Warning: Not only is this post about getting a bloody kitchen installed, it’s the first of a two-part series. If – unlike me – you have better things to do than reflecting on home decorating trauma, go back to your porn viewing.
After witnessing a revolution I thought that I had traversed the gamut of human feeling and emotion, but then in May I decided to get a kitchen installed. I discovered that pain and suffering lurk waiting for you everywhere.
It took me almost eight years to get a kitchen fitted.
My uncle sold to my mother the flat I live in (housed in a building owned and entirely occupied by my maternal aunts). When she took ownership it was almost empty, and had metres and metres of walls painted yellow.
Furniture was acquired gradually over the course of years, with the exception of sofas, a flock of which migrated to the flat all at once. I still don’t understand why, it’s like my mother unleashed them on me. I also had a television and a washing machine. So you could watch TV in clean clothes on a selection of canapes but that was about it. I lived like this for a couple of years until the combination of the yellow walls and my voice echoing in the barren rooms and the sofas staring at me got too much.
My mother helped fill the place up, mostly it has to be said with clothes horses, but the kitchen remained a challenge.
I acquired a second-hand cooker from my cousin, but it exploded. I bought kitchen gadgets but had nowhere to put them since there were no counters. People came into the flat and ooed and aared at its nice high ceilings and shiny floors and then saw the kitchen. A bit like noticing the fit bloke you are checking out has urine stains on his trousers. Also it’s nice to have a bit of surface to chop an onion on.
Imbued with a renewed sense of optimism following the revolution I decided that if regime is possible, I can do my kitchen. The hunt began for a company.
Kabnoury would have been alright save for the fact that we are no longer living in the 1980s. Amr Helmy meanwhile designs kitchens of such opulence that if I had purchased one from him I would have had to install a bed in there to get my money’s worth. One company whose name I forget had reasonably priced stuff but I tried opening one draw in the showroom and frankly was reminded of demonstrators resisting arrest.
WORKTOPS WORKTOPS WORKTOPS WORKTOPS
One fateful afternoon my mother and aunt Nefissa were out shopping when they came across the company that would eventually supply my kitchen. We went along and the showroom was filled with tasteful, sturdy-looking cupboards. My heart was filled with confidence anew.
The company sent a youth round to take the measurements, and then we were summoned back to the showroom to view the designs the engineer had come up with.
As Nefissa listened to her motivational CDs with her eyes shut and my well-meaning but spacey mother tuned in and out of the discussion I was left with the task of deciding the kitchen’s fate.
I noticed that the engineer pronounced ‘worktop’ as if it has three syllables and placed the emphasis on ‘top’. Mostly everything else was in Arabic save for this strange insistence on saying ‘worktop’ in English. After months of dealing with this individual I can’t now hear this word without experiencing a vague feeling of rage.
A design was eventually settled on and a large wad of cash deposited with them. They told us that their showroom got looted on January 28, and the visa card machine got nicked. They still hadn’t got one eight months later in August, when we deposited another large wad of cash with them. I started to believe there was something a bit cowboy about them.
My family has never got a kitchen done. When we moved into our house in Croydon my dad removed the pre-installed cupboards and put up shelves in order to ensure that our food and kitchenware got an absolutely thorough coating of cooking grease and dust.
I was under the impression that in addition to designing and fitting your kitchen the company will do whatever it necessary in your old kitchen to accommodate the new one. The engineer broke it to me that in fact, they have nothing at all to do with this process. She gave me the names of two engineers who could assist me.
I rang the first one. His name was Mark. He appeared within an hour of the call and, as became standard with virtually all the males that entered my flat during this period, immediately took the kitchen’s measurements. He was a short, quiet sort of man whose aftershave lingered long after he left.
He returned with an associate to advise on the flooring and I requested an estimation of costs. Mark and said associate huddled over a sheet of paper and suddenly the scent of dodgyness was stronger than his eau de perfume. They were even smirking.
Later the same day Noov, Usha and I went to a street filled with bathroom and tiling suppliers, armed with the kitchen plan the company had drawn up. We got talking to one owner who insisted that I work for CNN without providing any basis for this assertion other than the colour of my hair. He then launched into a discursive monologue on the vast differences between foreigners vs Egyptians re. plumbing.
We left that street empty handed. On the way back Usha rang Mark up and asked why he was quoting me LE 500 to hire a van to remove rubble. He had no answer. Mark’s problem was that he was a pissant who couldn’t talk himself out of shit. He was an amateur, and he got rumbled.
I saw three more engineers/builders/designers. The first, Ahmed, followed up with a risible quote and then had the temerity to send a follow-up email when I ignored his joke of a quotation.
The second individual was a young designer type who appeared dressed like the 1970s. He had beads on. They hid shyly in his chest hair.
He opened his laptop and showed me some of his previous work, and I played a secret game in my head of searching for the actual kitchen behind the zebra print and giant suspended unidentifiable objects. He seemed like a decent bloke and was clearly passionate about what he did. He would be my first port of call if ever I needed to recreate a Duran Duran video.
Tomorrow: more of this shit.