Naomi and I moved into an unfurnished flat last year. We spent our first evening sat on the floor, eating Chinese takeaway and discussing potential layouts for the living room. The sofa can go there, bookcase opposite, dining table by the window, perhaps a rug too. It was fun to arrange our home exactly as we wanted. All we needed was some furniture.
We bought a few basic pieces new, and then scoured the internet for second-hand things to add some disheveled charm. It’s amazing what you can find out there. I for one have sold all manner of things online - stationery, electronics, clothes, toiletries, exercise equipment. Even my scientific calculator from school brought in a whopping two pounds twenty.
My latest sale was a pair of ski boots, bought by a Hungarian man called Gábor. He turned up at my house wearing thick socks, and I watched as he donned the boots and stomped around my hallway like a giddy astronaut.
Gábor told me his “proper pair” of boots live in Switzerland where he skies a few times a year, and this pair would be his backup for dry slopes in England. It seemed a shame that my boots would never again breath that alpine air, instead confined to Chill Factore in Trafford, but such thoughts evaporated when Gábor waved a wad of cash at me, and we shook hands.
By this time our flat was nearly complete. Only the corner by the bookcase still needed to be filled, and Naomi was adamant a mid-century armchair would go there. She longed for something vintage. The sort of thing you might find in your Grandma’s house, dusty and forlorn, ready to be rescued by a pair of budding hipsters.
After weeks of searching, we found the perfect candidate. Dark wooden frame, a classic design, visibly uncomfortable. It ticked all the boxes. I contacted the seller and arranged a time for collection.
I arrived at their house that afternoon and rang the doorbell. A woman opened the door and ushered me inside, chatting in a sing-song accent about this and that. I listened absently while inspecting her home. It was clean and bright. A selection of coats hung in the hallway and shoes were neatly arranged on a rack, everything divided into his and her categories.
As we turned into the living room she explained that they were moving abroad, and she suggested I take the rug and coffee table while I was here. I admitted this wouldn’t be possible since I’d come on foot, which shocked her. She asked how far my house was, and would I be alright carrying the chair, and did I have someone to call if something happened. I handed over the money, assuring her it would probably be fine.
Turns out armchairs make for awkward cargo over a distance of two miles. I had to alternate between clutching it to my stomach and then balancing it on my head to give my arms a rest. Eyebrows rose and necks craned as I stumbled past, swaying in the wind like a boat on rough waters. A middle-aged woman with her two young sons walked past and eyed me suspiciously, so I smiled back and rolled my eyes to acknowledge the chair perched on my head. Even the local butcher took pause, cleaver poised above a hunk of red meat, to watch the torso and chair traverse his shop window.
I made it through Didsbury Village and dug in for the long pull up Burton Road to West Didsbury. My arms began to throb, and I had to stop every hundred metres or so as I fumbled past fancy shops and cafés. I made it to the crossroads at the end of the high street and dropped the chair to catch my breath.
Bent double, hands on knees, I saw a man gesturing towards me from the other side of the road. I straightened up hopefully. Did I know him? Was he going to give me a hand with this bloody chair?
“Take a seat!” he shouted over, before bouncing off with a spring in his step and a howl of laughter.
I might have appreciated his deft wordplay had my arms not felt like lead weights, but, as it was, I could only turn back to my chair in disgust. “This is all your fault,” I wanted to say.
When the lights finally changed, I heaved it to my chest once more and staggered on, back to my exquisitely-furnished home.