Ignoring the fact that the majority appeared to be skewed towards Wrinkly Skinned Old Mothers I felt pleased and rather special, as indeed I always do when I score free stuff.
When I Mrs Merino-ed for the Sydney Royal Easter Show way back in those carefree, childfree, jobfree days, both myself and Mr Merino, (My writerpal "George", not C who hated the Show and was only donning a full body sheep costume *gasp* for the money) lived for the opportunity to receive all manner of brightly coloured plastic crap purely because we were 'Show Royalty' and we were special.
In fact, not satisfied with being simply handed cheap gewgaws and useless brikabrack, "George" and I took to combing the empty seats at the free outdoor concerts in the hopes of finding showbag goodies that had either been forcibly discarded by sensible young people or simply left, by the lazy teens of today (a decade ago). Ah, the good old days. I still have, somewhere, a plastic ruler snatched up from the ground in the aftermath of a Silverchair concert. It's probably stained with vomit or at the very least illicit alchohol, but who cares, IT WAS FREE.
I'm glad to say this very very attractive attribute has not left me, even as the mother of a three and a half year old with an obvious need for heavy duty face creams. Towards the end of last year I even started entering online competitions with the full expectation of winning my entire stock of Christmas gift needs. Nephews, husband, child, parents in law, stepsister's boyfriend...all would be delighted with their unusual, handpicked presents, many of which would be emblazoned with advertising and probably still in envelopes still addressed to me, if I ran out of time to actually buy wrapping paper.
Ho ho ho. I'm afraid to say I did not win a single item. Very disappointing. Is it me, I wondered. Is it the fact that I'm a mature woman entering all these kids competitions and I include my real age? Perhaps, or perhaps I was not the only cheap bastard on the internet.
I did, however, enjoy the whole 25 words or less thing. It was a bit like Twitter but shorter and you might get rewarded for your creative efforts. Also, you could do it drunk.
Thus it was when I received my humble batch of hand and neck creams I assumed it was some sort of consolation prize for a long ago entry. I realised after a moment that it was not. It was the result of a complaint.
Some time back in December I had lashed out and bought one of this company's deodorants - not my usual choice (brand, not deodorant, of course I use deodorant, I may be lazy with actual showering but at least I try and disguise the evidence) and it had turned out to be utter crap. Usually I just bitch about this to my husband and friends until they're bored, but this time I decided that I would NOT let them get away with failing to cover my lack of personal hygiene and I fired off a complaint letter.
Obviously I was polite (I am a passive aggressive after all and we are known for our polite tones and sharpened knives) and I even included the line "Imagine my disappointment" which is my perennial fave line for official letters of complaint. (In fact I may try and work it into the script...I'm JOKING). This, impressively, led to a supermarket discount voucher of roughly twice the price of the original offensive item which I could choose to spend on, say, chocolate (and I did) and also a form letter where I could write more in detail. And so I did, and now I was witnessing the fruits of my labour. It was a grand grand moment.
Not all letters of complaint have been so wildly successful.
The one to the confectionery company outlining my disdain at the lack of sour worms in the so called 'Party Mix' ("imagine my disappointment!") was met with a polite note back thanking me for my suggestion and promising to pass said suggestion onto Marketing (!)
The long email composed by an after dinner group regarding the dubious quality of a box of chocolates ("imagine OUR disappointment!") was answered with a phone call from a company representative next morning. Note to readers: do not compose email of complaint and then send, when drunk. In the case of phone call you will be horribly hungover and have no idea what the problem was in the first place and since you were all drunk you ate all the chocolates anyway, dubious or not.
People often whinge about the decrease in letter writing in today's txt message age. Possibly they are referring to the quality of letter writing but I prefer to think that I, with my quaint little missives of disappointment and dismay, am heroically adding to the quantity.
In February I am planning to give up alcohol for the month, ("why does it have to be February Free," one Aquarian friend complained. "Why not Dry July, or Octsober?") and I plan to use any spare brain cells left over from scene breakdowns, first drafts, revisions and whiny emails begging for extensions to really get to grips with the products that fail to come up to my exacting standards.
I note that I have never received an envelope of hand cream sachets from the producers. Imagine my disappointment. Still, it's not impossible to foresee a time when, show being done and dusted and writers asked for feedback for next series I may, possibly, sit down with pen and paper and write a suggestion for perhaps a nice scented facial spray or maybe a really effective foot cream. Writers need all the help they can get.