Friday 31 August 2012

Let the Games commence!

Spots v Stripes. Does that mean anything to you? For many months before the Olympics, Cadburys had a Spots v Stripes game  on selected bars, with codes you could enter online for weekly draws for tickets to the Olympics. Their Facebook and Twitter pages sometimes gave you chances to collect extra points for entry into the draws, as did their occasional email newsletters.

I didn't collect very many points, so was absolutely amazed to get an email telling me that I had won tickets to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics which was held at the Olympic Park this week. I decided to invite Claire, who blogs over at Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else to come with me.

 We got to the Olympic Park about 5.30pm as instructed and found everything as superbly well organised and the helpers as friendly and happy as everyone had said during the main games. By the time we got to the main stadium, everybody had huge smiles on their faces, you just couldn't help it.

As we went to our seats, we were a bit puzzled to be handed apples but told not to eat them. We were given programmes and raincapes too.

Our seats were amazing,  just 6 rows from the front, in between the cauldron and the flagpole for the Paralympic flag. The lovely crowd helpers were smiley and chatty and willing to take photos of us all. 

The programme started an hour earlier for us in the arena than for TV viewers at home, with some music and dancing and film of the background to several of the people taking part including the pilot who flew over at the very start - that plane with the lights underneath and flames coming from the wingtips was amazing and the pilot is a former soldier who was disabled in Afghanistan. We had the apples explained - they were for a Mass Crunch - and practised signing "I am what I am".

The show itself was just totally fantastic. I don't know what it came over like on TV but it would have only been possible to see what the camera was looking at. when in fact things were happening all over the stadium and you got dizzy trying to work out where to look next! I'm just blown away by the fact that I've seen Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Hawking on the same night. The athletes from all the countries got rousing receptions, but the roar and spontaneous standing ovation when the GB team came in was like nothing I've ever experienced before.

The entertainment was fabulous, irrespective of whether or not the people taking part were able bodied or disabled, a sign that maybe with a bit more acceptance some of these performers could become mainstream entertainers rather than having to find niche slots. I'd been worried that there would be all sorts of talk about courage and bravery, and it might end up sounding patronising, looking down on the Paralympians rather then looking up at what they can do, but the recurring message of the evening was Stephen Hawking's "Look up...." and we really came away with the feeling that the whole event was a celebration of looking up at all athletes for what they CAN do rather than getting mawkish and sentimental about the ones who can't do the same as able bodied ones. I think the performance of Ian Dury's "Spasticus Autisticus" really got everyone stirred up to share the feelings of anger and frustration at some attitudes to the disabled and I hope these games will do a lot to change that.

Once it turned dark my camera wasn't man enough for the job AND it ran out of battery, so there aren't as many photos as I would have liked although I did manage to use my phone to snap the cauldron.

By the time we'd cleared the stadium and got back into town, it was almost 2am and in a haze of exhaustion we went back to the wrong hotel! I blame Travelodge for having two identical looking hotels less than 100 yards apart. We had to open the hotel door with our room key which of course didn't work, and luckily there was a member of staff who had popped out for a smoke and told us how to get to the right hotel. But I bet when he saw two weary women stagger up at 2am and try to get into the wrong hotel he thought we'd been out for a heavy night on the booze!

Thank you to Cadburys, to everyone involved in the production and most of all to the athletes who will be working so hard to give their own best ever performances  over the next few days. I had a night I will remember for the rest of my life!

Win tickets to see One Direction

One Direction are playing at the O2 on April 5th, 2013 and you could be there to see them. Meet The Stars is giving away a pair of tickets  in a competition that can be entered by text message or post. To enter, go to  and click on your choice of answer. You will then be taken to a new page that tells you what keyword to text to a short code number. The keyword is different every time and allocated to you when you make your choice. Sending the message will cost your normal text rate AND make a payment of £1 through Pay For It for your premium-rate competition entry. Remember to click on the green "Continue" button after  you have sent your text message - if you do it too soon you will get a "Payment failed" page and will need to start again. (I know...  it happened to me!)

If all this sounds too high tech for you, they have also provided a good old-fashioned postal entry route. Don't forget to include your answer and name and address! The competition closes on November 1st at noon for text entries nad November 4th at noon for postal entries.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Capture the Colour

I was tagged by Mumsee's Blog  to join in the Travel Supermarket's Capture the Colour competition. The task is to create a post including photos that illustrate the colours Blue, Green, Yellow, White and Red. So here goes.....


Just look at the colour of that sky! I'd call that azure blue  - hardly surprising since it was taken on the Cote d'Azur, in St Tropez to be exact. No,  I'm not  one of the Beautiful People - we were enjoying a family self catering holiday a few miles away in La Croix Valmer. It was taken a few years ago, on our 30th wedding anniversary - and in two weeks' time we'll be celebrating our 35th!


These beautiful parrots were flying freely around the grounds of the resort hotel of Xpu Hua just south of Cancun in Mexico when we visited it back in 2005. A beautiful hotel, wonderfully relaxing yet entertaining, with raccoons and coatis wandering freely around the grounds. Looking at the photos of that trip leaves me feeling sad though, as much of the hotel was destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago and it has only recently reopened.


Here is Xpu Hua again - the vibrantly coloured buildings housed the luxurious guest rooms, each with a hammock-strung balcony overlooking the nature reserve around the hotel. I believe every one of these rooms was flattened by the hurricane. I'd better move on to another colour before I get tearful!


Now we are moving on  to something more recent. In 2012, I won  a holiday to the beautiful, remote Bordubet hotel in Turkey.  I blogged about the trip at the time and loved the place so much that I went back again with my husband last year. And we still loved it - so much that we are going there again in a few days' time. On my first visit, I took a quick snap of this  beautiful white swan, and  I think this could  be just about the best photo I've ever taken.


Tucked away in the Chinatown area of Vancouver, on  a prize trip to Canada , we found this beautiful Chinese garden that reminded us of our years living in Hong Kong. A peaceful refuge in the middle of a busy city,  and this gorgeous shrub (acer? maple?  - you'll have to ask my husband that!) was a feature of it

The competition closes today, so you may not get time to enter, but just in case you do I am tagging:

2. my daughter Emma

(Mark and Emma are both MUCH better photographers than I am)

Friday 24 August 2012

A super Wien

Yes, Wien, not Win - last week you may have noticed a few days without any posts, because we were away on a short break in Vienna. Or, to give it its Austrian name, Wien.

A few months ago I won my first ever Pinterest prize, a pair of  Business Class flights to a choice of European cities. The timing was perfect - we'd just been talking about going to Vienna for a few days to catch the 150 Years of Klimt exhibition and see some of the sights we couldn't cram into our last visit a few years ago.

So Vienna it was. And what a WONderful time we had, enjoying the sights, visiting attractions, and of course sampling the wine.

Guess which is the Valkyrie?

Now, I'm not going to go into detail about the trip here - you can see some of my husband's wonderful photos on his blog and on my other blog  but I do want to tell you something that may  be of interest to you as a comper. If you are visiting Vienna, you may want to get around using the super-efficient public transport system. 3 days' unlimited use of all the trams, buses, underground and trains costs just €19.90 and on top of that the card comes with a handbook offering you valuable discounts on all kinds of restaurants and attractions.

But best of all, the centre pages of the handbook contain a competition! There are three questions to answer, all of which can be answered by reading through the handbook, and the prize is a break in Vienna worth €3,000. The competition closes on April 15th 2013.

So you see, even when I'm on holiday I'm still on the lookout for competitions to share with you!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Win a £150 Amazon Voucher with Accident Advice Helpline

Accident Advice Helpline are running another Twitter competition. For this one, all you need to do is follow them on Twitter and then retweet this tweet . You can read the full terms and conditions here.

The competition closes on October 24th.

Do you remember...?

Comping changes so quickly these days ! We've only just got used to Tweeting when we find ourselves Pinning, Blipping or Checking In. I wonder what the next big thing will be?

You don't need to be very old to remember times before these - maybe you have been happily texting and comping online since your first days as a comper, but even so new ideas are constantly coming along to challenge you. But I'm one of the comping dinosaurs - those people who can remember the days when the ONLY way to enter a competition was by post. And stamps were cheap enough to mean that it wasn't an extravagant hobby.

In fact I can clearly remember the very first time I entered a phone-in competition. I won too! The prize was a compact disc - the first one I had ever seen. The trouble was, it was several years before I had anything to play it on. So, as a nostalgia trip for the older compers and to show younger ones how life has changed, is my own "Do you remember" list - please add your own memories as comments!

Do you remember .....

  • When if nothing arrived for you in the first post, there was still the second post to look forward to?
  • Going to bed with a notebook beside you to scribble down ideas for all those tiebreakers going through your head?
  • Queueing up in Kwik Save for six items, all on separate till receipts?
  • Before till receipts came along, that drawer full of Heinz  and NescafĂ© labels ready and waiting for their next competitions?
  • Looking forward to Competitors Journal every week?
  • Every issue of the Radio Times and the weekly women's mags containing entry forms for the latest comps on food and household products?
  • SHE magazine with its bumper competition pages and my own personal favourite, the Crozzle (a blank grid with a word list that you had to create a crossword from)?
  • The smell of the entry forms on washing powder packets?
  • Trying to fit a margarine tub lid into an envelope - and getting grease everywhere?
  • Spending hours, days or even weeks making lists of words from a phrase - a task that can now be done with a few clicks of a mouse?
  • Wanting to cut the entry token off a bottle of washing up liquid - but it was near the bottom and you had only just opened the bottle?
  • Needing to own a whole shelf of reference books, or make frequent trips to the library, to access facts that you can now find in a split second?
  • Walking along the High Street of a small town and picking up at least a dozen different entry forms?
  • Trying to find a pen that would write on bread wrapper entry forms?
How has comping changed for YOU? I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

There once was a comper from Fleet.....

……. who was well known for sponsoring the annual limerick competition in Winn Sommor's Winnin Post Club and setting a limerick comp at the quarterly meetings of the London Competitors Club. 

Most, but not all, people have a rough idea of what a limerick should be, but very few are familiar enough with the form to make them look and sound exactly right.

So here is a quick revision lesson – and take note! Because those of you entering a competition which is shortly to appear on Mellow Mummy may find this advice very useful (I’m saying no more for now, but bribes may be sent to the usual address).

A limerick is a five line verse with a rhyming pattern A, A, B, B, A.

But as well as the rhyme, it has a very specific scansion or rhythm pattern. Without going into technical details, you should be able to read it out to the following rhythm:

dee DID-dle-y DID-dle-y DEE

dee DID-dle-y DID-dle-y DEE

dee DID-dle-y DUM

dee DID-dle-y DUM

dee DID-dle-y DID-dle-y DEE

with the syllables in capitals being stressed and those in lower case being unstressed. Learn that little ditty and your limericks will always work! You can sometimes get away with adding an unstressed syllable, or even two, to the beginning or end of your lines, or inserting one before the final stressed syllable, but you then need to read it out loud to double check that all the beats still fall in the right place.

When you are choosing which words to use, remember that most English words of more than one syllable have a natural stress pattern and sound wrong if you put the stress on a different syllable. So for instance although the words “keynote” and “denote” both end in the same sound, they can’t be used to make a rhyme because keynote has the stress on the first syllable and denote on the second. While you can get away with this to some extent in a simple rhyming couplet, it can make an otherwise well written limerick fall flat.

On top of all this, of course, you need to make sure your limerick actually makes sense – and ideally makes the reader laugh. It is a form of verse almost always used in a humorous context, so it is no surprise that so many limericks are rude, crude or downright dirty!

Here is one that won me a major prize back in 1991, the year that Robert Maxwell drowned. Younger readers may not understand the references but it was very topical at the time!

In lamenting the late “Captain Bob”
The hacks have had quite a tough job
For he fell from his yacht
(Or perhaps he did not)
And the “Mirror” got smacked in the gob!

Bella Italia want to take you to Venice!

Lots of compers bemoan the disappearance of tiebreaker competitions (look out for my "Do you remember?" post later this week!) so you will be delighted to learn that Bella Italia are running one for us. And the prize is a three night stay in Venice, somewhere I'd love to go <whispering quietly so my husband won't hear > so that I can add to my Murano glass jewellery collection!

To enter, pop over to the Aperol tab on the Bella Italia Facebook page  and tell them, in fewer than 50 words, what your favourite place in Italy is and why. Bella Italia will select the winner based on creativity, individuality and popularity.

You have until September 23rd to get your entry in, and you can enter as often as you like, The prize trip must be taken next year, between January 1st and June 30th and includes return flights to Venice, Italy from any UK airport. 3 nights B&B accommodation in an Italian hotel and a total £700 spending money.

Now I'll leave you with a photo of one of my favourite places in Italy. Do you know where it is? If you don't, you'll have to look out for my own entry into the competition!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Win a pair of personalised cufflinks!

I have a lovely new competition today, just for visitors to my blog. The lovely people at Ring Jewellery have offered a pair of picture cufflinks, popular with celebrities, to be made up with the winner's own chosen design.  You can see how your photo or drawing would be transformed into a pair of cufflinks on their sister site, Picture Cufflinks

Wouldn't they be a lovely gift for a new parent or grandparent, a pet lover or anyone who would like to keep a treasured photo "on hand" to enjoy?

To enter this competition, fill in the Rafflecopter form below, making sure you complete all the tasks. The competition will close on September 5th at midnight EST (because that's the time zone Rafflecopter works in) - that's the early hours of the morning of Thursday  the 6th in UK time.

Entrants must live in the UK and be aged 18 or over. One entry (ie do each task once) per household. No bulk, third party or automated entries. The winner will be drawn at random using Rafflecopter's randomiser and I will then put the winner in touch with Ring Jewellery so they can arrange to have their cufflinks made.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday 20 August 2012

Another chocolate competition!

There seem to be lots of competitions for lovely boxes of chocolates around at the moment, and one of the blogs running one is Chocolate Log Blog. You may remember a short while ago I posted about their competition to win a tower of boxes of chocolates (it is still running as I write this, but closes today, August 20th). Well, now they are bringing you a chance to win a beautiful box of chocolates from Chocolate by Genevie.

Just pop over to Chocolate Log Blog and follow the Rafflecopter instructions. The closing date is Septmember 10th.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

I'm going on holiday - some competitions to keep you busy.

Earlier this year I won my first ever competition on Pinterest - a pair of business class flights to any major European city. So as we'd just been about to book a short break to Vienna for my birthday this week, we used the flights for that and I will be away for the rest of the week. But before I go, here area few competitions to keep you busy until I get home.

First up, Seeker who have 30 prizes of travel vouchers worth up to £150 to be won over three weekly draws closing on 14,  21 and 28 August. To enter, just head over to where there are simple buttons for you to enter by Twitter, Facebook or the website. You can enter once a week, and if you are asked where you heard about the competition,they would be delighted to hear that you read about it on this blog.

Next, Accident Advice Helpline  who have a competition to win a Nexus 7 8GB Android Tablet 
Just like the page and fill in your details. Competition ends 29th August

ABC Golf  are running a competition to win £100 to spend on sport and fashion wear Just like the page and enter your details for the chance to win. Ends 31st August

FrugallerForum  have a Twitter competition to win an £80 Amazon voucher. Just Retweet and follow. 1 entry per day allowed. Ends 31st August

Sunday 12 August 2012

Who can see what on Twitter

One of the most confusing thing on Twitter is working out who can see what. I'm going to try to unravel it a bit for you. First of all, to save a bit of waffle, I'll define tweets three ways,
  1. a general tweet is how I'll refer to any tweet you send that is either aimed at the world of Twitter in general, or to a specific person but not starting with their username.
  2. an @ tweet  is meant for just one person and starts with their twitter name. If you put anything at all before the @, it works like a general tweet instead.
  3. a RT is a tweet from somebody else that you have tweeted using Twitter's retweet button. If you have retweeted manually, by copying and pasting the message and starting with RT @  or by quoting it, as some mobile apps do, it works like a general tweet instead.
Now, on to who can see what.

Your Tweets (if your account is not protected)
  1. Your general tweets are seen by everyone who follows you, and anyone who looks at your Twitter page, whether they are following you or not. If you have mentioned somebody with an @ in the tweet, it will appear in their mentions whether they follow you or not.
  2. Your @ tweets are seen by anyone mentioned by you in the tweet, whether they follow you or not. They are also seen by anyone following both you and the person you mentioned.
  3. Your RTs are seen by your followers and the person who made the original tweet.
Note that your tweets ate NOT seen by people who do not follow you, unless either you  @ mention them in the tweet, or somebody they DO follow RTs your tweet, or they visit your own Twitter page.
Anyone who visits your Twitter page will  see ALL your tweets and RTs, whoever they were intended for.

If somebody wants to follow you but doesn't want to see RTs from you - very common amongst non-comping friends of compers- they should go to your Twitter page and use the drop down menu next to the "Following" button to select "Turn off retweets".

Your tweets (if your account is protected)

If your account is protected, your tweets are ONLY seen by people following you.  Even if you send a tweet to somebody by mentioning them with an @, they won't see it if they don't follow you. And if you RT somebody who doesn't follow you, the original tweeter will never know you did it. This is why protected accounts are no use for compers.

When somebody visits your Twitter page, they won't be able to see anything you have said. Even if they follow you, they will need to be logged in to Twitter to see anything. Your followers won't even be able retweet the things you tweet, so absolutely nobody but your followers will ever see a thing you tweet.

People you have blocked

If you block somebody, Twitter automatically unfollows you for them, so your tweets no longer appear in their timeline.  However, if they go to your Twitter page when they are logged out of Twitter, they can see every single thing you have tweeted. Even while logged in to Twitter, they can send you tweets. And if you are having a conversation with somebody, they can retweet the messages mentioning you. So if person A had blocked B. mutual friend C could RT B's tweets for A to see. If somebody they follow who has not blocked them retweets you, the person you have blocked will see that too. Blocking is really more to stop YOU from seeing THEM than THEM from seeing YOU.

Oddly enough, if somebody that you have blocked sends you an @ message, you may still see it, depending on what app you use to view Twitter. And if one of your friends RTs somebody you have blocked, you may still see that too, again depending on how you view Twitter.  It shouldn't happen, but you can't guarantee that it won't!

I've referred in the past to blocking somebody on Twitter as being like sitting in the same room as somebody who you don't want to see or hear, but putting your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes and just carrying on with the conversation while pretending they are not there. While writing this, I was helped by @FussFreeHelen  and it's just confirmed that idea for me - not only that, but if the person you are ignoring  shouts loudly enough you might still hear them!

    Thursday 9 August 2012

    Got a blog? Win a movie voucher!

    Blinkbox have a competition just for bloggers, and 50 winners will each win a voucher to watch the movie of your choice. To enter, visit the site and choose which film you would like to see, write a blog post about it including a link to the film and then tweet them a link to your post. You will find full instructions here and the competition closes on 26th August.

    The film I would most like to see is Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I can hardly believe I haven't seen it yet, with my love of all things Asian. I once won a  wonderful holiday to India, including several days in the beautiful city of Jaipur, and I know this film would bring back lots of memories!

    Wednesday 8 August 2012

    When a prize goes on giving

    It's lovely to win something like a holiday, but once it is over all you have is the memory, precious as that can be. Cash and vouchers are soon spent, books read, DVDs watched, chocolates eaten, cosmetics used up and toys outgrown.

    Some things, like kitchen equipment, electrical goods and, should you ever be lucky enough to win one, cars, last for much longer and become part of your every day life. And sometimes when you are using them, you might stop and smile to yourself "I won this!". Moments like that can be encouraging when you are going through a bleak patch and not winning anything.

    But there  are just a few prizes that go on getting better and better. Long term compers may remember a competition run by Copella about 7 or 8 years ago, where there were thousands of prizes of a tiny apple tree sapling. Many people I know won them, including me.

    At the time my husband had just bought an apple tree and we didn't have room for a second one, so I gave my sapling to my friend Adrian who grew it espalier-style along his fence and always had a good crop of apples from it. In fact our own apple tree only yielded one or two fruits a year, and I often came home from Adrian's house loaded down with pounds and pounds of apples.

    Sadly Adrian died three years ago, but his parents uprooted the tree and moved it 150 miles to their own garden, where it has taken some time to settle down. This week, the third  anniversary of his death, I phoned them and they told me that this year the tree  has a bumper crop, weighed down with ripening fruit. So from that one little apple sapling,  there have already been many pounds of lovely fruit, that has been made into sauces, desserts, pies, chutneys, jellies and mincemeat. Truly a prize that has gone on giving.

    A friend recently harvested the fruits from her blackcurrant bush, won some time ago in a Ribena competition, and said she feels the same way about it, pleased each year to see how much pleasure that one small prize has  brought her.

    So what about you, have you ever won a prize that kept on giving? Maybe you won a Copella apple tree or Ribena blackcurrant bush and are still getting  crop from it every year?


    Sunday 5 August 2012

    A very quick competition- Edinburgh Food Festival

    You'll need to be very quick if you would like to enter this competition - it closes on August 8th.

    Jemma Eat World is giving away two pairs of tickets to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival which takes place from 10th - 12th August. To enter, go over to her blog and tell her where your favourite place for coffee in Edinburgh is. Don't forget to look out for the announcement of the winner on Wednesday, as she will need to be able to post your tickets right away!

    I'll be heading to the Oxford Foodies Festival later this month, so if you win the tickets do please pop back and tell me how you got on, and give me some tips about what to look out for!

    Win a whole tower of chocolates!

    Chocolate Log Blog, who many of you may know on Twitter as @choclette8, is giving away a beautiful tower of golden boxes of chocolates, cake and confectionery. All you need to do is pop over to the blog and use the simple Rafflecopter form to submit your entries - you will get up to 7 entries for performing different tasks and can go back every day to send a tweet for even more entries. The competition closes on August 20th, but of course the sooner you enter, the more of those daily tweets you can send.

    If the Rafflecopter widget us unfamiliar to you, you can read how it works and get some tips to help you make sure your entries are valid here

    Saturday 4 August 2012

    50 Shades of Winning!

    The whole world seems to have been talking about 50 Shades of Grey recently, even though most of us have never actually read the book, so now of course it is to be made into a film.

    Periscope Post would like us to predict  who should play the male lead, and have created a Facebook competition with the prize of an Apple black 16GB 3rd-generation Wi-Fi iPad. All participants have to do is vote for who they'd like to play Christian Grey in the 50 shades of Grey movie.
    The competition closes on August 14th.
    I'd love to spend longer chatting to you, but I'm afraid I'm a bit tied up at the moment......

    Friday 3 August 2012

    Win a stunning London Canvas Art Map and London Map wallpaper!

    Maps International are giving away a stunning London Canvas Art Map and London Map wallpaper.

    Here's how to enter:

    1. Every time they get to 212 new likes on their Maps International page, they will give away a stunning canvas London Art Map. To be eligible for this you need to have liked them and signed up to their app. (

     2. And that’s not just all they’re giving away! If you share them on your Facebook wall and refer two friends to sign up to the competition, you’ll be entered into an exclusive draw to win an amazing Maps International map wallpaper worth at least £325! 
    Competition end date: 9th September 2012. UK residents only.