Friday, 23 January 2009

Fort Myers, Fortitude and Forebearance.

An extraordinary week has rendered me blogless for the last 7 days for which I apologise.

I am suffering from a strange form of culture shock having last Thursday been asked by a dear friend for assistance. This entailed an all expenses paid trip to parts foreign, always a lovely invitation to receive and yet more so when the most one has travelled in the last 6 months has been on foot to Mortlake’s only supermarket for bread and beans. The sole fly in this ointment was the lack of a valid passport. Undaunted, said friend organised and paid for a passport renewal, proving beyond any doubt that the Passport Office can be hugely efficient as long as one has internet access, all the relevant documents, a spare day, £120 or thereabouts and a good friend to make it all so.

Thus it was that 24 hours later, me armed with said brand new passport, we were whisked through immigration at Heathrow into the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lounge to await the flight. Truly whisked. With no queues. We barely stopped moving from our arrival at the terminal until we were ushered to a quiet, private section of the lounge and presented with menus for everything from breakfast to wines to haircuts. Suitably fed and watered (but in my case untrimmed) we boarded the aircraft and made that most indulgent and expensive of turns, the one that goes left through the cabin door, the one that takes you to a large plush, leather seat-cum-bed, the one that provides you with a charming member of the cabin crew to stow your bag, hang your jacket, plump your cushion and serve you another glass of whatever you fancy. The one that gives you a duvet and a ‘snooze pack’, the one that make you feel like a rock star on Christmas morning.

I know, I know, it’s just travel, but in this case never was the phrase “it’s better to travel than to arrive” more true. Especially when you arrive in Miami. Actually that’s a tad unfair on Miami, which is a fun place to be especially when you’re greeted with warm weather (72 degrees in old money), warm smiles from everyone you talk to and a hot convertible Mustang to drive. Hog heaven for a rock star manqué who loved Miami Vice all those years ago.

I shan’t bore you with details but the task we were there to achieve was the furnishing of my pal’s house near Fort Myers, bought on a whim when the $/£ exchange rate was more favourable than at present, only once visited in the 9 months since purchase and devoid of any furniture prior to his family visiting it in a fortnight’s time. We had three days to turn it from a shell into a home that his family might enjoy, no small task when his wife is the creative director of a well-known high street chain, famed for the originality of its stock for which she is responsible.

We went to IKEA, we’re men, what did you expect? In fact we spent 6 hours there and did the whole thing, beds, sofas, tables, cupboards, lamps, towels and linens. The staff at the store - which is bigger than the village I grew up in – had never seen such a purchase. 17 huge trolleys, $15,000 and more cardboard boxes than London’s South Bank homeless could have mustered through the entire1980’s. 200 miles and three hours later we arrived at the house, set in a new, gated complex, and were soon joined by a huge truck bearing the flatpack fruits of our labours. The next 24 hours were a flurry of curses, Allen keys and three very helpful guys from Puerto Rico who segued seamlessly from truck driving to furniture construction – bless you Jo, Ed and Carlos, you know who you are.

Not only did we get the job done, but managed do so in time to watch the inauguration of the 44th President, sitting on comfortable sofas (Ektorp, for those of you fluent in IKEA) and with the TV bought, installed, functioning and sitting proudly in it’s media cabinet (Expedit) before a much need afternoon snooze on fresh new beds (Malm bases (birch), Sultan mattresses (foam))

I write this now back in Mortlake, with cold air blasting through the gaps in the window frame, the sky dark and wondering if I merely imagined it all. Did I really barrel down Alligator Alley in a convertible Mustang with the sun on my face and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Me and Julio down by the schoolyard” on the radio? Did my friend and I really have a delightful lunch of blackened mahi-mahi at Gramma Dot’s in the harbour of the island of Sanibel? Did we really make the life-altering discovery that you can buy packs of ‘Jelly Belly' jelly beans that only have the delicious sour fruit flavours? Did we really watch Barak Husein Obama become President of the USA and feel a frisson of change in the air as we shed quiet tears and gulped the lumps in our throats?

Like Obama we started our journey with a “Yes we can” attitude. He was able to say “Yes we did” and so were we.

A final note. On returning to Mortlake there was a letter for me. It seems that the literary festival to which I applied for the post of artistic director liked my application enough to call me for interview in two weeks time. Keep ‘em crossed for me, for I’m beginning to believe, in the matter of getting a job that I want, that I will enjoy and that will allow me to make a difference, that yes, I too can. Now that's culture shock.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased that IKEA managed to sort out your requirements. I think they are a wonderful operation and am especially impressed by their crayfish. However, these are sold without assembly instructions so I just eat them.