IKEA, or: All hope abandon ye who enter here…


Well, this summer we had the brilliant idea that our Spanish flat needed a makeover. (Given the fact that nothing had been done to the place since General Franco was bossing people around back in the 1970s, it didn’t seem such a bad idea).

It would be so nice to be able to take a shower without the gas heater blowing up. Or to plug something in without the sparks making the place look like New Year’s Eve fireworks.

So far, so good.

After a few minor explosions, as well as strangling a carpenter or two and lynching a painter, we had

1) a renovated flat and 
 2) no furniture for said flat.

IKEA, said Jose, the surviving electrician, his voice echoing ominously in the furnitureless void. That’s where you want to go, señorita.

Now, if you have never been to IKEA, let me tell you one thing: The Italian poet Dante surely must have talked about his delightful local IKEA when exclaiming his immortal “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!” Heck, last time I went to that place, I vowed I would rather spend the rest of my life trapped in a Kafka novel than going there once more.

But that was of course after all those years of intensive SÅPID (Self-Assembly-Post-Ikea-Disorder) treatment, designed to erase all traces of FPT (Flat Pack Trauma) and instil the client once again with cheery consumerism. 

So, here we were again.

Toddler: Mama, what’s that? What’s inside?

Mama (muttering with a grim, yet determined expression): Through me you pass into eternal pain.

Papa: Oh come on. Can we just get this over and done with? I want to be out of here in 45.

Mama: What? Days? Lightyears?

We enter the IKEA inner sanctum.

Toddler grabs seventeen IKEA pencils.

After ten desperate minutes of reasoning, toddler agrees seventeen is too many and settles for sixteen.

Toddler is too young to enter the IKEA crèche. Oh, that’s just fab.

Enter the MMIL: The Mediterranean Mother-in-Law. Easily transportable and child-friendly.

We are ready to face the furniture battleground after depositing toddler and MMIL in the children’s play area near the café.

Toddler: Mama, I want ice cream. YOU bring ice cream.

Mama returns from café, laden with ice cream, coffee and Swedish…somethings.

What’s that, say the MMIL. It looks strange. Can you eat that?

I look up the name. The something is called Grönsakskaka. The MMIL has a point.

I exchange Grönsakskaka for Pannkakor, steal a pencil from my offspring, plonk onto the table a dryck bubbel for the toddler and a strong påtår for the MMIL (she will need it badly), grab my other half and direct ourselves to the furniture area.

We need chairs. The story of this Norwegian guy pops into my head. His testicles got stuck in an IKEA chair. Really. You go and read up about it.

Ok, maybe we’ll rethink the chairs. Who needs chairs anyway?

Let’s focus. We came with a purpose. We need –

SCENTED CANDLES! OHHH! And plastic azaleas! Little colourful rubbish bag locker thingies. YES! And this very elegant Swedish bottle opener. I don’t know how we could have lived without it.

What exactly does my other half mean by “filling up the cart with rubbish”? I throw a tosterup at him. That shuts him up.

Bed section.

I seem to remember having read somewhere that 1 in 10 European babies are conceived in an IKEA bed.

I totally get it.

It’s far easier that way than buying an IKEA bed and deciding whether your preferences are for a soft Minnesund, a latex Myrbacka or rather a memorable Meistervik. Or whether you are a Morgedal person or really more into Matrand. It’s enough to drive any sane person completely Haugsvär.

The sales assistant assures us that we will love this table and the wardrobe. He himself, he says with a winning smile, has a self-assembled one in his home, as well as a full set of testicle-proof chairs. I don’t trust him. No one can assemble IKEA furniture by themselves.

My other half says he couldn’t care less about which bloody mirror goes with which Godmorgon sink, and whether the Svärtan is on offer and a limited edition. He says that if he has to try one more Tidafors he will be getting seriously sinnessjuk. He has a breakdown on a Standard Double Brusali, thus preventing another 1 in 10 European IKEA children from being conceived.

MMIL calls to say that while she was eating a package of Skumtopps, the toddler has ingested eleven jars of lingonberry jam and is speaking incoherently in Swedish.

The other half sobs from inside a display wardrobe that he has lost his will to live. He refuses to emerge from the wardrobe. It gives him a sense of shelter, he says.

I leave him to his fåte and stagger on, wild-eyed and unseeing, groping my way blindly through the IKEA showroom wilderness. I trip over a carelessly laid out Ragsmölle, utter a Swedish obscenity, pull myself up with the help of a Fåglavik and stumble on, stupefied. Must. Get. Bedside. Tables. Mus…

The last thing I see, whilst being wheeled out of the store by figures clad in white, is a ghostly Dante hovering above the IKEA entrance, gazing at me mournfully. I told thou so, his look seems to say.


Our flat has a wonderfully minimalist look to it.

Some envious, tasteless, clutter-loving visitors have called it empty, but we choose to describe it to discerning people as “spatially challenged”. Furniture is so 20th century after all.

I am sure Dante would agree.

Originally published at www.loosegravel.me on December 6, 2016.