I am heading back to the Island on the train today through a grey, dry landscape, feeling irritated by the man in the seat in front, who is doing a thorough job of clipping his fingernails.
On a similar train, minus the snipping noises, the kitchen designer is heading from Barnstable to the Island to meet me.
Howard is an old friend, so as a favour is making this pilgrimage. His income is from design and build, so he seemed unimpressed when I explained that I did not want ‘build’, but simply a plan that would set me on course to buy old dressers and pieces of furniture with which to create my new kitchen.
I aim for the style of kitchen that you see in those great tomes in the ‘Interior Decoration’ section in Waterstones, entitled ”English Eccentric’, ‘Country Houses of England’ or similar: quirky, worn, evolved over time. It mustn’t be fitted, I want ease and wear. Something that copes with mess and dirt: a series of creaking cupboards and copper sinks with a farmhouse table at the centre, where a Mrs Beeton style character scuffles about with floury hands. Often blue walls repel flies and there are acres of chilly stone floors on which my ancestors froze whilst pot washing.
I jest slightly, about the blue walls at any rate and the floor will be of the battered pine boards that are there already. But I plan to move the hefty 1970’s Aga from the basement. Greasy, grubby and inefficient and a five door, so enormous, most visitors advise me to dump it, not believing the Aga Shop can ever resurrect it to an acceptable standard. But it has a derelict charm, as does the shopkeeper’s counter that I have reserved in an local antique shop, thinking it will make an interesting island unit. It has a slit in the top for accepting coins and an impractically wobbly top, impossible for dishing up food. I will have a free standing fridge, but I accept that when it comes to the sink unit I might need Howard’s help. Perhaps along that run of units he can squeeze in an oven and gas hob, so I don’t have to sweat over the Aga all summer and so my sister, who is a Home Economics teacher and who has a sneering hatred of these bourgeois, useless cookers (good for drying tea towels though), doesn’t get too annoyed.
I won’t have spot lights in the ceiling, I am collecting mismatched lights, the most recent one Edwardian, a long bar with three Vaseline glass shades, originally a gas light of course and I can easily source a couple of dressers for all that kitchen paraphernalia. The crowning glory will be a William Morris wallpaper, his pomegranate design, in that soft buttery yellow that calms the nerves. Yes, I know he was a communist and was mean to his wife (thank you Daughters for the heads up) and one should spurn him, but I have found a company who will print his papers properly, not the Sanderson way, where the dyes are wrong and the images too flat. They will even come and splatter it with fake fly droppings if you like. Yes, I must have that. And in this environment I will bake delicious cakes and entertain my rowdy family. I bet they can’t wait.