I’ve always had bad luck in competitions. At school I entered a nationwide contest for sixth-form students and, after a series of increasingly difficult cryptic questions and a tiebreaker, finished 19th out of thousands of initial entrants. While the first 18 winners jetted off on a two-week tour of Canada and Alaska, I received £10 in a Lloyds bank account and – most gallingly of all, because I had to stand up in Assembly while everyone clapped – £100 worth of books for the school library.
Around the same time I entered a competition in the sadly defunct music weekly Sounds to win a hand-built Slingerland drum kit. Entrants had to make as many words as they could from the phrase ‘derringerappice’, a piece of gibberish compiled from two surnames, those of Rick Derringer and Carmine Appice, whose wildly unsuccessful Party Tested album was the reason for the competition. These days, of course, you’d just run the phrase through the Internet Anagram Server and have a complete set of answers inside a few seconds, but this was 1983, I didn’t have access to a computer, and Tim Berners Lee was still half a dozen years away from inventing the World Wide Web.
So I spent two weeks in the reference department of Northampton Public Library going through the entire 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary in search of the winning words, and sent the 1700 or so I found off to the Sounds office in London. A few weeks later I bought the paper to see my name feature proudly in the list of prizewinners, in second place. No drum kit, but surely something worthy of all that time and effort? No such luck. I received a copy of the album. It took six months to arrive, and I only listened to it once. It was rubbish. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Today I thought I’d try my luck again, and spent a couple of hours entering every online competition I could find. If everything goes to plan, I’ll soon be the owner of a 60GB iPod photo, an iPod mini, an iPod shuffle, an ‘As Time Goes By’ DVD box-set, an Oregon scientific 3.3 megapixel digital camera, another digital camera, Â£777 in cash, a La-Z-Boy Chair, a camcorder, a Dell Outlet Dimension 4600 computer, a Bug DAB radio, a Sony NWHD1 Walkman MP3 Player, a Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Guitar, a Ford StreetKa, a Mercedes C230 Kompressor Coupe SE 3dr, an Apple PowerBook G4, a flat screen TV worth £1750, a Dyson DC08 Telescope Wrap Animal Vacuum Cleaner, the top 100 albums of all time, an HP iPaq 4700 Pocket PC, a Creative 5GB Zen MP3 player, a Sony stereo MHC WZ5 mini system, a year’s supply of lager, a Kenwood SB256 smoothie maker, £10,000 or a 5 door Volkswagen Polo, a Lotus Elise 1.8 2dr, a Nokia 6680 imaging smartphone, £1000 worth of John Lewis vouchers, a Polti Eco Pro 3000 Lux Vaporetto Steam Cleaner, a Sony PSP, a fascinating week in Hong Kong, China, a holiday for two in Cape Town, a holiday for two to New Zealand, a dream holiday for two to the Bahamas, a fabulous holiday in El Alamein, laser eye treatment worth over £2,500, and a year’s free shopping from Sainsbury’s.
I’ll let you know how I get on, assuming I’m not buried alive by the mountain of junk mail that this competition frenzy will inevitably prompt.