Friday, 22 September 2017

Another voice: Winning stories from Rebecca Beesley

A few weeks ago, I interviewed the wonderful Rebecca Beesley, who kindly promised to share some winning stories with you guys … Well, today’s your lucky day! I am absolutely delighted to hand Rebecca the metaphorical mic so she can tell you all about some of the fantastic experiences her family have enjoyed since Rebecca and her husband took up comping!

People often ask me “what is the best prize you’ve ever won” and that’s a tough one to answer as it’s not always the highest-value prizes that come to mind.

In a way, the best prizes are the ones that meet a need you have at the time. For example, when we had some building work done on our house, we ended up running out of budget to renew the front door, which was in desperate need of replacing. So when I won a new front door, I was thrilled because it was exactly what we needed at the time!

Some of our holiday wins have also been really special – again, not so much because of their monetary value, but because of the special memories they have given us - the precious family time and unforgettable experiences.

For example, we had the most amazing time when my husband won an epic road trip with laterooms.com.

The road trip involved travelling as far as St Ives in Cornwall, into Wales, and up to Liverpool and Leeds, staying in places that we would never have thought of going to (especially with three kids in tow!), had it not been for LateRooms making all the arrangements. In total, we stayed in nine different places over the course of 13 nights.
Most special of all was the trip to Fowey in Cornwall, where we also took in a display by the Red Arrows. This was so magical for me because my late mum was a massive Red Arrows fan and here was my little daughter having the most amazing time with me watching the Red Arrows in the best possible viewing spot you could imagine.

Last year, my husband also won another unforgettable experience: a few days away in Dubai!

The whole thing was just amazing, but for me, the first evening was the most special. Having had no sleep since travelling from the UK the night before, and then taken in the Dubai Mall, Sega Republic, and Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, we were ridiculously tired.
But despite the tiredness, it was just SO magical - I felt like I was in a dream, floating through the evening. Sitting in the Thiptara restaurant at the palace in downtown Dubai and watching the famous fountains at the base of the Burj Khalifa is one of those moments I will never forget.
The restaurant made us feel so welcome and treated Miss T like a princess. D even fell asleep whilst eating his ice cream and anyone who knows how much he loves his food knows just how tired he must have been! And that was just the first day!

As a parent of small children, I can imagine just how exhausting these holidays would have been - but how exhilarating too! Thank you so much for sharing these inspirational stories! 

If you have any winning stories you'd like to share, just let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Define "Win"

When the goodies arrive before you complete your entry, does it still count as a win?

Forget what it says in the dictionary, I’m saying YES, because that’s what it feels like!

Sounds strange, I know, but I was recently introduced to a sweet little tactic to boost my win rate - or, more precisely, feel like I'm boosting my win rate, namely, BzzAgent.

For the uninitiated, BzzAgent describes itself as a way to “sample fun products and share your thoughts with friends and top brands”. In other words, they send you free stuff on the proviso that you promote it through your social media channels.

Naturally, there’s no guarantee that you will be deemed worthy to promote the brand in question, so - much like comping - an element of good fortune clearly comes into play.

Ahh, that luck thing again... Well, Luck is a saucy mistress, 'tis true, but my so-so fortune over the last few weeks is largely my own fault for failing to stay on top of things - indeed, the fact that two prizes clean slipped through my fingers provides ample evidence that my luck management has recently been off key.

With this in mind, when BzzAgent asked if I'd like to road-test a bag of coffee, I saw this as a bona fide opportunity to take control of my luck once more.
Me, enjoying coffee
Always read the brief - adding the vapour trail was a key part of the instructions;
that and to look like I was enjoying my cup o' mud...
But how is this like a competition, you may ask? Well, in my case, my entry constituted a couple of tweets and an Instagram picture or two. Sounds easy, but I’m yet to score an excellent, partly because I'm a typical male and failed to read the instructions before posting my first photo. Fingers crossed I've not blotted my copybook - I’ll keep you posted!

What are your tactics for boosting that winning feeling? Perhaps you review products or send off for freebies? Share your secrets in the comments below!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Oh Nuts!

Just because I’ve had no wins to celebrate these last few weeks, doesn’t mean I’ve been without opportunities to own my luck - it’s just a case of knowing where to look. And in the present case, it’s about 150 yards from my house.

There’s a house on the main road with a hazelnut tree, and I’m guessing the owner has had his fill because you can grab a handful off the pavement every time you pass.
Nuts!
Freshly gathered hazelnuts, as modelled by my first-born
A couple of streets further on there are also cobnuts, but since these seem to require a 16-oz hammer to crack open, let’s just say that the yield has been less bountiful.

My first harvest is now roasted and waiting in the freezer for an opportune moment. Last year, that entailed grinding them up and mixing them into a crumble topping for a really awesome flavour boost. This year, I’m trying to lose weight … but I’ll probably do it again, anyway.

And when this little harvest season passes, it’s time for the chestnuts - and there’s a whole bunch of chestnut trees just a short walk from my place. That’s when the weight-loss programme really goes out the window, as there’s not much to beat roast chestnuts and hot chocolate when you’ve spent too long outside on a chilly autumn day!

Are you a forager (or even a scrumper!)? What fresh and free edibles do you have around your way? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Great Bag Debacle

The worst thing about my holiday was that not everything returned with me. Oh, I had the essentials, like socks, jocks and a broadly adequate number of children, but not my black holdall.

The holdall in question contained a whole bunch of things, such as toiletries, dominoes and sunglasses, to name but a few. There was also the matter of the 400 cigarettes.

For the record, I don’t smoke - I’d just bought them for my hopeless addict of a mate. Whether that made the loss worse, I couldn’t say. But I was steaming.

You see, I remember wearing the bag; my wife watched me fasten the shoulder strap onto it once I’d retrieved it from the carousel; and I recall exiting the terminal and slinging a holdall into the back of the taxi.

I also know that once we’d reached home, our eyes were on the children as the cabbie emptied his boot, so it took a couple of minutes to notice the absence of the bag, by which time he was well on the road.

My wife called the cab firm right away, but the casual disdain with which they denied everything hardly inspired confidence. Nevertheless, my wife took them at their word and returned to the airport.

The bag had not been seen.

This struck me as odd, because if I saw an unattended bag languishing in an airport, I’d be straight onto security. But no.

So we called the taxi company again. This time they dropped any pretence of sympathy and said, quite bullishly, that we’d just have to speak to the police.

So we did. Not with any expectation that they would solve the mystery, you understand, but the motions are prescribed and through them one must go.

Now, there are of course two sides to every story. To this end, the officer called the taxi firm for their statement. They refused to provide one - not unless the investigating officer turned up in person. Subsequent to this, their extraordinary cooperation was duly noted by the police, who, when they next updated us on the sorry situation, described the company as “obstructive”.

It all stank, but what could we do? Their story was consistent, there was no CCTV footage of me loading the car, and still no one in the airport’s lost property department had seen anything. The only remaining course of action was to file the insurance claim.

As anyone who has ever filed a claim will know, the phone calls last hours; the paperwork longer. The receipt hunt alone can turn nuns into nihilists. Finally, destiny brings you to the one absolute truth: all life is futile.

For me, that process took a couple of weeks, spread around the heaps and heaps of work that arrived while I was on leave. And then, just ten minutes from sealing the envelope, my phone rang. It was the airport. They had found my luggage in the carousel area, and thanks to the left hand eventually talking to the right, decided to contact me.

Flabbergasted was definitely the word.  That, and emotional. When the very helpful chap at the other end offered to courier it to me - at no cost - my eyes moistened and my voice cracked.

Still, a bird in the hand and all that. I resolved not to get too excited until I got my paws back on the bag - surely there had to be some mistake?

But no: by lunchtime the next day, I was hugging the holdall. As you can imagine, I felt like a bona fide winner, so it seemed only right to set up the camera for my first unboxing video of the month. The sense of wonder, I think, is palpable.
I know we were all exhausted when we landed (getting up at 2 am in order to fly with children seldom gets the best out of people), but when a story has more fishy bits than Grimsby Docks, no one in their right mind expects a happy ending.

Sure, I’d love to know how come my bag was also returned with someone else’s shoulder strap, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a winner, right?

For most compers, prize-winning is the most tangible form of good fortune, but it's important to recognise - and own - the good luck in all aspects of your life. To this end, I'm expanding my scribbles to include stories celebrating luck more generally. If you've got any you'd care to share, please add them to the comments below!


Friday, 8 September 2017

WIN! Sweets & Fun!

Heads up compers - it’s time to celebrate the 60th birthday of the famous chew on a stick - the one and only Drumstick!
Swizzels Matlow Drumstick 60th Birthday banner
It’s a landmark birthday for the classic confectionery, and Swizzels Matlow is marking the occasion with a brilliant “bucket list” competition, where there are 60 possible ways to enter - each requiring a photograph of your Drumstick lolly.

Some are easy (such as being frozen or watching the sunset) while some require serious effort - or at least, creative thinking (such as taking your lolly to Vegas or the Northern Lights).

There are three tiers of prizes:

  • five experience day prizes (value £500), to be awarded to the top five photos/videos entered into the competition, in any category.
  • 60 commemorative certificates and goodie bags to be awarded to the best photo/video in each category; and
  • spot prizes awarded to entries throughout the duration of the competition.

For more information, see the Drumstick homepage.

The closing date is midnight, Tuesday 31st October, so there’s plenty of time to go grab that lolly!
Be lucky!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Good Luck, Bad Luck

Have you ever won something twice? I have. Twice.

The first time was back when X-Men Apocalypse was released, and I won merchandise from two different promoters. This was especially sweet as I was able to share the spoils with the little folks in my life that I’m encouraging to be as geeky as me. That said, I was also left with two X-Men tees - one medium, one large - that I will never wear, but still haven’t had time to put on eBay. It’d be great to think that they’ve only matured in value since the film’s release, though somehow I doubt it.

Fast-forward to this summer, and I found a super-low odds competition to win tickets to the football. Sure, it was only a pre-season friendly, but it was premier league opposition - a perfect opportunity to for my first-born to see his first match.

Bums on seats is clearly an issue for friendlies: two days later, I found a second competition. This time the shirt sponsor was giving away 250 pairs of tickets to the game.

It was a sign: one giveaway with barely a dozen entrants, and another with an absurd number of prizes - surely I could score a winner?

What I failed to account for, however, was my summer itinerary.

The summer itinerary is something that happens *to* me every year.

The process unfolds as follows: the school year finishes and my wife places a calendar in front of me; my eyes glaze over, and an hour later, the next six weekends have vanished in a haze of ink and sighs.

Oh well, I thought. Good feeling or no, planning one’s life around wins that are yet to materialise is the cornerstone of gambling addiction. And so, without an another thought, I consigned my little jolly to the trashcan.

Two days later, I received a winning e-mail from the first promoter: Congratulations! You’ve won three tickets to the match!

I sighed, and asked them to redraw - the first time in my life that I’ve ever had to decline a prize.

And wouldn’t you know - the second time was just around the corner. Adding insult to injury, I won another two tickets to the game - giving the declined prize a grand value of £50.

It just goes to show that some you win, and some you lose. And sometimes, clearly, you do both.

Have you ever won the same prize twice? Have you ever had to decline a prize? Share your story, whether happy or sad, in the comments below!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Unboxing August 2017

As you may have noticed, August has been a quiet month - I lost a large chunk to my first holiday in three years (yay!) and then a further wedge to the humungous dollop of unscheduled and definitely uninvited work that appeared on my desk during my absence (not yay!).

Add to this the school holidays and the nightmarishly huge backlog of household endeavours I've been waiting all year to address and you'll understand why I've not only failed to post anything these last few weeks, but I've barely even managed to enter anything either.

All work and no play makes Neill a dull boy, or more precisely, an unbearable stress monkey, so here's hoping that September heralds more joy. In the meantime: August wins.

Technically, that should be in the singular. One win. yes, that is all. For this reason, I'm bundling a little extra into this unboxing video - my first freebie from BzzAgent. It might not have come from a competition per se, but it still made me feel like a winner, but more on that in due course!

In the meantime, enjoy the moving pictures.

WARNING: some scenes unsuitable for the faint-hearted...