Be My Guest – Shopping-Swedish style

Shopping, Swedish-style


What do farmers and their wives do on wet wintry days? Well I can tell you, they don’t look at the weather out of the window and grumble – OK they do a bit – but mostly they get outside chores done as quickly as possible and return indoors.


On a very wet, cold, and miserable day recently we returned to the warmth of the Aga having been out in mud up to our armpits. Sitting with a warm revitalising cup of coffee, we wrote a list of items needed for the house and B&B rooms, including desks, bedside lamps and coffee tables.Normally, furnishings for the farm are purchased under the hammer at the local auction rooms, but with renewed vigour we decided to venture where none of this family had ventured before, and take our first trip to Ikea.


We have felt we were one of a small minority who hadn’t experienced the Swedish shopping phenomenon, so this was our afternoon’s mission. Inevitably, it took much longer than anticipated to leave, answering the phone for B&B enquiries, organising grain lorries, finding dogs, searching for car keys and a missing children’s shoe, but eventually we headed to Bristol, which is just under an hour’s drive away. We reassured ourselves that by leaving later than planned we would waste no time and make quick decisions.


Wandering into Ikea looking mystified, we searched for directional clues. Apart from one incorrect turn to the wrong side of the checkout tills, we were soon herded along efficiently around the one-way system.

For the few who also haven’t experienced the Swedish entrepreneur Ingvar Kamprad’s revolution in shopping, then I will explain. The store has a series of room settings full of stylish furniture ready for inspection.

The idea is to choose an item and collect it from the warehouse, flat-packed in a box to assemble it at home. On the way you are provided with pencils and notepads and large yellow bags. Beware these large yellow bags – the temptation is to fill them! Very quickly we were filling said bags with must-have items at ridiculously small amounts of money. Whether we actually needed three dozen glasses, packs of tea towels, 24 wooden coat hangers and various storage boxes was debatable.


What we hadn’t anticipated was that it’s impossible to just pop in to Ikea. Like playing Monopoly, you can only go around one way, you must pass Go and you must spend £200-plus! Fellow accommodation providers will also empathise with our necessity to return home by 5pm, the designated arrival time for our B&B guests. When we emerged from some sort of Scandinavian timewarp we were already late for arrivals. Fortunately, the guests were regular visitors and three phone calls later ensured they had access to their rooms.


I was less confident that the newly acquired flatpack was going to be as easily organised, but was pleasantly surprised at Tom’s creation (even with the help of the children) and not an oily rag or arc welder in sight!

At least it was a job we could do out of the rain!


Suzie Paton’s farm B&B columns

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