The Ikea experience
Two things reminded me of you recently. So this bit of writing is for you, Val Johnson. In this world where all my friends are high-end earners (and that includes my children) the only thing I can give that is worthwhile is my writing.
So I went to Ikea a few weeks ago. I needed nothing from there – or anywhere else – at that moment, but Manju needed shelving for her daughter’s room, so I tagged along like ballast. In India they would have called me Vattipalam, the side of the mango, the bit that is left when the two big fleshy bits have been cut off, but you don’t want to waste that thin sliver on either side. That about describes me. Can’t throw it away, but could well do without.
When I go to Ikea, I have to give myself a capped budget. It was fifty pounds this time, but for unknowable reasons the bill in the end was £82 pounds. Thank God for plastic money. What did I buy? Odd shaped pyrex dishes to look at and admire, not much use to serve anything much. A wok for stir-fries, of which we have three already. A mug for morning tea- a lovely one, blue flowers on white, cheap porcelain, chips if you breathe on it. Cost a pound. Can't complain.
Through it, especially when I saw the twisted Happy Ferns, I thought of you. I hope you and your family are happy and well.
Afterwards I had tea and a ham sandwich at the cafeteria. I fetched this myself as Manju was somewhere in the basement tackling flat-packs. If she was there I would have sat back, hugging age and let her do it all. In fact I get away with her doing a lot of things for me, which I can do myself: that tea at nine in the evening, driving me here and there, making my bed…
You and I, we used to sit at a window-table in Ikea, watching the world streaming in and out. I smiled at a few strangers, hoping for some signs of friendliness, but in this instance, failed. I have my victories. The other day I struck up an unlikely conversation with two jobbing gardeners I didn’t know from Adam. Notch one for Anand.
I feel someone should hold master classes for English people who are tight-arsed, wary of strange old biddies, who smile for no reason. Teach them that smile should be the default position? You and I together?