When I was a little girl, we lived in Stockholm for a few years. Because I was so young at the time (we left when I was four), my memories are random, at best. I remember the neighbour's white poodle, the scary twisty-bendy merry-go-round in the playground, and the pear-flavoured ice lollies they sold in the kiosk. I also remember IKEA.
We used to go to IKEA in Kungens Kurva. This is the IKEA mothership. The largest IKEA in the world is a big, round monstrosity of a building, full of all the things you would expect - furniture, cheap candles, and meatballs. But what I remember is the play room, which had a ball pit. It was exciting, and a little bit scary, as those things always were. Separated from your parents by a net, at the mercy of other, unknown children, possibly about to drown in a sea of plastic balls, all the while holding your breath to avoid the stench of sweaty socks. Scary.
After moving back to Finland, we used to return to Stockholm and IKEA once a year, as far as I remember, and although I soon outgrew the ball pit I still enjoyed it. Particularly all the cute little rooms, with their inviting beds and expertly arranged lighting, and real books on the shelves. Fabulous.
Eventually, IKEA opened its doors in Finland, too, just in time for me to kit out my student apartment with cheap bookshelves and springy mattresses. The desk I still sit and work at every day is also from there. But then we moved to England, and there was no IKEA within easy reach. I had to make do with Homebase, and John Lewis, and other places which sell really ugly things for stupidly high prices. I missed IKEA. But I held out, because I knew the end was in sight.
In February, IKEA Southampton finally opened its doors. Yesterday, Esther and I stepped through those doors for the first time. And now, Homebase and John Lewis might as well burn to the ground, as far as I'm concerned. Because I am home again.
Despite the name of this blog, I am not sure I'm particularly intrepid anymore. However, I am certainly sentimental, and being in IKEA brought out that emotion in absolute bucketloads. It sounds ridiculous, since I'm very happy in England and wouldn't want to move back to Scandinavia, but IKEA felt like a little bit of home, lifted up and planted smack bang in the middle of Southampton. Bizarre. I read all the silly product names, silently gloating about the fact that I was the only one who could pronounce Ektorp correctly or knew what a Domherre was. I picked up the books on the shelves, and was a little bit disappointed that I couldn't buy them (they're real books! and some of them are quite new! by actual,famous writers!). I ate prinsess cake and kokosbollar and bought blankets and cushions and napkins and a brilliant, cheap easel that Esther loves.
I also loved the fact that I was there with my daughter. And although this is sillier than anything else I've admitted to, I somehow felt better about speaking Swedish in public when I was there. Not that I struggle, normally - quite the contrary, I don't mind who can hear me when I chat with Esther in Tesco or the library or the playgroup. But in IKEA, I felt... proud. As if I belonged. As if Ivar the bookshelf was about to come alive, ent-style, and mutter: "Listen, all ye other shelves. She's one of us!". Considering the fact that Ivar was probably made in China using Russian pine, this didn't make a whole lot of sense. On any level. But there I was, skipping along, rejoicing in the fact that Esther would grow up knowing that it is EE-KEH-AH, not EYE-KEE-AH.
Because sometimes, when you're living far away from home - even when you're really, truly very happy - it's those little things that matter.