Skruvstas and Scandi Storage Solutions

Ditch your relatives and join the Ikea Family. Is a visit to Ikea your idea of heaven or hell? I love watching Scandi Noir, solving murders with sub titles, but more interesting than grizzly crimes are the delightful interior decors of the victims’ homes. A day at Ikea is the antidote to Scandi Noir; Swedish Serenity and Baltic Bright.

A day of serenity is not how some people would describe a visit to Ikea; how often have you heard the words ‘We thought we’d never get out’, referring to the shop itself or the traffic queues. But the Ikea devotee might be happy to stay there forever.

For the uninitiated here is a handy guide to your day out. Ikea is celebrating thirty years in Britain, though the company is over seventy years old. Along that time line we have had both frustrations and bargain buys of items we could find nowhere else. When Ikea at Wembley announced they were opening till ten pm on weekday nights I ignored my principle of never going anywhere that involved the North Circular; who else would think of going there late on a Tuesday school night? The whole of Northwest London; we DID think we would never get out.

When Ikea opened in Southampton in 2009, as our new local, I was thrilled. Our first outing did not involve traffic, we took the ferry from Hythe across Southampton Water. This involves walking or taking the little train to the end of the very long Hythe jetty, followed by a short voyage which is ideal for gazing at ocean liners. Once you have landed you cannot miss the large blue and yellow Ikea sign.

Last week we planned to do serious shopping for my new writer’s den so we took the car; congratulating ourselves on getting a place in the ground floor car park. The next stage for all shoppers is to ascend to the top of the building, there are lifts, but it is more fun to take the stairs and moving walkways. The top floor of the car park is an ideal spot for admiring the maritime view and the top heavy ocean liners.

It was half term and busy; the show floor is a fun place for children, a giant dolls’ house with rooms laid out to show how Ikea makes the tiniest flat a real home.  Home with a capital H, ‘staying in is the new going out’. Ikealand is full of happy families, couples and independent singles. If the homeless or lonely come in to escape the cold or the real world it must surely emphasise what they don’t have, perhaps there is Scandi Noir at the heart of Ikea.

But dwelling on the problems of the outside world is not what most customers are doing as they dart in and out of doors and rooms, reading the delightfully obscure Swedish names. Soon it’s time for a break in the huge restaurant, where the famous comfort food, meat balls, gravy and mash is served on an industrial scale; this is also the time to make important decisions. There are queues, but there is a simple solution for those of us who are clumsy or not in possession of two strong arms; trolleys you can put two trays on.

It was after lunch that we touched a screen to see the benefits of being Ikea family members; free tea and coffee, we did not hesitate.

Back in the show rooms grab your order form and start the real work; time spent up in heaven is less time wasted down in the warehouse. Choosing multi coloured inserts for your bright yellow Kallax unit requires concentration. After a free cup of coffee it was time to find the stairs; there are plenty of staff around to tell you how to escape the maze of rooms.

The market on the floor below also goes on for ever; piles of colourful fabric and gadgets you didn’t know you needed, everything from a grundvatnet to a propmatt, or you can assemble a dinner set in plain white.

At last you take more stairs down to the warehouse; if you can read your own writing you should know the exact aisle and location for each item of flat pack.

When we emerged to a glorious sunset we couldn’t find the car. The ground floor we were on was not the same as the ground floor we had driven into. Trundling with trolleys to the lift, then finally to the car, it was a relief when everything fitted in.

If assembling furniture is not your forte, or you went by bike, Ikea will deliver, measure and assemble. If a day at Ikea does not appeal you can go on line, but you will miss all the fun. By the time we got home an email awaited us, welcoming us to the family with a virtual tour of Almhult, home of Ikea. I can’t wait to return and claim my free gift.




Here Come the Stories of a Hurricane… If My Auntie Had Testicles…

I love Max’s views from Ireland; hopefully they will not be hit too hard by the tail of the hurricane, either way he’s sure to have a tale to tell next time.

Maxpower's Blog

The first tentative drops of rain, a precursor to the on rushing Hurricane Ophelia, tip-tapped on my window pane as I bushed my teeth this morning, and I reconsidered my choice of coat. It is unseasonably warm in the mouth of this behemoth, but I’m Irish, it rains a lot, we always prepare for the day ahead coat wise.

In the car I watched cyclists and motor-cyclists clearly ignore the strong advice of ‘not to travel by bike’ that has been issued over the last couple of days. Schools and colleges are closed, hospital outpatient appointments cancelled along with air, bus and train services on some routes. We are being warned in the strongest possible terms not to take this storm lightly.

Now this is where this little island runs into trouble. Taking things lightly is a national past time.  We can be serious when we want to, but in…

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Tides and Tourists

We have been to Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, how different could Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France be? Just a bit bigger? In Cornwall you know you walk across the causeway at low tide and go by boat at high tide. The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel experiences some of the largest tides in Europe, but the island is not surrounded by the sea every day; it’s far more complicated than that, depending on the movement of heavenly bodies and other factors. All the tourist needs to know is that you can go on guided walks across the vast low tide bay, but you certainly should not go alone. For the photographer the scene is ever changing according to the weather and the tide; the island itself is fascinating with so many buildings, narrow alleys and winding flights of steps clustered below the abbey.

Mont-Saint-Michel is a World Heritage Site and experiences huge tides of tourists. Recently, changes have been completed to preserve the ecology of the area and cater for tourists. Le Barage across the river controls the flow of water into the bay while a big car park and tourist centre, a safe two and a half kilometres from the island, controls the flow of people. Free shuttle buses go endlessly back and forth till midnight or you can take Les Maginotes, carriages pulled by pairs of draught horses. It is also easy to walk along the causeway and the boardwalk bridge, a pleasant stroll past grazing sheep, salt marsh lamb acclaimed for their meat.

Back at tourist base the roads all have barriers, ‘rue impasse’. The effect is to feel you are on a campus; hotels, restaurants and campsite all quiet and traffic free except for coaches bringing tourists. In contrast to the melee of mixed visitors were the neatly controlled groups of Japanese tourists and lively groups of school children. The few days we were there we saw an endless procession of school children being marshalled for the walk across the bay, followed by picnic lunches on the island; evenings in restaurants we sat with Americans, Canadians and Australians while the Japanese were still in their regimented groups. Perhaps none of this was ‘real life’, but the whole tourist experience was well organised, pleasant and stress free.

Even in October the island was packed, people walking, eating, drinking and filing into the abbey. We gathered on a wall with many others to watch the tide creeping in and laugh at teenage boys vying to be the last standing on a rocky outcrop. The top terrace of the abbey had the best view out over the bay and back across the way we had come. Those who work on the island in catering must be constantly busy; for those who live here their homes are unique, but they must be constantly stared at by tourists such as myself, trying to peep in their  front doors as they unlock them or peering down into their tiny gardens.

Writers can take inspiration; what a perfect place to be anonymous in the crowds, or elude capture if their character needs to escape. The abbey itself is a maze of stone arches and flights of stone steps, if you did not adhere to the signs and follow the correct route it’s unlikely you would get out of the building; even following the route I thought we would never get out… But we did emerge into the sunshine to enjoy coffee with a view at one of the many cafes.

For holiday pictures visit my Beachwriter’s Blog, this month ‘Ecrivaine de La Plage’.

and read more about the trip to Normandy in Chapter Four