Tuesday, February 24, 2009


In these financially stretched times people are looking at ways in which to make money or get something for nothing.

Since time immemorial, my favoured way of getting ‘owt for nowt’ has been crosswords, competitions and free prize draws. While I have dabbled in slogan competitions, with limited success it has to be said, I prefer to take my chances in the first-out-of-the-hat/waste paper basket/receptacle of choice (delete as applicable) arena.

While family responsibilities and the damned inconvenience that is work have taken up most of my time, I still keep my hand in. The explosion of the information super dual carriageway that is the Interweb has seen infinite comping opportunities. While the barely-read, hardly-entered comps of local and free newspapers are still a favourite the Internet is the place to go for all manner of gratis booty and all for sending an e-mail or filling in an online form.

Over the years Mrs Cat and I have won many, many prizes (probably in the thousands) and even our daughter has received the reward many compers long for – the LWE. The receipt from your postie of a Long White Envelope is often met with an anticipatory thought of “ooh…I wonder…”. While the LWE is still much sought after, I tend to receive more CJBs (Chunky Jiffy Bags) these days, usually containing a CD, DVD or book.

In the early days of comping it wasn’t so easy to get rid of the unwanted runners-up prizes but now eBay has turned the worst of prizes, even that John and Norma Major jigsaw*, into a money-maker.

(* The Big Issue used to make it easy to enter all the comps on one page by putting all your postcards in one envelope and I was a very regular winner, including the aforementioned jigsaw. Often I would win more than one prize in an issue. I no longer have this jigsaw; it went to a charity shop).

Here are some of our family competition win highlights:

1996: Damien Hirst Beck's bottle and t-shirt (x 2), 48 cans of Hooch (from 85 prizes)
1997: Chance to take penalty kicks against John Leslie at Easter Road during Hibs-Rangers (from 46 prizes)
1998: £500 sports vouchers (from loads of prizes)
1999: Case of sherry/cooler/apron/towels (from 52 prizes)
2000: Fridge freezer/£200/Hi Fi** (from 33 prizes)
2001: Rough Trade 25th anniversary goodies, DVD player (from loads of prizes)
2002: £2000** (from 13 prizes, a barren year)
2003: Weekend break, portable TV (from 29 prizes)
2004: Loads of little prizes (30)
2005: 10 Billy Connolly DVDs (from 23 prizes)
2006: £300 Sony Centre vouchers (from 28 prizes)
2007: Bowie/Marley/Presley books, signed electric guitar (from 13 prizes)
2008: Travelodge Weekend for 4 (from 14 prizes)

**TV game show wins

Okay so no cars, big holidays or huge cash amounts, let alone that van load of stuff they give away on The Gadget Show but they keep coming, although competition, so to speak, is more fierce.

I have to confess that one of my first comp wins was for tickets (and a signed album) for what turned out to be my first ‘proper’ gig. While the “cool” people will wax lyrical on seeing T-Rex at Manchester Free Trade Hall or David Bowie at Murrayfield, my first live musical experience was courtesy of play-pause-play jazz-funk specialists Shakatak. Of course, if anyone asks I substitute the truth with my second gig, Aztec Camera at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall in December 83 supported by Hurrah and Tempa.

From relative soft drug of comps, crosswords and free prize draws I made the natural progression to the hard stuff of game/quiz shows and I’ll share my thoughts and experiences on that subject in the near future. Don’t do Countdown kids; it really screws you up.


Sky Clearbrook said...

We've only won a competition once. But luckily, it was a car and we opted for the cash alternative.

Which was nice.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.