I may be adjusting to life in a new country, finding a school for the kids, looking for housing, leasing a car, getting a drivers license... but shining like a beacon in the night, there is always IKEA. I may not be able to get my hands on any Vegemite, but at least I can get cheap Swedish meatballs when the mood strikes.
The first problem with Ikea is that the goods always look so great in the catalogue. Those stylists really know what they're doing. I find myself coveting every room. I really want to go there so that my life can start again.
So I loaded the kids in the car, picked Chris up early from work and headed over there. Rookie mistake number one: bringing the kids with us, and after 4pm too. Tired, hungry kids. Before we even get there. It's like we've never been to Ikea before. And some one dropped two small kids on us out of the blue. I mean really, here's where reader sympathy should cease. We brought this shit on ourselves.
We get there, and like an oasis in the desert there is the smaland play centre. Oh yeah, the kids can play happily (and hopefully forget that it's almost dinnertime) while we whip around and calmly agree on what to buy. After all, this is just going to be the table we will sit at several times a day for the next two years. No pressure. Without the kids hanging off us, it should be fine.
Hang on, the kids need socks to enter smaland. No socks, no play. We have no socks. Rookie mistake number 2. So, making decisions about furniture in an over-stimulated flood lit environment WITH two kids hanging off us. Starting to feel slightly less optimistic going in. But we're here now. Let's press on.
To cut a looooong story short, next thing you know Chris is leaning his full body weight on every table and when it buckles slightly muttering "This is shit quality! Look at this! Alex, get out of there! WHERE is Maya?" I don't say that the tables were not exactly designed to be pressed down upon by 6 foot 4 South Africans. I do say, " Remember that giant yellow sign that we walked in under? You know we're in Ikea right? What did you expect? Why did we come here?"
Then I found a cute white daybed for Maya and since she spends so little time in her own bed I thought the foam mattress would do. Plus it has heaps of storage and looks like a lounge. Chris looked mildly interested. Then he gave it the Engineers Quality Control Test - he lifted up the mattress and pointed at a broken slat, looking at me with eyes that were at once accusatory and also said "See! Shit quality!" Sheesh. It's not as if I broke the thing. And I'm pretty sure it won't exist in our house under the same conditions as in the Ikea store, with eleventy billion South African engineers coming in and leaning on it with their full body weight. We remembered that we were down a child and eventually found Maya curled up in one of the display beds while Alex destroyed a nearby kids bedroom with his man-child feet. Chris wondered aloud why all the other children were so well behaved. Although it may have come out something more like "Why don't you kids LISTEN TO ME? Can you see any other kids going on like this??" I reminded him that all the living breathing children were playing merrily in the smaland ball pit, with their socks smugly on their feet. The remaining children were robo-children planted by Ikea, designed to retain the feel of a family store.
We were getting nowhere so it was time to regroup with some meatballs and $1 bottomless cups of loganberry juice. I think the loganberry juice was laced with something just quietly.
The kids were over it and the pressure of trying to make a decision over mediocre furniture was too much. It became clear that we were not going home with multiple flatpacks strapped to our roof racks. But all was not lost. We still had the $2 toilet brushes to collect and if we managed that, the trip would be worth it. The weird thing about Ikea is that although yes, some of it is not the greatest quality, some of it is actually really fantastic value. It's just a bit random. You have to have your wits about you, which we most certainly did not.
The other thing about Ikea that I should have remembered, is that it never ends. You think you have pretty much almost reached the register but no. It just keeps going. We had another "shit quality!" outburst from Chris in the pots and pans section but I managed to get some place mats, a dinner set and plastic kids cutlery into the trolley. We finally made our way to the checkout, where (and this shouldn't have been a surprise, but was - rookie mistake number 321) - the total came to almost $200 despite the fact that we hadn't actually bought any furniture. Good times.
We may be sleeping on the floor for the next few weeks but goddamit, we have a kick-ass cheese grater.