Never Mind The Quality by Trevor Plumbly
The Asian invasion
It arrived in a box that looked totally incapable of containing anything other than a bit of dry cleaning. The box, which I later learned was referred to as a ‘flat pack’ was supposed to hold a garden sofa, two armchairs and a glass topped occasional table. We had bought it online, (‘it’s the best way’), for just $150.00 including delivery all the way from China! That these enhancements to our outdoor relaxation were packed in what resembled a flattened suitcase caused us to exercise a little caution in the unpacking process. The actual kit was made of some sort of everlasting plastic, whilst I was happy that no trees had been killed for it, the prospect of having an ecological time bomb ticking on the deck was a bit disconcerting.
The thingammy and the whatsit
A simple system was adopted for the assembly process, as we unpacked we placed the bits against the walls around us and all the connecting bolts and things into a deep bowl. After rummaging through all sorts of un-green packaging, we found the assembly instructions. In a perfect world, this would have been welcome, but these were reduced to microscopic proportions and composed by someone with a strange conception of the English language therefore being of little practical help. Introducing a bit of lateral thinking, I decided that since each piece of furniture had two ends it made sense to put them together and then add the middle bits to the pile. This bit of sheer inspiration reduced the wall collection to four piles. Two of chair bits, one of sofa and one I don’t know. Chairs are simple structures, two sides, a back and a seat. We had all of those, Chinese flat pack patio furniture cannot be criticised on content, but it’s got a hell of a lot to answer for ease of assembly.
The ‘don’t know’ pile seemed to be mainly table, no problem, connect three bits, plonk the glass top on and she’s all set. The first chair hinted at things to come, I got it together okay but it sort of wobbled loosely, so, I decided that the sofa, being bigger might be easier. It wasn’t, the chair at least had all its bits in place despite being unfit for use, but the sofa seemed to have permutations beyond the capabilities of lateral thought. I kept ending up with one piece over or one piece short, and the bolt thingies didn’t line up with the nut whatsits. Dreams of lounging on the deck in the evening sun were going down, in direct contrast to my blood pressure. Outside help, I decided was the way to go. Sarah was the natural choice, she’s a midwife and can cope with panic. She sat surrounded by the evidence of my failure to bolt two things together. She soon assembled the two chairs, although one seemed a bit unsteady, it was a definite improvement on my efforts. The sofa resisted all efforts at completion, and got sort of pushed into the background, and I notice that it, or bits of it, no longer grace the deck. For our alfresco pleasure we have the two chairs, one of which seems capable of causing injury, and a glass topped table. The sofa, the ecological equivalent of about a billion plastic bags must be sitting around Auckland somewhere. Makes you think doesn’t it? Long after some of our best buildings bite the dust, the bloody thing will still be a problem.