THE BOY was angling for a trip to IKEA.

I, on the other hand, quite fancied doing some gardening, given that the weather was not its usual disappointing self and there was actual evidence of blue skies and sunshine. The thought of a bracing walk on Norland Moor also had a certain appeal.

“We could make a quick trip to the bed shop instead,” I offered, “and drop into B&Q at the same time”.

“Or, we could go to IKEA,” he countered. “And have meatballs. You know you want to”.

I have always found it difficult to quell the enthusiasms of my first born and so it came to pass that we travelled along the M62 in glorious sunshine and entered the subterranean gloom of the IKEA car park.

Twenty minutes later we emerged from the gloom, having been unable to find a space, and drove around the retail park for a while, admiring the scenery.

We gave it another go.

“Ha!”, said The Boy, “a space”. It was a bit tight, but driving over the kerb solved the problem of shoehorning his Corsa next to a selfishly-parked white van.

We were in, which felt like an achievement in itself. We were also hungry after our travails around the car park and needed a meatball fix.

The Boy, who considers himself to be something of a gourmet, was licking his lips in anticipation of a medium plateful of meatballs, with berries and extra gravy, followed by a Dime bar dessert. We joined the queue with our trays.

Some time later we sat down to consume our, by now, lukewarm meatballs and drink the watery coffee.

It never ceases to amaze me that I am prepared to drive 20 miles along one of the worst, most congested, stretches of northern motorway in order to partake of reconstituted meat products and Nordic berries. I mentioned this to The Boy.

“Yes,” he muttered between mouthfuls of cold chips. “But it’s strangely delicious”. He even had a spoon at the ready to scoop up the extra gravy.

I’m also surprised by his interest in the superstore, given that, like most of his generation, he prefers to do his shopping on line.

“But it’s full of things you never knew you needed,” he explained. And, of course, that’s the key to the success of this Swedish import – take note struggling retailers – it’s packed to the brim with things you never knew you needed. In fact, there are many objects within its walls that seem to defy purpose. “What’s this for?” you find yourself asking before popping one into your trolley. (Of course, it’s also cheap).

Having bussed our trays, a requirement of IKEA law, we began a tour of the store. As every visitor to this popular out-of-town destination knows, the Swedish emporium has been laid out to lead shoppers on a designated path through the store that takes in each and every single delight it has to offer. No opportunity to tempt us has been left untapped.

We, however, took a wrong turn and found ourselves in a contraflow situation, weaving our way through kitchen interiors and battling through bedrooms, against the throng.

“What are we actually here for?” I asked, after we’d browsed the office chairs, Klippan sofas, coffee tables, bedroom furniture and TV stands.

The Boy, who is moving into his own home after Christmas, was a bit vague: “Some glasses, plates, bedding, kitchen stuff, you know....”

An hour later we were queuing up, once again, but this time at the check-out, with a trolley bearing glasses, plates, cork mats, bag ties, tea towels and 25 tiny glass herb and spice pots. We may have failed on the bedding front but Firstborn was more than made up by the acquisition of the little pots.

As we made our way back along the M62, the sun dipping in the sky, I realised that while I’d missed the chance to partake of fresh air and rare winter sunshine it had been one of those afternoons that had offered something more memorable – a chance to share the pleasures of a young person setting up home.

It was also a bittersweet experience as I know that when he moves out in January our son may never live with us again. In fact, we were quite surprised that he came back after finishing university.

But the good news is that as a house holder he’ll no doubt need to make many more trips to out-of-town Swedish stores and he knows that he can always call on me to join him for meatballs.