Last Saturday I did something insane: I went to Ikea. Going to Ikea is not (necessarily) an indication of insanity in itself, but going on a Saturday lunchtime with family in tow has, at the very least, got to put me on some kind of shortlist.
We queued, like lemmings, in the canteen to purchase fayre which, as my daughter remarked, looks like big marbles. This we ate off Ikea plates, with Ikea cutlery, whilst sitting at Ikea tables, on Ikea chairs, lit by Ikea chandeliers, looking at Ikea pictures in Ikea frames.
Now I would just like to make it clear at this point that I am not about to have a rant about Ikea. Believe it or not I actually rather like Ikea. I like the ‘style’ of their furniture and other home furnishings, which I think is incredibly good value. It’s just the “Ikea Voodoo” which perturbs me. It doesn’t matter what I go to Ikea to buy, I always come out with at least £50 of stuff I never knew I needed before I got there. If I had not gone to Ikea I would not have felt a loss at the lack of polished wooden coat hangers in my wardrobe, nor would I have been thinking I did not have enough egg cups, and I have no doubt at all that my daughter would NOT be sitting on her bed pining for a multicoloured cuddly ostrich with a jingle in its belly, but nonetheless those are a few of the things we came home with, and they are certainly not superfluous objects, they are being put to good use, but we only went to buy a toy basket!
I think it must be a combination of the way Ikea is organised; the conveyor belt type system which means you can’t go back, and the fact that everything is unbelievably cheap. I got a stainless steel and glass cafetiere for £1.25, which felt like such a bargain that pathetically, I felt like I had achieved something! When you see a clock you really like for £5, which you know would be much more expensive in other shops, and when you know you have no clocks in your house (see ‘Timepieces 3’) you just blindly put it in your trolley, because somehow, it actually feels like you’re saving money - perversely, you feel like you’re being thrifty! But all these £5 and £1.25 bargains add up to the thrifty total of...as I said...at least £50!
I should really put myself on a timer system the second I walk through the door to Ikea, because part of the Ikea Voodoo is that you completely lose track of time. I have lost count of the number of times it has been daylight when I got to Ikea, but dark when I re-emerged in the car park. You can lose significant portions of your life to this oversized shopping experience. Another reason I should put myself on a timer is because both my daughter and I seem to have a kind of sanity threshold which once gone beyond, there is no going back. I cannot tell you at what point this kicks in because, as I’ve said, time has no meaning in the Swedish warehouse, but suffice to say that by the time we get to the plants we have both lost the ability to speak or process information in any kind of meaningful way. This manifests itself in me by the adoption of a zombie-like dazed facial expression and a weird small grunting sound in response to any question asked. My daughter starts walking in ways reminiscent of Monty Python, making strange noises that she never makes at any other time, and only speaking with her tongue sticking out. Together we look like a postcard from Bedlam, and it doesn’t say “Wish you were here!”
We make our way to the car park (and yes, it is dark!) and I am conflicted at wanting to get into the car as quickly as possible, and not actually wanting to have to drive home; I just want to be able to press a Dr. Who style transporter button and be home. We all sit quietly in the car on the way back and there is an audible sigh of relief and relaxing of shoulders when we finally arrive outside our house. I have the urge to sit in a darkened room for some hours, but of course a short drink and a sit down, followed by the filing away of our purchases more or less sets me straight again. My daughter is exhausted and I think to myself that she should probably have a quiet day tomorrow.
Sunday morning I am woken by my shorter companion tying my hair in knots and attempting to insert a plastic tomato from her play kitchen up my nose. As I open my eyes and just about focus on her beautiful, happy, smiling face, she says “Can we go to Ikea again today Mummy?!”