More Adventures in Furniture

DrawersJust got a bedside chest of drawers from B&Q. It came as a flat-pack, which pleased me no end of course. A kit! I loved those when I was about twelve. It would be just like making a model aircraft again – albeit one with unusually poor aerodynamics.

Well no, as it turned out. Not really. The difference is that with a model, at least half of what you’re paying for is the process. Owning a plastic plane is as nothing compared to seeing it materialise beneath your hands. With flat-pack furniture though, you’re paying for furniture. Very few people , you’ll notice, spend their evenings building model wardrobes.

The assembly is not a thrill, but something you do to save money. At least that’s the theory. This thing cost nearly €100, which seemed like a reasonable price when displayed on an example of the finished object. After making it myself, I reckoned €100 was roughly what B&Q owed me. This was several hours of not wholly unskilled labour, and frankly a small wooden box seemed insufficient reward. Five different sizes of screw, plus assorted bolts, plugs and nails. Three sliding draws on metal runners. Twenty-three variously shaped pieces of timber. While it’s true that when I was a child the best model was the one with the greatest number of interesting parts, this is not a sought-after quality in furnishings.

And I got a splinter.

The parts are of reasonably good quality. Light yet solid pine stained to look like a more expensive tree, but no tacky plastic or MDF. It all fit together nicely, and the results felt solid – or at least they did when I added a few nails and doubled down on the amount of woodglue it came with. (In particular, using it to help keep the handles in place. Knobs that screw on, screw off.) The problem was that the instructions were way less helpful than they could have been.

The thing is full of screw holes that go unused – presumably the same bits make many different pieces – but you absolutely must use the correct ones, which makes assembly far more fiddly and the risk of error far higher than it really needs to be. And while the diagrams are never actually wrong, they could be a whole hell of a lot clearer. Much time will be wasted glaring at the pictures in an effort to ascertain exactly which of seven closely-clumped holes is being indicated – or alternatively, on the non-amusing task of taking it apart and putting it back together right. They’re often the butt of jokes, but IKEA‘s instructions are a model of clarity compared to B&Q’s Danish imposter.

Still, you end up with an almost entirely style-free but not unattractive piece or furniture. Whenever I look at it – which should be most days as I’m keeping my socks in it – I’ll be able to say “I made that, with my very own two hands, the day I was held captive and forced to work by that chain of British hardware stores”.

Steaming Man

I stepped out of the sauna, onto the big rock this little cottage is built on, and walked a few yards along the wooden gangway through the reeds that leads to the jetty where we’d tied up the rowing boat. I stood there a while, admiring the coloured fringe of the post-sunset sky. In the cool evening air a delicate mist was rising. Off me, I realised.

The sauna’s effect of course. But I prefer to imagine it’s because of all the manly stuff I did today. Chopping woods and rowing boats and toting bails, that sort of thing. Worked so hard, didn’t need no durn sauna. Steam-cleaned mahself.

Fending off deadly predators too. Mosquitos. Don’t laugh, the mosquito is the most dangerous wild animal in Africa. They aren’t the most dangerous wild animal here, no, but I think that’s rather beside the point.

Perhaps though the hardest task today was taking my turn at looking after two girls, both under seven. It becomes even greater a challenge when your vocabulary in their language does not include such useful phrases as “Put it down”, “Stop doing that she doesn’t like it”, “Does your mother normally let you play with those?” and “Where the hell are you going now?” So far my Finnish extends not much further than yes, thank you, and good; a polite and positive vocabulary, but one that has little application in these circumstances.

I just have to learn to say no.