With Liz Rougvie
I think it’s fair to say that ‘sporty’ would be the last word you’d use to describe me. In fact, any activity involving trainers is anathema. Apart from a brief period in the early 90s when I became inexplicably addicted to step aerobics, I’ve never done any-thing more energetic than walk my dogs, which to my mind is quite enough to keep me ticking over. But give me a cryptic crossword and I’m panda bypass ahoy (anag.) One of the highlights of my week is exercising my remaining few million brain cells on the prize crossword in a national paper, and if I actually finish it I feel very smug indeed. If I ever win the modest prize on offer, I’ll be quite unbearable. There’s nothing like the buzz you get when you’re rewarded for your intellectual efforts, but sadly nowadays winning a prize mostly depends not on skill but on sheer luck. Is there a tenner in this bag of crisps? Is there a a car in this can of beans? Check out our website in the forlorn hope that the numbers on your pack of butter match ours … I yearn for a return to the wonderful world of ‘comping’, a big hobby of mine long ago, which mainly involved answering a question or two and completing a slogan ‘in an apt or original way’. It all started when I entered a competition on the back of a Persil packet – and lo and behold, a few weeks later, a dishwasher turned up on my doorstep. From then on, I was hooked. Every shopping trip became a quest for the labels I had to collect in order to enter. I bought products that were of absolutely no use to me at all. The cupboards were stuffed with tins of dog food (we didn’t have a dog at the time) and numerous other label-less cans whose contents remained a mystery until opened. More than once, the cat got peaches for his dinner. But it was made all worthwhile when the coveted LWE plopped on to the doormat. LWE stood for ‘long white envelope’, the comper’s raison-d’être. Even if it only brought news that I’d won a mug or a tea towel, the thrill of knowing that my efforts had borne fruit was enough to have me reaching for the next entry form. I won some nice prizes over the years, although the big three Cs (cash, car, cruise) always managed to elude me. However there were those for whom comping was almost a professional activity. They went on holiday several times a year; their houses were stuffed with the latest appliances and their driveways chock-a-block with cars, boats and caravans. And all because the judges considered they’d completed their slogan in ‘the most apt and original way’. Seasoned compers will know that certain slogans – known as ‘chestnuts’ - have been doing the rounds for years. ‘Experts perfect them, connoisseurs select them’ is one that could be applied to all sorts of products and has scooped the jackpot on numerous occasions. Then there are gems such as ‘I buy my furniture at Creaky’s because’ ….. ‘you can feather your nest with a little down.’ Or how about ‘I’d like to win a sound system because’ … ‘it would be a great opera-tunity.’ Apparently some £12million worth of prizes are still given away each year in the UK, but for me today’s competitions lack the same challenge. Online bingo and casino games; premium rate phone competitions and the like are a poor substitute for the good old days of comping.