Dream kitchens, who needs them? Me. I've always longed for a dream kitchen, a commodity which most of my friends either already have or are about to acquire. My Polish friend Gabriela has a chandelier in the middle of hers and was only reluctantly persuaded that a bed built into the roof above her state-of-the-art stainless steel five-ring gas hob over which, she said, she could peer intermittently while taking a siesta to check if her dumplings had risen, was not a good idea.
Ten years ago another friend who had landed a job as a cookery writer had a dream kitchen installed at Rupert Murdoch's expense. How much? I said.
About £30,000 she said. Good grief, why? I gasped. Because, said Sarah, it was built to her own specifications with cunning little drawers to put spices, shelves to hold herbs, racks from which whole hocks of oak-smoked, acorn-fed Jubego ham could hang and special cupboards to store soufflé dishes, all made from apple wood. As well as all that it had one of those double-door American fridges the size of a garage with iced water, fizzy and non-fizzy, literally on tap and a device that dispensed ice cubes in the shape of stars and hearts and polar bears. I could feel myself beginning to salivate and hunger pangs in my stomach as she described all this.
Later, I mentioned casually to my husband that it might be time for us to start thinking in terms of apple wood spice drawers and ice cubes in the shape of polar bears. "Why?" he said, adding, as he always does when I talk wistfully about getting a new sofa or replacing the cooker which has as much relevance to haute cuisine as a quill to a laptop, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" Imagine where we'd be if pioneers such as Mr Rolls and Mr Royce had applied the same laissez-faire attitude to auto engineering. We'd still be driving around in lawnmowers.
And then the other night out of the blue the telephone rang. "Good evening Mrs Hutchison," said a man with one of those deep reassuring Scots accents that everyone at the other end of the call centre helpline seems to have these days and why not, I'm in Scotland. "I wondered if I might interest you in an exciting new kitchen promotion we're offering to a few carefully selected people in your area." I said I might be, visions of apple wood floating before me.
"If I could trouble you to answer two questions: do you own your own house and would putting in a new kitchen require any major structural alterations?" Yes and no I said, which must have been the right answers because Steve from Space Kitchens in Inverness immediately launched into the usual spiel about absolutely no obligation, free planning and design, substantial discounts and the very real possibility, if my kitchen were to be featured in some magazine, of a total refund.
Now, as luck would have it we're in the process of converting what was basically a large shed, albeit a large architect-designed shed, into what Americans would call a very gracious home complete with extra bedrooms, bathroom and - if we can ever get the water from our spring to gush a little more forcefully - a power shower. If ever there was a moment to whack in a dream kitchen, as Jamie Oliver might say, this is it. Ripeness is all. Steve from Space Kitchens took the address and said they'd be with me at 10.30. "You do realise we are on an island," I said. Steve laughed a deep reassuring Scots laugh and said he knew all about the passenger ferry but he'd have to take the car ferry because he had a lot of samples to show me; by the way he was also seeing a Mrs McColl on the island - would I prefer to be the first or second call? It would take around two hours.
Next day, 10.30 came. Steve didn't. I telephoned Inverness and got Kenny, whose voice was just as deep and reassuring as Steve's, but with - how shall I put this? - the unmistakable whiff of geezer mixed in there too. Kenny said he was just about to ring me. The designer had missed the ferry and had been sacked. He would understand perfectly if I didn't want to reschedule the appointment.
Damn right I don't. But what's it all about, Alfie, or Kenny, or Steve. Is Space Kitchens really a front for a ruthless international drugs cartel looking for somewhere safe on a small Scottish island to stow their loot? They've got my address. I'm beginning to feel nervous - watch this space.Reuse content