Jane Macdougall: The Bookless Club has trust issues

The truest thing I know is that we don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.

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There had been several men doing work in the basement. Late one evening, she did a quick inspection of the area. She noticed that one of the basement windows was unlatched. No one in her family ever went into this part of the house. The window was never unlatched. A week later, the area outside the window showed signs of an intruder.

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The cleaning lady showed up with earrings identical to the ones she was missing. The woman asked if she could see them and they were reluctantly handed over.

The missing earrings had a unique feature — she’d lost one of the platinum butterfly backs and replaced it with a larger, bent, gold one. The pair the woman handed over had the same mismatched butterflies.


The legal retainer had evaporated.

Lawyer One told her that he had consulted with Lawyer Two about her case. There was no reason for him to have done this, as all of the information had been supplied.

Unbeknownst to Lawyer One, Lawyer Two happened to be a close friend of hers. She phoned him. He told her that he hadn’t spoken to the Lawyer One in at least a year.

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The old house had a gorgeous wooden gate. You would have entered Beatrix Potter’s garden through a gate like this. It had handsome, heavy hardware and was painted a peculiar shade of green. Fable and fairy tale hewn from, probably, a hardwood.

During a renovation, it vanished.

One day, she saw the gate displayed in the windows of one of the city’s specialty florist/garden shops. It was unmistakably the same gate.


For as long as he could remember, his mother had worn a watch. Her husband had given her the watch and she never took it off. Anniversary gift — you know the type. Fancy. Expensive.

She was in an assisted-living facility when she died. Her lovely watch was nowhere to be found. In its place was a much, much cheaper watch.

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The city inspector slapped a Stop Work order on the renovation. They were told that they had been shut down as they didn’t have permits. The owners were baffled. The contractor showed up with a sheaf of bills and insisted on immediate payment.

Instantly, his demeanor had shifted from “I’m a hugger”, to “Give me my money.” The owners poured through every invoice and every receipt.

The contractor was billing them for permits. He just wasn’t pulling the permits.


They were on holiday. Someone was checking on the house in their absence. It was discovered that their neighbours had run the hose over from the vacant house and were filling their pool in their absence.

Yes, the neighbours. The people they had BBQs with.

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We spend a lifetime trying to become a good judge of character, to strike a balance between trust and suspicion. The person we’re most angry with when we have been duped is usually our own gullible selves. Sherlock Holmes himself was infuriated by “mendacity” — untruthfulness.

But it’s hard to know who to trust in life. Unfortunately, you can’t tell by just looking — salt and sugar have the same appearance.

The truest thing I know is that we don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.

We’re always trying to navigate the shoals between trust and distrust. The Retail Council of Canada says that the annual tab for shoplifting comes in at $3.6 billion. But here’s a lovely story: a shop owner on Fourth Avenue told me that a man came in one day and put three items on the counter. Charge me for five of them, he said, as I’ve stolen two over the years.

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Jane Macdougall is a freelance writer and former National Post columnist who lives in Vancouver. She will be writing on The Bookless Club every Saturday online and in The Vancouver Sun. For more of what Jane’s up to, check out her website, janemacdougall.com

This week’s question for readers:

Has someone taken advantage of you or ripped you off? How did you become aware of the deceit?

Send your answers by email text, not an attachment, in 100 words or less, along with your full name to Jane at [email protected]. We will print some next week in this space.

Responses to last week’s question for readers:

What could you eat every day and never grow tired of? Do you have reminisces from the ice cream parlour?

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• When we were kids, our dad would take us for ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins. There was a neighbour on our street with the last name Robbins and I was positive that they were related to the ice cream dynasty. What convinced my six-year-old self was the fact that they had a deep-freeze in the garage. What surer sign could there be?

C. Howard

• One of my first jobs was working at an ice cream parlour. The owner told me that I could have one free ice cream every day. He thought that I would get sick of it as most of the employees did. I didn’t. My go-to was Kona coffee brittle, a coffee-flavoured ice cream dotted with pieces of coffee-flavoured brittle. Over 40 years later and I still love ice cream. Recently, my allegiance has switched from Pralines and Cream to Caramel Macchiato, and I’m sure that if I worked in an ice cream parlour, and they told me that I could eat one free ice cream every day, I would still do it. Incidentally, my girlfriend and I can read each other’s minds when it comes to going for an ice cream, but then we have known each other for almost 60 years.

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Anna Bentley

• Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In the 1950s, my mother (Chinese) would spend all morning preparing BBQ pork steamed buns from scratch to provide for us after school. I would long for my neighbour’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with fluffy white Sunbeam bread. It was so different and so delicious. Now, BBQ pork steamed buns are ubiquitous throughout the city, but the taste and smell of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches remain my all-time favourite snack, sometimes just before bed. Yet, steamed buns, prepared by my mom, are a constant reminder of her superb cooking abilities. Years later, at a school reunion, my neighbourhood friend described how she loved visiting my house after school and the aroma of my mom’s BBQ pork buns.

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Yin Yin Matisz

• It was a scorching hot day in North Van in 1943. I was five years old and lived with my parents at First Avenue and Lonsdale in an apartment above the Home Bakery. The floors in our apartment were lovely and warm in the winter, but unbearable in the hot summer. Money was scarce, but my mom had enough change to send me to the ice cream store for cones.

Off I happily went, got the cones, and in order to keep them from melting, I hurried, missed the curb, and fell flat on my face in the newly tarred street. Luckily, I did not drop the cones, but scraped my elbows and chin and ruined my dress, which was covered in tar. The cones made it home safely, and to this day I truly cherish ice cream and could eat it every day.

Alice Samworth

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• I tell my grandchildren it is impossible to feel sad when you’re eating an ice cream cone. It is a happy food. As for Tiger Tail, many decades ago, as a special treat, my dad took my sister, cousin and me for ice cream at Peter’s on Cambie and 41st. My go-to flavour was always liquorice. When orange was introduced, my choice became a huge dilemma. But then, when Tiger Tail became available, my 10-year-old brain was sure they had heard my vacillation between liquorice and orange and created this exotic combination just for me. I feel that thrill each time I treat myself to ice cream. Two scoops of Tiger Tail will be my forever choice.

Lois Kathnelson

• Peter’s Ice Cream on Broadway was a favourite stop for dessert after going out for Sunday dinner or a picnic at Jericho or Locarno beaches in the 1960s. The family’s favourite flavour was peppermint. No chocolate chips, just smooth, creamy, minty, velvety loveliness. Haven’t found a peppermint ice cream to match it since. Came close in Florence, Italy, with some pistachio gelato, but no peppermint. However, my gorgeous friend, Steffanie Davis, who stars as the Killer Queen in We Will Rock You at TUTS, just introduced me to Ernest Ice Cream — I tried their whisky flavour, and it was killer good, but that Peter’s peppermint has yet to meet its match.

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Kathryn Daniels

• I was 15. My father had just come home from the war and we hadn’t seen him for almost five years. He took my brother and I for ice cream. I had never had a banana split so that is what he ordered for me. Strawberry, marshmallow and chocolate toppings. I will never forget it.

Faye Hutcheon

• Living on the edge of White Rock, ice cream at the beach has been a long-time tradition, and while I like to switch it up and try different flavours, I tend to go back to Pralines and Cream, over and over. I keep it to the occasional treat now, but if it weren’t for the extra calories, I’d have it every day. The other food I never tire of is sockeye salmon. I can’t get enough of it, and while my husband likes it too, every day would be too much for him. On the occasions where he has gone out of town on fishing trips with his buddies, I go out and buy sockeye and have it every night for dinner. He may bring a few lake trout home from his trip, and they are delicious, but nothing beats a piece of grilled sockeye for me.

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Susanne de Pencier

• In the 1950s at East 28th Avenue and Knight Street was a corner store. My family’s treat was to purchase a pint of either vanilla or Neapolitan ice cream from Godfrey’s. This was sliced into six equal portions. Heaven was a trip to Palm Dairy on Cambie Street with aunty, who lived nearby. My faves were butter pecan and cherry custard. In the ’60s, Peter’s Ice Cream Parlour on Oak at 41st was the place to go. Today, there is a lot of choice of parlours and flavours. For me, salted caramel in a waffle cone usually wins.

Vicki Cameron Hart

• My not-so-secret addiction is cantaloupe — not just any run-of-the-mill melon though, but the dark orange fragrant musk melon found only during late summer months. I could eat slices morning, noon and night. Years ago, my then 14-year-old daughter told me there was one thing she just could not stand about me. At first I was incensed, and then realized this was a 14-year-old girl saying there was just one thing she detested about her mum, so bring it on. “Your obsession with cantaloupe”, she said. I am looking forward to my first juicy slice shortly, and my 29-year-old daughter and I still laugh about this.

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Patricia Gray

• What my dad called spaghetti sauce I could eat everyday. I have a savoury leaning, so ice cream has to be spectacular, and it has to be vanilla to tempt me. The reason that spaghetti sauce is ahead of the food pack for me is because my dad included me in the process of making it. He was a regular maker of this family-of-seven staple. Dad insisted on finely diced onions, green pepper, garlic, and canned pimentos sautéed into the carefully browned lean ground beef. This was added to canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, before seasoning it with oregano, basil, bay leaf, dried red pepper flakes, chili powder and black pepper. The pot simmered for a couple of hours, cooled, and then went into the fridge for the night. Breakfast? Ah no … have to wait until dinner. I make it regularly after 65 years of practice.

Mary Findlay

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