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Life In London - Nov 1999

Let me give you some background to this (edited) e-mail I sent to my parents. I had been in London for 5 months but still didn't have a desk to set my computer on. Tired of approximating the lotus position every day, I had been looking for one for ages. The closest I got was on a trip to the Ikea store when my flatmate had hired a van to get some wardrobes etc. However after queuing for over two hours in the warehouse collects section I was told they were out of stock (despite the computer upstairs saying otherwise) and gave up in disgust. 

I vowed never to return, but after failing to find anywhere else (not having a car and not knowing the city), well... you know what they say, never say never...


Mission: Buy desk

Ok, I hired a car for the day - a stationwagon which was 69 -ouch. Leave home at 9am. Got lost walking to pick it up and took 40 mins instead of 20. Picked up the car, drove home to get some stuff, then tried to put car in reverse - it just wouldn't go. Sat there trying for a while then gave up and rang the car hire place. Turns out there is a handle under the gear stick you pull up to let it get into reverse (it was a manual but never seen one of those thingies before). Anyways, navigate my way to Ikea which was no big deal, only a couple of wrong turns...

First stop, customer services to get some bits that were missing from the kitset wardrobes. Takes about 25 mins. Go into the showroom to order my desk. Get a sales assistant who had only been in that department a week and had no idea what she was doing. After much mucking around, had ordered what I wanted (they generate your order in the showroom, then you go down to the warehouse and pick it up). She tried to book it through, wouldn't go as something was out of stock. So, had to change to a different colour - didn't really like it but determined to get a desk at all costs.

She books that through - time elapsed in store so far, about 1.5 hours (desk with drawer was 530 - bloody outrageous, but I don't care... must get desk). She says 20 mins and it will be ready. So I wander round for half an hour or so, buying a few other little bits and pieces then go down and queue up waiting for them to give me my order. It hasn't been picked yet, asked to take a seat. Here we go again. 

Wait another 20 mins, then they come back, without my order. Apparently out of stock of the desk top - exact same situation as my unsuccessful visit a month ago - computer says in stock, warehouse says not. So have to make another decision, decide to get different shape as all they had in stock. So now I have neither the colour or the shape I wanted, things are starting to go well. Get my order, queue up to pay for it. About 2.5 hours gone, get out of the store.

Getting it home

Start to load into the hire car. Realise desk top will not fit into wagon. Start to spit dummy. Push, pull, twist, will not go - and this thing is damn heavy. See an Ikea person there, ask his advice. He suggests I tie boot down with rope. As I wanted to do more shopping and knew stuff other than the desk would fall out the back with it open I realised this was the only option. So, required coming home then going back there again. Locked up rest of my shopping in a cage they have for such a purpose, then back into store to buy a rope. Another 20 mins or so go by as I queue up again...

Tie a maori knot on the boot - the Ikea person was no help and said he was not allowed to anyway. Drove home, starting to feel a bit peeved and wary of appearing on BBC News for causing a major traffic pile-up on A13. Get home, find I can't get down my street as a crane is blocking the road for some construction. Have to park car 300m from house and walk down street with 1.6m x 1.2m x 25kg+ desk top... oh so easy to carry too. Get to my building. Can't find my access card that I need to swipe to get in. Go back to car, can't find it. Think it must be in flat. Start randomly ringing apartments on the buzzers to find someone home to buzz me in. Someone is thankfully, so lug desk top in. Time now about 2pm.

Hadn't had breakfast - figured I would celebrate with lunch in the shopping centre after getting Ikea out of the way. But still have to get back to Ikea for rest of stuff. So back into car, drive back there. Major roadworks on the A13, down to 1 lane. Is only a distance of about 17kms to store, takes an hour. Get there, load up rest of stuff and head to rest of shopping centre. Time now 3.30pm

More shopping...

Lakeside is an absolutely massive retail park. It has all the big chains with their big retail park style outlets (like Wairau Rd, etc) as well as a massive 3-story mall. Drive around, get a couple of things then head to the mall. About 5pm, time for some breakfast/lunch/dinner. Cod and chips, not bad.

Then the fun begins - only real major thing left on my list was clothes. And boy was there clothes shops. Dozens and dozens of them. Too many. Didn't know where to begin. Settled in the end for a new suit and an overcoat. Was too scared of buying anything else - I need a whole wardrobe basically and that is what Mums and girlfriends are good for, of course neither being handy.

Left about 9pm, headed to the supermarket - was supposed to be an important secondary mission. Since I normally don't have a car today was meant to buy 6 months worth of cans, bottles etc to save me lugging them by hand each week. Feeling a bit tired and crabby so didn't buy as much as I planned to but still a few months worth of heavy stuff.

Drive home, get here about 10.30pm. Time to unload the car. Takes about 15 trips back and forth, each time having to stop to get through the access door - flatmate Nick was not home so no help there.

Anyways, after midnight by time get everything unpacked so totally shagged and crash.

The next day

Woken up this morning by a job agent - as he said himself the last thing you need when trying to sleep in is a phone call from one of those pricks. Take the car back (12 worth of petrol - it is about 0.75p per litre - you think NZ is expensive!!!). Find the public library while walking back home and get some books. Think the day may be turning out well. How wrong can I be.

Start to assemble the desk. Discover it is missing some bolts and screws. So not only wrong colour and wrong shape, doesn't have all its bits. Recall overhearing conversation while I was trying to order about an 'irate customer' who 'had finally got their desk and didn't have the bolts to put it together'. Think I have a new definition of 'irate'. 

Would like to take whole thing back to them and tell them where to put it but that will involve hiring a van at even more expense. Try to get through to customer services on the phone. Can't even get in the queue as too many calls. Try every 5 mins for 3 hours. Finally get through and let rip. Supposedly they are couriering out some bits to me, however the store I bought it from (there are only 3 in London) does not have a 'missing pieces' department supposedly so told may take a few days. Explain ever so tactfully that having something missing from virtually every item bought from that store (my desk and the wardrobes) they should open a department.

An isolated incident perhaps?

Hmmm... day gets better and better. Get the mail - accountants have screwed up again and paid me (they are supposed to be keeping money in the company and not pay me, that way I pay no tax). Third week in a row. Ring up and let rip. They are refunding me three weeks of their exorbitant fees and promising a night out.

My chair I ordered last week has not shown up. Rang them on Wed, they said would be delivered that day. Still no sign. Ring up and enquire politely. Several hours later was rang back and told that they had tried to deliver. Crap - I was here all day both days so something fishy. Supposedly will get delivered next week.

Cable & Wireless show up to install the cable TV. Perhaps something may go right this week. Perhaps not. They try to find the wiring in the place to connect up to. After much hunting, find it in the hot water cupboard. They give it a tug to get some slack to work on it. Pieces 8" long completely sheared off come out in their hands. Looks like a cowboy electrician screwed up and poked some wires in the wall to look like it was wired up. C&W guys can do nothing - have to get someone out to rewire the place. Hand that puppy over to Nick.

My DVD-ROM I bought for my computer is still playing up so looks like I will have to send it back. Will delay that until next week, not quite in mood to give them a fair hearing at the moment I feel...

Other than that, having a great time, wish you were here,


P.S. You have to laugh, god knows how people live in this hopeless country. Told Nick the story, he cracked up and said he felt embarrassed to be English. So he bloody should be. Hee hee.

  Last Updated March 11th, 2000