I don’t like IKEA. I’ll tell you why. It is because of what I call ‘IKEA Fear’. The symptoms of IKEA Fear are a mounting sense of disquiet that commences the minute I pass through the large revolving doors. This disquiet worsens progressively as I meander first through immaculate living rooms, on through offices, bedrooms and kitchens until it becomes something visceral within my chest and stomach, usually around the time I reach the carpet, curtains and cushions – urging me to run screaming from the building clutching at my hair.
I have contemplated this feeling and the possible reasons for it. I have a theory based upon nothing other than my own tenuous guesses. I think my problem may possibly be similar to conditions such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, and here are a couple of exacerbating factors:
• There is a disorientating absence of any reference to the outside world. If you are lucky, you might glimpse a rectangle of far-off, semi-industrial car-park through a distant fire door (the location of which is noted in the event of a panic-induced exit in due course).
• There is a disturbing juxtaposing of comfy, soft, homely environments in which you can sit and imagine oneself in the bosom of family relaxing after or during a meal… until you look up and witness the horrific, industrial tangle of ducting and steel. I don’t mind telling you that this contrast messes with my head.
Now, on to the BETT Show 2013. This year, it relocated from Olympia to Excel- a move I welcomed initially as it certainly improved accessibility for me. This welcome feeling was short-lived. On arrival at Excel, I attempted to feel upbeat and optimistic but that familiar disquiet, the IKEA Fear, started to creep up on me. I apologise to those friends of mine whom I encountered on that first morning, my brow knitted and jaw slightly tensed. I put on a brave face and greeted you enthusiastically but I wasn’t quite myself. Walking the (seemingly) mile-long boulevards, snickets and ginnels of the exhibition space, my anxiety mounted until I had to make a swift exit. David Mitchell and Julia Skinner were fortunately on hand to scoop me up as I composed myself over some lunch with them.
I struggled throughout the two and a bit days at the show. My misery was mitigated only by the wonderful encounters I had with lovely people. The social, the teachmeet, the laughs and the learning mean that I won’t be boycotting in future. I will take the rough with the smooth.
I miss Olympia. I miss the quirkiness, the characterful architecture, the nooks and crannies, the expanse of sky spread out above. I also miss the opportunities for out-of-body elevations to the balcony for welcome, reorienting breathers during which one could see the layout, establish the landmarks or spot a friend to pursue.
Oh, and I didn’t even see anything especially exciting or innovative in those long corridors of anxiety. Next year, I will dedicate myself to establishing quick exit routes whilst also seeking out people – after all, it is them that make a visit to BETT worthwhile.