There, I’ve said it. I’ve confessed my secret subcultural existence. If it’s a competition, a prize draw, a raffle, tombola, quiz night, radio phone-in or television quiz show I’m interested and my name (or one of my family’s names) will be in the hat, waste paper basket or entry-collecting receptacles of choice. Our family catchphrase isn’t “in it to win it” for nothing.
This year has been a pretty fruitful year for competition and prize draw wins, although this has been “helped” by having more time on my hands than I’d really like, especially since May. Comping in our house is very much a team effort although the majority of the “admin” is done by me. Whether it be completing the tiny newspaper coupon with very little space for a full address (the local newspaper is particularly guilty of that), a postcard to use the NPN (No Purchase Necessary) route that is circumnavigates premium rate text entries (like ITV/STV comps), typing in details on online forms or collecting tokens, I’m the man.
While 2013 hasn’t brought a car, a foreign holiday or the much sought after white goods and gadgets, there have been plenty of unexpected jiffy bags popping through our letterbox. I did try to win Real Radio’s Cash Car throughout December but despite getting up at 6am almost every day it never stopped outside our house. What was frustrating for me was that half of the dozen or so of the lucky people who had their name called out on air failed to make it to the passenger seat of the car in the requisite 300 seconds. Why enter if you’re not going to make sure you’re up? An easy question to win a few hundred pound in the glove box, with a possibility of winning the car itself is not tobe sniffed at. The competition is starting again in January and I’ll have another go. Yes, it’ll mean an early start for someone who unfortunately doesn’t have to get up but it gives me more time for job hunting and comping.
The first two wins of the year were also the most valuable in monetary terms. In June this year I graduated from Adam Smith College with an HND in Radio. I was also fortunate enough to win two scholarships. After losing out in the last six last year for the Ian Rankin Creative Writing Scholarship I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the three prize winners this year. I blogged about in July. As well as a certificate and a cheque for £600, the winners were treated to a lunch with Ian Rankin himself. The lunch was made by catering students at the College and we all received signed copies of Ian’s latest book, the excellent Standing in Another Man’s Grave. The book takes its title from a Jackie Leven mondegreen, misheard by Ian from Another Man’s Rain, a track from the wonderful album Oh What a Blow That Phantom Dealt Me! Indeed we discussed the late, great man over our meal.
News of the second scholarship award came on a day of three triumphs. Two features I made during my radio course were shortlisted for awards at Creative Loop, the Student Media Festival. While Tartan Noir Shorts missed out in the Best Student Speech Broadcaster category, I was delighted to win Best Audio Programme for 76 with a Bullet – The Rise and Fall of the Record Shop, a labour of love. This win was followed by an email informing me I’d been awarded £150 by the Russell Trusts for one of their scholarships. Most of our class had stayed over for the festival and I was grateful for their support. We all finished the evening in the Hengler’s Circus pub, opposite Creative Loop’s CCA home, and we proceeded to win the quiz night and a first prize of a case of Corona beer. A great treble! In an interesting comping postscript, when I attended my HND Radio graduation in August I bought a Costa coffee from the vendor at the Kirkcaldy campus of Adam Smith College. I had picked up my graduation gown from there and was killing time with my wife before the ceremony across the road in St Bryce Kirk. On the bottom of the cup was a special competition code. I took a note of it and input it into the Costa website when I got home. A few days later I was told I’d won a £10 gift card.
December brought victory in the Radio Academy (Scotland) quiz night as Trivia Newton-John. Good friends Andrea Mackinnon, Andrew Smillie, Lisa McAlinden and I won a trophy and much kudos by the narrowest of margins but sadly no financial reward. The free Santa’s a Scotsman CD doesn’t really count! However, our only other quiz victory of the year, under the same team name but with a different line-up, brought an excellent return in March. My wife Kirsty and I, along with our friends Julie and Philip, were invited to take part in a charity quiz night at Dunfermline FC’s East End Park. The quiz was hosted to raise funds for the Arran Brown Rainbow Foundation. The charity raises awareness of Auto Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease and supports research into PKD. The charity is named after Arron Brown who fought bravely against the disease before succumbing. The night raised £450 for an excellent cause. We held off the challenge of twenty-three other teams to win one of the best run quizzes I’ve been to in a long time. It was hosted and written by Alan who had been on one of the few quiz shows that I hadn’t in the shape of Pointless. As well as a cheque for £200, we won 4 bottles of champagne and two spot prizes of a free round of drinks. As if that wasn’t enough we scooped three raffle prizes! At a lesser quiz we might’ve been run out of town! Kirsty also won four bottles of wine at a work-related quiz in November. Three were for winning the quiz and one was in the raffle. Sadly I’m never invited to this one but I generally hear all about it from a somewhat inebriated wife in the early hours of the morning! And then again in the morning!!
In May my daughter was selected to be the mascot for the second leg of the First Division play-off semi-final between Dunfermline and Forfar Athletic at East End Park. In a game dubbed the ‘Battle of the Bridies’ – local baker Stephens meat-filled delicacy up against Forfar’s famous bridie – the Loons led 3-1 from the first leg. However, despite going a goal down (to make it 4-1 on aggregate) Dunfermline rallied to run out 6-1 winners on the day (after extra time) and 7-4 winners overall. as well as seven goals, the game had three red cards (all for Forfar, five if you include a coach from each side that was also sent to the stand) and two penalties for the home team (one missed). The only thing the match lacked was a car chase! This “prize” didn’t really have a monetary value so we just added the cost of four free tickets to our competition spreadsheet.
Most of the competition prizes we win tend to be books, CDs or DVDs and this year was no exception. Reading material won included Jimmy Connors’ autobiography The Outsider, a World Wine Atlas (a hefty tome), The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander, David Byrne’s How Music Works, a 3-book bundle of Economics books and Diane Bretherick’s The City of Devils. The musical prizes won were a Jimi Hendix CD (courtesy of Clyde 2), a ZTT Organisation of Pop double CD (and t-shirt), Chvrches wonderful electro pop album The Bones of What You Believe (courtesy of Jim Gellatly’s excellent In Demand: Uncut radio show) and a Christmas with The Broons double CD, also courtesy of a Scottish Bauer station. The only DVD win was Bill Bailey’s Qualmpeddler. Occasionally we’ll receive a prize with no covering letter, acknowledgement slip or even confirmatory email and with Qualmpeddler this was the case.
The three economics books were one of a number of advent competition wins in December. While it wasn’t a prize we’d normally have tried to win I was in a routine of doing all the advent competitions from all the sites. Many websites run competitions throughout the 24 days of advent, with websites adorned with advent calendars to be opened on a daily basis. I was fortunate to win three such prizes this year: the aforementioned books from the Cambridge University Press, a £30 Boden voucher from the Sales Gossip website, a packet of dried whole sprats (I kid you not!) from YourDog and, last week, two cases of Belhaven Stout from the Orocco Pier advent competition on Facebook. Social media has become a good source of competitions but I’m a bit more wary of doing ones of Facebook rather than Twitter. You can control who sees what on Twitter a lot easier than Facebook and as a result I’m really picky about which Facebook ones I do. In terms of prizes won Twitter beat Facebook 6-2 this year. The books by Jimmy Connors, David Byrne and Rebecca Alexander, the ZTT prizes and a miniature coffee cup from Costa coffee were all won on Twitter. The sixth Twitter win (£40) was also the last win of the year, courtesy of the Scottish Music Hall of Fame (@SMHOF). Facebook brought the Belhaven Stout (although it still hasn’t arrived yet) and a test pressing of a Mouse and the Traps album courtesy of the Ace Records page.
Occasionally we win prizes that we don’t want or need. Usually these are sold on eBay, donated to raffles or simply given away to friends who can make use of them, like a guitar amp I won last year. My friend Yanthe’s dog Enola is probably making short work of the sprats as I type. I have been trying to sell a brand new (still boxed) Eckman ‘AngleTrim’ 550W Hedge Trimmer but without success. Seems I can’t even give it away. All reasonable offers will still be considered.
Local newspapers and magazines are a regular source of prizes and this year was no different. The theory is that not many people read them, let alone do the competitions so the chances of winning are inevitably increased. The prizes may be more modest – theatre tickets, meal for four, etc – but a prize is a prize is a prize! We won a beautiful Christmas wreath from Go Local, a locally distributed magazine, and the Bruce Festival, held in Dunfermline, brought two prizes. The local paper, in association with Visit Dunfermline, gave away a four-prize pack, which included a family ticket to Fife Animal Park, a Daunder and Dine ticket for four (the limited time frame meant only two of us could make use of what was a local guided walk, followed by a meal), a £20 voucher for Seriously Good Venison and a goodie bag from imaginatively named The Sweet Shop. Our daughter also won a toy axe and teddy bear at the Bruce Festival itself. She was also lucky when it came to raffles and tombolas winning a Ben 10 Comic Maker kit, a goodie bag (stationery and sweeties) and another bottle of wine. We’re looking after the latter for her!
December brought a total of thirteen prizes, some of which I’ve already mentioned. I was sad to hear the news that Edinburgh’s HMV Picture House was shutting, not least because it had been a valuable source of free tickets. Within the space of a week I had seen Ocean Colour Scene (with Yanthe) and the triple header of Wonder Stuff/Pop Will Eat Itself/Jesus Jones (with Philip) at the venue. Another loss to the Edinburgh gigging scene and for what, a new Wotherspoons pub!
Other prizes won this year included some Insidious 2 movie goodies (courtesy of Late Night Gina on the Bauer radio network in Scotland) and a £50 voucher for Costcutter (pictured above). The sum total for this year was 40 prize wins, with an approximate value of £1940. It’s nowhere near our record year of 1996 when we scooped 85 prizes totalling £2965. Back then the internet hadn’t been invented and it wasn’t so easy to enter competitions or research the answers to quizzes. In those days you had to work for it while nowadays only the most hardened and committed compers will reap regular rewards.
We would’ve beaten that 1996 cash figure if I’d included the £1525 won on Channel 4’s The Clock. The show was broadcast in February this year – I didn’t get my cheque until it went out on telly – the process, including audition and recording, had begun in November last year so I counted it as 2012.
I’m not one of those people who keeps comps to themselves. I’m always telling people to go in for comps and I share them as much as I can. (On Facebook “liking, entering and sharing” is often a pre-requisite of going into the hat.) I like to think that my addiction is rubbing off on friends. Indeed, only this week I passed on information about a competition that wasn’t really suitable for me. The prize was recording studio time and as I don’t play an instrument I passed the information on to someone I knew who could make good use of it. I was just as pleased as he was to find out he’d won. *polishes halo*
Christmas is always a good time for comping because many people are too busy preparing for the festive season. So while people were scrapping over the last packet of pigs-in-blankets in Waitrose the family and I were finishing off the end of year quizzes, competitions (including the advent ones) and prize crosswords.
The time I’ve spent writing this blog has been valuable time away from Loquax, my competition portal of choice, but it was nice to round-up all the wins into one piece. One thing I did notice while comping this year, particularly in December, was the number of mistakes made by question writers, whether it be poorly worded questions, incorrect answers or problems with the functionality of the competition. But that’s a blog for another day, maybe even this week.
Roll on 2014 when we can all carry on comping!