It’s Just A Phrase He’s Going To…

My dad liked a couplet, a rhyme, a well-chosen pun and, especially a limerick. History doesn’t relate how he turned this love and not a little skill into a compelling hobby and a successful enterprise, but maybe a little like this.

In the lead up to his retirement in the mid 1980s, an idea occurred, probably to Mum, for him to have a go at one of a plethora of competitions, then so very popular. In essence (the format varied a little but this was basically it) you had to:

collect a certain number of labels/tokens/tops etc to prove you liked a certain product;

answer a general knowledge question of varying difficulty; and

say in 10/12/20 (a random number) words why said product was the best {insert product’s function} in the known universe.

Do these things still exist? No idea but Dad loved them.

He made mistakes. Once he had to be sent back to the shelves in Tesco, having filled  his basket with ten tins of Pedigree dog slop, even though the family dog had been dead some ten years by then – he tried it on again, this time with nappies, suggesting to his frugal wife that ‘we’ll need them when grandchildren come’. She may have loved him but she didn’t indulge him if it involved wasting money.

Initially he relied on his own skills to get him past the general knowledge quiz section but as he took things more seriously (and given this was all pre Google) he invested in a  monthly magazine that gave you the answers to dozens of competitions. Large businesses, such as Unilever and Nestle tried to shut it down but without success. He didn’t want to use this ‘cheat’, at least not to begin with, because, well, the pure breed Le Pard male has a very well-developed ego, but his spouse had the final word. ‘I’m not eating another Vesta bloody curry if you’re going to waste my sacrifice by screwing up the answer to the highest mountain in Guatemala (or whatever)’.

He had standards, mind; for instance he insisted on never paying an entrance fee, reasoning that buy ping a dozen cans of prime tripe was enough of a sacrifice.

Which left the tie breaker; the phrase or saying. He would ponder for hours; the magazine with the quiz answers also contained a lot of winning entries which gave guidance to what a specific company was looking for. And having pondered, he produced…

And he grew in confidence. And began to win. In those early days he tended to enter competitions he liked the look of, without much thought to the prize, so when the Archaeologist and I visited to find, apparently that the Old Man had taken up international class surfboarding, aged 60 and with a strong antipathy to salt water, we were told not to be surprised. He sold the board for a handsome sum in the classified ads in the Bournemouth Evening Echo, which started a trend.

Prizes proliferated; a handsome garden bench, a set of china flower pots, strange medical looking equipment that, apparently functioned in a well-stocked kitchen, and a top of the range Betamax player which pleased him for about 6 months until it became clear everyone was getting VHS videos.

But the best prize, the one they enjoyed immensely came courtesy of Youngs’ Sea Food, and specifically a prawn dish made with cream and pasta. I don’t know what the slogan was but I do know the prize…

A weekend trip to Oslo

A grand all expenses stay in a 5* hotel

Multiple sight-seeing

A black tie dinner with the guest of honour the Mayor of Oslo

and best of all…

They flew there on Concorde

Concorde had never flown to Oslo from London before this trip. There was a reason for this. Concorde had reduced the flying time across the Atlantic to 3 hours by reaching speeds of twice the speed of sound, but to do this they needed to accelerate above mach 1 only when they crossed the coast (otherwise the sonic boom tended to blow out the nearest windows), there wasn’t enough distance to even reach Mach 1 by the time they had to slow down to land in Oslo. They got round this by flying west, crossing the Irish coast, giving it some real welly and then curving round Iceland and heading for Norway. As Mum said afterwards, ‘it hardly added any time and any way, it is really rather delicious watching the bubbles go straight up on a  glass of Moet when the speedometer reaches mach 2’.

The dinner was indeed to be a grand affair and mum was presented with a broach in silver with a small inset diamond in the shape of a prawn. Dad, he wasn’t so lucky. He had a hat. Specifically a plastic viking hat. In turned out that, as part of these celebrations, Dad and others were to be inducted into the Prawn Club and to do so, all the men had to put on this horned bedpans. Must be the Scandinavian version of the Masons I suppose.

Here are two of the hats, nicked no doubt by mum, that ended up in her dressing uo box and which delighted the grandchildren many times…

And yes, I’m wearing a pudding basin on my head. I worked in the legal profession, you know. It was part of the uniform.

Still, they loved their time in the limelight and I only wish I still had some examples of his wit and wisdom. Sadly not though I do recall his favourite winning line, penned by someone else. Infamously, in 1976, the BBC refused to broadcast any of the formula one races that season despite it being one of the greatest seasons ever (they relented for the showdown in Japan which is a whole other story) because of one specific piece of on car advertising? They’re righteous crusade was against… cigarettes? alcohol? No, condoms. Durex sponsored the Surtess car driven by Australian Alan Jones so, in those prurient days the show, unlike the prophylactic, couldn’t go on.

Someone, a while later was asked for a slogan promoting the benefits of Durex over other rubbers and came up with:

Durex: it turns a small event into a grand prix

Had that been Dad’s he would have died happy…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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13 Responses to It’s Just A Phrase He’s Going To…

  1. Lol! Well done to your dad. I used to enter those competitions way back when, but never won anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. trifflepudling says:

    That whole thing is just fabulous from start to finish!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ritu says:

    Your dad was just such a wonderful character!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. willowdot21 says:

    I love this Geoff 💜, I remember these competitions and the infamous tie breaker slogans 💜…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. JT Twissel says:

    What a great story! I’ve said this before but your dad was quite a guy.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t remember those, but I was an inveterate sweepstakes contestant. I won a Mattel Burp-Gun which my little sister was thrilled with. My daughter won us a very lush trip to Disney World. That announcement came Fed Ex and I threw it out thinking it was a scam. She came running to tell me that it was for real and that she had used my name since she was only 15. I loved this post and the contests it resurrected in my memory.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. He was right up there with your mum …… IS right up there with your mum 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. gordon759 says:

    I can remember one of his winning verses, it was for some lawn product. The question was something like ‘Describe why a garden needs a lawn in 40 words or less.’

    Adam, the earliest gardener, delighted when Eve was born.
    Thought Eden still needed something, and so he created the Lawn.
    And we, his gardening descendants, agree whenever we meet.
    That without a lawn in the garden, a garden isn’t complete.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Erika Kind says:

    My, your dad must have been such an inspiration. What a great man and father!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh ever entertaining as always Geoff, your dad was such a character and those hats and pudding basin! What a laugh. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Brilliant from start to finish Geoff! Sounds like you are a lot like your Dad.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. A great tribute, Geoff – you are a chip off the old block if ever there was one

    Liked by 2 people

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