When Hub and I bought our first house 27 years ago, we were given a fridge freezer as a moving in/engagement present by Hub’s parents. My tiny fridge with freezer compartment that had served me well in my studio flat looked in danger of collapsing if it was removed from its little cubbyhole in the kitchen. I left it there for the new owner, together with an Ercol wall unit and a temperamental Baby Belling.
We bought it from Bejams – a company now known as Iceland – but in those days it only sold frozen food and things to keep the food in, and long before they started using A, B and Z-list celebrities to promote their products.
The fridge freezer sat very nicely in the tiny kitchen of our two up, two down end of terrace ex council house, and made up for the disappointment of finding that what we thought were kitchen units turned out to be doors with a big empty space and a gas meter behind them.
The little house was Uni Boy’s first home too; he cruised around the furniture and we were slightly worried that he was having problems walking. Then we took him to Southampton Common , plonked him on the grass near the Ornamental Lake and watched in amazement as he ran, and ran, and ran. Hub managed to stop him before he reached the lake.
When Uni Boy was just over a year old, and Gap Boy was more than just a twinkle in his father’s eye, we moved North and rented a house. We let our little house to a mature student, his wife and daughter, and endured several months of them grumbling (via the agent) about the shortcomings of our happy little home. We couldn’t get house or contents insurance because of our tenant’s status and they unfortunately they turned out to be a ham-fisted pair judging by the constant breakages and replacements they demanded. The fridge freezer survived their clumsiness however.
We decided that we wanted to stay in the North; we had made good friends, Hub enjoyed his job and Uni Boy was busy running everywhere (and climbing into my Dear Friend’s fish tank).
After Gap Boy was born, we started saving up money to buy another house – providing we could sell the old one. The tenants moved out and on to wreck another property after a couple of years. We had the house professionally cleaned and tidied and put it up for sale.
The estate agents kept us apprised about viewings and we thought that they were looking after our little house. Unfortunately they were slapdash and left the spare set of house keys in the kitchen drawer. We got a phone call one Monday morning telling us that someone had broken in through the kitchen window and ‘somehow‘ managed to unlock the back door and take out the fridge freezer. The burglar(s) tried to take the washing machine and the boiler but were too inept to manage the plumbing. Oh, and the spare set of keys were no longer in the office, did we have them?
Surprisingly enough, the little house still sold and we went looking for a home for the four of us and our family of cats. We had moved North with five cats and were down to four after our tiniest cat had curled up under the radiator one night and gone permanently to sleep. We lost another the night before we moved when he ran out into the road when a dog wuffed at him and was run over. He is buried under our magnolia tree. The other cats lived out their happy moggy lives in the new house.
Our new house-to-be was occupied by students when we went to visit it. The owner had left the students to show prospective buyers around and was perplexed as to why there were no offers after eighteen months. We found out why.
We visited just after Christmas. They refused to let us in.
We called the estate agent and he arrived within minutes and threatened to call the owner.
They let us in, scowling.
The curtains were closed, the wreckage of a Christmas tree leaned drunkenly in the living room, three hung over students were slumped sullenly on the sofa.
The agent showed us around. His bright and breezy attitude at odds with the sulking students. The kitchen was dirty and filled with rubbish – some of it in bin bags. The downstairs bathroom and bedroom were damp, smelly and unaired, the living room too dark to see anything, so we climbed the stairs and were pleased with two of the bedrooms. The occupant of the third obviously had a bad temper as there was a huge fist-shaped hole in the plasterboard. The agent had described the upstairs bathroom as ‘impressive’. It was. It was a huge tart’s boudoir. All white and pink and gilt and scalloping. Uni Boy eyed the bidet with interest. He later informed friends that our new house had a ‘bumwasher’.
We visited twice more and saw the real house hiding beneath the students’ wilful neglect.
The owner appeared to have had lessons in artexing as every room in the house had a different pattern – on the walls and on the ceilings. The stairway and upper hall still have the capacity to remove three layers of skin when you brush against it carelessly. Under the grime, the kitchen turned out to be a seventies nightmare; brown and white tiles, pine cladding, pendant lights and pseudo Mediterranean arches that blocked out the light. The front room and dining room ran the length of the house with patio doors opening on to a quiet courtyard – filled with more bin bags.
The purchase of the house was rather fraught; the students were reluctant to move, the owner was reluctant to change the locks or drop the price due to the state of the garage roof.
We won in the end.
With the help of our new and incredibly supportive friends, we moved out of our rented house, cleaned it from top to bottom and moved into the new house. There wasn’t an awful lot of money to spare and though we kept the existing horrible hob and crusty cooker, the fridge freezer was beyond redemption, so we bought a new one from Iceland – RIP Bejams.
As the boys got bigger and consumed more food, we took advice from our Dear Friend and invested in a second fridge freezer which was installed in the downstairs guest bedroom after the garage proved too cold for it. Uni Boy moved into the room when he started at high school and needed more peas and carrots (peace and quiet). By this time he was cooking elaborate meals for himself and had already acquired a taste for grana padano cheese and soya milk, so having a fridge freezer in his bedroom was a must.
Hub and I were permitted to keep food in UB’s fridge freezer but GB was told in no uncertain terms to keep out.
Now that UB is away at uni, his room is frequently occupied by our Bezzie Mate. He tells me that the fridge freezer is rather talkative – especially in the middle of the night. It sighs like a mournful ghost apparently and is even more disturbing than the sound of GB thundering down the stairs to cook noodles in the early hours of the morning or Scoobs giving me his uproarious first thing in the morning welcome.
After fifteen years of living with the artex and pine-clad hell of our kitchen (we replaced the worktops and cupboards a few years ago, and bought a new cooker but I still hated it) we are having a new one.
Being kitchen virgins so to speak, we have relied on the support and advice of our friends. We were told to get at least three quotes.
Then we walked into Wickes and I fell in love with a black quartz worktop with multi-coloured sparkles in it. Shiny shiny! Shortly afterwards I developed an attraction for what turned out to be the most expensive set of kitchen units in the store.
The kitchen designer came out and measured up our horrible kitchen. Scoob liked him – possibly a bit too much because he handed the job over to his colleague.
The kitchen fitter/builder came out and scrobbled Scoob’s head. Scoob was smitten and so was the fitter. I viewed my horrible kitchen as a monstrosity; he rubbed his hands gleefully and told me that this was his favourite kind of job and he couldn’t wait to get started.
Having had a boiler and radiators fitted the previous February, we decided to wait till May and give the weather a chance to warm up. Three days of sitting together on the sofa huddled under a blanket with a nervous and wuffing dog had taught us a lesson.
Our kitchen designer drew pretty pictures on his computer and all the bits were ordered and paid for. We now have a letter from head office containing a blue balloon and a piece of string which we have to attach to the gate so that the delivery men can find us.
The hob, the oven and the microwave are included. We are using our own washing machine and dishwasher. I have chosen floor and wall tiles and matched up the paint with the units. Oh, go me!
The only thing left to do was to find a snazzy American-style fridge freezer and a tumble drier that would fit in the gaps.
Hub did his methodical trawl through ‘Which’ magazine. I hopped about on the Internet going ‘Oooh’ at very expensive and rather impractical monsters.
We headed to that big electrical/computer store and whilst Hub nipped into Halford’s for wiper blades, I did some fridge freezer stroking and exploring. That was when I found the beauty that heads this story. It is a fridge with a nice, cold, ice-cold water dispenser and loads of shelves. And the beauty has a freezer brother with a tippy ice-cube tray and oodles of drawers – also pictured. The handles are full length and very tactile, and even when put side by side, they are still only 30cm wider than the conventional 90cm allowed for the American-style monsters. It would also mean that we could get rid of the fridge freezer in UB’s bedroom and ensure that BM would have quieter nights when he comes to stay.
We also found a not very glamorous but highly rated by ‘Which’ tumble dryer with a condenser and a sensor – all this is over my head.
Clutching our measurements we toddled off to Wickes in the hope that the gorgeous chilly twins could be accommodated in our ner kitchen.
Oh, go Wickes! Not only did our lovely designer redesign the kitchen to incorporate the twins, we got a refund for the bits of kitchen that we no longer needed.
So, today, 27 years after the day we first started going out with each other, Hub and I have purchased the last three essentials for our first new kitchen. Work starts next week and apart from having to control Scoobs and move into camping mode whilst normal services are suspended, our only other shopping trip will be to pick up the tiles and paint in quantities as advised by our eager builder/kitchen fitter.
Now begins the mass chucking out of fifteen years of womble-hoarding in the kitchen cupboards. I will be awarding a prize for the most out of date object found. Lovely Friend and her Hub are coming over to endow us with some much needed ruthlessness. I foresee many tip trips ahead.
We will be having a kitchen party once it is all done and I have been told that with my new kitchen will come a housework gene that has hitherto been missing.
So woe betide anyone who leaves a mess on my glittery worktop or puts a dirty cup in my Belfast sink!