I have just done some baking – I am visiting my Uncle for breakfast today and he loves my cheese straws, so as he is unwell, I wanted to treat him. But it made me very emotional baking in this kitchen : the kitchen table is too low for me, but I pulled up a chair to roll out my pastry as this is where my mother, grandmother and Aunt all cooked and where toddler Joshua always ate his meals. We all used the same rolling pin and the wonky imperial scales , and I loved that. It made me feel closer to my past and those who have baked before me in this old fashioned, but familiar, kitchen.
It is a very old fashioned kitchen with an ancient gas cooker – which my Dad bought second hand years ago! -, lead pipes around the ceiling and mismatched cupboards. We decided that it was time to replace the cooker with an electric model, as this is our only gas appliance so is not cost effective. In so doing, we got to thinking that that part of the kitchen could be modernised so that it all matches into the cream dresser, so on our last stay I invited a kitchen designer in to quote for the work. At the outset I explained that it was a very sentimental house and that the dresser and pantry were staying, but could he design around them. He tried several times to persuade me to move or lose the dresser to suit his design as apparently it is not the right height for modern units and I repeated that it was non-negotiable.
A week after his visit, he sent fancy 3D designs of what he would recommend we do to the kitchen. It was all clean lines and modern units and it certainly looked very swish. But I did not recognise my kitchen in there, he had taken away its soul and memories, and I hated it .It is the type of kitchen that you would expect at a fancy holiday let perhaps. He had not listened to the brief but had gone down the road that probably most customers would like, offering maximum cupboard space and sleek lines. But I am not most customers, so when he called to find out what I thought of his design, I told him bluntly that I hated it. He replied that this was only his first attempt but that he could re-visit it. But he is trying to fit a square peg – modern units – into our round, cosy hole and it will not work.
Instead I am in touch with a carpenter who has done other work for us here, he made a pair of replacement shutters for instance, and he is going to quote for a bespoke kitchen where we can have any heights or layout that we want, not what suits a national company. We are not in any real hurry so can go at his pace as it is functional as it stands, but as one of he custodians of this property which has been in our family for generations, I take that responsibility very seriously and will not simply throw out tradition for convenience. I love the pantry which offers us all the storage space we need but it holds a special place in my heart as, as a child, I used to trick my sister into going into the walk in pantry; then I would lock her in for a joke and leave her there banging on the door. She fell for it time and time again and it always made me laugh, although I was inevitably chastised by Mum when she released my shouting sister from her kitchen prison.
I have been coming here to stay all of my life, since being a baby, and Joshua is the same. It holds a very special place in all of our hearts and that is what the kitchen designer failed to recognise and as a result, he lost a potential client. The first rule of customer service has to be to listen to your customer and he failed at this first hurdle.