sommor’s annual booklet of around 25 competitions in the summer plus prize quizzes in autumn and spring. With a limit of 250 members, your chances of a win are excellent, and the puzzles and quizzes are great fun.
To join the club, send a cheque for £10.99, made out to WINN SOMMOR, to

Winn Sommor,
The Winnin Post Club,
Dept JW(G/B),
Erica Handling House,
LN4 4NR.

All new members quoting the code JW(G/B) will receive a free comping gift. Please write the date of posting in the top right hand corner of your envelope.

We have two prizes, each of a year’s membership to be won. If a winner has already joined for this year, they will receive membership for next year.

For one entry, leave a “Pick me” comment below. Note that comments are moderated so don’t worry when your comment doesn’t appear immediately. I need to be able to contact the winner, so anonymous comments without any username or Twitter name cannot be entered into the draw.
If you are on Twitter you can get a second entry by including your Twitter name in your comment and then Tweeting the following:

I entered to win a year in the #WinninPost club at

This competition closes at noon on Thursday July 1st. UK entrants only please, as the prize can only be sent to UK addresses.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Away for a few days

I'm just about to switch off the computer for a few days and head off to America for the celebration of my daughter's wedding, so I won't be updating the blog until the middle of next week.

One last minute comp to tell you about before I go - there is an entry form in John Lewis to be posted in instore boxes, for a draw to win a Panasonic home cinema system, closing 30 Jun. Alternatively enter online here

Update email list members should have received their June update by now.If not, you can read it online - make sure you log in with the email address you receive the update on. If you still can't read it, check that your email address is registered with Google. If you still can't read it, click on "Join this group" but I won't be able to approve your membership until I get home next week.

My Twitter Guide for Compers has just been updated with some tips to help you win, and while you are visiting the site to read it, why not enter for your chance to win a 6 months subscription to Grape Vine?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Cooking up a winner

I’m not just a comper, I’m also a fully fledged foodie, and my love of both food and comping has led to some wonderful prizes from gadgets to gift vouchers, hampers to holidays and even a fitted kitchen. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook or trained chef to enter a recipe competition, just practise a few basic techniques and learn how to choose the right dish for the right competition.

When you are thinking of entering a recipe competition, the first thing to do is check whether you will be required to cook your dish for the judges. If this would really be too much for you, then wait for another competition – you don’t want to be disqualified at the final hurdle! But it really isn’t too terrifying – after all, the other finalists will be as nervous as you are. Finals are often held in catering schools where all the equipment is Brobdignagian in size, so even if the next entrant is a more skilled cook than you, he or she will still be struggling with a knife a yard long and a blender big enough to make soup for 50.

Now start to think about what kind of dish would suit the competition. Look at the promoter and the prize and make sure that any ingredient being promoted is the essential feature of your dish, the one thing it wouldn’t work without. Is it a convenience food? Then your recipe should be quick and easy or there is no point including a convenience food. Is it in a very trendy magazine? Then try to include some fashionable ingredients or make a dish that can be served in the latest style. If the competition is in a slimming magazine, make sure your dish fits in with the diet promoted by the mag – they all vary but the details will be available somewhere. Is the prize a holiday? Then take your inspiration from the food of the country the winner will visit, but don’t feel obliged to make an authentic dish. If you are asked to match a dish with a wine, look at the description on the bottle. Does it mention honey? Apples? Cinnamon? whatever is mentioned, try to bring it into your dish.(Note : I don’t advise you to try this with the often mentioned wine flavours of leather, tobacco and compost!)

Having thought of these aspect, you are ready to create your recipe. Now you must remember that although your recipe MUST be original and not copied, very little is new in the food world – unless you are an exponent of molecular gastronomy, new dishes invariably have evolved from old, traditional or ethnic ones. So take a favourite dish that you can already cook well and start to change the ingredients one at a time. Does it use stock? Try changing it for milk, wine, beer – or even a tin of soup! Swap the protein round – meat for chicken, pulses for Quorn, but try to keep to things of a similar texture and cooking time if you are new to writing recipes. Vegetables, too, can be swapped, herbs and spices changed until you have a completely new recipe that started out as an old friend. Once I started with a Thai recipe and ended up with an Italian-style one – and it won a recipe book. It would be best to test it after every change, but I know you won’t do that – life is too short! But do test your finished dish, serve it to friends or family and ask them for ideas for finishing touches or accompaniments. Don’t ever let yourself be put in the position I was once, where I had two days’ notice that I was in the final cook off and I had never tried my recipe – the family got very tired of the same dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I won!

Some current recipe competitions you might like to try are:

The Evening Standard Send in your barbecue sauce recipe for a chance to win an exclusive meal at Wheeler's and a barbecue. Closing 09 Jul

Morrisons and the Daily Telegraph are looking for the Best of British recipes. There is a weekly prize of £150 until the final closing date of 28 Aug and an overall prize of £5,000.

My Dish create a recipe containing Maltesers for a chance to win a Kitchenaid Mixer closing 31 Jul.

BBC Good Food create a recipe that would be an ideal partner for Carte D'Or Strawberry & Yoghurt Delice for a chance towin a gourmet cookery class.Closing 06 Jul.

Great British Chicken monthly chicken recipe competition with a prize of £100 worth of Marks & Spencers vouchers.

Hellmann's have a barbecue party to be won every week until 12 Sep. Send in a recipe for a barbecuedish using Hellmann's mayonnaise.

Onken Yoghurt create a recipe using Onken Natural Set yoghurt for a chance to win a cookery sessionwith Ainsley Harriott. Closing 31 Jul.

SPAM Cook of the Year send in a recipe using SPAM® to win a weekend break with a dish inspired by yours on the hotel menu, with two more breaks for runnersup. Closing 31 Aug.

Thursday 10 June 2010

A Pain in Spain....

Since the June issue of Grape Vine went out, several people have seen the latest list of wins worth over £500 and asked me "Who is Kevin Francis?" - in fact one reader has even offered to marry him.

Kevin is a very successful comper and the President of the London Competitors Club, having spent several years as club chairman. His lively wit and great way with words mean that he has always been highly successful in tiebreaker competitions, as you will see from this week's Guest post.

Let me set the scene for you....

The competition was in Harrods Food Hall andsponsored by Foods from Spain, and as you would expect from Harrods, the prize was very prestigious - a luxury weekend in Madrid staying in the Presidential Suite of the hotel, including one dinner and an Aqua di Parma goody bag. It was actually won by fellow LCC member Richard Hatchett -those of you who have been to an LCC meeting will have probably met Richard and me sitting at the welcome table as you enter the hall - and Richard took Kevin along as his guest on the trip.

Here is Kevin's account of the dinner that was included in the prize. Bear in mind that neither Richard nor Kevin eats meat.

So, I ask at Reception about the dinner we are supposed to have as part of the prize and the helpful girl books us a table in the hotel reception for 8pm. Big mistake. Nobody in Spain eats until 10pm so the restaurant was empty. No matter. There we were, waiting to look at the delicious menu and wondering what we would choose when a caprese salad turns up. Yum, one of my faves and what a nice gesture before we actually choose anything. Then the waiter returns with a massive hunk of foie gras. I tried to explain that we couldn't eat meat so he sniffed the foie gras and took it away. Out came another caprese salad. Yum, I thought to myself.

At this point I had requested a glass of Cava. We were supposed to have a welcome glass of champagne each upon arrival (which never materialised) so I thought I would treat myself to some Cava, hoping it wasn't €90 a bottle. One glass was poured and the bottle was snatched away.

Then the piece de resistance: back comes the waiter with two massive slabs of beef and a teaspoon of cabbage. I tried to explain that no carne meant no meat so the Manager comes along who completely understands and sends the beef away. I apologise profusely and say that I thought we would be able to choose from the menu. "No," says the Manager, "But you can have some fish". OK, I thought, fish is nice, let's have another glass of Cava. Along comes another caprese salad to show willing. What a relief that they understand and that we will finally get our main course. Mmmm, fish can be VERY nice...

Not this fish. This fish - hake - must have been found at the bottom of some elderly signora's freezer in Valencia. It was old, grey and very, very cold. And when I say cold, I mean still frozen and therefore completely undercooked.

Forget it, I thought. Roll on pudding and glass number three of Cava. Along comes the friendly Spanish waiter who picks up the plate of fish, sniffs it, frowns at it and disappears.

He then returns with another caprese salad. When I said, "Yum", I didn't mean that much "Yum" many caprese salads can a man eat in one evening???

Then the Manager returns and asks, "Would you like another caprese salad?" to which I said, "No, thank you, three salads are quite enough for one evening!" I picked up the menu on the main serving table and politely pointed out that we had (foolishly) assumed that we would have a choice. "NO!" snapped the Manager, "You will NOT choose! WE will choose!"

Alright, alright, ROLL ON PUDDING!

Pudding arrived and was quite nice. I can't really remember now. We were too keen to rush back to our suite to look for some food.

At least we weren't charged!

We also had to ask for our Aqua di Parma welcome gift. I couldn't wait to see what it was but they kept saying, "It is being prepared". Does it really take all day to put a candle in a bag along with two little tubes of bath salts?!

Monday 7 June 2010

Yes, I win things too!

I don't seem to have mentioned my own wins recently. My wonderful winning streak from the start of the year is over but I am still winning a steady stream of smaller but very welcome prizes.

In the last week I have won:

  • a set of books from a competition set by one of the publishers I follow on Twitter

  • a bottle of argan oil from an email entry to acompetition in Jamie magazine

  • a 15kg sack of wild bird food from the monthly competition on the David's Closer to Nature website

  • a 10 week online weight loss coaching course from the Wahanda website

  • and some of the McCain Ping and Win chip vouchers arrived - eight of them!

Quick! This competition closes today!

Win one of 5 prizes of John Frieda Frizz Ease products. To enter, go to to enter your details and give a short frizz fighting tip. You will find the competition under the "Frizz Revolution" tab. The competition closes at 11.59pm on Monday 7th June.

Friday 4 June 2010

For your shopping list this weekend....

First of all welcome back to all the Grape Vine readers who haven't been here since the blog closed down two years ago. You are going to find a lot more of interest to you here now than there was then.

Over the few days since Grape Vine went to the printers, I have found several new comps that need some action from you before the update is due to go out, so here are some ideas to add to this weekend's shopping list.

Neck collar on Finlandia Vodka (mine came from Tesco) has an entry form for a draw to win a trip to Helsinki to see the Midnight Sun. You will need the entry form and your till receipt. Closes 11 Jun.

Appletiser 330ml cans offer the chance to win one of 3 shopping trips to New York with £5,000 to spend or 1,000 x designer handbag. To enter, text (normal rate) APPLE followed by your name and the 6 digit batch code from the bottom of your promotional can to 86688. Pre-selected random winning moments have been allocated, all of which are between 6am and midnight so only enter between these times. One entry per person per day and max 5 prizes per household. Northern Ireland residents may enter without purchase by sending their details, including email address, to Appletiser Big Apple Promo, PO Box 661, Harrogate HG1 9HN. Closing 31 Oct.

Spar is offering 3 x pair of tickets to the AVIVA European Trials and UK Championships in Birmingham on Saturday 26th June. To enter, go to 'Win tickets to the AVIVA European Trials and UK Championships!' page at Closing 17 Jun.

Martin McColl newsagents have tags on the Coca Cola shelves offering a chance to win a home entertainment system. The instructions tell you to buy a Coke then text CELEBRATE to 82100. No terms and conditions are given so this could close at any time! Texts to the other Coke comps are normal rate and allow one entry per phone per day, so it should be safe to assume the same applies here.

I spotted a sign on the window of a Coral betting shop saying that signing up for World Cup Text alerts could win you £500. I wasn’t able to stop the car and look for further information but if you are planning a flutter on the World Cup you might like to look into what this involves.

Even scanter info - a pub I passed - it looked as if it was an independent one rather than a chain, had a sign outside saying "Win great England prizes!"

Finally don't forget to enter the monthly competition at - this month's magazine was so crammed with comps that I didn't have room to include it!

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Comping can change your life!

Today's post is from Duncan Nagle. Many years ago I won one of my first - and funniest - web competition prizes from him, a pair of remote controlled vibrating knickers. I'll hand over to him now for a moving story about how comping can change lives.

The year 2000 – the place London.

While many of the residents of the Big Smoke were chuckling about a wobbly bridge over the Thames, or the giant tent just down the road, I was face-down on the floor – not through some drink or drug-induced merriment, or even through being on the wrong end of a stout stick, simply through losing consciousness for “no apparent reason”.

“Just one of those things that happen” you would think – low blood-pressure, lack of sleep, stress; all of these could be contributory factors to my pavement-dive, and it was a one-off after all.

Except it wasn’t.

During the next couple of weeks these black-outs became more and more frequent; at work, on the tube, once in a public lavatory and at home. Being quite a large chap, who at the time had quite a small child I decided that “enough was enough” and that I should trouble the NHS.

The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of seizures, doctor’s appointments and worry; I wasn’t able to go into work and the bills weren’t going to pay themselves. At least there was my daily fix of competition-entry to keep me sane.

Eventually I was directed to an eminent Neurologist who poked and prodded me for a bit before declaring “Hmm – it could be a brain tumour, could be a heart defect – could be something else. See you in a couple of months”. Comforting.

The day after this wonderfully reassuring appointment I received a phone call out of the blue which went something like this:

“Hi, is that Duncan?”

“It certainly is – who is this?”

“You recently entered a competition in Auto Express to win a selection of Sony goods and…” (At this point my sales-call synapses kicked in)

“Look, I’ll be honest, I’m not really looking to subscribe at this time, if that’s okay!”

“Oh no, this isn’t a sales call – YOU’VE WON.” (I believe there was an awkward and slightly embarrassed silence here on my part).

So the call continued; Sony had provided £2k’s worth of Mini Disc (remember them?) equipment, including a top-of-the-range In-Car unit. The problem being that I didn’t drive (and was in no fit state to drive in any case!). “Not a problem” said the friendly PR girl – “I’ll see what we can do!”

What she did changed the course of my life.

Later on the very same day I received a call from the same PR girl who announced with some glee that instead of the car stereo they would provide “one of those new DVD players”. Great, I thought – although I doubt it will ever replace video, it will be nice to have.

As this was happening it became apparent that my condition was more long-term than we had first thought, and the decision was made to sell-up and leave London and take advantage of the cheaper house prices across the rest of the country – specifically the area where my daughters’ mother grew up, near her parents. (My main worry when moving house was that any undelivered prize wouldn’t find its way to me; I was entering every DVD-related competition going and didn’t want to be robbed of a prize!).

In the space of a few months I had gone from being in charge of 130 staff, working all hours of the day, living in the capital and earning a fantastic wage to being “trapped” in the Midlands, with uncertainty abound – questions about health, work and money being at the fore, and answers not being forthcoming.

It was at this time that I had a brainwave; I had for a while owned and operated a website, I was able to work from home, and had a fair amount of time on my hands – why shouldn’t I review DVDs? Perhaps I could run some competitions, too – maybe just one or two to keep interest ticking over.

And that was what happened.

I emailed every PR Company, Film studio and DVD producer that I could find trying to scavenge review copies and competition prizes for what I imagined would be a small daily-entry affair, with mini-prizes mostly going to members of competitions newsgroups, and directories such as Loquax. I had created a monster.

Within 6 months I was running 50-odd competitions a month, all daily entry, and mostly with 3-5 winners of each prize – that would mean an average of 200 winners a month to draw, contact, get personal details, send out prizes, list – and that was before the next load of competitions were posted. Add missing prizes, dial-up internet, “hard-coded” websites (this was before the days of the blog) and a constant barrage of press releases via post, fax and email and it was a hard slog – I didn’t really have time to watch any of the DVDs or even enter comps and as such it was self-defeating. Being unconscious for a fair proportion of time also didn’t help matters.

As time went on I eventually scaled back running the competitions before abandoning them altogether – I was now running a shopping site which was bringing in a living wage and was far less hassle; not having to plan my life around making sure that I was at home on the 1st of every month was in itself a bonus.

Meanwhile I was living the life of a virtual recluse; not able to go anywhere on my own in case I were to pass out lead to little exercise, weight gain, and depression, meaning that I got to the point where I didn’t want to go out! I had at last, however, received a diagnosis – I was suffering from “Non-epileptic Vasovagal Syncope” – seizures that were unexplained.

This cycle carried on for a couple of years, and I entered (and indeed won) the occasional competition – an iPod from BT, an iMac, a plasma TV and World Cup party from MasterCard, £1000 to spend at John Lewis, several prizes from “Brainteaser” – the list went on. On a personal level though I was really unhappy – unhappy with myself and unhappy with my personal circumstances, but feeling unable to change them.

I don’t want to go into all the details, but eventually, enough was enough – I was in contact with a load of old friends via the medium of facebook and realised that I had to make a change to my life; during this period I learnt three valuable lessons:

  1. If you are unhappy, don’t just “put up with a situation” – you only have one life and need to live, not just exist. Happiness is a RIGHT, not something that is EARNED.

  2. Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER, stay with someone “for the sake of the kids”. (Just make sure that you are there for the children if they ever need you).

  3. If you have a medical condition, don’t be defined by it – work it into your life wherever you can.

So I left the mortgage-free security of a large house, for a room rental in a place half a mile away (close enough to see my daughter 3 or 4 times a week). At this point I wasn’t entering many comps!

After a short time (amazingly short, some said at the time), I met the woman who was to be my wife; after feeling almost emotionally anesthetized for so many years I experienced love and indeed joy; okay, I was skint – but this was an emotional richness beyond anything I had ever known. (And still is!). Eventually we moved into another rental place (still within bussing distance of my daughter), settled with our three cats and I once again had time for entering competitions.

Well, the comping scene had changed slightly; where were the “No Purchase Necessary” entry routes? When did stamps get so expensive? What the hell is Twitter? Just how many text-entry competitions are there? Loquax was still there, but the old newsgroup had apparently turned into a bit of a ghost town and with so many more people entering, my chances of winning would be even slimmer than before.

Within a week of restarting I had won £500 worth of Virgin Vouchers from Jaffa Cakes; the old me would have thought “Maybe £400-450 on eBay”, but instead we booked several “experiences”, including a Balloon Flight and Aerial Extreme ropes course. Not something that would have entered my stratosphere of thought a mere 18 months beforehand, but something that will live with my wife and I forever.

The Gods of Comping continued to smile on us, and we won a digital camera from Appletiser – perfect for getting snaps of all the days out that we were having, for now I was living.

Nothing was safe from our roving photographic and video eye: music festivals, weekends away, theatre and comedy, plus – to celebrate our 1st Wedding Anniversary – the Cardiff Cheese Festival.

That’s right – a Festival of Cheese. In Cardiff.

In truth the visit to South Wales probably won’t go down as one of the best weekends we have ever spent together – it was cheesy, but just not festive enough, and all in all a bit of a rip-off. But it mattered not, for we had film; film that was fast filling up our facebook pages as people decided that myself and Karen “Should have a travel show”, and lead to me being described thus: “The unwanted child of Judith Chalmers and Charlie Brooker”. Which I take as a compliment.

Competitions aren't just about huddling over a PC..

With the seizures more under control, and in between going away, filming, uploading, spending as much time as possible with my daughter and trying to get some work done, I still found time for competitions – it was usually a quick look on Loquax at the “closing today” section and I only entered for prizes that I really wanted. When seeing one such prize listed my heart did a bit of a somersault:

“Win 12 holidays over 12 months and £20,000”

Now then, I thought, this seems like the sort of prize that I would really like to win – so I duly clicked through for a peek and discover the entry route and was confronted with magic words: “Upload a Video”

The competition entry involved sending a video (of no more than two minutes) reviewing something. Anything – a book, a holiday, shampoo – anything; as it was the last day for entry I cobbled together something from our CheeseFest and fired it away – surely I was too late to have any chance in any case?

Well, apparently I wasn’t! Out of over 3,000 entries a panel of judges made up of industry specialists have chosen me as one of the ten finalists, which is where you (if you are still reading at this point!) come in to it.

This is where it has the potential to all get a bit “X-Factor”, so I apologise if that is how I now come across, but the competition is now down to a straight popularity contest, and I need your votes!

I have until June 11th to get as many votes as possible from all quarters; I have so far been utterly stunned by the kindness of strangers – people have gone above and beyond the call of duty in getting their friends, family, workmates and people they haven’t seen for 30 years to vote for me, but as with all of these things, I need more.

As you can see from the run-down of the past decade of my life above, I am just a normal bloke; I’m not a singer, a dancer or a model and I don’t have a massive online entourage of followers to carry me through to the finish line, all I have is the general public. Some people would see this as a disadvantage, but not me – after all I am basing my entire campaign on the fact that you don’t have to be extraordinary to do the extraordinary.

If this seems like the sort of manifesto you could get on board with, or if you want comping to change my life twice, please, please vote for me using the link below – I hope that I have given a little bit of hope to some, entertainment to others, and maybe an excuse to “change a life” to even more. Thanks again!

To vote, please go to: and click Vote – no registration, no long forms to fill in (you can also see the original Cardiff Video here).

There are also several other ways of staying in touch with how I am campaigning between now and 11th June:

Twitter: – if you are on Twitter, please follow and RT the voting link!

Facebook: – please join and invite all your friends to join and vote.

Blog: – keep up to date with me as I campaign around the country!