My wife is a storage fetishist. The house is full of boxes and baskets and dinky wall cabinets.
We have racks and hooks and shelves and cartons and crates -- most of which are empty. She never throws out an empty Chinese takeaway container, and we've a press full of 'nice bottles'.
For storage fetishists, Ikea is the mothership. Every six months or so, my wife makes a pilgrimage to Ballymun and spends the day stroking baskets. Last Thursday, she arrived home from the place with half of Sweden in the car. I manhandled everything into the living room and she talked me through what she'd bought. In addition to the range of cutesy storage things (sugar racks, spice decanters, spaghetti vases) there were a number of large boxes.
"What's that?" I ask her.
"Coffee table," she says.
We have a coffee table in the living room. We got it last year. It's in perfect nick. "Coffee table?" I say. "What the hell is wrong with this one?"
She tells me that the new one was only €15, as if that's all the explanation I need. "Besides," she says. "The old one doesn't match the chests of drawers."
"Chests of drawers?" I look around the room and see no chests of drawers.
"Those ones," she says, kicking one of two large, cardboard boxes. "You couldn't put them in the same room with the old coffee table, they don't match."
"What do we need them for?" I ask.
"To replace the toy box." The toy box is a little battered, sure, but it's fine.
She sighs and says, in her 'I-married-a-moron' voice, "Because it doesn't match the new coffee table."
I was introduced to the concept of matching quite early in our relationship. As far as my wife is concerned, if something doesn't match, that is sufficient reason to declare war.
Because I've been building Ikea furniture regularly for the past two years, I've become handy enough at it. Building it when the children are buzzing around is probably a bad idea, but that has never stopped me before.
So I get out the toolbox and get stuck in. I've got the two big panels out on the fireside rug and am starting to put in the little screwy things, when a shadow falls across me. It's Conor, with the hammer. "Sweet Jesus!" I dive out of the way as he brings it down, narrowly missing my head. Ever since he learned how to walk, Conor has been trying to do me in. I don't know why this is, but, by Jesus, he's taking a long time to grow out of it.
I have the first chest almost done when I realise that there's a piece missing. Conor is grinning up at me. Knowing my son well, I quickly find the missing piece in the press under the stairs in one of my wellingtons. Takes me another hour to pull the thing apart and put in the right bit. And okay, the place does look good. But I still have this effing coffee table if anyone wants one. And a murderous toddler.