Friday, 28 April 2017

My big one

Being lost for words is nothing new for me - the imbecilities of my two children leave me in perpetual shock and awe. Less often, however, am I struck dumb by the peaks of life’s loveliness.

And then something like this happens.

A few weeks ago, I made a video for WD40 … Well, I was a lucky winner. A very lucky winner.

For a start, there was the merchandise - the hats and gloves. Then there was the heap of bike maintenance stuff - all manner of lubricants that I had no idea WD40 manufactured. And then came the bikes. Four Diamondback mountain bikes - utter crackers! And then - as if that wasn’t more than enough - was the GoPro Hero 5.
All my WD40 swag
Stunned doesn’t cover it. When I first read the congratulatory message, I sat there slack-jawed, with the butterflies in my belly pulling some some shocking manoeuvres. For the last few weeks, my wins had been infrequent and modest. And then this: a year’s luck in one great dollop! I messaged back to check it wasn’t an administrative error. Surely, they didn’t mean *all* this prize was for me?
Two of the bikes I won from WD40
But they did. My biggest ever win - by an enormous margin. Nice, with ever so many ‘i’s. The bikes alone are worth more than my car!

Even now I’m struggling to come to terms with my good fortune - and I don’t mean the logistics of where to store four new bikes at short notice (that’s easy: two in the dining room, one in the hallway and one in the master bedroom), or the matter of procuring whupp-ass locks (no way am I leaving these babies out with only my old D-lock for protection!). No - I mean that every time I see them, I just think: gosh.


Has your luck ever left you lost for words? Tell me your story in the comments!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

My scarf is IN

Back in 2010, the bookies discovered social media. They gave away so many free bets that, for a few months, I had a nice little side hustle in free gambling. By no means did I make a fortune, but I did take sufficient money from one company that they flagged me as The Wrong Kind of Customer and effectively barred me from placing any more bets.

This was especially disappointing as these guys ran loads more competitions than any of the other bookies, with the result that, on top of the free bets, I’d also won branded hoodies, poker chips, playing cards and a polo shirt. Without doubt, I was having a ball (literally - it was a rugby ball).

The merchandise was great, but there was icing on the cake too: I accumulated something like £200 of credit at a store specialising in soccer apparel, both modern and retro. This explains how I ended up with, among other things, an Atlanta Chiefs jersey that is every bit as flammable as its 1981 counterpart and an exquisite replica of Zaire’s 1974 World Cup strip that I’m no longer able to wear since becoming a biscuit shovelling snack beaver (yes, I do blame the children).

The credit came in the form of gift vouchers, so it was a case of use it or lose it. And being the sort of person who wouldn’t buy so much as a cheese straw without first checking in to Quidco, there was no way I was going to fill my basket with big stuff and then let the chump change slip through my fingers.

Goodness knows how long I spent trawling through the bin-ends, most likely with spreadsheet and calculator to hand, but eventually I found a scarf and a couple of keyrings to round out the order. I possibly had to write off as much as seven pence worth of prize money, but somehow I summoned the inner strength to stomach such egregious waste.

Keyrings, of course, are both subtle and useful, and they began to earn their keep almost as soon as my prize parcel arrived. Football scarves, by contrast, are bluntly ostentatious statements of tribal identity, and - when they deviate from the designated colour scheme - arguably iffy in one-horse towns.

That’s not to say that the fine citizens of Norwich would have given me a good pitchforking had I openly allied myself with Paraguay, but I was certainly unsure whether wearing said scarf would actually have been cricket. To this end, it sank to the bottom of the winter accessories box, where it lay, cruelly neglected, for the next few years.
You can, therefore, imagine my excitement when I read - in the Guardian, no less - that football scarves are presently a la mode. My scarf is now out of the box, around my neck, and officially holding my wardrobe together.

With hindsight, you might say that the scarf represents a watershed. Certainly, it was after this prize bundle that I started thinking that winning stuff was a highly agreeable experience, and that maybe I should look into making it a more regular event. If nothing else, I’m going to treat it with more respect from now on: it’s not just an accessory - it’s the symbol of the moment I decided to be more lucky!

What got you into comping? Did you win a prize and decide you wanted more, or did you just wake up one day and decide to be lucky? What prizes contributed most to making you the comper you are today? Do you still have your first prize? Let me know in the comments...

PS: I meant to post this the other week. I’ve a strong suspicion football scarves are OUT again.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017


I’ve won football tickets before. Thanks to Barclays and Aviva, respectively, I’ve seen Norwich hold Man City to a goalless draw and beat Rotherham 3-1 (honestly, that first one was a corker!). This match, however, was the one I was *really* looking forward to. Not because it was going to be a high-stakes promotion dogfight (that much was written off weeks ago), and not because it would be a chance to see a world-class team show off its silky skills (with all due respect, Fulham, you’re no Barcelona); no - this matchday was going to be awesome because I had golden tickets. The fact that the match was a half-dead rubber was irrelevant: these tickets *guaranteed* a good time.

I won the tickets back in January, when Green Farm Coffee - sponsors of the South Stand at Carrow Road - ran a Gleam comp on their website. I already knew who I wanted to be my plus-one, so I got my mate to enter too. Thanks to this referral, I got an extra entry into the draw. Whether that was the straw that tipped the camel’s back in my favour I shall never know, but for the sake of the narrative, let’s just imagine it was.

The prize, simply put, was an afternoon of top-notch hospitality at the finest football club in East Anglia (yeah, you heard me Ipswich), comprising a tour of the ground, fancy lunch and exceedingly comfortable seats to watch the game.
Carow Road stadium
The lull before the storm
Without doubt, the tour was incredible. Happy to chat both football and the business of football, our guide showed us all the special little nooks of Carrow Road, from the dugouts to the dressing rooms, the press conference suite to the post-match interview cubicles, and, lest we forget, the trophy cabinet.

To be sure, Carrow Road will never rival, say, Old Trafford, for silverware, but even so, there were so many stories in that one room that it was nigh impossible to digest even the highlights. But with lunch beckoning and a queue building up behind us, we had to make way for the next party to see the spoils.

On the touchline
Getting 110% Out of the lads
Speaking of lunch, the meal was (as you’d expect from Delia’s staff) impeccable: a champagne aperitif, followed by a salmon fishcake starter, succulent roast lamb main and something I’m tempted to call a bakewell cake for dessert (sorry - I totally failed to cross-check the bill of fare!), and - of course - coffee. My photos of the food don’t do the meal the slightest justice, however, so here’s another picture of me, mugging for the camera.
In the press cubicle
To be fair, you never can tell. The lads did well at the end of the day and I think the ref's going to feel that in the morning. It was a game of 90 minutes, and, fair play, two halves. That said, I'm sick as a parrot.
Now, about those seats. I had no idea that anyone outside of the squad was allowed a comfy seat. I acknowledge my error. At the top of the terrace, opposite the dugouts, is where the posh people sit. The view was fantastic and my riff-raff buns were over the proverbial moon.
Seat at Carrow Road
Check out the padding!
As we got to our seats, the Barclay was in fine voice, the team having pounded Reading 7-1 in the previous game. No one was expecting a repeat of that, of course. Much like no one was expecting Fulham to go a goal up in the first five minutes. Suffice to say, I'm disinclined to discuss the subsequent 85 minutes; that is, unless you want further intel on the euphoric state of my buttocks.

This was the first time I've ever been vipped, and it was, without question, brilliant. How I'm ever supposed to cope with being a civilian again I will never know!

Have you ever had the VIP treatment? Tell me more!