IT WAS time to replace the kitchen. I don't even like replacing printer cartridges, so it was clearly a drastic move.
It wasn't a particularly bad kitchen, but the trim – I assume it's called the trim – was carved and effectively a battery farm for dust.
What we needed was something sleek and modern and easy to clean, and mostly the last of that list of criteria.
We quickly dismissed the idea that I could assemble and install a flat pack kitchen, following the shoe-tree debacle, and put ourselves into the hands of professionals.
Sadly, we used professional extortionists and wind-up merchants rather than professional kitchen suppliers.
A rep measured up and came back to us with a design based on our exacting specifications, which were essentially, “A kitchen, please, with an oven and a fridge and other stuff.”
She talked us into having integrated appliances, as this would enhance the sleek and modern feel of the new kitchen. And I suppose we were gulled by her silver tongue. After all, who could resist the idea of under-the-counter doors all looking the same? This is the 21st century, grandad. But there was still a snag...
“What if something goes wrong?” I asked the rep. “Something always goes wrong. You should see the shoe-tree.”
The rep looked at me, perceptibly disappointed by our lack of faith in white goods technology. With a sigh and a recovering smile she assured us that wouldn't be a problem. The appliances would just slide out and, if necessary, be replaced by a new one.
Reassured, we signed on the dotted line, and a couple of weeks later a team of heavy-booted men came. Within a week they had ripped out the old kitchen and replaced it with 90% of a new kitchen.
We then spent the next few weeks relentlessly pursuing the kitchen suppliers to complete the remaining 10% – that crucial 10% which would actually enable the room to be used as a kitchen – to the point where we felt like nuisances for wanting the work for which we had paid to be finished.
Eventually the job was done, but the beans of their revenge were already sown.
And a few years down the line they have grown into beanstalks of doom. The washing machine was first to go. It works, but the seal has gone, meaning that water trickles out into a Carte D'or ice cream tub which has been requisitioned for the purpose.
We would replace the washing machine – replacement being cheaper than repair in this age of obsolescence – but it has been blocked in by a plinth, and removing the plinth will entail removing half the kitchen.
And now the freezer has broken. Early investigations have shown that this will indeed slide out. But getting another freezer to slide back in is proving trickier than a tongue-twister to Jamie Oliver.
According to the Man In The Shop, the holes are in different places on different freezers. This basically means that the only freezer which we can guarantee will fit in the space being vacated by the old freezer is an identical model. And we know they break.
Why did we not listen to the little voice inside which said: “An integrated appliance in a fitted kitchen makes as much sense as integrated underpants in a pair of trousers,” and tell the rep to draw up new plans?
I live in a house with children and, consequently, a washing machine in round-the-clock use. I don't think the covering door has ever been closed.
And it is not as if white goods are inherently embarrassing. I can't imagine any circumstances in which the vicar came for tea and somebody said: “For Pete's sake, Audrey, don't let him anywhere near the kitchen. If he sees the Smeg, we'll never get the children into St Bart's.”
I suppose the lesson is always listen to the little voice and never trust anybody else. It is a harsh and brutal lesson, but this is a harsh and brutal world.
As a coda, a few weeks after the job was completed, the kitchen supplier went bust. I am not saying the curses I placed on the firm during the time of the missing 10% were to blame but I refuse to rule it out – I am not Richard Dawkins, or one of those atheist comedians they have these days.
Nobody screws me over with a plinth and gets away with it.