Monday, 31 July 2017

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Another voice: Hello Rebecca Beesley!

Now that you’ve met Nikki and Lorna, It’s my absolute pleasure to acquaint you with Rebecca Beesley, who you may know from her blog The Beesley Buzz. I’ll let Rebecca introduce herself…
I’m mum to 3 kids, aged from 5 to 13. I blog about family life, recipes, books, travel and life with JIA (Juvenile Arthritis). The blog started out as a way of documenting our home-schooling journey when the boys were younger. Even though they are back in school now, I’ve carried on blogging as it’s such a great way of recording family memories. With my daughter’s medical appointments making it impossible to hold down a conventional job, I turned to comping as a hobby to keep me sane.

Well, you’ve slightly pre-empted my first question there! I was going to ask why you comp…

I’ve always enjoyed comping - My earliest recollections go back to childhood and having the winning ticket in charity raffles and I’ll always remember my first ‘creative’ win being from a competition to design a poster for the railway link from London to Brighton for which I won the second prize of a twin-deck cassette player – a real ‘wow’ prize in those days - I still have it to this day!

There’s something special about those early wins isn’t there?! My first prize was a dictionary that still sits on my office shelf … The cover boasts that it includes the word ‘Glasnost’, which should give you an idea how old it is! Still, there’s a world of difference between comping as a kid and the first time you actually identify as a comper. When did that happen for you?

I started comping properly in 2012. It was during the last few months of pregnancy with my youngest child, and those uncomfortable sleepless nights when I would turn to Facebook in my boredom and I found that there were loads of comps out there. The habit continued during that year with the nighttime feeding.

After a few months of entering lots of comps (or what I thought was lots of comps), I discovered that there are people out there that do this thing properly! I discovered this weird hobby of mine had a name – comping – and I discovered comping legend Di Coke’s blog and Facebook page. That was when I started to realise that some people were actually entering hundreds of competitions.

I was both excited and disappointed. Excited because a whole new world had opened up to me of people who shared my interest, but disappointed too because every comp I entered for the next few months seemed to be won by the same few people and I felt I stood little chance against these ‘super compers’. I stuck with it though, seeking out my own competitions and finding ones that the kids could enter and the wins started rolling in.

One of my first big wins was an iPad - something I’d never normally treat myself to - and after that I was hooked.

Given my own history with addictive/compulsive behaviours, I wince slightly when I hear compers joke about getting “hooked” - comping addiction is every bit as real as gambling addiction, isn’t it?

Absolutely - when post-natal depression struck, I turned to comping as a crutch to get me through those dark months. My only joy seemed to come from winning and the rest of the time I was just a mess. In one way, I am glad that I had comping to turn to but on the other hand, I became properly addicted to it. It took over my life to the extent that I would sit at the computer until sometimes 2, 3, 4 am comping, knowing that the kids would be up again at 6 am and hating myself for getting so little sleep. I would skip having a shower just so I could fit more comps in. I was glued to Facebook, scrolling through my feed for at least four or five hours a day just to check I hadn’t missed a winning notification or missed entering any comps on there. I was winning a prize pretty much every day but I was the unhappiest I’d ever been in my life.

I knew things had to change and so after that my new year’s resolution each year has been to spend less time comping. I like to think that I have a reasonably good balance nowadays so that it is a fun hobby to dip in and out of without it totally taking over my life.

The line you see the bookies use comes to mind here: when the fun stops, stop. That’s why I tend to steer away from the form-filling comps. Sure, I could enter 200 a night, but it really wouldn’t be healthy for me. I might enter a few holiday comps but then I’ll start looking at the ones that demand more effort.

Yes - I also love the creative comps best - and there’s always another one around the corner to be thinking about. I love how these can be family affairs. I tend to find the competitions and often come up with the creative idea, while my husband is the technical one, doing the video editing etc. So we make the perfect comping team really.

I absolutely adore blogger challenge competitions – Although my blog is not a comping blog – it was set up to record family memories – when the opportunity arises to take part in a blogger challenge I try to really understand what it is the brand is looking for and what message they are trying to get across. I then write my post accordingly and cross my fingers that it will stand out and they will like it.

I tend not to do many sponsored posts as I don’t have time to promote the blog properly to get the stats/readership that these companies want, so when I win a blogger challenge it’s like getting a little bit of income from my blog in a fun way that I’ve really enjoyed.

If anything, these creative comps are great for getting me out of my comfort zone and trying something new, whether that be attempting a slideshow with old family photographs or pretending to be Beyoncé. Even if I don’t win, at least I’ve enjoyed the endeavour. Comping may not have helped me find nirvana, but at least I can use it to improve my mental health!

Yes, it’s definitely got me out of my comfort zone – I’m sure a lot of compers will relate to dressing up in weird costumes, learning new skills and pulling funny faces to camera. Basically, it’s about having lots of fun and that’s one of the main reasons I keep going.

Enjoying the process is absolutely fundamental, but as with any hobby, comping has its tangible rewards - you’ve had some amazing experiences thanks to this hobby, so I hope you’ll come back soon and share some of your winning stories?

Of course - I’d love to!

Comping may not have the financial risk associated with gambling, but any kind of addiction (and winning can certainly be addictive) can be damaging to your health and your relationships. Please take a moment to read this useful guide to the signs of comping addiction. Your GP can offer support on addiction and dependency, and further information is available through Mind, the mental health charity.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Building a Car for the #NoddyChallenge

Kids love boxes. Everyone knows that. Less well known is why. Research from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has the answer: it’s because womb lining actually feels like cardboard.

That's right - playing in boxes makes children feel safe; it takes them to a blissful, happy state - a world without sibling rivalry, where food is on tap and they don’t have to wash their hands before dinner.

Don’t believe me? Google it. Well, actually, don’t - it’s utter hogwash. Kids love playing in boxes simply because they can let their creativity run riot!

My lads amply demonstrated this last Friday when I'd barely finished unpacking a fresh delivery of mundane adult stuff (new towels - whoop!) when they snatched the box to make some vehicle or other, or possibly a pterodactyl.

The next day it rained. In my house, that's a Grade A Emergency. Why? Because it makes the children exponentially harder to vent. [This may not be the universally accepted term, but given the strange banging and gurgling noises my offspring produce when kettled, the semblance to boilers really is uncanny.]

But I digress: indoor pursuits were needed, and since the towel box was to hand (or more precisely, underfoot), a solution presented itself.

We were going to make a car.

Not any old car, you understand, but an awesome car. And who has the most awesome car? Noddy, of course!

Now, you all know Noddy - he’s been around since 1949, making such characters as Dennis the Menace and even Spider-Man look like utter Johnny-come-Latelys (Johnny-come-Latelys who can’t even drive, at that).

What's more, he's been the subject of two dozen books by the irrepressible Enid Blyton, and no fewer than nine TV series, the most recent of which reimagines him as a Toyland detective who explores mysteries while encouraging young viewers to explore their own world and make discoveries.

And with this in mind, today we were going to explore paint.

Our first discovery was that the boys' stockpile of paint was much smaller than I recalled, so we had to raid the tester pots I’d been hoarding under the stairs.
First-born attends to the ironmongery
The second discovery was that children really shouldn’t be trusted with emulsion.
Next, the steering wheel and headlamps
Still, with brushes, scissors and a can-do attitude, the boys focused themselves on the task in hand.
The finished product
And as their how-to video shows, they succeeded in turning the drab old box into this awesome replica of Toytown’s most iconic vehicle.

Never have I seen the older one so determined to make something - much less something of this magnitude. Suddenly, I'm not so scared of rain!

This is my entry into the #NoddyChallenge Blogger Competition hosted by Tots100 in association with The Book People.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Another voice: Hello Lorna Beattie!

Meeting Nikki Hunter-Pike was so much fun that I've decided to publish a mini season of chats with some other great compers. With this in mind, I collared Lorna Beattie - Blogger-in-Chief of Mission Competition and asked her the big why (and also how)…

Why do I comp? Because I get such a buzz from it! There’s nothing like seeing an email titled “Congratulations” and wondering what the next words are (though it’s a bit of a gutter when it just says congratulations you’ve signed up to yet another email list). I also like it because I can treat people to things that I couldn’t otherwise. My dad is a massive cycling fan so I dedicated a lot of time to winning him an ace cycling present for his 60th birthday, including a £70 jersey I could never afford on my student budget.

It’s the perfect hobby for spreading the love isn’t it? Who doesn’t love bonus gifts?! But, as you say, it takes a lot of time - and organisation. How do you stay on top of it?

Sure, it takes a lot of time, but so does any hobby. This isn’t something I do just for the freebies (though they are nice) - I do it because I enjoy it. I love going into shops and searching for the word ‘win’ or doing crosswords for the chance to win a tenner.

As for keeping on top of it, I set reminders, have lists and use the Facebook and Instagram save functions. I also email myself a lot. It’s like talking to yourself … but via email! 😂 I have a routine and part of that is checking my emails for wins and also checking reminders from myself.

I also use phone reminders. It takes a bit of time to set up at the start of the year, but then I just update as needs be. So, for example, when it comes to #nationalpeanutbutterday, I’m all set to go.

Ahh, the peanut butter - I knew it was coming! I was chatting about personas just the other day, and you are totally the Peanut Butter Comper!
Haha! Yes - my comping mates all know I adore the stuff, and as a result, are always tagging me in related comps on both Twitter (@LaurieBeat) and Instagram (@lornab22) - the same goes for tea. It’s one of the things I love about comping - compers are lovely people and they look out for you (and your wishlist!).
Lorna also loves tea - can you guess?
That’s so true - tag buddies play such an important role in Twitter and Instagram comps in particular, but there’s no substitute for full-on teamwork!

Absolutely! And besides, the banter is fun!

So if there’s anything to take away from this chat it’s this: organise your diary, and get to know your comping buddies.

And enjoy yourself!

Well, I hope you enjoyed chatting with Lorna! If you have any more questions for her, please add them to the comments below, and maybe we can hook up with her again sometime soon!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

What you say about you...

Tell me about your comping persona: is it you, the whole you and nothing but the you? I suspect not.
In fact, I’d guess that your comping persona pays no nevermind to the majority of traffic in your head.

For example, would you start a thread in your preferred comping forum about your forthcoming MOT or tell a promoter that you ran out of leeks last night?

Yes, such information might create a more three-dimensional picture of you, but it’s hardly germane to the task in hand, ie comping.

What *is* germane is this: your passions. Yes, we all love Apple tech and holidays, but I'm talking about everyday passions.

Maybe your thing is socks. That being the case, I imagine you’ve already entered every last sock competition out there. Well, that’s a start.

The next step is to tell all your comping buddies that that’s what you’ve been up to. Share the comps with them - tell them how just how much socks excite you! No - more than that! How you live for socks. How you breathe socks. How you would swap your first-born for a barrel of socks.

Start tagging your friends in other comps (Twitter is especially good for this), and nudge the conversation to - you’ve guessed it - socks. Doesn’t matter if the comp is for biscuits or dishwasher tablets - steer the narrative to socks.

Why? Because now you’re the crazy sock lady, and whenever your comping buddies see another sock giveaway, you’ll be the first person they think of, and before you know it, you’ve got a dozen eyes out there, hunting down sock comps, and you can start banging on about the next thing - granola perhaps? Socks full of the stuff!

I wish I could claim this piece of crazy genius as my own, but as it follows a recent conversation I had with Lorna Beattie, I'm giving the entire credit to the peanut-butter-coated vinegary tea-swiller herself!

I’ll be tapping Lorna for some more pearls of wisdom sometime very soon, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, if you’ve got an idea for the first brick in your comping persona, let me know in the comments below. And more importantly - tell your buddies, then tell them, tell them and tell them again!