For Sale: My life in Oz... including a house, job, motorbike, clothes, and, of course, a barbie!
Going, going, gone ... Six years after emigrating to Australia, a Briton is so upset by his divorce that he is putting his entire life up for auction on eBay, reveals Kathy Marks
Monday 17 March 2008
Ian Usher loves his life in Perth, Australia. But since his wife, Laura, was part of that life and the couple have split up, he has decided to offer it, lock, stock and barrel to the highest bidder.
Mr Usher, 44, originally from Darlington, County Durham, has put his entire life up for grabs on the online auction site eBay, with a starting price of one Australian dollar. On offer, is his marital home, his Mazda car and a 140mph Kawasaki motorbike.
The successful bidder will also receive an array of gadgets enabling them to enjoy his sun-drenched Australian lifestyle to the full, including a jet ski, a set of kite-surfing gear, bodyboards and a mountain bike.
His three-bedroom, two-bathroom open-plan home is located in the leafy suburb of Wellard, a half-hour's train ride from Perth city centre. It boasts a projector television with a 6ft screen that can be viewed from the garden, which contains a courtyard and outdoor spa. Although such seemingly madcap schemes always have an element of the hoax about them, Mr Usher claims he is totally serious and hopes his job-lot will fetch at least $500,000 (£230,000).
Mr Usher emigrated to Australia six years ago, and became an Australian citizen in 2006. "My life here is absolutely fantastic," he said on his website. "But I just want to make a clean break and start again, so I am selling everything, lock, stock and barrel, from the contents of my wardrobe to my kettle, and from my cutlery to my car. Laura and I chose the house together and intended it to be our family home. Despite my life being busy and fulfilled, I still miss my wife so much. Everything around me is simply a reminder of the wonderful past we shared."
Mr Usher, who spent the 1990s living in Scarborough, will also provide the person who buys his ready-made life with open access to his friends and details of his favourite bars, restaurants and night spots. That person will even be given a fortnight's trial with his employer, a Perth rug retailer.
The 100-day countdown to the auction, which will begin on 22 June and continue for seven days, began on Friday when Mr Usher's website went live. Potential buyers can get a preview of his life on a website, www.alife4sale.com, which contains blogs and videos detailing what is on offer.
The homepage opens, cheerily, with the words: "Hi there, my name is Ian Usher, and I have had enough of my life! I don't want it any more! You can have it if you like! No, I'm not contemplating suicide, I am going to sell my life! I have my reasons. However, I am still not sure whether this is inspired madness, complete foolishness, or just some sort of mid-life crisis. Whatever it is, it's all going up for sale in one big auction. Everything I have and everything I am."
Mr Usher said the idea had come from one of his friends, Bruce, who, during a particularly black period, had come up with the notion of selling his life through an advertisement in the Sunday papers. Though Bruce never actually went through with it, Mr Usher was impressed with the idea and remembered it during long hours mulling over his troubles while working 12-hour shifts as a long-distance truck driver.
"My aim is to walk away at the end of the eBay auction with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other." he said on the website.
Mr Usher, who has no children, admitted he was "a bit vague" on what he would do once the sale was made, but said he would probably return to Darlington to visit his family for a while before travelling around the world. "But I feel that Australia is my home," he added.
Mr Usher, a bachelor of education, worked at a variety of jobs before leaving England. He was an outdoor education teacher, and a second-hand car salesman. He operated a jet-ski business for five years in Scarborough, hired out bicycles, published magazines, ran wedding cars and fitted luxury kitchens.
In the late 1990s he visited Australia with his partner, Laura. The couple fell in love with the country, and after a second trip Down Under a year later, decided to move there. They got married in 2000, sold up, and moved to Perth in late 2001.
As he relates on his website: "I met and married the best girl in the world. I loved her with all my heart and she loved me too.
"However, after over 12 years together and five years of fantastic married happiness I was hit with a bolt from the blue.
"I often think of the line from The Sunscreen Song by Baz Luhrmann, which goes, 'The real troubles in your life are the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday'.
"I was blindsided at about 11pm on a Wednesday evening by a shocking and awful discovery." That discovery two years ago was that his wife had found someone else.
"I worked away, did a couple of different jobs, then moved in to this house. We'd bought the land and built it for both of us," he said. "When I moved back in I just thought, I can't live here – I really don't want to be here.
"This wasn't a hasty decision, it isn't a knee-jerk reaction. I've thought about it."
Mr Usher admits that after Laura left, he was uncertain what to do with all their furniture and belongings. He considered selling them piece by piece, in the local paper; sending them all to auction; offering them to friends; or putting them in storage. But every other option seemed time-consuming and emotionally draining. Then he remembered Bruce's idea.
During the lead-up to the auction, Mr Usher plans to publish a longer version of his life story in four online "books", one every month between now and June.
Part one, which is already available, tells of his life in the UK before moving to Australia, and explains how he met and fell in love with Laura. Parts two to four have yet to be written.
In just three days, Mr Usher's plan has attracted attention. On a newspaper website, a Melbourne woman asked: "Can a woman purchase your life or would that make for a different dynamic in any respect? Secondly do you expect to walk away with your copyright royalties along with your passport?"
He replied: "Yes, my life could be purchased by anyone, man, woman, couple, family – location, house, lifestyle, etc would suit anyone. I haven't deliberately targeted it at single males."
Mr Usher, who said it had not occurred to him that his plan could form the basis for a book, although "it would be marvellous if Hollywood came knocking on the door", added to his reply: "In terms of copyright, I guess my story is my story, and if anyone was interested in using it, I would expect to have control over that.
"However, the new buyer would have their own story to tell, after all, they would be the first person to do this, and would obviously have control over their own tale. Interesting questions... at such an early stage!"
Mr Usher is not the first person to auction his life on eBay.
Last year another Australian, Nicael Holt, offered his existence to the highest bidder, in a package that included his name, phone number, worldly possessions, circle of friends, and eight "potential lovers".
Mr Holt, a 24-year-old philosophy student, also offered a repertoire of six jokes, a broken relationship with an ex-girlfriend, and a four-week training course in "becoming me", including his fashion sense, food tastes and "style of seduction". He offered to teach the buyer his skills, including surfing, skateboarding and handstands.
The possessions offered included Mr Holt's collection of 300 CDs, childhood photographs, and a collection of body piercings. An unknown buyer eventually bought his life for $7,500 (£3,470).
Also last year, a 24-year-old man put one of his kidneys on eBay, with bidding starting at £60,500. His ad was spotted by website regulators and removed, but not before dozens of people had replied.
On Mr Usher's breezily eccentric website, he extols the delights of the Perth lifestyle to potential bidders. "The weather here is fantastic, hot and sunny all summer, and cool and mild in the winter," he writes.
"This encourages an outdoor lifestyle, and life in Perth revolves around the beaches, the river, the parks and the cafes, and of course the many public BBQs freely available all over the city."
In case the reader is not suitably impressed, he includes links to reviews of Perth, and also videos showing Mr Usher visiting the beach and walking his black labrador.
The website also contains footage of him skydiving, jet-skiing, snowboarding, kite surfing, riding his motorbike and kart racing. In the coming weeks, the website will feature YouTube video clips of his close friends, who – he claims – are prepared to transfer their allegiance to the person who buys his life.
These friends include Melanie, Em, Paula, Jo, Monique and Rani. None was available for comment at press time.
'Soul for sale, slightly scratched' – the oddest online auctions
*Kyle MacDonald, a 26-year-old Canadian, realised his dream of owning his own home by using the internet to swap 14 separate, increasingly valuable, objects.
Starting with a red paperclip, he traded up through a novelty doorknob, a camping stove, a snowmobile, a recording contract, and an afternoon with rock star Alice Cooper. The idea was inspired by a child's game called Bigger and Better, but Mr MacDonald created a website devoted to the project and promised to visit potential traders wherever they were. By July 2006 he was preparing to move into a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan, a place he had never visited before.
*Adam Burtle, a US university student, offered his soul for sale on eBay in February 2001, warning bidders: "I make no warranties as to the condition of the soul. As of now, it is near mint, with only minor scratches." Bidding hit $400 (£197) before eBay called it off, prompting Mr Burtle, 20, to concede: "I'm a geek. Any time I'm bored, I go back to the internet." An eBay spokesperson said: "You have to have a piece of merchandise a seller can deliver to a buyer."
*Diane Duyser, from Florida, staged an auction of a 10-year-old image of the Virgin Mary on a toasted sandwich, which she claims had brought her luck, including $70,000 in gambling winnings. The auction was viewed 1.7 million times before GoldenPalace.com, an online casino, paid $28,000 for the sandwich in November 2004 to take it on tour.
*Rosie Reid, an 18-year-old Bristol University social policy student, tried to cut her debts by auctioning her virginity in January 2004. She received 400 offers before eBay halted the auction. Reid continued it on her own website and claimed to have accepted £8,400 from a 44-year-old BT engineer. She said she would rather sleep with a stranger than face poverty.
*In December 2002, Joe and Elizabeth Lapple used eBay to auction Bridgeville, a largely-uninhabited 82-acre town 260 miles north of San Francisco. It drew almost 250 bids, including a late offer of $1,777,877 from a buyer who did not appear. The land, including a post office and a cemetery, had been owned by the Lapples since 1985. It was the first town offered in an online auction
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