Online Selling Culture

Part 1: The Wood Wardrobe

I did it! After nearly 30 years, I moved from my “forever home”. Because the move was over 600 km to another province, I wasn’t keen on moving ALL my stuff, especially the heavy furniture. What to do?

Family members expressed interest in a couple of antique heirlooms, but the issue of the old wardrobe remained. This clunky, old piece of furniture was a permanent fixture (or so I thought!) in my parent’s bedroom on a farm in small-town Saskatchewan. It housed not only my parent’s clothing but my and my brother’s clothes as well. Not to mention a box of chocolates at Christmas and a bottle of Martini & Rossi vermouth that my uncle would bring every summer my city cousins came to visit. My parents did not imbibe in alcoholic beverages. Yet, for some reason, when my uncle brought a new bottle of vermouth at the next visit, he was surprised that the level in the previous bottle had not dropped.

When my parents moved to town, the old wardrobe did not find its way to their new residence. So, when I bought my forever home, I was keen on taking possession of this piece of furniture. I had my own graphic design business at the time, and it was the perfect size for storing my paper samples, trade magazines and art supplies.

A trip to the vacant farmhouse revealed squatters had invaded the old wardrobe; a family of mice made it their home. They were given their walking papers whilst I thoroughly cleaned and disinfected my prize possession. A trip to the hardware store resulted in a purchase of several boards, l-brackets and screws which I immediately put to good use by creating several shelves within the top portion of the wardrobe. I also installed some corkboard on which to tack memos and inspirational quotes to one end of the unit.

When the time came to move from my forever home, I was torn about what to do with the wardrobe. On the one hand it was utilitarian and a sentimental piece to part with. On the other, it was old, clunky and heavy. I toyed with the idea of removing the handles and getting it hauled to the dump. But then I remembered Kijiji. That’s it! I’ll post it on the online selling site and maybe someone will find a new purpose for it.

Rapidly, I took photos of the unit from several angles, including the inside, and placed an ad. After three days, Sahid (not his real name) is the only person who seems interested.

“Is this still available?” he asks.

“Yes.” I respond.

“What are the dimensions?”

That is posted in the ad, but I repeat the information.

“Will you take $40 for it?” he asks, quoting a price under the amount I’m asking.

“Why don’t you come to view it first to ensure you really want it?”

“I can tell what it looks like by the picture. But I want to see the complete inside. Can you take a picture of the other half?”

I explain that the other half is exactly the same as the photographed half.

“Do you deliver?”


“How heavy is it? I need to know so I can hire a truck.”

I explain that I have never lifted it myself and suggest, once again that he come by to have a look at it.

“I can come today. 7 pm?”

I have another potential buyer stopping by to view another sales item at 6:30 pm. I agree with the scheduled arrangement and await his arrival. I wait. And wait. I haven’t had dinner yet and I’m starting to get really hungry and more than a little frustrated. Plus, it will be dark soon and I’m not crazy about letting strangers into my house after dark.

At 8pm, I message him, “Are you coming to view the wardrobe tonight?”

“I’m still at the office. Tomorrow at 7pm?”

He better be here tomorrow, I grumble inwardly.

Tomorrow comes and goes and still no Sahid.

“Are you still interested in the wardrobe?” I message him.

“Bought another one.”

A lovely couple, Connie (not her real name), with teenage son and driver in tow, arrive to view the wardrobe a few days later. Well, at least the wife was lovely. She fawns at the wardrobe.

“This is perfect for the lake!” she enthuses. “My water can go here at the bottom and my blankets and extra clothes over here.”

Her husband, meanwhile, does not share her enthusiasm. He assesses the size of the wardrobe and the best way to exit the house. I recommend the back door as the most direct route. He grumbles and proceeds to pick up the heavy end of the wood wardrobe.

“What do you want this for, anyway?” he asks Connie as he grunts and farts from the effort.

“Excuse him,” says Connie to me in aside. And off the family of three trundle with their prized possession.

Stay tuned to part 2 of the online selling culture when I write about the sale of my barbeque.

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Book Reviews and Indie Authors

Ontario Canada Book Club

As an indie author, getting book reviews is very important. So when a book club in Ontario asked for a video conference with me at their monthly meeting, I was delighted to participate. Receiving honest feedback from these women helps me to grow as an author and I feel as if I’ve made some new friends in the process.

To read additional reviews, please go to Amazon and Goodreads or follow book bloggers Amy and Mari.

St. Patrick’s Day is in May

Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in May.

“Bollocks!” you say.

“It’s true,” I insist. “I was there.”

You see, in March of 2001, Ireland experienced its first outbreak of foot and mouth disease since 1941. And Ireland quickly set up measures to control the spread of this disease. As a result, many tourist attractions and outdoor festivals were closed, including the popular St. Patrick’s Day parade.

But my friend Chris and I felt that that spring was a perfect time to re-visit the Emerald Isle. Tourism to the UK and Ireland was down due to tourists being wary of exposure to the dreaded foot-and-mouth. That meant flights were bound to be much cheaper and there would be far fewer tourists getting in our way to view the same attractions. We were right on both counts.

We packed in as much as we could into our trip to Ireland, from strolling the south strand in Skerries, Co. Dublin to kissing the Blarney Stone in Co. Cork. From listening to traditional Irish music whilst imbibing Guinness in the sleepy but picturesque fishing town of Kinsale to exploring Cashel Rock in Co. Tipperary. We went from admiring centuries-old Celtic crosses to scratching our heads at Irish road signs attached haphazardly to a post with directions written only in Gaelic!

Although we weren’t anywhere near Dublin, I suggested to Chris that we back-track to the city to catch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Chris is reluctant to do so as we were well on our way to Galway on the opposite coast at this point.

“It’s just a parade,” says she.

“We have to go!” I plead. “What are the odds of us being in Ireland to see a St. Patrick’s Day parade ever again?

I’m able to convince her at length, and we catch the next train to the east coast. The train station in Dublin is about a 20-minute walk to the parade route. We still have plenty of time before the parade starts so we stop at the real Guinness Brewery gift shop, which just happens to be along the way, to purchase some souvenirs.

May 19 and 20, 2001 is dubbed the St. Patrick’s Day Festival and festivities have already begun. There is music. And there are street performers. And there are Elvis impersonators everywhere. But when the actual parade starts, we are pleasantly surprised. This is no ordinary parade. Sure, there are horses, a few floats and marching bands including one from New York that got to participate in two St. Patrick Day Parades in the same year but on different continents! But, for the most part, this parade is more like the Mardi Gras Carnival. Stilt walkers. Colourful, colourful costumes. And even elaborate, precision-engineered, human-controlled “pedestrian floats”.

When the parade ends, I’m anxious to partake in some pub grub and to raise a glass of Guinness to this amazing day. Chris, not so much. Not that she has anything against this activity, but she is worried that we might miss the last train leaving Dublin. If we do, our plans to explore the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula are in danger of being delayed or even terminated.

“You know how long it takes to get to the train station from here and we’re already familiar with the route,” I remind her. “We have plenty of time.”

But she will not be swayed.

“OK. You go,” I tell her. “But I’m going to find me a pub.” Darkey Kelly’s sounds like a good choice and I squeeze past the revelers to order my pub food and Guinness. Lively traditional tunes fill the air, and everyone is in a celebratory mood including two couples who are pub-hopping.

“This is so much better,” says one of the women. “We were just at the Temple Bar and you can’t even move there.”

Wow. And I thought this place was packed! I eat my pub grub, drink my stout and visit with my new friends while listening to traditional Irish music. I imagine heaven to be just like this.

Two hours later, I arrive at the train station to find Chris patiently sitting on a bench waiting for boarding call. I think the past two hours might have been slightly more enjoyable for me than they were for her. Just a hunch.

This was one incredible human-powered “float”!

Paperback Sale

Only 3 days left to get my paperback memoir, A Squatter in London, on sale! On March 1st the price goes up. Check it out on:

Amazon Canada      Amazon US      Amazon UK

E-book also available for purchase but you’ll miss out on vintage 1970s photos. Be sure to tell your non-fiction, like-the-feel-of-paper, reader friends before it’s too late!


Hockey Night in Saskatchewan

Re-blogging this for all you hockey fans.

Irene Pylypec

taylor-friehl-1301748-unsplash“Let’s play hockey!” was an oft repeated phrase by kids growing up on the Canadian prairies. For me, a kid who grew up on a farm four miles from the village of Yellow Creek, Saskatchewan, that meant lacing up my skates and heading to the outdoor rink at recess with my classmates – boys and girls alike.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, hockey took a slightly different twist. Hockey pucks were expensive and had the curious habit of disappearing into snowbanks never to be seen again until spring thaw. So, frozen horse turds served as an admirable substitute in a game of barnyard shinny. When my older brother’s friends dropped by, play resumed on our private playground – the frozen slough in the midst of the Gryba bush. The Gryba family owned the mostly-uncleared piece of land across the grid road opposite to our farm but did not live there. …

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The Sugar Shack

“There’s a crazy little shack beyond the tracks. And everybody calls it the sugar shack…”

In Canada, the land of maple syrup, the sugar shack is a building where sap from the sugar maple is boiled to produce maple syrup. This sweet treat is produced in eastern Canada, primarily in the province of Quebec.

However, in the 1960s sugar shacks could also be found on the western prairies. And yes, every little town in Saskatchewan had one.

The sugar shack was a thing of enormous mystery. It seemed to be founded by the males of the species and the exact location was always shrouded in secrecy. Whenever the topic of the sugar shack was discussed amongst my high school classmates, I would pester the boys – imploring them to let me in on the big secret. I was told that it was a boys-only clubhouse and that they, and only they knew the location of it and were the only ones who could enter inside its hallowed walls. Defeated, I accepted that explanation until I found out that one of my girlfriends who lived in town knew all about it and had even been inside! Now I’m being told a slightly different story by the boys. Now they tell me that sometimes the girls from town get a special invitation to see the clubhouse but I live too far away on a farm. Well, I’m having none of that! I approach one of the boys afterward and insist that he take me to the sugar shack. Reluctantly, he agrees to take my friend and me to show us the place.

I’m really excited to solve the mystery of the sugar shack: where is it? What does it look like? What goes on there? I fully expect to find the sugar shack somewhere in the bush, possibly beside the railway tracks. Much to my surprise, we are escorted to the opposite end of town. And there it is, an unassuming building hidden in plain sight. It’s just up the hill on the southeastern edge of downtown, two houses away from my relatives’ house. And it may be small, but it’s not a shack at all!

Instead of the rundown shack situated in some covert location in the woods, we enter what appears to be a newly-constructed tiny house. The room itself is sparsely furnished with a table, a couple of chairs, and even a bed.

“So, what do you guys do here?” I ask innocently.

“Oh, we mostly just hang out here, talking and reading comics,” replies our host. Sometimes, we get somebody to pull us a case of beer. And, of course, nobody can see us,” he continues, pointing to the curtained windows, “so we can smoke here anytime.”

“Well, we better be going!” he says abruptly. Girls aren’t allowed here. And I’m one of two guys who has keys to this place. If somebody else wants the key, I don’t want them to see you girls here. Don’t tell anyone I took you here,” he pleads.

What really went on there? Was it really a clubhouse for prairie boys to hang out with their buddies while reading comic books and drinking beer? Or was it more like a love shack where, far removed from parents’ prying eyes, they would take their ‘sugar’?

Wait. What’s that sound I hear? Oh, I believe it’s the collective snickering of seniors reliving their adolescent dreams in a prairie sugar shack. Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me. I really don’t know the answer. All I know is that there wasn’t so much as an ounce of maple sugar produced there.

Looking to Escape the Cold this Winter?

And are you looking for a good book to read while you’re relaxing under a swaying palm tree, viewing an ocean paradise from the comfort of your beach lounge? It’s not too late to buy that perfect book! My memoir, A Squatter in London, is currently available  in paperback from Amazon at a reduced price. It’s also available as an e-book, but you’ll miss out on the vintage 1970s images that are offered in the paperback version.

Hurry! You only have until the end of February to benefit from the special price. Even if you’re not going to the Dead Sea.

UK Customers

Canadian Customers

The TV That Almost Killed Me

I finally did it. I bought myself a smart TV. Not that my old one was dumb, mind you. It may have been uncomplicated – simple even, but it served me well. My “old” TV goes way back to a much simpler time when the only knowledge required by the user was knowing the location of the remote control. After finding your reading glasses and your stray remote was lured from its secret hiding place in between the sofa cushions, you just needed to press the red “on” button. And to be mindful not to confuse the up and down arrows for volume with the arrows for channel selection.

I’m not certain how many decades ago I purchased that old TV. All I know is that, following a home invasion, I made a trip to The Brick to find a replacement. The friendly Brick employee promptly ushered me to the Entertainment Department of the furniture store, to show me their new line of something known as “flat screen” TVs. Oooh! The size of them! And the clarity of the picture! Unfortunately, the terms of my insurance policy required a replacement TV purchase – which in my case was a 24” “boob tube” (You know the kind: you call the television repair man. He replaces the picture tube and you’re good to go for another 10 years). Turned out they didn’t make that size anymore, so the closest replacement to the stolen item was an RCA 26” television, which I bought.

Another Brick employee, a strapping young man, carries the TV to my car and attempts to put it in the trunk. The box is too big, so he removes the outer packaging and places the TV face down in the back seat. “This will be much easier for you to take out of the car,” he says, “because you won’t have to reach down into the trunk.”

He’s right. Even though the TV was very heavy and somewhat awkward, I managed to slide it off the back seat, grab it and start carrying it towards the house. It was winter at the time. As I’m walking up to the house, I slip on the sidewalk and fall into a snowbank with the TV landing on top of me. I try to move, but I’m pinned beneath this behemoth. I’m fervently hoping that my neighbour will just happen to look out, see my plight and rescue me. No such luck. Well, that’s just great! I think to myself. I’m going to die right here with this TV on top of me. That’s not an option, I scold myself. I try wiggling one way, then another. Nothing. I’m stuck. I try again, when suddenly there appears to be some give. I continue wriggling and pushing until I free up one leg. This gives me a little more leverage and I’m finally able to roll over and remove that offending object off me. I’m enclosing a picture of the evil monster. Feel free to boo and hiss at him.

Well, back to the present. That old RCA behaved itself until recently when it finally gave up the ghost. This time, I shop for a new television at Best Buy where Black Friday Week deals abound. Besides price, my main concerns are that the new TV fits into the space I have allocated for it and that it has the proper connections so that I can continue to play my music. When I explain marrying old technology with new, the young associate gives me a blank stare and announces, “most people use an HDMI stick, now.” I guess I’m on my own.

The new smart TV is much bigger and much lighter, and I have no problems bringing it inside and beginning the setup. I’m feeling quite pleased with myself: I’ve got it connected to the internet, synched with my cellphone AND I can play my music on the surround sound home theatre system. But I have no television reception! My cable TV (yes, I’m still using that expensive, archaic system) provider tells me that I need a new cable box. Well, the new cable box won’t initialize and after hours spent chatting online as well as talking to a real person, the cable company sends a techie over to help me. Although I can’t play my music anymore, the cable box decided to work in the meantime. So when the techie arrives, I ask him about connecting the old and the new technology. He stares at me blankly and says, “we’re not trained to do that”. Well, at least I have ultra high definition television now.

Two Great Books for the Readers on your Christmas Shopping List

Looking for that perfect Christmas gift? How about a book to go with that holiday eggnog? My narrative non-fiction paperback, A Squatter in London, is temporarily available on Amazon for a reduced price. It’s also available as an e-book but the paperback has vintage photos for you to laugh at. Here’s an excerpt to bring a smile to your face:

“This will be my first ‘black’ Christmas. It’s a few days prior to the holiday and I’m nostalgic for the magical, snow-filled Canadian winter wonderland. I’m homesick, cold, lonely and depressed…

Lainey and Bryce’s parents, the Collinses, have invited me over for Christmas dinner today. Because of the holiday, though, trains and buses aren’t running. So, as instructed by the Collins children, I ring a car hire service…

‘Your place smells very Christmas-y,’ I quip as I enter the Collins home, instantly offending my hosts. There’s an almost overpowering pine-like scent in the air and I assume that it’s coming from the newly-decorated live tree. It’s not.

‘What a thing to say,’ replies Mrs. Collins in a hushed voice. ‘Our cat just wet the rug.’”


For the children on your list, there’s an awesome children’s reader/coloring book written and  illustrated with whimsical little characters by Robert Laurie Leslie called They Love Us: A World Without Fear.

A Squatter in London (image shows author revisiting the squat in 2001) is also available internationally in the US, UK, Mexico and other countries. See, I just made your Christmas buying experience a whole lot less stressful!