Not a bad final scene: the Woburn Hotel, 31 Dec 15

Woburn HotelI guess there’s one suggestion that fills most men with dread viz why don’t we go to IKEA?

I don’t want to knock the store. They sell well designed stuff at sensible prices and there was a time when we were furnishing our first flat in Switzerland when we were regulars. But the company does seem to have perfected the way that it sucks people in and maximises the opportunities that they have to buy all sorts of useful stuff which they never thought they needed.

Anyway off we set for IKEA in Milton Keynes but first stop was Costa Coffee at the Gibbet, Caxton Gibbet that is. It’s one of the tactics which I employ to make early starts bearable, good coffee and a croissant to start the day. At 0830 it was not absolutely early, just relatively so. It was still the Xmas holidays after all. Then with my coffee to fuel me I was ready.

To be fair to the wife I was the reason we were going to IKEA. We needed new mattresses for the bed we bought maybe 30 years ago. And because we bought it in Switzerland it was a Euro size. IKEA offers Euro size mattresses and I’d already chosen one on-line, it was going to be delivered anyway, I just wanted to touch it first and to make sure that when it said ‘firm’ it really was firm.

The IKEA experience comes in 3 stages. That’s after you’ve successfully passed though the Milton Keynes system of roundabouts and sheds. Stage 1 is where they lead you by the hand through what’s effectively their catalogue in real life. You see bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, studies etc. Just occasionally you see through the gaps of the exhibits and think maybe you can take a short cut. But if you do I’d worry that an IKEA officer would spot me and send me back. It’s a bit like a maze.

Anyway we find bedrooms and beds and I see that there’s 4 options for me: at £100, 200, 300 and 400. For some reason I’m persuaded to go for the £400 option. I guess if it’s got to last another 30 years we might as well buy a good one, or two to be precise because there’s two mattresses to be replaced.

After stage 1 there’s stage 2: the supermarket. This is where you’re taken on a conducted walk past thousands of really useful products for you to simply drop into the enormous IKEA shopping bag you’ve been give. It’s only when you get here that you realise that you really do need more lamps, bed sheets, clever screw fittings, rugs, pots and pans, wine glasses etc. There’s even the opportunity to buy potted plants. We did quite well. We did buy some potted plants and bed sheets and some clever fittings to stop the legs of chairs from damaging the floor. How did we live without them?

You might think that’s it but no. There’s stage 3 which is flatpack time and IKEA kindly gives you a map because it’s like a canyon. If it were a maze you can’t see over the hedge. This is where you get to pick up the flatpacks you decided you needed in stage 1. But if you don’t need any and you’re smart then it’s heads down for the check out.

I was surprised that the checkouts were so empty because the store seemed quite busy. I guess it reflects the fact that some people get lost, maybe they give up or maybe they’re having such good experiences they go back and do it all again.

We get out successfully and later I buy on-line. In the meantime it’s lunchtime so we head off to Woburn.

I’ve driven through Woburn several times and it looks like a place worth exploring. The main street seems to be all restaurants and antique shops. On New Year’s Eve it was pretty quiet and we opted for lunch in the bar at the Woburn Hotel. It was full without being busy and at one time we were the youngest there. Tells you something about the people who visit Woburn

Good enough. Elena from Rumania looked after us perfectly. Fish and chips with a glass of Chardonnay and an espresso to follow adequately book-ended the IKEA experience. It seemed an adequate reward for a morning’s sacrifice.

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