How To Win Prizes Galore by Michael Shenton
My introduction to the exotic world of UK competitions came
in the early 80s when I tripped over a man in a Bournemouth car park. He was crawling around a bottle bank at the time, and I naturally assumed him to be a victim of the local strong ale. But I was wrong. He was, he explained, a comper looking for P.O.P.s to use in an OOM. This threw about as much light on the subject as a spent match, so I questioned him further and found that he was a competitions enthusiast trying to win a Jaguar XJ6 in a contest on whisky. He was
currently searching for some of the special bottle tops needed as ‘proofs of purchase’.
The man went on to describe all the fabulous prizes on offer in competitions - cars, electrical items, cash - and he made it sound as if these things were a doddle to win. Some people, he declared, won enough to fill a warehouse. He began telling me about a woman in Yorkshire who’d won a dozen holidays but his words were drowned out by the sonic boom of my departure in search of entry
It took me many months to scoop my first prize, an electronic calculator, but that win had a huge effect on me. Never mind that I’d spent more than its value on postage - for the first time in my life I was a winner! Nothing could stop me now.
From then on I didn’t just do competitions, I lived
competitions, travelling hundreds of miles in search of entry forms and spending every remaining moment of the day filling them in. There were no lengths to which I wouldn’t go to win a prize. If you had to estimate how many tins of peas would fit into a certain car, I’d find a way of testing it out, borrowing or hiring the right sort of vehicle, then buying, borrowing or improvising the required number of tins.
‘You must be crazy!’ everyone said. Then when
the prizes began to arrive, they said, ‘Aren’t you lucky!’ After I’d won seven cars, they said, ‘Got any spare entry forms?’ And now, of course, they mob me in the street and beg me to sign copies of my comping novel, Stiff Competition.* How times change.
(*All right, I haven’t been mobbed yet, but I live in hope.)