Thursday, 30 June 2011

Just how much IS a year's supply of something?

This week my daughter Emma, of the Mellow Mummy blog (have you ever seen it? Pop over there now, there are a couple of lovely competitions to enter!) was told she had won a year’s supply of Pampers and wondered just how many that would be.

Which set me thinking – how do promoters decide what exactly a year’s supply of a product is? Do they base it on average sales? Do they assume we use the product regularly, rather than switching brands or using something completely different? Or does the person in the promotions department base it on what they think they personally would use?

So I cast my mind back over the “Year’s supply” prizes I have won in the past.

They have included:

• Shower gel. 24 bottles, which even used daily was a pretty generous supply. Although I got bored with using the same type every day and interspersed it with other kinds, so it lasted a lot longer.
• Tights. Just 18 packs of three pairs. At the time I had two young children and two cats. They lasted me less than three months.
• Gravy granules. This was an astounding 96 jars, equivalent to two jars a week. Even though there were four of us at the time, there was no way we could eat it all before the use-by date, so a lot was donated to charity tombola stalls.
• Muesli bars. There were 365 of these, intended to be eaten one a day. But it was at the time that there was a lot of hunger and deprivation in Eastern Europe and a local charity was asking for “convenient high energy” foods to make up food parcels. As the muesli bars were part of another prize, a trip round the world, I decided to donate them to the appeal. After all, I still had my holiday!
• Wine. I’ve won a year’s supply of wine twice. One was 6 bottles, the other was 144 bottles (all different). You can guess which I preferred, even though all 144 were delivered at once making storage a bit of a headache (although not as big a headache as removing the storage problem by drinking them straight away would have caused). I did wonder how the people giving away 6 bottles arrived at their figure though.
• Jam. This came in the form of two 24-pack cases of pouches of squeezy jam. My daughters were both at University at the time and it was shared out among their friends.
• Tea. I only won this last year and am still enjoying it. It came in the form of 12 vouchers, each for a 160 bag pack. Vouches are not only easy to store, but mean the tea is always fresh and I can take advantage of any BOGOF offers to get two packs for one voucher, making the tea go even further. I think we drink more tea than most people but it looks as if by the end of the year, the vouchers will indeed have kept me and my husband in tea for a whole year.

Have YOU ever won a year’s supply of anything? And if so, did it last you a year? Or did you use it in some other way? I’d love to see your stories.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Would you like to be on television?

I've been invited to take part in a TV documentary - I'm not able to do so at the moment, but maybe some of YOU would like to join in? I've been involved in several TV programmes and newspaper articles and it has always been great fun. If you're not sure whether you areup for it, maybe my account of my day with The One Show will persuade you!

Here are the details:

Channel 4 Documentary – Looking for COMPETITION WINNERS

More and more Brits are finding new and innovative ways to save money; research shows that 93% bargain hunt and 10 million use online coupons and enter competitions. We Brits take pride in getting something for nothing and we’re looking to celebrate that in a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary.

If you’re a serial competition winner or know somebody who is – please get in touch.

Email or call Gayl on 020 7017 1642

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Quick! Comps that close at the end of June!

First of all, have you done your weekend shopping yet? If not, try to visit a branch of Waitrose, and make sure you pick up a copy of the free Waitrose Weekend magazine that should be available until Tuesday. You will need the entry form from page 15 of the magazine and a Waitrose till receipt for a bottle of any Penfolds wine to be able to enter a competition to win a place on an exclusive Penfolds tasting with a gourmet dinner at the Waitrose Cookery School, taking place on July 8th. You will need to give the answer  1951. The T&C say you can also enter by emailing your answer and receipt to  - if you bought your wine from Waitrose online that is easy enough but if you bought it in a store you will need to scan your receipt and attach it to your entry. I'll certainly be entering this one - I loved the day at the Waitrose Cookery School that I won earlier this year (You can read about my day here )

Also in the magazine is an advert for Pilsner Urquell which offers you the chance to win a pair of tickets to see The Open 2011 at Royal St George's in Kent on July 17th. This closes on July 7th and can be entered at

After Waitrose, head off to the DIY shop and treat yourself to any Stanley tool and then go to  and  enter your details (in the "trade" menu, you can select DIY/Hobbyist) for a chance to win a week's salary for a footballer - £33,500, with runners up prizes of  £4,200 and £1,250.  Only one entry per household, and hang on to your till receipt as you will need to produce it if you win. This  closes on June 30th.

Finally, a chance to win £100 of Voi clothing - this too closes on June 30th.  I'll hand over to them for the rest of today's blog - good luck everyone!

Voi Jeans Competition

We are going to be picking a winner from our Facebook fans and another winner from our Twitter followers. So you can double your chances by entering on both Facebook and Twitter if you wish

To enter by Facebook:
1. Simply become a fan on our Facebook Page
2. View the Voi Clothing range and click the Like button near the bottom (See pic below).
3. Sit back and wait to see if you have won!

To enter by Twitter:
1. Simply follow us on Twitter – @StandOutNet.
2. View the Voi Clothing range and click the Tweet button near the bottom (See pic below).
3. Sit back and wait to see if you have won!

How to Win

The competition ends midnight at 30th June 2011.
The lucky winners will be announced and contacted on 1st July 2011.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

From my comping library: 2. Small but perfectly formed

The 1980s was the peak time for small press comping magazines. There were around half a dozen self published subscription-only magazines, much like Grape Vine is now. Enterprize was produced by Mary Cann, Jane &  Malcolm's Competition Solutions by Jane and Malcom Marsters,  All-in-Won by Julian Johnson and Win With Lynne by Lynne Suzanne. There were several others which I didn't subscribe to - maybe you remember one of them, or even contributed to one?

As well as  their monthly, or even fortnightly booklets, these magazines often produced occasional specials - annual collections of winning tiebreakers or booklets of advice and inspiration from the well-known comping writers of the time. They were also a platform for people who only produced occasional publications to advertise their own little books.

 I have a lovely collection of these which I still re-read now and then to give me inspiration and motivation, especially if I'm  going through a lean spell, win-wise.

First of all, the annual collections of winning tiebreakers from Enterprize. it seems odd now to think that it was possible to fill a whole 36 page booklet with tiebreakers from just one year, but that is what Mary Cann did year after year - and she only included the best ones as she was often pushed for space!

Jane and Malcom Marsters produced a very useful two-part "Tie  Break Builder" which suggested lists of  words, phrases and rhymes on a variety of subjects. These made a very useful starting point for creating quick but original tiebreakers. You can see that i still use them regularly by the sticky notes in some of the pages.

Mervyn Coverdale is a comper that many of you will know, especially if you belong to the London Competitors Club. He produced three very useful little booklets. One of them is a general introduction to tiebreaker writing, covering all the basic techniques, and the other two take themes of holidays and personalities and list winning tiebreakers that used some of these techniques

Members of the London Competitors Club will remember Aubrey Morris, who was the club President until a few years ago. He wrote a two-part booklet called  "How to Win Prizes" which covered all aspects of comping (or at least all the aspects that existed at the time! Comping has changed a lot since the booklets were written in 1979) from working out orders of merit to finding out factual answers. I wonder whether he could have ever imagined the arrival of Google when he was writing those books!

And  finally, most "old school" compers find it impossible to think about comping writing without their first thought being of Joy Thorpe, one of the most prolific and popular comping writers ever.  I can remember being totally awe struck when I went to my first London Competitors Club meeting and found that I was sitting just a few feet from her! She wrote regular columns in several comping magazines until not very long before she passed away a few years  ago,  and  many of you will have cringed at her "Rottweiler" approach of tearing apart the losing tiebreakers of her willing victims. Joy wrote a little booklet called "How to be a Winner" which was packed with motivational thoughts and emphasised the power of positive thinking.

Do you have any comping reference books from years  ago? Are they still in use, or gathering dust on a shelf or in the loft? I'd love to hear about them.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Going for a Brazilian

I'm often asked "Is it worth me entering Metro competitions when I live outside the major cities where it circulates?" and "If I've won a prize from Metro, will  they allow me to win again?"

Well, I live in Hampshire and have won several prizes from Metro including a weekend break, a camera, a hamper, several lots of tickets to events and best of all, several years  ago, a holiday to Brazil. Here's my account of the holiday.

The outward flight was long and uneventful, and Brazilian immigration was incredibly long and tedious. Once clear of the formalities we looked out for a driver waving a board with our name on it, but none was to be seen. The local tour tout saw me looking lost and confused, and came up to me, but instead of trying to flog me an expensive taxi journey (the resort was 50 miles away) he explained to me that the resort of Costa do Sauipe had its own VIP lounge at the airport, where we would meet our driver. Quite how he explained it, as he spoke no English and I speak no Portuguese, I'm not sure, but he was right and we soon found ourselves settled in air conditioned comfort while we waited for the other passengers who were transferring to the resort.

The coach we travelled on was incredibly luxurious, with soft leather seats and padded leg rests, and as it was 20 hours since we had left home we were both asleep within moments of sitting down - so much for seeing a bit of Brazil on the journey.

We were greeted at the hotel by the night manager who wanted to take us on a guided tour of the hotel, but we were far too exhausted for that so after  a quick cold drink we were shown to our room - a big, airy, comfortable room with the joy of a very efficient and practically silent air conditioner (there was also a ceiling fan which had the novel trick of switching itself on every time the bathroom light was turned off). We fell asleep straight away, but to our surprise our body clocks still woke us both at 5am so we set out to explore the hotel.

It was built around a huge swimming pool - so big that during the morning they gave kayaking and windsurfing lessons on it, and only needed to use a third of the pool for them! Also in the immaculately kept gardens was a trapeze and trampolining area, although we didn't see it in use very much - only for the kids club, but the staff who demonstrated to the kids were pretty impressive.

Eventually it was time for breakfast - and the start of a week of pigging out for us! Breakfast was probably the most spectacular meal of the day as there was so much to choose from - a table groaning with tropical fruits, all the usual cereals, yoghurts etc., a wide range of hot dishes, both local and international, cold meats, cheeses, and dozens of varieties of freshly made cakes and breads. Plus a very wide range of juices - orange, mango, guava, melon, coconut, cashew, hog-plum and many we had never heard of. Plus a "cranky juice of the day" such as orange and watercress or beetroot and passionfruit. Oh, and there was always champagne available for breakfast although I never quite fancied starting the day that way.  Breakfast was shared with dozens of sparrows and Bom-ti-vi birds (Bom-ti-vi means "nice to see you" so we called them all Brucie), who were cheeky enough to help themselves from peoples' plates.

 We spent the first day acclimatising and recovering from the journey - lazing around the pool, swimming from time to time and generally unwinding. Lunch was taken, as every day, in the poolside buffet where there was a wide range of salads, grills and local dishes, and the inevitable huge chiller of fresh fruit (I don't think I'll ever get scurvy even if I never eat another piece of fruit in my life). Also by the pool were two coconut stands, where staff spent all day opening young coconuts and tipping the juice into chillers, so guests could help themselves to it, and two bars where we sampled the local "caipirhina", a cocktail made of  crushed limes and sugar with the local cane spirit, a kind of white rum.

After that strenuous morning, Mark went for a nap while I treated myself to a hairdo at the hotel salon. Paying for it was a bit of a problem though! I had expected it to be charged to the room, but that wasn't acceptable, neither was a credit card - they wanted payment in Brazilian Reales. Now, you can't buy those in UK, and the foreign exchange shop had advised us to take US dollars, so I tried to pay with those. Eventually they accepted them, but I felt I had paid a lot more than I should have done. When I went into the bank next day to change some currency, they explained that there was a US$15 tax on every transaction involving dollars, even at the bank, so as we were only expecting to change a small amount of currency the dollars we had taken were useless and we had to withdraw cash with our credit cards. (And the "free buy back" of our US dollars when we came home cost us £20. Bah!) Oh well, I was very pleased with the haircut!

While changing for dinner, we tried the local TV and discovered that in the early evening, one channel had a cookery hour every day -  a Portuguese programme followed by either Jamie Oliver or Nigella on alternate days, so we had something familiar to watch while we pottered around.

The hotel had three formal restaurants and two buffets, which were open in different combinations each night. We never did quite work out the system, but on the first night we found ourselves in the Japanese restaurant. Oh dear, the meal was dire! Our starter was chicken yakitori - a single small skewer of tough, dry chicken garnished with half a grape. The main course was a breaded chicken escalope worthy of captain Birds Eye, with some sticky rice and a teaspoonful of stir fried vegetables. The Japanese customers appeared to be enjoying it. Luckily it was the only disappointing meal we had all week - the rest of the week was filled with beautiful tender steaks, lobster, crayfish tails, local dishes so spicy they made the eyes water, and fruit, fruit and more fruit! We kept finding more eating opportunities as the week went on - one day there was a machine dispensing fresh mango "slush puppies", another day a lady in national costume was making street food dishes, and another day there was a huge bowl of hot kibbeh served up by the pool!

There was entertainment provided every night, but it started at 9.30 pm and we were already fast asleep by then most nights! One night there was to be a circus, so we decided to stay up for it. However we went into the "posh" bar for an after dinner brandy first. The barman produced two brandy snifters and a bottle of Remy Martin, then proceeded to fill them as deep as you would a wine glass. Obviously we didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable by complaining, in fact to make him feel really at ease we has a second one each. After that, we went to look for the circus but the geography of the hotel seemed to have changed beyond recognition so having lost the circus we staggered back to our room which for some reason was rotating slowly on its axis.

 On the second day we explored the rest of  the resort. Costa do Sauipe is a purpose built resort on the coast about 50 miles north of Salvador. There are about four major hotels. Ours, Breezes, was the poshest and was right at the end of the resort - our room looked out over virgin swamp and jungle and from the window we saw all sorts of interesting bird life and even a capybara.  A path along the sand dunes, shaded by coconut trees, led past the other hotels and into the central village area. Here some of the swamp pools had been made into water gardens, with a network of interconnecting bridges and pathways, leading on one side to the beach with a pretty beach bar and on the other side to a small street of shops. The shops were all built in traditional style - every building was different, all painted in bright, sugar candy colours, as were the little self catering cottages that surrounded the main street. There were all sorts of souvenir shops, a bank and lots of cafes and bars - but of course as our hotel was all inclusive we weren't tempted into any of them!

Next day we went by bus to Praia do Forte, a neighbouring town. The bus stopped at the end of the picturesque main street, and we walked along the street to the beach. There was a church that was supposed to be very interesting, but we were more interested in watching the mixture of fishing boats and tourist boats in the bay. Around the corner from the church there was the usual gaggle of tacky souvenir stalls (I think I have now seen crickets made out of bamboo or reeds on every continent, except Antarctica of course. I've never been there but I guess both crickets and bamboo are in pretty short supply) and then the entrance to the Tamar project, a turtle sanctuary. They had several tanks of turtles, plus tanks of nurse sharks and sea hares (what ugly things they are!) and several species of fish, eel and ray. But the highlight of the visit was when we watched as  a giant turtle laid a clutch of eggs. Two of the staff were standing by to help her and shade her, and as soon as she had finished laying she slithered off into the pool and forgot all about the eggs. At that point the staff carefully excavated them into a thermos box and carried them over to a nursery area near the beach. Each clutch of eggs is put into an enclosure and marked with the expected hatching date, then on the due date the barrier between the sanctuary and the sea is removed and all the lights along the shore line extinguished, so the babies will make their dash for the ocean.

After a fascinating morning at the sanctuary, we treated ourselves to a glass of beer at a beach bar (almost 50p for two bottles) then had a good look round the village, where we loved all the "tourist" shops. To us it was a very attractive village selling all sorts of  cheap and interesting goods - to a local it was probably a tourist trap full of  overpriced tat! We bought sarongs and T-shirts, and a bottle of the cane spirit for making caipirhinas (65p a litre) then as we had a while to wait for the bus, sat in another bar in the shade of a cashew tree and had another beer. The bar manager took one of the cashew fruits down and ate it - the cashew nut grows outside the fruit, at the end, and you remove and roast it, leaving a fleshy fruit the size of a small pear. You chew, but don't swallow, the flesh - it has a taste of physalis (Cape Gooseberries) - and after spitting out the flesh you are supposed to down a shot of tequila.

On Friday we hired a horse and carriage (and driver) and explored the inland area of the resort - several square miles of dunes, scrub, lakes, swamps and gardens. The facilities were fantastic - about 20 tennis courts, a golf course, an equestrian centre (the carriage driver took us in to meet the horses) and a watersports centre, plus areas for off roading,  BMX cycling, dune sports and pootling around in little electric buggies. Going at a horse's pace meant we were travelling fast enough to see the whole area yet slowly enough to have a good look at all the flora and fauna - again, there was an amazing variety of bird life. We saw some tiny vivid green lizards, but sadly no iguanas. The driver explained to us that the huge number of vultures circling around was because they love to eat snakes, which inhabit the area in large numbers. That put paid to any idea of stopping the carriage and taking a walk through the scrub!!!

Inspired by the birds we had seen, we booked a birdwatching trip for Saturday. We were collected in a jeep, and taken on to get the other passengers from another hotel - a Japanese Brazilian couple and an Argentinian couple. When the Argentinians were told we were English, the woman rolled her eyes and muttered something about the Malvinas, so we kept very quiet about Mark having served in the Falklands war. We were driven a few miles and then had a short walk through the jungle to the river Sauipe, where we boarded a tiny boat, were issued with binoculars and headed off for the 10 mile journey to the mouth of the river. Frankly the bird life was a little disappointing - we could see far more from our room - but travelling through the gradually thinning jungle and mangrove swamps out to the coast was very interesting.

At the mouth of the river, we had a short break for hot roasted cashew nuts  ashore at a local "resort" - a couple of tiny cafes and lots of coconut-leaf roofed beach huts, then set off back up the river. A slight problem with the engines delayed us, so as we went along, night started to fall and we had some very spectacular views of the beautiful sunset. There were bats flying round our heads and all the night-time sounds of the jungle were starting. Then the Argentinian couple's mobile phone rang - it was their daughter, announcing that she was pregnant, so the trip turned into a bit of a celebration!

 Sunday was our last day - we flew out of Salvador at 1am on Monday so had to leave the hotel at 10pm. Although the receptionist told us that it may have to be earlier because "There has been a revolution in Salvador". Fortunately she had mis-translated - in fact it was a demonstration. One man was lying in the road as a protest against toll road charges, and the road was plenty wide enough to drive round him.

 Anyway, as it was going to be a long night of travelling, we took things very easy and had another lazing-round-the-pool day. When we went indoors to do our packing, the weather suddenly changed and it started to pour with rain - the first time all week it hadn't been glorious sunshine! It must have known we were going.

As we were leaving, a convention of 250 Dutch travel agents was arriving and they were being met with a gala dinner and a show of traditional Brazilian dancing, so while we waited for the airport transport we watched voodoo dancers and fire dancers, and left with the sound of drums echoing in our ears.

It was a wonderful holiday, among the best we have ever had. We seem to have got exactly the right balance between activity and relaxation, we ate and drank extremely well, and (unusually for me, as I have dormant tropical sprue) were completely healthy all through the trip.

Roll on the next holiday win!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

CLOSED: Win a year in the Winnin Post club!


congratulations to the winners @judithsbooks and @mrswebster147

THE WINNIN POST CLUB is now taking members for 2011-12. 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 £13.00, made out to WINN SOMMOR, to

Winn Sommor,
The Winnin Post Club,
Dept JW,
Erica Handling House,
LN4 4NR.

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, but your second  entry won't count unless you  have already made a first one - in other words you MUST comment or you can't enter by tweeting:

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

This competition closes at noon on Friday June 24th. UK entrants only please, as the prize can only be sent to UK addresses.

Note: it appears that at the moment Blogger isn't allowing some people to comment, so you WILL still  be entered into the comp if you tweet without commenting. But I'd really like it if you DID comment, so please try again another day if you don't manage this time!

Friday, 10 June 2011

British is Best!

...well, it is when you are a comper! Why? Because the laws about competitions are different in different countries, which means that most competitions are only open to people living in the country where the competition is run.  There ARE a few competitions that are open internationally, or in several countries, especially within Europe, but they are very few.

If you enter a competition that is only open to, say, Americans, and you are picked as a winner, you will have the disappointment of being told that you have won and asked for your address, and then having the prize snatched away from you.

But even if an overseas competition IS open to entrants from the UK, there can be disadvantages to winning. One is the cost of sending the prize - airmail carriage can be very expensive so the promoter may decide to send it by surface mail instead, which can take several weeks. And when it reaches the UK, if it is worth more than around £25,  the customs people may charge you duty on it. They seem to pick packages at random to check, and from my experience of buying craft goods from the USA it seems to happen to about 1 package in 3, so you MIGHT be lucky. But if you are not, you will have to pay not only 20% of the value of the prize, but a handling fee of around £8 which could make your prize a very costly one indeed. And it will also delay your prize for even longer.

So how do you check that a competition is based in Great Britain? (I'm using  the terms Great Britain and the UK interchangeably here - if you live anywhere outside mainland England, Scotland and Wales some competitions may have special terms that apply to or exclude you.)

If you have a leaflet, magazine or package in front of you, the promoter's address in the terms and conditions will tell you, but with comps on websites, Twitter and Facebook  it gets much more obscure. There should always be a link to the terms and conditions, so check them and if the rules include "open only to legal residents of the United States....." move straight on to another competition.  But not all promoters give terms and conditions, so here are some more tips for spotting the "foreigners"

On Twitter

Go to their Twitter page and look at the location underneath their user name. If it is a place in the UK, you are fine to enter (although don't forget that a lot of places in the USA and  Australia  are named after places in the UK) but if it says something like GA, WC, UT, CA or FL, or one of about 45 other two letter combinations, it means they are in an American state.

If there is nothing to say where they are, click on the link to their website. If it isn't immediately clear where they are based, look at the "about us" or "contact us" pages for their address. And if there is no website link, the competition may well be a scam anyway - see 

On Facebook

Go to the Info page (in the left hand menu) where you can read about the business. Their address or location may be there or once again you may need to follow a link to a website to find it.

Wherever you are

Look for clues! The most obvious one is prices. If the prices are quoted in £  then it is a British competition. If they are quoted in Euros, it COULD still be British, if it is a business that sells a lot of goods to Europe,  but it could be based in the Republic of Ireland and although some Irish competitions are open to entrants from the UK, you'd still have possible issues with duty. But if the prices are given in $, RND  or ¥ it's definitely foreign.

Next up is the closing time, if it is stated. Is the time followed by letters like PST, CST or CET?  If so, it is an overseas competition. Many closing times in the UK are stated without any letters, but if they do appear, they will be GMT, BST or very occasionally UTC.

If you are asked for your address, what information do they want? Do they ask for a town,  county and postcode or a city, state and zip code? Some British websites use forms created by American designers so this isn't an infallible test.

And finally, look at the language they use. 99% of the time, a UK based competition will be called a competition and an American one will be called a contest, and the word draw is used in the UK while drawing is used in the USA. Sweepstakes is a term far more commonly used in American competitions than British ones  - to us, a sweepstake is usually something organised in the office when there is a big horse race like the Grand National.

Completely changing the subject, as I've not got any suitable pictures for this post I'll leave you with my current favourite photo of my granddaughter who has just harvested her very own potatoes.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Some competitions that missed Grape Vine

Yesterday I had a very successful day out and about searching for new competitions. The June Grape Vine has already gone out and the update won't be out until around the 20th, but there were so many competitions closing before then that I really wanted to share with you that I had to blog about them. Hurry up and enter, the first one closes today!

Be VERY quick with this one – it closes TODAY, 07 Jun. Superdrug and Charles Worthington are giving away The Ultimate Holiday Beach Bag overflowing with luxurious essentials, and 10 runners up prizes of Charles Worthington Takeaway gift sets. To enter, text CHARLES to 60777. Text charged at your standard rate.

JLS condoms – display stand at Boots directs you to for a chance to win JLS prizes. That took me to an error page but I finally found the competition at  and the prizes are a pair of tickets to meet JLS backstage, 5 x iPad2, 10 x pair of tickets to the JLS summer tour, 250 x copy of their book and 250 x copy of their album. You need to complete  the survey to enter. Closing 12 Jun.

Moss Bros are looking for a man to become the Face of Moss. The winner will get a modelling contract and £1,000 of Moss bros clothing. Enter at  Closing 12 Jun.

New York Bagels direct you to for a chance to win a trip to New York, but your entry actually has to be sent by email. Tell them in 30 words why you should get the job of Head of Taste for them, and send your answer to Closing 13 Jun

Hobbycraft has an entry form to post in store for a draw to win a Ferrari or Porsche driving experience. Closing 19 Jun.

Maplins have a bundle of gadgets for Fathers day on offer, including a Flip camera, a took kit, a train  set and more. Enter at  completing the sentence “My dad is the best because…..”. You can upload a photo if you wish. Closing 19 Jun.

The Works has an entry form to post in store for a draw to win a weekend in Paris, a 2 night self drive break in Northern France or 100 x European road atlas.

Timberland Shops – try on or buy a pair of  Earthkeepers shoes to be given an entry form to hand in or post for a chance to win one of two Festival experiences, one to Bestival and one to Cornbury. Each prize includes sleeping bags, two pairs of Timberland shoes and £200 spending money plus use of a tent and airbeds. Closing 19 Jun.

Friday, 3 June 2011

From my comping library: 1. Competitors Journal

This is the first in an occasional series about some of the comping books and resources I have scattered around the house.

Older compers will probably sigh nostalgically at the mention of Competitors Journal, or "CJ" as it was fondly known. For many years, it was available in newsagents' shops, a weekly source of inspiration and information for compers. My grandmother used to buy it back in the 1950s and when I took up comping in the mid 1980s it was the first information source I turned to.

Eventually, though, as compers turned to subscription-only magazines (like our very own Grape Vine), interest in  CJ faded and first the size was reduced, then it went from weekly to fortnightly. An attempt to rekindle reader interest by adding colour just increased the price without increasing the readership and eventually the magazine closed, although I believe the right to the title is still owned by the publishers of Compers News and maybe one day, when the time is right, it could spring back into life.

I only have a dozen or so old copies, but they make fascinating reading. many well known comping names appear among the contributors - Joy Thorpe, Mervyn Coverdale, Robert Kendal, Aubrey Morris and even, just once, a certain Jane Willis. Funny how it ceased publication just after my first article was published. I hope there isn't a connection!

CJ was crammed with articles about comping, from hints and advice about current competitions to a Watchdog feature highlighting scams and problems (some things never change!) and a Tiebreaker Clinic where readers submitted their losing tiebreakers to ask why they didn't win- and often had them ruthlessly torn to pieces by Joy Thorpe, who often referred to herself as a rottweiler!

Promoters advertised their own competitions in the pages of CJ, and used it for announcing winners lists so that there was no need to send off those SAEs requesting results that seldom arrive. And, most useful of all, there was a listing of all the new competitions that had appeared since the previous issue, one or two weeks before. Just look at all these!

Each of them  was new, since the previous issue two weeks before. Every one of them needed an entry form and almost every one asked for some kind of slogan or order of merit to be completed,  as well as  questions to answer or a puzzle to solve.

Reading through them reminds me just how much comping has changed. No longer do I go shopping with a list of 50 or more entry forms to look for. No longer do I aim to complete at least 10 tiebreakers a week.  But in those days, I  could never experience the surprise of a winning email or text message! Comping - and compers - has moved with the times and I still love every minute of it.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

CLOSED New competition - win a family ticket to a steam rally!

On 16th and 17th July there is going to be a steam rally at Needwood Rise Farm, Barton Gate, Barton Under Needwood in Derbyshire.  Barton Gate Charity Steam  is raising funds for the Midlands Air Ambulance.  Admission is £5 for adults, £1 for under 16s, and camping is also available.

 As well as the magnificent engines

and the vintage vehicles and fairground engines

there will be fairground rides, demonstrations, a craft marquee and live entertainment. You can read more about the show at

I have  a family ticket to the event to give away. To enter, simply leave a comment below, including a way to contact you.  The best thing to use is your Twitter name, if you have one, as email addresses left in blogs can be picked up by spammers. If you don't have a Twitter name and have to leave your email address,  I will save your comment without approving it to appear on the blog, so you won't see your entry but it WILL be counted.

For a second entry,  tweet the following, then comment below to tell me you have tweeted.

I want to win a steam rally ticket from @janesgrapevine so I entered at

I'll close the competition at 5pm on Wednesday 8th June.

Congratulations to the winner, @bloomingfox - I have contacted you through Twitter