How old is your kitchen?

You’ll have had a similar phone call. Probably lots of them. Congratulations! You’ve been selected at random to receive £1,000 off the cost of a new kitchen. You know there’s no point asking them how much the new kitchen costs, because they never answer that one. Instead, they’re going to ask you a series of daft questions, to check if you qualify, because the offer is subject to status. Conditions apply. First, are you between 18 and 85? Wow, I told the woman, how did you guess that? You’ve got my age bracket to a T, first time. That’s uncanny. How did you know that? And then she asks, like they always do: How old is your kitchen? That’s a hard one to answer, because different bits of it are different ages. In fact I’ve never really been clear about which particular bits of the kitchen they mean by the kitchen.

Depending on my mood, or whether I’m busy, or whether I just feel like a break, sometimes I cut these people off quickly and sometimes I string them along awhile. This one seemed a little different, because she told me there’s no time limit on this £1,000 voucher. And, you never know, it’s always possible that my financial circumstances might revive and flourish in the unforeseeable future, and maybe at some point I might be interested in sprucing up the kitchen, especially if there’s a discount on offer. So I said OK, thanks for the voucher. I’ll look forward to receiving it. But they won’t just put it in the post, of course. And next thing I know, I’ve made an appointment for one of their representatives to come round, show me some samples, measure up, and produce an original creative design, or however she put it.

And a day or two later, there’s a large middle-aged gentleman in a blue pin-stripe suit standing in my kitchen, briefcase in one hand and laptop in the other, looking a little less than happy. I should explain that my kitchen, like many people’s, is rather more than just a kitchen. It’s also a social gathering space. It does have kitchen appliances, and some of them even still work, even though they’re all ancient. But it has many other things too. In fact it’s full of junk, you could say. I see you’re a hoarder, the representative said. Do you? I said.

If you were tempted to modernize this kitchen, he wondered aloud, where would you want to start?

Well, I said, the ceiling would have to be our first priority. I mean, look at it.

We don’t do ceilings, he said tersely, looking down at the floor.

And the floor needs sorting too, I pointed out.

We don’t do floors either, he said, looking up again.

So that narrowed it down a little. So the kitchen ceiling isn’t part of the “kitchen”. And neither is the kitchen floor.

The tumble drier’s just packed up, I told him. And the fridge has seen better days. And as for the cooker ...

We don’t deal with individual appliances, he interrupted me. What we’d be looking to do is take photographs of it, then rip it all out, then put in a completely new kitchen, then take more photographs. Then we’ll put both sets of photographs up on our website, as in “before” and “after”.


And we don’t do flatpacks, he said. Everything’s customised. Designed by top creative designers.

Sounds good.

But I’ll tell you something straight, he said. Because I’m a plain-speaking Yorkshireman.

Sounds even better.

I’d guess that you can’t afford it, he said. Even if we made this our show-house for the area, and gave you our very maximum discount, and we’d be talking virtually just cost price there, one of our kitchens would still cost you more than this house is probably worth.

I see, I said.

But tell you what I’ll do, he carried on. I won’t waste your time and mine creatively designing a new customised kitchen for you. But I’ll leave you with one of our £1,000-off vouchers all the same.

Which sounded like a generous compromise.

Because I’m the sales manager, he added, and I can do whatever the hell I like.

So that was the deal. So I’m not getting a new kitchen, or even a customised creative design for a new kitchen, but I have got a £1,000-off voucher towards the cost of the new kitchen that I’m not going to get.

Like many people who call themselves plain-speaking, Yorkshiremen or otherwise, he wasn’t really speaking plainly at all. If he’d said what he really meant, it would have been something like this: You’re poor, and I see I can’t make any money out of you. But I’ll give you a totally pointless token discount voucher anyway, in the vain hope that it might enhance the reputation of our company.

Reading the small print on the voucher after he’d gone, I found that it can also be used towards the cost of a new bathroom, or possibly (“in selected areas only”) a new bedroom. It has no expiry date, but even so I’m sure it will never be of any use to me at all. But it might come in handy for someone else.

So, what am I offered? I probably ought to let it go to the highest bidder, but having no business sense (which is why I’m poor), I’m happy to open it up to other suggestions. I might give it to the person who tells me the funniest joke, for instance. Or the person with the most heart-wrenching sob story. Or I might just select someone at random. I’m the owner of a £1,000-off voucher, and I can give it to whoever the hell I like. As long as you’re between 18 and 85. You can put it towards a new kitchen, or a new bathroom, or possibly a new bedroom if you live in a selected area. So drop me a line at explaining, in an apt and original way, why you think you deserve this voucher, and we’ll see what we can sort out.


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