The fact that it has taken me almost a week to produce this report should tell you what the Ideal Home was like....
Actually, that’s a wild exaggeration – the truth is that I've had the week off and have abandoned all pretences at blogging in favour of shopping during daylight hours, sitting in the garden and reading the paper or papers. I adore newspapers – I wanted to be a journalist when younger but my parents put a stop to such idiotic ideas - a move which undoubtedly saved my life, given what the culture of Fleet Street was said to be like in those far flung days. So nowadays, I content myself with buying several during leisure time and devouring them sneakily.
However, less rambling – more reporting! The Shah and I sailed up to the nice man blocking the entrance to the Red car park underneath Earls Court and the Shah wound down the window. Before he could utter a word, Signor Jobsworth snapped “Ees fool” and walked away.
“We’ve booked,” bellowed the Shah in return at which Signor J made a finger gesture which may or may not have meant “in that case, please drive on, honourable sir.” The Shah, just to be on the safe side, returned the gesture and, honour satisfied, we carried on down the ramp to the parking area.
Emerging into the daylight again on foot some minutes later, we discovered that we were then expected to undertake a mile long trek round to the front of the exhibition hall to gain entry. This set the Shah into a very bad mood and he swore and grumbled all the way round and complained about his knee hurting from hockey and I made all the right noises and held his hand and reiterated what a lovely day out together we were going to have. The Shah simply bared his teeth at me.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, confused.
“I was smiling,” replied he, shiftily.
“No you bloody weren’t, that was a grimace. You’re worried about how much today is going to cost you!”
“No I’m not,” whined the Shah unconvincingly.
We had to collect our pre-booked tickets and that whole process was a shambles. Eventually, having repeated my postcode half a dozen times to the lady behind the counter who was either very thick or very deaf (guess which I favour), we obtained some printed tickets and were allowed in.
I won’t bore you with every stall and every item we came across – mainly because there seemed to be quite a few less of them than in previous years – an effect of le credit crunch? Dunno, but it all seemed to be a bit of a weird mishmash of the cheap and nasty and the ludicrously expensive with not a whole helluva lot in between. For example, on the expensive front, we had a mini marina in the middle of the hall, complete with Sunseeker craft moored in it. There was also a preponderance of bi-fold doors, solar heating systems and gigantic hot tubs – big enough to be sectioned off so that you could sit in one end with the spa jets on (and a telly that popped up from within the walls) and swim in the other end with a wave machine on. But who in their right mind pops down to the Ideal Home to purchase something of that magnitude?
At the other end of the scale, there were the ubiquitous small kitchen items being demonstrated by wild-eyed, sweaty men with voices hoarse from a week’s worth of hawking their wares to a dead-eyed public. We headed for the so called ‘Gadget Zone’ (an area which had a magnetic attraction for the Shah). We passed one exhibitor who was having trouble getting anyone to stop and listen to his shtick, and his bitter voice floated after us: “Enjoy the mop demonstrations,” he yelled, “there’s 17 of them!” And Reader, he wasn’t exaggerating.
The whole place is arranged in various Zones and we mooched through them in a half hearted fashion, the Shah clutching his wallet as if his life depended on it. Eventually, we reached the Garden Zone, that being one of the few places he might feel comfortable laying out a few shekels. Apart from the people watching (WHY bring your 92 year old Granny along in a wheelchair? You might think it’s a nice day out for her, but you’re pushing and you can’t see her face...) this was the area that gave us the best laugh. Aside from the repellent thatched cottage-type sun rooms, lovingly crafted from orange wood and then given 25 coats of hi-gloss varnish, we found Garden Ornaments, the like of which we had never seen.
Who, for example would like (or has the space for) a life-sized bronze stallion, in a ferocious rearing stance? Well someone obviously wasn't deterred by the £2000 price tag, because it bore a large red SOLD sticker.
If your purse was a little smaller, you could always have gone for a charming (ahem) pair of pixies, frozen forever in a game of leapfrog like this?
Or perhaps a large baboon is more to your taste?
We escaped without spending very much money at all, much to the obvious relief of the Shah. My friend Madame Marmite, whose blog on the life of returnees from La Belle France I commend to you wholeheartedly, has suggested that next year I ditch the Shah and take her.
Sounds like a plan!