We have never had what you might call a dining table. Nor have we had any chairs with which we might sit at such a putative table. All our meals have been taken, well, informally, you might say, sitting or lying on whatever perch was convenient. With the refurbishment of our flat, we felt it was time to remedy this lack so that we could eat at table like civilized folks.
There was only one problem: our flat is much too small to hold a normal sized dining table. So the mahogany or oak family board and six matching dining chairs were out of the question for strategic reasons if not for reasons of cost. We had to find something that would fit into our bijoux apartment.
We perused the catalogues. There’s nothing like a good peruse to get the ideas flowing, I always say. We looked at what Argos and Wilkinson had to offer. They were selling neat little “breakfast bars” with matching chairs that might have done. I walked about the with tape measure saying “Well, it would fit here but would stick out this far. Isn’t that a bit much?”
In the end we plumped for IKEA. I used to hate IKEA but we have been there so often during the last couple of weeks that I am acquiring a sort of exasperated affection for the place. IKEA does have a catalogue and it does have a home delivery service but both have unsatisfactory features. Well, they would: this is IKEA, after all. IKEA sells a drop-leaf table for £25 called the Muddus that seemed to fill the bill admirably. To go with it there were the Jeff folding chairs at £6.49 each which, we thought, could be tucked away behind the table when not in use. But there was a difficulty.
The difficulty was that although IKEA has an online ordering service and delivers ordered items to your door, the Muddus table cannot be so ordered and delivered. You have to collect it from the store. This poses a bit of a problem to anyone without transport because, though small, the table ain’t light. We thought about it; we demurred; we perused more catalogues; we finally made a decision: we would just have to go to the store, buy the table and chairs and haul ’em home.
We used the Tigger method. This involves removing the bag from the shopping trolley and strapping the goods to the frame. It’s amazing what you can carry that way. We decided to go yesterday evening (Thursday). IKEA in Croydon is open until midnight so you can go there and do your shopping when all decent folks should be sitting transfixed in front of the TV. We took the Brighton train from Kings Cross, changed to the tram at East Crodon, disembarked at Ampere Way and trundled into IKEA.
By now we knew to ignore the escalator and lift and go straight to the collection bays. We could have used one of their big trolleys but preferred to use our own if for no other reason than to be sure the stuff would fit on it. It did.
There was just one final annoyance before we left the store. IKEA charges you to use a credit card in payment. I always forget this and have to root around for my debit card and then cudgel my brains to remember the PIN number. A lot of businesses are doing this and I see no justification for it at all. If you spend tens of pounds in their shop, they can afford to foot the credit card bill. There is a mealy-mouthed notice in the cafe explaining that a credit card transaction costs 70p “and we would rather put the money in your pocket than give it to the credit card companies”. Rubbish: IKEA is just too mean to pay the fee. Shame on you, IKEA.
After a fortifying cup of tea and muffin we made our way to the tram stop. That was easy. The tram and platform are designed for easy access and I could wheel the trolley straight into a wheelchair bay. At East Croydon station, I went through the gate for passengers with luggage. Access to the platforms is down a slope, not stairs: good thinking, East Croydon!
Getting aboard the train was a bit of a struggle. There was quite a gap between the train and the platform and the train floor was much higher than platform-level. I half-heaved, half-threw the trolley onto the train and followed it like the tail following the shuttlecock. At Kings Cross, there are two ways to leave the southbound platform, upstairs to the ticket office and exit or downstairs to the subway and up the escalator. That seemed the best route so down the stairs I went with the trolley, bump, bump, bump, and up the escalator. We boarded the 73 bendy bus and shoved the trolley into the vacant wheelchair bay. On arrival, I briefly got entangled trying to get off but in the end succeeded. Then all we had to do was get across the main road and we were home and dry. Phew.
As I write, the Muddus and two Jeffs are still strapped to the trolley. The Grand Unveiling is planned for this evening.