Wednesday 28 December 2011

Are you a superstitious comper?

Winning competitions is usually about luck - even in a competition with an element of skill, there is still some luck involved: you need to be lucky enough to get judges who like your entry better than all the others.

And wherever luck is involved, there are superstitions. So do YOU have any comping superstitions?

Some compers like to send all their postal entries from the same postbox. You may try to argue the logic of it - that one is in  a visible spot where it won't get vandalised, or has the most convenient collection times - but I bet that deep down inside something is telling you that you are more likely to win if you post your entries there.

Other people may like to write with a lucky pen,  kiss the envelope before posting it,  or even walk three times round the post box (TIP: don't try this if it's set into the wall of a building!)

I'm sure lots of us have our own  versions of the well-known good and bad luck superstitions, with lucky charms, lucky days of the week to enter and always hoping to see two magpies rather than one. And although you probably keep the toilet lids in your home closed to keep germs  and smells shut away, isn't there a little voice in the back of your mind telling you that an open toilet lid drains money from the house?

With more modern comping methods, it's harder to be superstitious, after all a computer is just a machine, but do you arrange your desk  a certain way or approach things in a certain order? I know I do  - I have a list of bookmarked competitions to enter, and I feel very uncomfortable if for some reason I have to change the order. And if a Captcha word or security code number is one that has special significance for me, I'm absolutely convinced I am going to win! The other day I entered a competition that closes on December 31st, and the security number was my husband's old Army number. If you've ever been in the forces, or married to a member of the forces, you'll know how that number gets etched into your brain! So I am fully expecting a win from that!

Now we are all modern, rational adults and you might think there is no place in your life for lucky charms and superstitions. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the luckier we think we are, the luckier we actually ARE. This was demonstrated very well by Dr. Richard Wiseman in  his book "The Luck Factor"  - for which I was one of the guinea pigs. And while looking for the link to the book for you, I found that there is now a website dedicated to teaching you how to be lucky! is the site. I'm going to check it out now and will report back to you in the New  Year if I find anything exciting there.

In the meantime, I would love to hear what comping superstitions YOU have and whether they have ever brought you luck on a grand  scale.

Photographs courtesy of Valerie Dallimore. 

Thursday 22 December 2011

WIN one of the top 5 gadgets of 2011

Life is better ON are giving you the chance to win one of the top gadgets of 2011. The prize will be one of the Top 5 devices of 2011 (iPhone 4S, iPad2, Nokia Lumia, Samsung Galaxy S2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab)  - whichever turns out to be the most popular.

To enter, pop along to their Facebook page then go to the xMas game and pick your favourite device. Click the "Like" button underneath it, and if the one you have chosen is the one with the most likes at midnight on January 8th, when voting closes, you will be in the draw to win it.

Sunday 18 December 2011

The dinner that was a winner.

Back in  February 2000 I won one of the best holiday prizes ever, as a result of entering a competition in the Sainsbury's magazine. The task was to answer various questions about Indian food - a passion of mine - and write a tiebreaker, and I was absolutely delighted to learn I was a finalist.

The final involved staying at the Ritz for a night. I have never slept in a bedroom with a real chandelier before! We were greeted with a bowl of fruit and a freshly-ironed copy of the Evening Standard and left to explore our room. The price list for the mini bar and room service made entertaining reading – thank goodness we were being provided with dinner! When we got back to our room after the meal, not only had the bed been turned down, but a little mat had been placed on the floor at each side, with a pair of bedroom slippers on it. They think of everything, don’t they?

The meal itself was absolutely wonderful. I was pleased to see that it was to be all based on Indian food as my husband’s years in the Brigade of Gurkhas had given me a good knowledge of it. The first course was a soup and the questions were “what is the herb” and “what is the cappuccino made from” – the herb was easy, coriander, as my husband is violently allergic to it so I have to be able to recognise it easily. The cappuccino was impossible – by the time everyone had been served, the froth had sunk into the soup and was indistinguishable from the rest.

Next came a risotto of kedgeree, and as well as the spices and variety of rice, we had to identify the fish. Delicate pink strands in it led several people to say salmon, but I managed to isolate a pink piece – it was tomato! The fish was smoked haddock, unnoticed by one or two because it was undyed.

Then came a lime pickle sorbet – powerfully flavoured and an easy one for everybody.

Next a meat dish which stumped us all – it turned out to be lamb, but had no discernible flavour apart from the spices it had been cooked with. The spices in the accompanying chutney were a challenge and left us all struggling – until I finished eating mine and I saw the plate stained bright yellow. I have bleached turmeric stains off my worktops often enough to recognise them anywhere.

Finally a delicious pudding of cardamom ice cream with a ginger dressing – another easy course for all of us.

Before the pudding we were told that two of us were close on points and well ahead of the others, but didn’t say which two it was. I was hopeful though, as from the conversation after each round I seemed to have had the right answers most of the time. However it was still a surprise and an enormous thrill to be awarded the prize!

The officials left soon after the meal, leaving the contestants and partners to gather together all the half-empty decanters of port and settle down for a long chat. It was great to find that there was no animosity from the runners-up.

The prize was a wonderful gourmet trip to India, staying at hotels  in Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur and Bombay. I'll tell you more about that another tine.

Thursday 15 December 2011

A bit of festive fun

You really don't want to hear anything about comping from me at the moment, do you? Either you've got RSI from trying to enter all the Advent competitions, or you've  decided to take a few days off now and prepare for Christmas. So I thiough I'd share a bit of off-topic festive fun with you.

First of all, something that has been around for many years - I first saw it as a badly Xeroxed copy handed round my husband's  office about 25 years ago, but it still makes me laugh every time I read it.



 1 cup butter                                         1 cup sugar
4 large eggs                                         1 cup dried fruit
1 teasp baking powder                        1 teasp salt
1 cup brown sugar                               lemon juice
nuts                                                     1 bottle whisky


Sample the whisky to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour 1 level cup and drink.


Turn on the electric mixer. Beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure the whisky is still OK. Try another cup. Turn off the mixer. Break 2 leggs and add to the owl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fruit gets stuck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky again to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt or something. Who cares? Check the whisky. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one babblespoon of brown sugar, or whatever colour you can find. Wix mell. Grease the oven.  Turn the cake pan 350 gredees.

Don’t forget to beat off the burner. Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whisky again and go to bed.


Next, something far more up to date. I first spotted this last year and thought it extraordinarily clever yet relevant to the season   a video on YouTube called "If  Jesus were born in times of Google, Facebook and Twitter" - you can see it here


Tuesday 13 December 2011

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Have you ever had a prize that has become memorable for the wrong reason? A prize I won a few years ago was a perfect example of this.

The prize was a day of pampering and treatments at a small town-centre health club. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I realised that I was the only customer, but I soon got used to having a team of personal staff and had a wonderfully relaxing day. Until it came to the final treatment…….

The idea was to lie in a bath of water mixed with a bucketful of seaweed puree, and in a darkened room be pummelled by intense underwater jets that moved gradually up and down the body. The beautician said that this would make more blood flow towards my heart (from where exactly???) and collect particles of undigested food on the way, which it would excrete through my lymph glands. I kept as straight a face as I could, while surreptitiously checking my armpits for signs of my lunch emerging.

Despite that, the treatment was very relaxing and I was almost asleep when the new trainee beautician, on her first day at work, came to tell me that my time was up.

“Do I need to switch this machine off?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, “the beautician will be along soon to do that,” and departed to let me dress in privacy.

However the underwater jets were stronger than I thought – just as I finished dressing, the ones which should have been pummelling my back started up, squirting half a dozen powerful jets of seaweed slurry straight into the air! I was soaked, and the walls and ceiling were covered in a thick brown sludge – oozing down the walls and dripping off the pictures and mirrors!

Thank goodness it was my last treatment, I couldn’t get away fast enough! And something tells me that the trainee beautician was probably not far behind me!

Image: think4photop /

Friday 9 December 2011

Don't be a Bad Egg on Twitter

Are you a comper? Do you have an avatar on Twitter, or do you still use the egg picture you were given when you signed up?

If you are still an egg, you might be surprised to learn that it might be reducing the number of competitions that you win. This is because most people on Twitter, including many of those who run competitions, believe that if you haven't personalised your account,  you are

a) brand new to Twitter, possibly having only set up the account to enter that particular competition
b) too lazy to change it, in which case why should they make the effort to give you a prize
c) a spammer - all those "throwaway" accounts that send you the dodgy "Free Starbucks gift card" and "Free iPad contest" tweets have egg avatars.  Spammers with egg avatars are getting into such a problem on Twitter that many people hit the "Block and report spam" button as soon as  they see a tweet from an egg, so you could be a genuine person and find yourself blocked.

Now I'm not saying that everyone takes that attitude, but why not take a few minutes to make sure that NOBODY ever deletes your entry just because you look like an egg?

Not everyone want to show their face to the world, so here are some ideas for pictures you might use.

  • a picture of something you would like to win. A lot of compers believe this can bring them luck - why not give it a try?
  • a picture of a family pet.
  • one of your holiday photos
  • a close up of a flower
  • something relevant to the current season - for instance a Christmas Tree or the Easter bunny
Have fun thinking of something. Try to make it something that will make your tweets instantly recognisable, so everyone will know it is you.  Don't choose a copyright image, such as a Disney character or a photo you've seen on somebody's blog, without permission from the owner.

To change your avatar, log in to your Twitter account and go to the arrowhead to the top right, by your name. Choose "Settings" from the drop down menu then go to the "Profile" tab. Use the Browse button  to choose a picture from your computer,  and once it appears in the box, click "Save" at the bottom of the screen. It may be a few minutes before your tweets start to show up with your new picture, and you may need to send a few tweets, but once it starts to appear, you won't be a Bad Egg any more!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Win Strictly Live tour tickets!

If you are a fan of Strictly Come Dancing - and I know that a lot of you are - you'll be pleased to learn that Hotels4U are giving you a chance to win tickets to see the tour next year. Shows are to be held in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast. One lucky person will win a pair of tickets to their choice of venues on the tour.
To enter, you will need to like their Facebook page then click on the "Win....." button in the left hand menu and  answer one simple question.

But hurry! The competition closes at 11am on Monday December 12th.

And on the 13th, they will be launching a "12 Days  of Christmas" competition, so look out for that too.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Win one of 5 pushchairs from Silver Cross

Silver Cross have gone all out on their last competition before Christmas and are giving away five Pop Classic pushchairs (which comes with a cup holder, harness pads, ventilated raincover, shopping basket and carry handle).

It's the same entry process as the two previous competition as to enter you have to like their Facbook page then go to the competition tab then answer the simple Christmassy themed question.

The competition lasts until 3pm on Friday 16th December 2011 and you can read the full terms and conditions here

Good luck - but save one for me. If you also read Mellow Mummy, my daughter's blog, you'll know I'm going to be a grandma again in the spring so I'd love to win one of these.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Those boomerang postcards!

Have you ever had a boomerang postcard? That is, one that you've sent off for a competition, but comes back to your own address instead? They are annoying, aren't they - and expensive too, as the stamp has often been franked when it comes back to you, so just popping it back in the postbox might not work as the recipient might be asked to pay a surcharge, and refuse the delivery. Also, sometimes it takes so long for these boomerangs to come back to you that it's too late to send it again - the closing date has already gone.

When it happens, you might be lucky enough to get a refund of the cost of the stamp, if you complain to your local Post Office. If they are feeling very generous, they might give you a whole BOOK of stamps. But of course that won't compensate you for missing out on the prize that you could have won if the card had reached its destination.

So here are a few tips to help to make sure your cards go where they are intended to, and don't come flocking back like homing pigeons.

First of all, remember that most post is sorted by machinery these days. The "magic eye" in it isn't trained to look for words like "to" and "from", so most of the time putting those on your card doesn't help. All it looks  for is the postcode. And it expects to see that clearly and boldly written, on a line on its own, at the very bottom of the address. So when you are writing the address you are sending to, make sure that it really is as clear and distinct as it can be.

Now turn your attention to your own details on the other side of the card. This time you want the sorting machinery (which apparently isn't clever enough to think "Oh, the stamp is on the other side so that must be where the card is  going to" - something that would solve all our problems) to be as confused as possible and miss spotting your postcode. The first thing you can do to help is to turn your postcard through a right angle and have the short edges at the top and bottom. As it goes through the machine with the long edges top and bottom, your postcode will seem to be sideways on to it, so it won't be able to read it.
Then make sure the postcode isn't on the bottom line. Put something underneath it - your phone number, your email address, the answer to the competition question if there is one, or even a pattern of pretty squiggles! You could also put  your postcode  on the same line as your county, if the card is wide enough.

If you are using picture postcards with all your writing on one side, your finished card would look like this. Note how the sender's own details are as low down the card as possible, so that they don't get obscured by the postmark. If your card is drawn as a winner and they can't read your address, they'll have to throw it away and draw a different winner!

All this is good practice anyway as it makes your card clear and easy to read for the promoter as well as the Post Office. It won't guarantee that your cards don't come back to you, but it will make sure it happens less often.

But there is one way to make sure your cards DO come back to you, and I experienced it  just yesterday. I picked up the mail and there was a boomerang card among it, so I started to get angry and turned the card over to see which competition I'd lost out on. Yes, the card was stamped, but I'd been in such a hurry to post my entry that I had completely forgotten to write the address it was supposed to go to.  Please don't ever do that!

Saturday 3 December 2011

Blip your way to a win!

Technology is moving frighteningly fast these days, and every time something new turns up, it isn't long before promoters start to use it to run competitions. One of the latest  innovations sees competitions being run through apps for smart phones and iPads.

The last few weeks have seen prizes being offered through apps from Black & Decker, Richer Sounds and  Wetherspoons  - all of which are still running as I write this.  I'm afraid I only have links to the Apple versions and don't know whether they produce versions for other phones.

Latest on the scene is a fun app called BlippAR which comes in Apple and Android versions and can be used on a phone or an iPad, although the larger screen of the iPad gives more dramatic results. You simply open the app and hold the camera of your device over the item to be "Blipped"  and information about the product, links to online content, recipes and even  competitions appear on the screen as if by magic!

Here I am blipping a jar of Marmite - can you see how the link to the recipes has  appeared over the image of the jar on the screen? All I needed to do after that was touch the screen and I was taken to a selection of tasty recipes.

But I know that you are probably not here to read about Marmite Omelettes, you are thinking, "But where are the comps?"

Well right now, if you blip a bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup, you could instantly win  one of two packs of Heinz branded kitchen goodies every day until January 19th. You can enter once a day and I entered early in the morning and won a pack while I was testing it for this article.

And  if you blip the cover of the new album Now 80 you could win one of 80 prizes, from a signed  iPad to a Spotify subscription. Unfortunately the terms of this competition aren't working at the moment so I can't tell you when it closes.

The really good news is, you don't always need to have the product to hand - the BlippAR Facebook page often puts blippable photos of the products up for you to try, or, as you can see from the photo above, you can simply search the web for a decent photo of the product and try blipping that. It worked from me, when I wanted to enter the Now 80 competition.

Your Blippar app has a catalogue of things that are currently blippable, and updates with any new ones each time you open it, and new ones are announced  on the Facebook page too. Another current blipping competition is the Mercedes Benz "Escape the Map" game - there are no photos of it here because I can't make head nor tail of it!  And I believe there has also been a competition in Metro.

It's incredibly easy to use, great fun and trying out new blips can  be quite addictive! One more tool to add to your comping kit.

Friday 2 December 2011

What on Earth were you looking for?

I can't resist looking at the search terms that people have used to find this  blog, and recently have chatted to a few other bloggers  who do the same. Sometimes I wonder what they were REALLY looking for - and whether they found it here or went away disappointed. If you are a blogger, do you do the same? I'd love to hear about the terms that were used to find your blogs!

Obviously the most frequently used terms are to do with competitions. And judging by the number of people who come here by searching for "Competitors Journal" there are a lot of us older compers who still have very fond memories of the magazine.

People looking for help with Twitter also regularly find their way here, with searches such as
  • how to get out of Twitter jail
  • blocking on Twitter, how it works
  • what does "dm your address mean", and
  • what does #followfriday mean
Captcha code queries also bring quite a few visitors, as do gardening queries about growing grape vines (I'm very sorry to disappoint you if that's why you are here but here's a bunch of grapes for you to look at).

But some of the more unusual searches that have brought people here are
  • rising taste
  • 1950s image source
  • Ireland souvenir shops
  • grape design on a plate
  • comebacks for "don't do as I do, do as I say"
and one that really puzzles me, especially as it seems to have been used several times
  • sex hotel roof vancouver
I promise you, you can search every single post on this blog and while I HAVE written about a trip to Vancouver, I didn't make any mention of sex on the hotel roof!  But,  for those who might get excited by the thought, here is a  photo of a hotel in Vancouver. I'll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Thursday 1 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

.... and a  a comper, we all know what that means - ADVENT COMPETITIONS!

I'm not going to make a list, because that has been so expertly done by two of the biggest and best websites for compers. So I'll recommend that you look here for the Loquax  one and  here for the Prizefinder one.  Both are excellent lists and thoroughly well researched and  I'll certainly be referring to them many times over the next 24 days.  There seem to be more than ever before this year!

So since I'm not making a list (and checking it twice)  I have shared a few photos of my hand made Christmas  cards with you, and I'll give you a few tips for coping with the Advent comping mania.

  • First of all, allow yourself a set amount of time for Advent competitions, and no more. It might be an hour, it might be half a  day - just don't let it take over your whole day.  Entering every single one would be impossible!
  • Once you've read through the list of competitions, choose the ones that interest you most. If there's a baby in the family, or a teenager, there will be some that are aimed at people like you. Pick ones with prizes that match your hobbies and  interests. When your time is limited, it's not worth spending time on the Your Cat Advent if you aren't a cat lover! I plan to pick 15-20 competitions and concentrate my efforts on those.
  • Don't enter the competitions first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Some of them are only open during office hours - a problem for people out at work all day - and some are manually updated every day so aren't ready until the person responsible has got to work and had their first coffee of the day. If you try to enter at 6am (my preferred time!) you will waste a lot of time going to sites that are still showing the previous  day's competition.
  • Don't have too high expectations. We compers love this time of year,  so lots  of us enter the Advent competitions, so don't expect a huge number of prizes to suddenly come rolling in. And bear in mind that although some are drawn, and winners contacted, daily, some promoters leave everything set to run automatically while they cope with the Christmas rush, and don't draw winners until the New Year. My personal record  for a  late Advent notification is March!
  • Remember  that lots of other competitions are still running! Because it is such a busy time of year, and many compers are concentrating on either their own Christmas plans or the dozens of Advent competitions, other competitions can be neglected and see entry numbers falling dramatically. And low entry numbers mean good odds.

Finally, having said I am not making a list,  I HAVE made a little list of sorts. It's a Twitter list, and I'm hoping to add  to it all the Twitter pages that are running Advent competitions. It's still very much a work in progress, but you can follow it here