Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Too Much Time in the Temple


(In which I attempt to write a post that doesn’t continue bullet points or a numbered list. I am horizontal thanks to the rain-again-sun-again summer holidays, so I am not sure if I can manage joined-up thinking. But I am going to try. Because you are worth it.)

So, I have worked out what the Germans do when their kids are on holiday and it’s raining. Do you want to know? They go to Ikea. I found this out yesterday, when I went to Ikea four times and each time I found the whole of Germany there, packed in, admiring the Ektorps and snaffling those maxi-packs of tea lights and little scratchy baskets to put things in. I, however, was actually trying to buy an Ektorp (two in fact) and it took me four visits in one day in order to go from selecting the slip cover fabric to actually slipping the cover over my new sofas.

I made an initial reconnaissance mission to select a sofa model (kids placed in Ikea kindergarten so that I could think without having to pull three-year-olds off sofas or buy large boxes of Swedish biscuits to placate people) last week, but that doesn’t count for the purposes of this post, because it’s, well, so last week.

Let’s focus on yesterday, shall we? Because yesterday was special. (At this point, I am sorely tempted to list, but I’m not going to.)

Visit one was to buy the sofas. The very helpful lady told me that the slip-covers of my choice had run out in the Mannheim branch but that she would kindly reserve me two at the Walldorf branch. I would have to collect them on the same day, otherwise they would be sold to someone else. I paid for the sofas – buying some absolutely essential throw cushions en route – and then headed to the goods depot to get my sofas delivered. However, the delivery fellow told me that is only possible on Saturdays (yesterday was Monday). The depot dudes told me that since I had paid and my sofas were now out of the warehouse and at the depot, I would have to collect them yesterday. Cue multiple complicated phone calls to Germany’s Top Husband (GTH) and babysitter and the next visit to Ikea was planned.

During my second visit to Ikea yesterday, I was accompanied by GTH, who was providing the muscles of the operation. As he was in the process of having a busy working day, in which he had a two-hour window for sofa-hauling and the 40-kilometre round-trip, he was hoping that we would be able to fit both sofas in the back of our bus.

Alas not.

He didn’t really speak to me on the way home.

GTH returned to Ikea with me – his second 40-kilometre round-trip, my third – to fetch the second sofa. He had a nourishing Ikea frankfurter and coffee while I negotiated with the depot dudes, and was a little chattier on the way home.

Then he relieved the babysitter, and I left on my fourth visit to Ikea, this time to the Walldorf branch – a 50-kilometre round-trip, to collect the slip-covers without which I could not live.

Last night I dressed the first sofa in its lovely new covers. This morning, GTH muscled in the second sofa with back-up from me. I dressed it too. I was happy. They looked pretty. The kids played pirate ships with the packing cases. They were happy. Ikea is a good, good place, a temple of earthly delights, of herring, sofas, and candles, bringing happiness to all.

Except for Germany’s Top Husband, who never wants to go there again.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

21 thoughts on “Too Much Time in the Temple

  1. Oh Charlotte- you are so, so lucky. We don’t have Ikea in New Zealand. We aren’t really part of the civilised world at all!

    Kudos on not succumbing to the bullet points.

  2. I’m en route to an IKEA-less locale. I am not sure how I will handle that.

    And I can’t describe our delight the time we realized that both of our kids were now old enough to be left in Smaland while we shopped.

    We used to call this enormous electronics store in Sacramento the “Temple of Materialism”, but I think IKEA probably deserves that title too.

  3. Oh my God that is so funny. I sympathise with the GTH. I too swear every time I go there ‘NEVER AGAIN!’ but it just tempts me back every time! i like a bit of snaffling myself, but I really don’t understand it at all.. But I am so glad you snaffles yourself some sofas, albeit at such great effort… 🙂

  4. Oh the heady days of Ikea! I’m impressed that you survived four visits in one day and even more impressed that you got your husband back for a second trip! Sofas are definitely worth all that effort though – our sofa is my refuge at the end of the day.

  5. Although I don’t know if I could manage 4 trips in one day, I actually like Ikea very much (probably due to the “herring, sofas and candles” stuff) but (or maybe because) I never go there because we don’t have a car. I negotiated with FTH (France’s TH, aka Mr Smithereens) to stop there on our way back from holidays when we’ll be having a rented car… A pity the baby can’t enjoy the Ikea kindergarten yet!

  6. Sniff! No IKEA here either. My Sister-in-law looked at me as if I was half baked when she asked me what I wanted to see when I visited her in London and my response was “IKEA”! I was like a kid in a candy store!

  7. I am impressed by your dedication and at the same time, I totally empathise. The post is hilarious, too. We do have an Ikea within an hour’s drive, but there’s something panic-inducing about it, although I cannot say for sure why. But hurray! new sofas! lots of packing materials for children! logistical skills tested to the maximum! what’s not to like?

  8. I can’t say I blame him. When I lived in California, Ikea was 5 minutes away and they had “Family Parking”, yes just like Handicapped Parking. It pleased me to know that someone else agreed that two children under the age of four is a handicap. I was there All. The. Time.

    When we first moved to Oregon, I begruded this state for not having an Ikea. Well we have one now about 45 miles from my home. I was there…once. I’ll tell you, I don’t care that I can buy a toilet brush for 50 cents. I’ll gladly pay $20.00 so long as I don’t have to manuever those crowds!

    You have my sympathy…but I’m glad you got your slipcovers to go with the sofas.

  9. I was there yesterday because I was desperate for curtain poles – yes the black extending rods that grace the homes of half the world. I loathe the bovine sloping along the floor arrows – nose to shoulder blades – and screaming children. Tell me where there’s no IKEA and I’ll set up home there 😦

  10. You know those lovely rods – the ones that come with NO SCREWS.

  11. I am entirely with Germany’s Top Husband. I went once several years ago and have never deviated in my desire never to visit Ikea again.

    Even a Frankfurter wouldn’t convince me.

  12. I believe the key to effective and (relatively) painless Ikea trips is to be focused and not get sidetracked by the 3 not-quite-postcard sized frames for $1 that you will keep for 2 years without being able to do anything with because, turns out, they are just slightly the wrong size for everything. And only to go when the memory of the last trip has worn off.
    We bought a sofa from Ikea, for which we hired a van so that we could bring the damn thing home with us. My husband and his friend sweated and swore to get the thing up the stairs and into its allotted place, but it was no good; it was to long to pivot through the doorways (we had measured height and depth since that is usually the problem with our narrow stairwell). So then we had to hire the van again to take the sofa back and get the two-seater version. We got that home and in, and I discovered that they had given us the wrong covers. So we had to drive back again.

    Your husband is indeed GBH, and I am glad that the covers fit and all looks lovely!

  13. We live about ten minutes away from the wonder that is the Emeryville IKEA — the dining room has a view of the San Francisco Bay. (Actually, it has a view of the freeway beyond which one can see glimpses of blue. On a day when it is not foggy.)

    One of the first posts I ever wrote was about how much my husband –who is swedish-american — loves IkEA. His love is largely due to some weird kind of national pride thing that happens every time he sees the incredibly diverse population of the Bay Area eating swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce.

    We love many things about IKEA, from the excitement of the ever-changing paper napkins, to the fact that it is possible to go there and buy ten umbrellas for the price of a decent lunch, but the one thing I do not love about IKEA is the decision to put no windows inside so that, after about half an hour, you feel that you have slipped down a weird rabbit hole into a land filled with objects that no longer have names you recognize. Like ekktorp.

  14. Being stuck in the IKEA showroom maze drove me batty, until I recently worked out all the short cuts! I still find it an alluring yet frustrating place to shop.

  15. You ARE hilarious girl! I will go shopping at IKEA with you ANY DAY… only if you promise me I can have the large plate of meatballs! Oh yes and a packet of straws and paper napkins, tea light holders, a new red chopping board… and a selection of 3 kitchen scissors!
    Dear husband now REFUSES to go there after his last trip under duress resulted in a flat tyre in the car park… granted the car only had 180km on the clock… clearly it was ALL Ikea’s fault. I now have the best shopping experience… a late night girlie shopping trip with 3 other girlfriends crammed into a car… meatballs, lots of ooohing and aaahing, lots of filling up of big yellow bags, no screaming kids, no sighing stressed husbands… just lots of laughs and guilt free shopping… we DO save a lot you know 🙂

  16. The lovely Mrs. G over at Derfwad Manor has another ‘husband at IKEA’ story

  17. Ikea is 3 levels of twisting, turning, home furnishing hell. The exist signs lead you to more sales, you can smell the Swedish meatballs but can never find them, the aisles are arranged so that people with prams will pause to look at an in-cupboard shoe organiser – causing a 50m human traffic jam to form behind them in seconds. It is so labyrinthine I consistently expect to find a Minotaur at the centre. No one goes to Ikea unless it is absolutely necessary 😀

  18. LOL – what a fabulous post! As I said in a previous comment, I’m very loath to criticise IKEA as it’s still one of my favourite places to shop for homewares. But you do have to figure out a system – ours is now to completely bypass the showroom and head for the market hall with a list of what we need. I might still get distracted but Dear Husband does these missions with military precision. I have to pretend to be going to find something useful like a filing box, and then give him the slip to look for cute serviettes and espresso cups in the kitchen section. My deception is usualyl found out far too soon and then I get The Look.

    We also now make a point of getting there within an hour of opening time and leaving by lunchtime, usually with a hot dog in hand… Makes the whole thing far more bearable.

    And hey, we have an Ektorp too! A big 3-seater with blue slipcovers. I remember spending what seemed like a month in IKEA trying to get our bedroom and bathroom sorted out after the landlord gave us a budget and design carte blanche. One trip to have a look at the build quality of the wardrobes (clearly hubby’s idea!); one to order the sofa and wardrobes (which included a spell in the warehouse as well as the delivery queues); and a third visit ro get the matching blue slipcovers for the 2 existing mustard yellow IKEA tub chairs (they were out of stock on visit 2).

    Nothing for it but to drown your sorrows in a can of their ABSOLUTELY DIVINE pear cider from the food market 😉

  19. Pear cider? Where where!? I have an Ikea system too, but I also have a new boyfriend who is almost Ikea-proof (as long as there is a list, a goal and like Jeanne says – no more than an hour inside). I feel terribly sorry for Germany’s Top Husband. I have to ask you this – did you take your phone with you? 😛

  20. I completely empathise with GTH. IKEA is a four letter word in our family.

  21. We have no IKEA. I loved this post but am confused. what in the world is ektorps? You do indeed have Germany’s best husband.

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