#642Things: LIVUNG

It’s your worst nightmare isn’t it? You never think about it as you walk past people on the street, sat on the pavement with their manky sleeping bag, bits of newspaper, their scruffy jumper and the obligatory dog. This is one of those things you wake up in the middle of the night sweating over, this.

I’ve always been different. Right back to primary school people always used to be able to spot it and, of course, they’d pick on it. It’s what kids do isn’t it? Seek out the ones who just aren’t quite the same and then make sure they know about it; more fool them though because every one I’ve ever met who was bullied at school has turned out far better than the ones who spotted it. It must be something about late-developing genius, not having the skills to blend in early or something means you stand out from the crowd when you’re older. Couple it with just a little tiny bit of genius and there you go: a success.

Well this is me standing out now, Mum.

Sat here on the closed lid of this toilet, waiting for the cleaners to shut up shop so that I can have free rein over the place for another night.

I was reading about it a few nights before it happened: when most people get made homeless they spend a few weeks, maybe a few months, doing what they call ‘sofa surfing’: staying with friends, switching between them, perhaps never telling anyone the full story of why you’re there or ever mentioning that you’re, y’know. That you don’t necessarily have a home of your own at the moment.

It means the homelessness figures are all wrong, so it’s a right pain for the Government to work out just how many of us there are. Not that I’m in their figures either. I don’t suppose even the most attentive homeless charities have taken to scouring their local IKEA after hours for the distinguished modern hobo have they?

It’s quite a good place to stay, when you think about it. I’ve not been doing badly out of it anyway – it’s been nine months now that I’ve been here, and the 99p breakfasts still haven’t lost their edge. I’m getting a bit sick of meatballs to be honest.

IKEA’s got just about everything a middle class person without somewhere to lay their Waitress organic quinoa might want. A comfy bed for the night, every night, no matter what kind of mattress you prefer. There’s sofas, desks, chairs and more cushions and rugs than you could ever want to lie on and the moonlight shining through the skylights dotted about the place makes it feel just a bit romantic.
The day times here are easy: I try and get out as much as possible but spending the day here an be a lot of fun and less hassle, especially if it’s raining out. The one thing this place doesn’t do well is washing or drying clothes.

I designed 4 kitchens today; the first time round I acted the customer and pretended I’d got an absolutely massive one. I had them putting everything in.I think we ended up with about four coffee machines and all at different heights so that my dwarf wife and her 7ft tall step-son could both have easier access, and then two for me obviously. Because sometimes I like decaf.

By my fourth time round I switched roles, and I ended up designing the kitchen for this lovely couple who’d come in with their 18 month old daughter.

She slept for most of the consultation, but towards the end – just when we were discussing the merits of a stainless steel sink over a granite one – she woke up and there wasn’t a peep out of her. Just a lovely smile. Even she must’ve liked the kitchen.

It ended up looking lovely on the screen and they were so pleased with it. They said I could pop over for a cuppa once they’d got it finished if I had the time.

The night times are a bit harder. There’s just so much time.

It was all so sudden when it happened that I didn’t think all that much about it. I just had to find somewhere to be, and I wanted to get a new bookcase. So there I was. In IKEA. And here I am waiting for the cleaners to finish up and lock up. They won’t be long now, I suspect. They’re normally done by about 11, which is quite impressive if you think about the size of this place, and they’ll be long gone by11.30. Then it’s all mine.

I usually wander about at first. The toilets, where I hide from the cleaners each night from about 9pm, are at the very front of the store so every night when I emerge it’s just like the first time I walked in through the door. I head straight for the beds. Through the pre-made living rooms, past the bloody kitchens and into the ‘desk and chair’ section.

They really do keep that hydraulic fake-arse running all the time testing the seat, you know. It scared the absolute shit out of me the first night when I heard it: I’d forgotten it was there, and it sounds so odd in the dark when you can’t see what’s happening and you remember that you’re creeping about in an IKEA store after it’s closed, looking for somewhere to sleep.

I don’t know what I thought it was but I was almost certain I’d been caught and I was about to get slung out, or worse slung into a cell somewhere. Maybe it’d be better in a cell?

It’s good to have a bed each night, don’t get me wrong, but living in IKEA isn’t the easy ride you might think. I mean aside from the farts that a diet of cheap bacon and eggs and meatballs and chips generates, there’s the problems finding a plug to charge your phone, the constant fear of being caught, and the bloody one-way system.

You’d never be able to get lost in your own house after nine months living there, would you? Yet, I can still manage it in this place.
If I’ve learnt anything from these last few months it’s that short cuts are never shorter routes to where you wanted to be. They all lead to the children’s section and in my case an hour or so of trying to get comfortable sleeping on a rubberised, garish sofa. I dread to think how much urine it hasn’t absorbed.

Nope, never believe short cuts are going to get you where you want. You get offered everything you’ve ever wanted, a chance at happiness, to do exactly what you want without all of that pesky admin and agro.

Then they find out, and they have to go and spoil it.

Picture by Fernanod on Flickr

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