The Swedish relationship test

So, OK.

There is one of Angelina Jolie’s kids in particular that irks me more than that whole weird hybrid of a family.

His name immediately sharpens my pupils and turns my face to stone.


But it’s not the kid I have the problem with, it’s just the name that’s the trigger.

A trigger for a rage that nearly split The Mister and I up in 2010.

And it appears we’re not alone.

A girlfriend of mine was saying to me only on Saturday morning over coffee that the same thing happened to her and her new husband, except it wasn’t PAX, this time it was BILLY.

I think you’re starting to understand what I am getting at.

Some call it the Big Blue Box or, as my BBF (best boy friend) calls it, The Swedish Mothership.

Most people know it as IKEA.

There used to be a time when IKEA was a place that could do no wrong.  But as I spent most of my 20s without a partner of some kind, that’s not so surprising.

I remember driving my vinyl-rooved orange Ford Escort to the outlet in Osborne Park. Compared to the hectares they are built in nowadays, this was a tiny store (that has since been relocated to a massive site next to a major Perth freeway).

It ALWAYS smelt of ropey, rattan rugs, but I remember distinctly buying a lemonade with a friend and sitting in one of the ‘rooms’ and chatting away for a couple of hours. They had airconditioning, you see. They never cared that we used the place like our own giant dollhouse.

However, going to IKEA as a loved-up couple?

Amy Poehler summed it up perfectly: ‘IKEA is Swedish for argument.’

Our first serious furniture shopping expedition nearly ended in me almost smashing a piece of frosted PAX glass onto the floor and holding it’s jagged edges against The Mister’s jugular, while he was fashioning all the Allen keys into some kind of sadistic finger-trap for me.

The thing is, when you visit IKEA, it’s like a display home. A 3D magazine. Heaven by flatpack.

You walk into the each of the displays, including the 25 sqm ‘home’ and you get this weird rush of pure, excitable confidence that this environment is achievable.

And, it is achievable.

I mean, right now I am surrounded by IKEA furniture. Our place looks like you could plonk it in one of the shop displays and it could pass as legit.

But in that moment, you’re drowning in Swedish possibility. If by some kind of international sorcery you’re now understanding the difference between an EKTORP and a GROGGY.

The first moment you realize the ASPELUND bubble has burst, is just after you made your purchases.

You buy your hot dog and make your way down the industrial-sized elevators to your car.

Your CAR

‘Why did you bring the car and not the four-wheel-drive?’

‘It’s YOUR car! Why didn’t YOU say something?’

‘This isn’t going to fit’

‘Yes it will, push that front seat down’

‘Well, yeah that fits but I can’t move the gear stick’

‘Why is that suitcase in the back of the car?’

‘My winter clothes are stored in it – THIS IS WHY WE’RE GETTING THE WARDROBE REMEMBER’

‘Right, well it all fits, but I’ll have to come back and get you’

‘So I have to wait here in the carpark until you get back?’

‘Are you deaf?’

‘Are you an asshole?’

Once you get home, you get the second-tier of realisation. There are no yellow-shirted young men here to help you move your gear from the car.

Some of those neatly-sized flatpacks would have Schwarzenegger buckling.

So you get it all in the house.

Tip: do not start, don’t even open a box if it is after 7pm. We made this mistake with PAX. At the time we only had one working light, a lamp with a 40-watt globe. It was hot, dark and we were fast turning into Cruella deVille and Wolfman Jack.

The thing is, you are not in the pristine IKEA dollhouse display anymore.

It’s not how you remembered it and then you start to blame yourself – then you blame the other person. Especially when you can’t find the last  medium-sized circle push-in screw thingo.

This week, we did something differently.

The Mister was going to be the boss and I, well…. I was going to stay out of the way.

The reason why he was going to be project manager is that he’s a bit OCD with this stuff – there has to be a system . And it really worked.

You need to open ONE thing at a time.

  • Pull out all the bits.
  • Empty the little bag of screws, stubby pieces of dowel and what-not and put them all in groups.
  • Each person should have their own Philips head and flat screwdriver. Do not share them. If you do, you will have the hate running through you before you know it.
  • Calmly look at each picture and try to understand it. There is no shame in not knowing what it means. Pass it to the other person for them to look.
  • Make a cup of tea.

*Continue this until job is complete.


Until we finished the TV cabinet and found that we hadn’t measured the TV stand – it was teetering on the not-so-deep shelf it was meant to perch on.

There were no tears, no name-calling, no turning into a green muscly monster with purple cut-off pants.

The Mister just calmly went down to Bunnings, bought a jigsaw tool, came back, plugged it in and cut straight through the back of the cabinet where the too-wide TV stand could slot straight in.

It was not a professional job, it’s rather craggy, but it kept us smiling.

(I’m pretty sure that it was simply taking to the TV cabinet with the jigsaw that gave The Mister some wonderful satisfaction.)


*Goodness! Mind the dust! 

Learn from my mistakes. These are my tips for navigating your next visit to The Swedish Mothership.

Do learn where the shortcuts are. Every store has shortcuts.

Do follow the blue arrows around the store.

Don’t open an emergency fire door. They set off an alarm.

Do bring a proper tape measure.

Don’t rely on those flimsy paper tape measures they have dotted around the joint. They rip.

Don’t put the ripped paper tape measures in your handbag. Days later you’ll end up tangled in them when you’re trying to fish out your ringing phone.

Do go on a weekday, preferably a Monday morning.

Don’t ever, EVER go on a Saturday around 1pm.

Do read, make notes in and dog-ear your catalogue BEFORE YOU GO. Not while you’re signing the kids away to Smaland, by then it’s too late.

Do take your iPod.

Do decide beforehand if you’re going to head into the cavern of money-suckage, aka The Marketplace.

Do take pictures of the style codes with your phone if you don’t like using the notepaper and golf pencils they provide next to the flimsy tape measures.

Do give yourself a realistic time frame to assemble your FAKTUM – then add 24 hours.

Do eat a cheap hot dog.

Don’t eat a cheap hot dog.

AND lastly…

Don’t say you’ll never go back, because you will.

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