A chance find in a charity shop.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn!

Serendipity...... it's not just a pretty word, it's a philosophy unto itself. It means chance happenings with fortuitous benefits, happy accidents, flukes, coincidences, or signs from above. All these things and more come under the umbrella of serendipity.


I've had my fair share of exciting serendipitous moments throughout my life, happy coincidences, chance opportunities, they're everywhere if you're open to them, but the real skill in life, above all else, is acting upon them, 'carpe diem' or seizing the day as they say in Latin and in 'Dead Poets Society'.


One such moment came on my lunch break from my new job, my boss Jane was partial to a charity shop clothing bargain, I too loved the book section of charity shops. I had been buying books all my life, I once owned two second hand book shops, and despite me no longer being in the book business, I still got a huge buzz out of thumbing through a dusty shelf of books. On this particular lunch break, Jane and I hit the charity shops, Jane headed for the coat section, and I headed for the '3 for £1' paperback section.


There starring me in the face was a book that was familiar, but I had never read. Then I remembered Helen Whitney (hair brick 6) had told me about 'the paperclip guy', a few months previously apparently this guy that had a swapping project like mine.


A ray of light came down from the heavens, which illuminated the book, and a chorus of angelic voices filled the room.... (I don't think this really happened...only in my head) I quickly picked the book up, along with two other random titles to make up my three. Little did I know at the time, that this would be the best 33p I had even spent on any lunch break in my entire life!



If you have any intention of reading Kyle Macdonald’s 'One Red Paperclip' you should give this post a miss, because I will spoil the entire book for you right here......I think that as they say is fair warning.


Kyle Macdonald lives in Canada, I have never been to Canada and I have never met Kyle Macdonald in my life, but from reading the first few pages of his book I knew he was my type of guy. As a child Kyle used to play a swapping game called 'bigger and better' they would begin with a single item and spend all day trying to trade up to something 'bigger and better'. I started swapping stuff as a child, coming from a family where there wasn't much money we didn't have many new items, so the only way we could afford to get new things was to swap stuff with our friends, I carried this on through secondary school.


It seems swapping for Kyle was a game, where swapping for me was a necessity. One day Kyle thought back to his childhood swapping days, thought to himself 'I wonder if it would work today' and decided to swap the first thing he had available, a single red paperclip. In twelve months and 15 trades later he had swapped up all the way to a house......... I'll say that again, Kyle started with a red paperclip, and traded with other people bigger and better items, and over the course of a year he ended up with a house....amazing.


The very fact that I was reading his book, an entire story of some 320 pages, and he had keys to a house proved that it was possible. Reading this made me take stock of my trades, my project was a little different from Kyles, I was making artwork as well as swapping items, the brick performances resulted in six hair bricks, trading the six bricks presented me with some items I was holding on to in the hope I could make them into an exhibition piece (such as the vending machine, projectors, cameras, and chairs) other items I was using to trade up (such as the first air kit for the rusty moped, and Muhammad Ali book for the fat jar back).


With my project I had fed dozens of people with free eggs, and had a rusty old moped waiting for me in France, but Kyle, Kyle had a house- a real house you could actually live in. Although I hadn't started off with the intention of trading up to a house (something Kyle actually did), my intention was much vaguer, 'to have fun and give stuff away' I think was my motto, I quickly realized that Kyle was a very focussed man. What Kyle had given me was a blueprint, I was under no illusion that I was the only person swapping stuff for other peoples unwanted stuff, but Kyle had not only taken it to another level, he had documented the experience, and written about and all the obstacles he had to overcome to get to where he wanted. I decided to analyse the book in great detail to see what Kyle had done differently to me in order to achieve great heights so fast.


Kyle was a master and I was the pupil, and I had a lot of lessons to learn. I started my swapping adventure by using Facebook as a medium for attracting customers to swap with. Kyle used a blog which anyone could read, I was limited to the number of friends on my Facebook list and then to the amount of friends in my list that like each page. At any one point I never had more than 85 people that had liked each project page, so I was advertising my swaps to a pool of less than 100 people at any given time-Kyles blog had a considerably larger following.


I was swapping with people within a 50 mile radius (apart from Dave in France who was roughly 1,040 miles but I hadn't actually completed the swap as yet), Kyle was advertising across Canada, and had even travelled 3000 miles just to complete one swap. In the early stages of his swapping, Kyle moved on from a blog to a website, which was shared to people all over Canada (a country populated by 36 million people).


I was in effect swapping wih people of my county of Gwynedd who’s population is roughly 123,000 people. I now knew what I had to do to make my project a bigger success....I was beginning to get excited again, a fire inside me started to burn, and it looked like I was coming out of swapping retirement!

TOP = the highest or loftiest part of anything, apex, zenith, peak, or pinnacle.


I was never very good at school, in fact I was very average, I was average at art, average at woodwork, and very average at every sport I tried.


When I left school I was an average shelf stacker, an average salesman. Even when I started my own business I was extremely average, so average in fact that I gave up self employment after about 15 years because I was so average at the paperwork I neglected to pay my taxes!


When I entered the job market in order to pay my back taxes, I found out I was an average veranda installer, and an average granite worktop fitter. When I decided to become a full time academic-I wasn't in the least bit surprised to find I was an average student with average grades.


I'm an average looking, coming in at an average height, average husband, and an average father to boot. To cut a long story short, I was nothing special. The only thing I seemed to excel at throughout my life was mucking about, I seemed to have a laugh wherever I went, I courted laughter, in my world if I couldn't have a laugh while working, then the job wasn't worth doing.


If I was to carry on with the swapping project, I would have to have to push it as far and as high as I could, and Kyle Macdonald had already proven you could take a swapping project extremely far. I wanted to go as far as I could, I wanted to go to France to collect my moped and then to go beyond!


But in doing so I didn't want it all to get too serious, I wanted to spread love, make friends, and swap as many things with as many different people as I could, while having a good laugh. I was excited about the amount of stuff as human beings we all hoarded in garages, spare rooms, and attics, and I wanted to encourage people to swap their unwanted items in the spirit of love and laughter. In short for once in my life I wanted to reach the pinnacle, realize my potential, see the zenith, I wanted to swap to the top!


20-11-2017 I buy a simplesite website and register the name swaptothetop. I start typing up the entire journey, in words and pictures in the hope that a website will reach a larger audience than Facebook.


27-11-2017 I've just registered the domains www.swaptothetop.com and www.swaptothetop.co.uk, now we're in business, now we're going world wide!