December 1st

Like marmite, Ikea seems to divide the world. There are those who can’t endorse Swedish meatballs, flatpack furniture and 99p kitchen utensils enough…..and those whose idea of a nightmare is following the crowds around a warehouse of furniture on a Saturday afternoon and then spotting bits of their furniture in other people’s houses for years to come.

I fall into the former. You can’t beat the satisfaction of a homemade bookcase or the joy of a lemon squeezer on a stick that you’ll probably never use. My boyfriend falls into the latter. Yesterday afternoon was definitely a test of love. I think we passed although I am yet to see if we survive the flatpack unpacking process.

We moved houses a few months ago. I don’t think I’ve written about it here cos it started before I began writing again, but I’m not sure when the end date will come. On Friday, one of the guys we were out with said that he had a roomful of boxes from a seven years ago move. One of our friends added that she was giving up on unpacking given that she’d just have to pack it all up again in a year’s time. I see her point but –

I am big on having a home. Renting a room has a certain flexibility and fosters a sense of independence but it is nice to have somewhere to come back to at the end of the day. A base that feels like your own. It is funny to crave both the stability that comes from having your own things around you in your own way and the freedom that comes from de-cluttering and detaching yourself from stuff.

I wonder if there’s a middle ground. I wonder if this middle ground, god forbid, lies in the ease of creating a place for the things that matter (books, photos, that DVD you watch every time you’re feeling a bit down) and Ikea gets so much traction because it’s good at helping you do that….or maybe it’s just because it’s dirt cheap.

Anyway, our house is slowly coming together, and soon we’ll have shelves for the three boxes of DVDs that are blocking the living room door and a couple of tables for the piles of photo frames that are occupying one of the armchairs and a mirror that will disguise how crammed full of stuff the room is. We’ll also have a space for our very own real Christmas tree: following a month of being nicknamed the Christmas scrooge by my colleagues, the first of December seems to have finally sparked  my sense of festivity.

After the Ikea trip, we went to visit the hugely disappointing lego advent calendar in Covent Garden and to join the hordes of shoppers under the much more impressive Christmas lights and baubles. The evening was excitingly cold and the air smelt of honey-roast peanuts and burnt chestnuts. We had haggis for supper, in a warm restaurant off Trafalgar Square under antlers wrapped in flashing fairy lights, and I realised that, after the last few weeks, I am finally starting to feel like my self again.

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