Yes, reader, I went to Milton Keynes.
I have spared you the mighty saga of the Ikea TV bench (short version: v. cheap TV bench bought in attempt to make better use of space in tiny flat, bits missing, attempt to get bits). On Friday night, post a couple of cocktails with colleagues, and thinking that I finally had all the bits to assemble the thing and the inclination to do so, I got all the bits out and discovered that I was short of eight screws. With half a TV bench assembled, I decided that the best thing to do was drive to Ikea the next day so I could finish the job. The nearest Ikea is in Milton Keynes, which also offers a John Lewis, and a Rohan shop as an added incentive.
So yesterday morning, later than intended, but not too late (though TMS had started), I set off for Milton Keynes.
It isn't the roundabouts. They do keep the traffic flowing (as does the fact that there are so many roads). It is the fact that the signposting is rubbish, and that it is laid out so that you can't actually see any of the city from the roads. The place is designed for people who know it - strangers are doomed. I had a map, but there comes a point when unless you can memorise the names and correct order of fourteen roundabouts, you lose track of where you are. "Shopping" said the sign, tucked in among the cutesy names of fourteen other roundabouts. I eventually found the carpark (hidden, like everything else), which had lots of trees and free parking. Pity it didn't have any signposts directing people to the shopping centre (or anywhere else. I approached a couple to ask the route, "I don't know," said the woman, "we're trying to find the ice rink"). Eventually I found the shopping centre. Some time later I found the entrance. Then I began to hunt for John Lewis. There was a map, but it lacked a "You are here". John Lewis, once found, proved to lack any linen trousers in the sale, and everything in the Kew concession was the wrong size. The clothes section was also rather small, so I won't be repeating this part of the trip. Getting back from John Lewis to the car involved more circling hell (the Midsummer Shopping Mall) that didn't seem to have any doors, and which was simultaneously much bigger and much smaller than it seemed. I eventually tore myself away from the dreadful gravity of the food court with Pret a Manger in it, and made my way outside. At which point I managed to locate a car park security guard who directed me back to my car park. Sum total of shopping centre purchases: an M&S sandwich, and a box of Charbonnel & Walker cremes parisiennes courtest of TK Maxx (I go into TK Maxx for two things, hold-ups and Charbonnel & Walker, which they stock fairly regularly).
Then I set off for Rohan. I memorised the route (more roundabouts) and got myself to more or less the right point. I will omit details of how I drove past it four times because I couldn't see it. Alas! after all this the walking shoes I had gone for proved to be absolutely enormous, designed for people with much bigger feet than I have. So it's back to the drawing board on that one.
Finally, Ikea! I have been to Milton Keynes Ikea before (it's not really a very good one), so the roads allowed me to locate it first try. They had the screws. I wandered round and picked up such exciting things as a new cutlery drawer tidy, and looked at furniture against, Friday's post notwithstanding, the local property market one day coming up trumps. The best bit was the food shop, and that I only got slightly lost on the way home so that the elk lasagna made it back still mostly frozen.
And having recovered, I watched Wallander and finally put together the TV bench.