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Thursday, 17 November 2016

Veni, vidi, vici

I pulled into the car park, heart racing and told him we were here. The iconic building loomed ahead.

"Look! It's blue!"

"No I like blue, you can't have blue, you can only have light blue." He replied.

We were here, and I was strangely excited to try out the gourmet nosh. I'd heard it spoken about in whispered tones before, almost reverently. This place was going to be good. Yes, I felt like A. A. Gill marching in ready to sniff at the wine list and dissect the menu until I was satisfied, albeit with a toddler under one arm.

We got in, and had a quick pit stop at the gents. I always love those moments, because people must enjoy eavesdropping on the weird conversations coming from the next cubicle, when a toddler's high pitched voice comments on a stream of urine his father is jettisoning towards the porcelain god.

Finally we were done, navigating the hand washing rigmarole that goes with it. A mild tantrum because he couldn't operate the cold tap and then when he repeatedly kept walking towards the urinals and threatening to touch them. Strange child. Stop!

"Do you want to eat now, or go round the shop?"

"Eat now."

So in we went. First of all I was struck by a feeling of how nice it actually was, the dining area. But then I saw the queue. A queue? In this place? Surely not. But there was, and it was massive. It dawned on me that when there's a queue it means there's something good at the end. The people all had a sort of grim look, like prisoners waiting for their meal.

A lot of hangry people in here, I thought. But the signs with the pictures of the food were so tantalising.

If you haven't guessed where we were yet, this was IKEA in Bristol! He was all over the Swedish meatballs, and I was annoyed because I wanted those, but I can't order the same thing as him, it's deeply ingrained on my psyche to never, ever have the same as my dining companion. So that was it. I was going to have the fish and chips.

The next couple of minutes in the queue I tried to talk him into having the fish and chips, knowing I'd get the big portion of meatballs and then be able to give him some of my spares, but he was having absolutely none of it. So I was confined to F&C like some chump who got the butt end of the stick.

Again, people must have thought we were very odd in the queue while all this was going on. It was like a hostage negotiation that I knew I was going to lose.

Then I noticed people taking these weird trolleys. How very Swedish, I thought. Innovative, and I'd never seen this type of trolley the same length and width of a tray, but it made sense. If they gave it an IKEA name it would be something like TRIPPLDEKKER, retailing at £29.99.

Decisions decisions. All the puddings were laid out, and I was having a tough gig working out whether to have apple pie or Daim cake. He decided we would have the cake, and that was that. I lifted him up to choose which one, hoping he would go for the ones with the thicker chocolate on the top, but he didn't. Oh well.

We gave our food orders and paid, and then ate like kings. Who knew that the mushroomy sauce with the meatballs could be so good? Or the mash to have a little spice to it. That Daim cake though. So good. Not what I expected either, I thought it would be hard and crunchy, but ended up with a soft bite and caramel explosion. What a banger.

I remember thinking I was enjoying this day out, but also that I was in a minority. There were very few dads. It was either young couples about the embark on their new lives together, or squawking families.

I looked around me in the restaurant. Clearly this is a thing. People were there like they'd been eating here for years. Everyone looked like they were loving life. Well most of them, there was one mum, with a three year old strapped to her back, a newborn, and a five year old. I had it easy with just one kid, I thought.

And later, as we bashed each other with giant soft toy pencils that vaguely resembled male genitalia I was reminded how great it is to have one day a week devoted to being a dad. (I work 4 days a week).

I felt privileged to enjoy this time alone with him. The mighty IKEA experience; the nosh of kings. We came, we saw, we conquered.

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