At least when you went to IKEA as a child you had some hope of meatballs at the end.
If you went to B&Q, it wasn’t like if you were good you’d be able to pick out your favourite wood screw, or test drive the ride-on lawnmowers.
But a trip to IKEA usually meant I’d be spending several hours traipsing around a flatpack furniture showroom with my parents, only to return home with 1,000 tealights and some cheap cutlery.
Occasionally, they would splash out on a wardrobe or something, meaning the 45-minute journey home would be spent hemmed in between the box and a job lot of lingonberry jam.
When we arrived home, I often wondered if the effing and blinding as my parents wrestled with their flatpacks was worth the hassle and whether they might have been better off investing in some proper stuff.
I was never a convert. Whoever Billy was, I hated him for putting his name to those blasted bookcases. I wondered why the Swedish chaps behind the godawful store decided Billy was the only product name not to be so Scandinavian as to be unpronounceable.
No offence to the Swedish, but my Dad’s playing of Abba, coupled with my parents’ fondness for visiting IKEA, hardly endeared me to the country. For me, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer making waves in my beloved Manchester United’s glory days firmly put me in ‘Camp Norway’.
But now I’m becoming old and boring, IKEA mercilessly drew me back in recently, its good-value furniture enticing me and my first-time buyer’s financial circumstances back for more punishment.
Off to Bristol we trekked on the third day of our holiday to Swindon. As we arrived, Hanna took great pleasure in insisting I was photographed in front of the entrance like some weird tourist, as if I had had some kind of epiphany in returning to the place I’d spent years slagging off. It was nothing of the sort – needs must when buying a house!
We spent ages pouring over different bits of furniture. By the time we’d finished, I could barely distinguish between my Poangs and my Tidafors – but if I had to spend any more time looking at them, I knew where they could shove them.
For all its useful items, there’s also a bucket load of crappy items. Who would hang up their coats with the arse-end of a plastic dog? Getting the best stuff in IKEA is like going on Bargain Hunt and trying to avoid the cheap rubbish which they buy for £80 and sell for a quid.
Armed with a longlist of various coffee tables, dining tables and chopping boards, we felt like it had been a worthwhile journey.
Needless to say we didn’t buy anything of note, minus a couple of glasses and two finger puppets for Albie.
I always thought that if a retail outlet was accompanied by a restaurant, it signalled you were in it for the long haul. The only difference between a trip round IKEA and an Edmund Hillary expedition was the lack of frostbite.
The Range is a similar concept. When it opened in Swindon, my Auntie warned us we would need to ‘allow a few hours’ to take in its offerings and enjoy a cuppa in the cafe. In contrast, we spent about five minutes browsing the tacky lion sculptures and cheapo dog toys and scarpered back to the safe zone of Homebase.
The IKEA dining experience resembles something akin to a school canteen. Queuing with our trays, a line of dinner ladies slopped enough meatballs to feed a small village and their various accompaniments on our plates, proudly crowning the masterpiece with a little Swedish flag – perish the thought we wrongly assumed they were British balls.
It turned out the food was the only worthwhile part of the trip. Upon our return to Worthing, we trawled through the various options with Hanna’s Mum.
The chosen dining table resembled something from a school/IKEA canteen, the snazzy pendant light which opened up on the pull of a chord received short shrift and the chairs were horrendous, she confirmed.
The lion cushion for Albie’s bedroom was one of few items to make the cut, so perhaps we’ll just buy 100 of those and deck the entire house out with them!