Strange, isn’t it? That so few letters can contain so much dread. Still, I have to go. And I decide to take the kids with me. It’s a weekday lunchtime, I reason to myself. It’ll probably be empty.
The gigantic twin chimneys loom into view from Purley Way, each tower shrink-wrapped at its tip in brand-loyal blue and yellow plastic, incongruous as a sweat-band on the head of the Sphinx.
Once part of Croydon Power Station, these vast relics of our industrial age give the appearance of having been tricked into their current role; targeted in some super-scaled, Dadaist prank. It takes over an hour to get from the car park to the Showroom. This is because:
- IKEA is busy (so much for weekday lunchtime emptiness)
- The girls need to eat first
- Mealtimes mean mutiny
I’ve had a belly full long before lunch finishes. I am tempted to cut my losses, record a verdict of misadventure on the whole business and head home, but then I’d only have to come back. I resolve to stay loyal to the nightmare of my choice.
And so it starts – The Great Meandering. Lounges… Sofas… Bunk beds…
Bunk beds? I came for a curtain rail – why the hell am I looking at bunk beds? IKEA does this to you.
Home office… Storage solutions…
Endless suburban herds shuffling around oxbow bends banked by furniture and home-ware, disoriented; distracted. Shuffle, stop, blink, talk a bit, shuffle on, upriver. A staff member offers me a shortcut and I’m at the bunk beds again. This does nothing for my state of mind.
The great herd keeps on shuffling, dazed. Bedroom… Bathroom… Kitchen… Marketplace. Stop. Graze. Move on. It suddenly occurs to me that, despite driving me up the wall, my tired, stroppy children provide the afternoon’s only evidence of sanity. They screech. They wail. They resist. They do not do dazed, shuffling acquiescence, at least not unless there’s an ice cream in it. They are the antI-KEA.
Some time later, I talk to a woman in the queue at the check-out, while our children play together. She tells me she has spent nearly 3 hours there, buying some candles.