choices · keep trying · who are we

Just 17 days…

I am getting a new kitchen fitted. It’s something that I have wanted since I moved into this place over five years ago.

The kitchen I moved into had dark red walls, fake oak cabinets and a somewhat broken dark green counter top. I didn’t have the money to get it re-done, or even attempt to install a cheap one myself, so I made a few changes when I moved in; replacing the upper cabinets with open shelves, painting over the blood red paint on the walls and covering the rest of the cupboard fronts with some left-over eggshell coloured emulsion.

But still the taps grow this weird brown and green stuff under their clear turn bits that you can’t remove, the waste pipe for the washing machine and dishwasher has leaked on numerous occasions and seems to have been constructed by one of Heath Robinson’s more incompetent relatives, the tiles are this odd colour that I can only describe as sludge beige and the cupboard backs are barely there as I kept having to remove them to make emergency plumbing repairs.

So you would imagine the delivery of all the parts for my new kitchen yesterday would have been a moment of real joy and excitement. I ordered it all nearly three months ago and have been waiting impatiently for a better kitchen. I dreamed of future days using an oven that doesn’t move when you try and open the door, which then tries to trap your fingers. I have braved warehouses boasting of tile selections but offering little other than white or beige, fake marble and an almost unavoidable trend for 1960s municipal rectangles. I have sorted through cupboards and bookcases and have almost finished packing everything up and into my lounge and shed.  I should be really excited that all this stuff has been neatly stacked into the corner of my tiny flat and that work begins on Monday. In just 17 days I will have a new kitchen; yay?

But in fact, as the time draws closers, I find myself getting increasingly anxious. I know it’s a matter of days but I am so scared and filled with dread. Last year, when my bathroom was done, I had been similarly concerned and, through no fault of the lovely builder, it turned out to be even worse than I had feared. We found leaks that were ten years old and rotting floorboards, we had to re-plaster walls and re-make floors. I have pointed out this possibility to the kitchen guy and he seems unperturbed; instead he pointed out that I will need a new fuse box for the flat.

This flat, you see, which I love, is somewhat of a harbinger of hidden nightmares. It seems that previous owners have been rather rubbish at maintenance and everything that you look at needs serious attention the moment you properly investigate. I often have to remind myself that it has been standing for over 100 years and will probably be fine in the end. There are five rooms, or areas, and I have now investigated most of them. The electrics may just be next on the list, or the floorboards, who knows. But I can’t deny that most of the time, in my unconscious mind, there is a concern that the flat may be about to fall apart and building work brings these neuroses to the front of my thoughts again. But I’m sure it will be fine…

I think the other thing that I hate, or rather know that I hate, is the invasion of my burrow. This one is harder to explain. I have invited this person into my home to make my place better. But I resent it all the time it is taking place. I feel obliged to make small talk or hide – which isn’t easy when this person has taken over half the flat. I therefore feel the need to leave, as though going to work for the day, and have to lurk in cafes and shops. I sometimes wonder if half the people in shopping centres during the day are merely wandering around to avoid someone at home; they certainly don’t look as though they are having fun or buying anything. When you get back home, regardless of how careful they have been, there will be mess and stuff everywhere still and they won’t have done as much as you hoped that they would have. There will be things that you imagined to have been nicer, or more exciting once completed. Then you feel obliged to paint and rearrange and sand and gloss paint, and… Frankly I want to tell them to bugger off, lock the doors and hide under my duvet in my lovely, if flawed, burrow alone.

But I can’t. I have to pretend to be a grown up and be brave and try to make the best of this. I always bemoan never having a reason to eat out and now I have to, for just 17 days. I always want to visit more places, now I have a good incentive to do just that for just 17 days. I want a better kitchen and I will have one in 17 days. My place will be mine again in ‘just’ 17 days…


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