I’ve just spent five hours shopping in Ikea. That’s a form of self-harm, a cry for help, hardcore punishment, all for the sake of a Billy, several Malm, a Klippan, various Strapats, a Pax, lots of Lack, a Remsaetra and one or two other items of furniture with names that just roll off the tongue in that fabulous hurdygurdy Scandinavian way.
Along with all the rest, we want to buy a wardrobe with sliding doors to furnish a small flat we’ll be letting. This has its complexities. We can’t just point at the relevant example and order it to be collected at the warehouse, no, we are obliged to conform with the Ikea way of doing things. This involves a process not dissimilar to sticking hot needles in your eyes. Apparently we have to be seen by a wardrobe designer, even though we have an exact list in our hands of what we want, down to every last hinge. Before such an appointment can be made, we have to queue at the desk of the wardrobe design appointment maker. This takes a little while, since the appointment maker is intensely busy chatting to two assistant appointment makers, discussing their weekend plans and having a good old giggle. Once she has recovered from all that hilarity, she finally makes eye contact and informs us that there’s a 40 minute wait for the attention of the the wardrobe designer. To give us some sort of freedom to roam, we are issued with a handheld device which blinks and squeaks the moment you are required to return to the wardrobe design department, but we are most emphatically advised not to dilly dally or we will lose our slot. The principle is similar to dog whistles, they whistle, we run.
We spend a good half hour skulking around the chest of drawers department, which is right next door to the wardrobe design department. We may never again have such an opportunity to admire the Ikea chest design, so we open, then close, every drawer in the joint for mental stimulation, and then find we still have a good 15 minutes time to discuss the merits of shiny against matt, whilst being on high alert for the call from our masters.
The wardrobe designer, when we see him, takes our list and copies each item into his computer before printing out our invoice to take to the cash desk when we’re all done. Too bad that, as we find out much, much later, he’s given us the pink slip instead of the yellow, which, so the cashier tells us, doesn’t comply with the Ikea way of doing things. We have to go home and go through it all over again online. What a waste of time! Meh! But all this is hours away yet.
Wardrobe designing done, we hit the ‘Market Place’, Ikea’s vast downstairs emporium, for all the little bits you never knew you needed.
I may already have seven chopping boards but at that price you can’t possibly go wrong, three more join the collection. My four sieves seem to be crying out for a colourful companion and, why not, it can always double up as a hat. Ooooh, and then there are those really cheap storm lights! Or perhaps a vase or two? A ‘Groggy’ corkscrew and bottle opener are obviously an essential, and that big stuffed rhino toy, now isn’t that just perfect for the little grandson whose room is already bursting at the seams with soft toys? Lets just add a mixing bowl or two, you never know when you might need one of those! And plants, definitely plants!
Our big yellow Ikea bags are bulging, the shopping cart overflowing, and it’s a complex manoeuvring effort to get past all those families with buggies. The notion that extended families no longer exist is wrong, they all congregate at Ikea. The mothers and fathers, the grandmothers, the aunts and uncles, everyone there seems to have at least five toddlers in tow, all of whom race around and play hide and seek around our trolley. Not just our nerves are frazzled, and progress is slow through the bedding department, the light department, and finally the warehouse, where we heave enormously heavy flatpacks off the shelves and attempt, mostly unsuccessfully, to balance them on our cart. Darn, we can’t find Row 123A, Shelf X. We chase after the Rarely Spotted Yellow Polo Shirt, so elusive that an encounter with a Himalayan snow leopard is more likely, our un-cooperative trolleys, carts and bags being dragged, squeaking in protest, to yet unmapped corners of the universe.
One look at the queues by the tills and I’m ready for a nervous breakdown. I’m tired, my feet hurt, I’m hot and I’m hungry, and ripe and ready for a tantrum. The Lovely Husband takes pity on me and whisks me off to the restaurant. Well, restaurant is perhaps an exaggeration, it’s more of a giant canteen but actually, it’s quite nicely designed and not unattractive. While I’m still quietly cursing away, the clever man goes off to various stations and returns with some serious comfort food: a tuna melt panino, a cheesecake and a cup of coffee. My expectations are low. I mean, what can you possibly expect from a flatpack paradise that’s made its name with melamine and meatballs?
One bite and my inner saint emerges. Instantly gone are the furrowed brow, the sneering face, the hunched shoulders, the potty mouth. This is actually really good! The panino is of a decent size with generous filling, the cheese and tuna well warmed, tasty and melty. Yes, please, more please! And as for the cheesecake, my word, it is just perfect! Creamy, fruity, crumbly, and it doesn’t taste remotely as mass produced as it looks. The coffee is delicious, strong and flavoursome and entirely restorative. Well, I never! Who knew ?! And the whole lot for under £10, including a small bottle of water. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will. All hail to the Swedes!
Fully recuperated and back in energetic spirits, we are now ready to throw ourselves into the madness of the checkout area and face the challenges ahead, the organisational feat of loading up the car, the slow rush hour crawl back to civilization on the North Circular, and then the big one, days of trying to fit all that furniture together. Rubik’s cube is a doddle in comparison. But all that’s a story for another day. Meanwhile, I can polka around my kitchen with a sieve on my head and a stuffed rhino in my arms, and plenty of mini Daim bars and Godis Snoegubbe marshmallow snowmen to sweeten the Ikea memory. Isn’t life good?!
Ikea, 2 Drury Lane, North Circular Road, Wembley, London NW10 0TH, www.ikea.com
What I wore
Gap baby cord skinny jeans in lipstick pink, grey Zara V neck jumper, long grey cardigan with faux fur collar by Marina Grey, grey suede ankle boots.
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