Nineteen years ago, I was laid up, heavily pregnant suffering from pre-eclampsia. I was five stone heavier than my pre-pregnant weight, feeling very unwell and housebound. I needed something to distract me from my worry and discomfort so I turned to entering competitions. I enjoyed having to think of slogans for Self Raising Flour, Starburst, Quorum Aftershave....it took my mind off the fact that I kept swelling up in a terrifying, albeit comedic manner! I was eventually hospitalized and my new found hobby kept me sane while I awaited the birth of my eldest daughter. She was born, a beautiful bundle of baby girliness and my health improved. Shortly after, I started to receive prizes...a bottle of champagne was my first win. I realised that the fruits of my comping labour were being rewarded and my offspring were taking the form of packets and parcels that were delivered to my door on a regular basis!
Often the prize was nothing more than a T-Shirt or cap emblazoned with company names...but it was still a win. They were my comping babies and I cherished every one of them. Eventually, the prizes got bigger and better as I entered more and more competitions. Bicycles, games consoles, a hoover, a food processor, vouchers, a year's supply of beer, tickets to events all arrived. All were skill based requiring slogans, recipes, artwork...and I soon got my children involved. We hit the jackpot when my son's recipe for Dino's Dino-Pasties won a cookery competition to celebrate the release of the first Flinstone's movie. His step by step drawings and photos of him covered in flour won the judges over and we won an all expenses paid holiday to Hollywood! We took my niece, who is the same age as Joe. We stayed in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel...a stay made more interesting because it hosted the Annual Porn Film Awards while we were there. Explain that to your five year old son!! We had tickets to Universal Studios where the new Flinstone show was just released. It was an amazing experience for the children and something I always meant to repeat with my subsequent offspring...but the ever increasing travel phobia put pay to that!
Another biggie was first prize in a Gillette competition with a trip on Concorde to Paris, staying in a 5 star hotel. Truly a trip of a lifetime...although all that first class malarky was wasted on me. Champagne at 5am really did not impress me...and Concorde was quite pokey, and you don't even hear the sonic boom! I am so travel sick that even the excitement of being on the most famous passenger jet in the world did not alleviate my queasiness. The Parisian hotel was exquisite with a breakfast buffet of cakes, fruit, croissants and pastries. A few bits found themselves wrapped in napkins and popped in my handbag for later. How common am I! I spent the whole weekend missing my children though...you can't win them all I guess!