You have all heard of a Ghost Writer, I am sure: Someone who is paid to write a book for another (usually because the second person is too illiterate, or too busy being a Celebrity, to do the job him/herself).
I reckon I could do with a Ghost Shopper: One paid to do my shopping for me because, after five minutes in even a small, family-run shop, I lose the will to live and am in imminent danger of becoming an actual ghost myself!
Yesterday was hot, very hot – almost the lower range of Crete hot, but with the UK dose of humidity that we all so love to loathe and moan about!
Yesterday, the day upon which Madonna reached the age I have been for simply ages, and in the broiling conditions referred to above (I am, after all, a Brit – though part American, Scottish and Irish as well – and it is de rigueur for us to mention the weather at least once in a conversation!), I set off, for Bristol’s outpost of that well-known Scandinavian Heaven, IKEA, with Son, Son’s Lass and, being an anal retentive, a colour-coded list of items to look at.
But first, my dears, I had to face two of my most-abiding fears: Driving through the centre of a city and zooming onto a motorway. Okay, I will come clean and admit that Bristol is not London, but it is gurt and complex in places; okay, I will come even cleaner and confess that the M.32 (on which I had to travel approximately three-quarters of a mile) is, in the metaphorical sense, little more than an embryo when set against the real grown-up motorways like the dreaded M.25.
Still, you get my point, I am sure!
Given that I have nil ability to read maps, and a sense of direction which is intuitive rather than in any way, shape or form actually useful – God only knows how I navigated my way out of my mother’s womb! – I printed off a thick sheaf of directions and asked Son to be my Co-pilot!
I shall pass over the increasingly foetid and fractious heat within my small car, as Laddie and I argued the finer points of A-B, and Lass, very sensibly, fell asleep – and take us, after a few perfectly understandable wrong turns and spontaneous three-pointers on trying to find the correct entrance, to the blue and yellow marvel that is IKEA.
Well, I say ‘marvel’ and, previously, I opined ‘heaven’…
More accurate are the words I penned to a close friend, after the event, via text; these included, in no particular order, ‘Jesus wept!’ ‘Aghhhhh!’ ‘Moan!’ and ‘Overwhelmed!’ – and I couldn’t swear there wasn’t a covert ‘hell’ snuck in there somewhere!
I bow in homage to the concept. I admire the range of goods and the prices. But, for a rural shopaphobic like me, such a venture gives me, if you’ll pardon the vulgarity (and even if you won’t!), the willies!
The ruddy place goes on forever – and, like all good mazes, brings you back to the place you thought you’d finally escaped not an hour previously! Thus, I became all too familiar with the children’s section and have yet to find the bathroom or kitchen parlours! It’s all right, I am not still wandering, lost and confused, around the tortuous miles; I did eventually, thanks to Lass, find my way back to the car.
Positives? Yes, there were many! I negotiated the M.32 without a problem; I drove through that bloody rush hour, in serious heat (weather, not passion!), with barely a qualm – but I most certainly met my Waterloo – and, in all probability, my 1066 and divers Viking incursions as well – in the innocuous primary colours of the store itself.
I think, in this world, we tend to divide people according to strong beliefs and preferences, thus Protestant or Catholic, Tory or Labour, Pro-or-anti-Hunting; now, I add yet another string to this particular bow (as a very mediocre violin player, this image pleaseth ye soul!): Shopaholic or Shopaphobic?
This trait develops in our earliest years, I suspect: We either take to Retail Therapy or we don’t. My siblings, to a man (despite the facts that most of them are girls!), adored anything shopping-related; I loathed it, with a vengeance, from the start – and would come out in hives/have an asthma attack at the very thought of accompanying my mother on a clothes shopping expedition (read ‘torture session’!).
My attitude is, and always has been, that all this farting around and comparing garments (or furniture, food…) is a complete waste of time and effort. I am as instinctive a shopper as I am a navigator – and I am not saying this is a good thing! – and, if I can’t find what I want within five minutes, I’m outa there, Man!
I could not begin to tell you how many weeks we spent in IKEA – other than to say that I have experienced decades that have whizzed by in comparison – but I can tell you that, within, ooh, just a month or so, I was spaced-out, light-headed, utterly discombobulated and in need of a restorative Laphraoig or two!
Yes, the mattresses in the bed section were great fun to bounce around on – but, as I managed to attract a twenty month old tot onto my first bouncing foray (and, as my tonnage and poundage giving that mattress a work-out would, in all probability, have launched her into space!), I very soon got bored with the whole enterprise, and stood, somewhat forlornly, comparing bed-frames for another millennia or two!
To say that I was underwhelmed by the experience is to indulge in complete understatement! The perfectly-understandable tendency of the two Young Things to treat me with the kind of irascible fondness accorded to relatives sprung briefly from the local loony bin certainly didn’t help. I don’t blame them, however: What goes round comes round, and I can vividly remember having almost identical feelings towards my own maternal parent when I was in my mid-to-late-teens (and the rest!).
We escaped – in the end! And I did find nine packets of extremely cheap scented tea lights to add to the six million I already possess…
The friend I texted, in responding, confessed that the thought of warning me, about IKEA, had seemed like a good idea! However, I am glad that this warning did not arrive. The trip at least gave me the opportunity to battle the demons of fear!
Any further interactions with IKEA will be conducted online, however! I know my limitations – and feel that having a temper tantrum in the towels and other fripperies section would not endear me either to Offspring or to the other denizens of Planet IKEA.