Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Article excerpt

"Hey, Mummy, look at meeee!" Larry spins around in a bright-orange, toddler-sized bubble chair. Larry, Moe and I are having a day out at Ikea. Admittedly, before having children, this would not have featured in my list of top-ten days out. I hate mass-produced furniture. I hate strip lighting. More than anything else in the world, I hate retail parks. They seem to me to represent the death of everything good about humanity.

"Now I'm going to jump off this one, look!" Larry flies off the top of a bunk bed and crash-lands on an immense beanbag. He loves Ikea. At home, there is no room to run around and I constantly have to prevent him from jumping off the sofa for fear of dislodging our downstairs neighbours' light fittings. Here, there is almost limitless space, plenty of furniture to leap from and--joy of joys--a mini-workbench with dinky wooden hammers and screwdrivers to bang around.

And meatballs. We like the (horse?) meatballs sold in the Ikea restaurant for [pounds sterling]1.99. As long as I manage not to buy anything (and I DO NOT need another Nyttja picture frame, even if it is only [pounds sterling]2.50), we can happily spend a whole morning and lunchtime in Ikea for less than a fiver. There's no need to cook, no mess to tidy up ... It's an unexpected kind of bliss.

I prise Larry away from the children's section and we trundle with the buggy over to the cafeteria. Cling-film-covered plates of drab smoked salmon and browning salads glisten in refrigerated rows. …

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