Images of Imaginary Trees

Genuinely, am I missing something here? Is this just a part of growing up that you have to accept, and move on from? Is this why the gentry mock the rest of us so much? All I wanted to do was buy a bloody bookcase; why should that feel like someone’s trying to forcibly relieve me of a kidney?

We’ve been having a growth spurt recently: after a few years of inertia, settling in to our house, living with it the way the previous people had it (tenants of the previous owner, so not exactly well looked after; I strongly suspect that they removed all of the doors, and then only vaguely attempted to rehang them as they were chased out of the building for rent arrears) we have finally started to make the place our own. We had decorated the child’s room as soon as we moved in, but the rest of the house was still strongly someone else’s, through the prism of shoddy workmanship and filth.

Floors have been sanded, filled, stained, varnished, varnished again; myriad felt pads have been stuck to naughty, scratchy furniture; colours have been chosen, rejected, mixed, accepted, bought and applied; Upholstery has been recovered; pictures have been rehung. Now we need a bookcase.

And when I say we had a few years of inertia, I really do mean it. For the first year the house felt in places like a building site: one of the conditions of sale was that the previous owner would fit a new damp proof course, hence the lower portions of many walls were bare plaster. There were few walls downstairs with skirting boards in place. Many still rest against the walls from which they were torn.

It took a year or so for the dining room to stop being anything other than a room-sized cupboard: it housed a lot of detritus and a lot of things which needed to be housed. It was also handicapped by an out-dated and insufficiently transparent window on to the hall, which caused much rejoicing to remove. After the dining room was painted, the house really started to begin feeling like it was ours.

The plan had always been to knock the kitchen and the dining room together, but this would require removing a whole corner of our downstairs, with nothing but fresh air to support the tonnes of brick above. A structural engineer offered to help devise a way to do it, but he stopped answering emails, and that project died. The plan became to expand windows in to doors, expand doors in to doubles.

Tradespeople do not like emails, or texts, or Facebook messages, it would seem. I can barely contain my utter fury at the number of professional builders my partner and I have attempted to entice in to taking our money from us in exchange for a large programme of building work. We have worked hard to build up a budget to get a lot of work done, and no one will even come out and quote for it.

The shocking negligence of a company who refuses to acknowledge potential customers bewilders me beyond words. If anyone in the company I work for ever ignored a potential sale they would be out on their arse in a heartbeat. Businesses accept offers of work, or they fail: simple fact. Not for builders it would seem. They get to treat people like insignificant scum. Their complete and utter disregard for customers makes me want to shoot myself in the foot and not get the work done. This would be letting them win, so I cannot. But I cannot imagine having a positive working relationship with any building company after this experience. I just want them to do the work, and then fuck off.

(n.b. If builders and the like were as responsive and service-centric as the guy who just restored our wood floors the world would be a far happier place. Trust me.)

I feel a similar level of contempt at the moment for the manufacturers of solid wood furniture, too.

Over the years we have bought many items of cheap, but functional, furniture. We have filled rooms with bits from Ikea, from Argos and from Tesco. It’s fine, but it starts to break after a few years of use, and it never has the finish we want. Fibreboard covered in plastic films, depicting images of the idealised grain of imaginary trees, has annoyed us for far too long: we want something sturdy now.

What we want is solid wood. Not solely for the appearance of it, but for the solidity of the thing. We want to know that we can fill a bookcase with books, and that, so long as it is affixed to the wall behind, it will stand there for a thousand years. Or a few decades. We can never quite agree on that bit. For the colour scheme we have chosen for the living room, a grey bookcase would be ideal. Easy ask.

Not a chance. Unless you want to spend half the GDP of a small Central American country on a set of oak shelves you only have the option of laminate covered Weetabix. This is not my idea of a good time. This is not my idea. My idea is buying a piece of well built furniture at a reasonable price, from a retailer I can trust. A retailer I can find would actually be a good start: where do you buy furniture?

I have spent hours in the last few days Googling “Furniture” or “Furniture Shops” (I know that their databases are all in lower case; I just can’t help myself with capitals), just to try and narrow down which companies I should be consulting the websites of in order to look at what furniture purchasing options are available to me. The results are deficient: either they are a map with places near to me, or they are anthology websites, collating other people’s products. I’m sure there used to be shops.

It is this narrowing down the field of view which has been the biggest barrier in finding something which I thought would be an absolute walk in the park. If I want to buy literally anything else, there is a shop for it. It’s usually Amazon, or a supermarket, but there is a shop. I have no trouble with shopping online, in fact I actively prefer it. Sometimes, however, it offers too much choice. I find it odd that I occasionally hark back to the days of being limited to what’s in the local department store.

In the end, we’ll probably buy something far too expensive, in the hope that it will last well. It’s not like the builders are coming to take our money off us any time soon, so what else should we do?