An Occasional Guide to Irish Life: The Day Out to IKEA.

We're all going to IKEA!

We’re all going to IKEA!

It’s still, for the Irish, an event. You don’t just “pop in” to IKEA, but put aside a half day, usually with a “Sure, we can get a bite to eat out there” thrown in. Sitting in the restaurant, you can see the spectrum. The young still-in-love couple, debating, in between nuzzling, what will fit where in their new home together. An inordinate amount of time and coy looks goes into the tour of the bedroom section. Their Polish or Lithuanian counterparts are much less tactile, their relationship almost formal. He looks built to strangle a Soviet infantryman (often the truth) and she looks like a perfume model, striking and bet (yes, bet) into 1980s style jeans that would look ridiculous on anyone else, but with cold, dead eyes that would chill a happy-go-lucky Irishman. He can look, he can want, but he would not want to keep.

Then there’s the couple with kids. Both automatons, dealing with the ever rotating cycle of child needs and demands, barely looking at each other. She gazes off into the distance, morosely recognising that this is her actual life. He uses the opportunity to steal a glance at the gorgeous Pole strutting by in boots normally reserved for a Waffen SS commander.

The journey through the store has two effects. It gives ideas to one group about how to better manage their homes: “I didn’t even know you could buy those hanging things! See! We could hang your mother from the stairs with that!” and reminds the other group of how grotty their home actually is.

When in doubt, some form of  DVD rack-slash-bookshelf is bought. After all, they’ve come all this way and sure they’re practically giving them away and anyway we can always use more shelves. She rolls her eyes at his DIY aspirations. At the food section, a browse ends up with a bar of chocolate for the drive home and a box of what looks like cookies. He’s not sure, but they look like cookies. In IKEA headquarters in the Netherlands (yes is the answer to your question), accountants scratch their heads and wonder just what is the obsession with dog biscuits in the Irish market?

A moment of panic ensues in the car park, as to whether the long cardboard thing will fit in, even with that great solution of Irish men across the world to any spacial problem: “We’ll fold the seat down!”

It eventually fits, as long as she doesn’t mind twisting her body in the passenger seat with the suppleness of the average Phuket lapdancer. The kids are stacked into the back seat like illegal immigrants in a container truck.

Finally home, he goes at it with gusto, thinking that he really should have bought that mini-toolkit they were selling at the cashpoints (“Practically giving them away!”). Nearly taking the finger off twice with the butterknife he uses to turn the screws, he loses his temper and beats the last screw in with the butt of the knife, sucking his other finger to stop the blood. Fortunately, she’s in the garden stopping one child trying to feed the younger one to the dog. He admires his handiwork. She’ll never see the coerced screw, and it’ll be grand as long as nothing too heavy is put on it. Like DVDs. Or books.

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