Marriage And The Need To Shop Underground

One of the unfortunate byproducts of being married to an accountant is that sometimes you have to resort to going underground to shop or shopping with cash, because they’re so fucking tight.


At the moment, I spend many of my nights hidden under the covers with my torch light as I research the perfect set of dining chairs, frantically searching through all the cheapest online stores for a bargain set. $_20


These white French Provincial Industrial Cross Back chairs are the style I’ve decided upon, because I’m certain that while he was drunk the other night, the old man fully agreed to replace our current dining chairs, (but not the table yet), and this style will work with the range of eclectic furniture and existing dining table we currently have in our apartment – that is until the next full moon, bottle of vintage whisky or sexual favour, when he allows me to replace the table, too.


The topic of the embarrassing ‘sadness’ of our existing dining table and chairs has come up for discussion several times over the past five or so years. I bought our current dining set proudly from Ikea when Kurt was about two years old – so, sixteen years ago – out of the first earnings of (ironically) a painted furniture business I’d set up. We were about to enter the dinner party phase of growing up, and I remember how excited I was as I screwed in the last F167585 with my Ikea Allen key. We’ve hosted many dinner parties on that table, Christmases and most recently Easter lunch, and it may actually bring a tear to my eye when I offload it to some deserving student.


Or not.


Because the poor quality of our Ikea dining set has not gone unnoticed by our friends, in fact it has become something of a laughing point among the old man’s work mates and my family who know his reputation for stinginess – an accusation he has always responded to with pride.


In truth, I never expected the bloody dining set to last this long. It has survived through at least seven house moves and travelled halfway across the world and I can’t help but feel secretly a little disappointed by its durability. However, because there’s nothing structurally wrong with it, in the old man’s eyes, he feels it doesn’t need to be replaced. Unlike me, I imagine. And now is not the best time anyway, when money is tighter than usual as he tries to make some new highly risky work project successful so that he can continue to work from home.


It’s not that the set has even gone out of style, particularly, but the table top is showing signs of ageing like the rest of us, with its knife wounds, glitter, play dough and glue globules stuck in the grain from when the kids did craft on it – in fact there is probably a full history of the past sixteen years embedded in its timber veneer and I’m sure that whichever student house on Gumtree is lucky enough to end up with it, will love it as much as we have, even though I admit to praying it would fall apart during our last three house moves…


Replacing home decor has always been one of the more intrusive bugbears in our relationship, as the old man sees furniture as something functional rather than a necessary aesthetic commodity that can bring pleasure just by its beauty. It may be shallow of me, but having worked in the interior design business for many years, I now feel ashamed of my Ikea dining set and I don’t think that sixteen years is too premature to insist on a refresh.


Our table and chairs has almost reached the age of our children and as we come to the end of our rearing era, is it superficial or wrong of me to want to retire it for something stylish rather than functional for our home?

The Birth Of Besta: Because NOTHING brings a family closer together than Ikea

Nothing brings a family closer together than Ikea

English: Logo of Ikea.
English: Logo of Ikea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve written about the influence of the Ikea family culture and their methodology on our dysfunctional family before.


And in the grand scheme of life and other shit, I DO REALISE that a small cupboard with doors that don’t close properly is not one of life’s major catastrophes.


But actually it is.


Because having gestated in the uterus of Ikea, Tempe, (yet another marvellous creation from the almighty Scandinavian Ikea God), I gave birth and bred this particular little bitch of a Besta cupboard – introduced it into the world, so to speak. And hate me for it if you will, but I wanted it to be perfect, or at least to function for the task it was fucking designed for.


I’m not really anal – I just wanted the fucking doors to close.


The Birth Of Besta

Admittedly, I was already tired when I cut my finger on the knife as I sheared my way through the endless layers of cardboard, after a stressful day of combining work with school holidays.

So it wasn’t the best time to contemplate giving birth to Besta.

Although I had taken some pain medication in the form of a glass of wine. But only enough to take off the edge; not enough to machete my way through hours of frustration. 

Added to which, the lighting was poor and the teens were watching The Incredibles for the umpteenth time, way too loudly – and if I hear another joke about the name Donna, I may slit my wrists.


I realize that you may be judging me and thinking ‘bad workmen….’ and all that.


And what I probably should mention is that we have this not-so-subtle underlying family competition that surrounds ‘erecting’ Ikea furniture.


This is Kurt and I racing to put together bedside tables last week. I won by a screw – now that sounds bad….


The Birth Of Besta
What competition?


(Yeah, I said the word ‘erect’ again, kids, because I know you hate it and I’m immature enough to get my own back where I can. Unload the fucking dishwasher next time!)


Have I also mentioned that I had thought that I’d be beyond Ikea at this stage in my life. I rather saw myself in the Coco Republic stage by now, but alas the old man sees things on a spectacularly different plane to me and has become an impassioned Ikea fan, no doubt driven by its functionality, design and…..price.


So at the end of our extended stay at Ikea this week, (since we moved into Dysfunctionality Box and realised just how short of furniture we were after my over-excitement on Gumtree), I’m feeling despondent. Because in an apartment the size of a dolls house, storage is key – and you can knock Ikea all you like, but NO-ONE does storage quite like Ikea.


Where in my education was the bit about hinges and aligning doors? Surely that would have been more useful than Algebra?











The Ikea Experience – One Big Happy Family

Ikea Market Hall 

It’s been a productive week. We sold our old house, finally moved our furniture into Gotham and made a long overdue trip to Ikea.

The words ‘flat-packed’ and ‘self-assembly’ instill almost as much fear as the word ‘foreplay’ in grown men, yet twenty-five years after my first Ikea purchase for our very first flat in Wimbledon, I am still buying Ikea furniture.

Apparently, an increase in earnings and overall improvement in lifestyle has failed to increase our spending when it comes to furniture in the same way that it has with any new Apple technology. (The new IWatch is most likely winging its way to our house as I write).

Hence, I still shop at Ikea.

But every time I buy furniture at Ikea, our divorce becomes that much more imminent. It’s not the pressure of the purchase, it’s the act of self-assembly that pushes us over the edge. Every time we erect (Yes kids, I did say that word, just to piss you off) Ikea furniture, we always swear that we will never do it again.

And this time was no different.

The house sale obviously justified a celebratory purchase and my mission at Ikea was simple: to find a cheap table and chairs for the kitchen. I was afforded the generous budget of a whole $200.

Not a problem, I thought.

Nerd Child and I love Ikea and at the outset of every Ikea trip, we are enthusiastic members of Ikea’s ‘one big happy family’, fully embracing of the Ikea culture and shopping experience.

Nevertheless, for the unconverted to the church of Ikea, research has shown the following:

  1. All those $1.99 superfluous, useless items (that create a butter mountain of surplus utensils in your kitchen drawer) that you aimlessly chuck in your trolley because they appear cheap and ‘must-have’, always take you over the $600 mark no matter how little you think you’ve bought.
  2. The ‘free refill’ in the drink section is a con to get you to go to the toilet more often, get lost in the maze again so you are forced to revisit the same sections again to spend more money.
  3. The maze or as Ikea term it ‘the long natural way’ of having to walk around the whole showroom, even though you might only need a cheese grater for example, is to get you to buy more crap.
  4. The meatballs and gravy have a mystifying allure that bring you back to the store time and time again.

This trip certainly looked as though it would live up to expectation. The meatballs and gravy hit the spot immediately and Nerd Child downed the requisite free Coke refill with gusto, within the first ten minutes. And so we began our journey, meandering aimlessly around the room setting section first until we eventually located the tables and chairs.

Within two minutes we had dismissed the $200 sets as being too ‘student’ when I fell in love with a painted Scandinavian style set, much more suited to our little city terrace. And only $400 over budget. Lengthy negotiations ensued on the phone, (the old man being rather unfortunately in a VERY IMPORTANT business meeting when I interrupted him with my urgent call), and the budget was eventually increased to $600, the sole condition being that I assemble (ERECT) the dining set on my own.

And so Nerd Child and I passed on through the Market Hall, (the Pandora’s Box of useless junk that you simply have to have), and even though I could have really done with that Dudero (paper floor lamp), those Ingolfs (chairs) and Luddes (sheepskin rugs), as well as enough candles to get me and the whole of our street through Earth Hour and storage boxes to store the whole of the Australian public records office, we resisted. Almost. The picture frames were simply begging to be bought, as were the plant pots and the hall also proved to be the perfect opportunity to perfect pronunciation of our own particular Scandinavian dialect for the product names, as we went.

Collection of the ‘parts’ is the most challenging part of the Ikea experience, without a strapping male to help out; especially when one of you is incapacitated by a weak lower back. Fortunately, Nerd Child was uncharacteristically willing to be my serf on this occasion. That is until we found the table, which for some reason came in three separate parts, and was helpfully concealed on the floor at the back of our particular ‘location’.

Nerd Child's Bridget Jones Moment at Ikea
Nerd Child’s Bridget Jones Moment at Ikea

I watched as my daughter bent down in her itsy-bitsy student dress to drag the table sections out and have an awkward Bridget Jones flashing episode, exposing bum cheeks and polka-dot panties to the lucky Ikea male staff loitering (not helping) in our aisle. Luckily I managed to capture this visual on my camera (amid my guffaws of encouragement and laughter).

I excitedly set about ERECTING our table and chairs the next day.

The first chair took me 20 minutes, the second 15, the third and the fourth, 10 minutes. I was on an Ikea roll.

The table took us 5 hours.

Unfortunately, that table had more brackets and screws than Noah’s Ark and even I (an Ikea assembly professional) laughed nervously as I opened the boxes. A state of emergency followed and the old man was forced to throw out all conditions and ideals as we assembled the table for the six dinner guests arriving that evening. The last screw was screwed half an hour before our dinner guests arrived.

Real blisters for the first time in his life!
Real blisters for the first time in his life!

But it was educational, this, our latest Ikea experience. The old man increased his vocabulary of swear words and experienced his first ever blisters for manual work.

He has since informed me in no uncertain terms that our chances of divorce before we reach fifty will increase tenfold if I ever buy an all singing/dancing, ridiculous, extending dining table again.

In my experience, however, rather like childbirth, one quickly forgets the pain of a trip to Ikea and even the self-assembly afterwards. And inevitably ends up going back for more.

‘One big happy family.’