My wife’s idea of a good day out is a visit to IKEA. We spent many of the early days of courtship standing in line for lunch at a number of IKEA outlets across the central parts of Europe. I am not allowed to say that any country east of Austria is in Eastern Europe. That name applies only to Russia, Ukraine, and ill-fated Belarus, according to my wife that is.
In those blissful days we would kiss and cuddle and lean on each other, in anticipation of Swedish meatballs at such a knockdown price they must have been made from heavily-flavoured roadkill, while our first son occupied himself organising other children in the toddlers’ play area, full of plastic balls in a myriad of colours but especially blue and yellow. They would no longer let him in once he reached 14.
Now, I take a nap in the car and she texts me when she gets to the puddings.
We had driven all the way to Toulon because IKEA had sent us three beds but no slats on which the mattress would rest. I had tried to get them delivered but the road above our house has been closed for months for essential works and when the driver called he said the road was blocked. I told him not to be so defeatist, but to no avail.
No choice but to gird our loins and head west for the best part of two hours, out past Antibes and Cannes and into the Var.
Funny enough, there were no meatballs, a fact that could be related to the fact that no-one we saw in IKEA was overweight. They were all slim and attractive, even the women, in stark contrast to the customers in the Bristol and Exeter showrooms where the aisles have been widened to take the traffic.
My wife grabbed a large trolley and as we wended our way, seemingly for ever, past the china, glasses, kitchen utensils of indeterminate use, through lighting, Plan A art, clocks, and rugs and carpets she added an item from each display on the basis that “This could be useful.” Knowing that to disagree would be fatal, I nodded with a forced smile.
By the time we reached ‘plants’ I was beyond tired. And nowhere did we see the slats we’d come to buy. In plants we added several more items, our now grown-up son choosing a Venus flytrap at a very reasonable price to help fend off mozzies this summer.
We did find the slats, in the end. ‘Made in Belarus’ it said, but I have to admit that rather than stand by my principles I put them on the second trolley.
The essential bed parts should have cost us about 75 euros, but once all our purchases were processed the bill came to 510.43 euros. My wife was horrified. Surely there had been some mistake! I was beyond horrified, but hid it well.
Then she did what she always does, even when we go for coffee. She examined the print-out from the register, saw a mistake and stormed back to the cashier, complaining.
We were directed to Customer Services and half an hour later pointed out the error. “Ah, said the helpful young lady. That ‘2’ doesn’t mean you bought two of the same items; it means it was displayed on Shelf 2!”
Two days later, once I’d recovered, I put the slats in place. It worked well enough on the two smaller beds, but not for the matrimonial king-size.
The metal spar that should go down the centre to hold the slats in place was not included.
It dawned on me then that very soon indeed we’ll be back in Toulon to get the last bit of the bed, and a trolley full of nonsense.
In a previous column Jeff mentioned two eateries in Italy and highly recommended both. Several readers asked for their addresses. The first was Trattoria San Bernado in Seborga, and the second was Consani Giovanna, via Cavour 29, Ventimiglia (shown on Google maps as Enoteca Consani)