It was almost exactly two years ago that Russell replaced our old kitchen. He had been on at us for several years to replace it; it was now well over 20 years old, and I must admit that I had been getting a bit fed up every time one of the doors fell off, especially if it landed on my foot, and there was one occasion when a (surprisingly heavy) door narrowly missed my head! So the time had arrived for a new kitchen. As I said, Russell had been badgering us for some time to let him replace it, but the look of absolute horror on his face when we finally said yes, didn’t fill us with quite the enthusiasm and anticipation you would expect at the outset of such a major renovation.
However, we had made our choice of kitchen fitter (albeit one that hadn’t yet transferred all his landscaping skills to his ambition of becoming a master-carpenter). In fact his only experience of carpentry seemed to be a rather large book called “Woodwork – step by step guide”! But we put all this aside and concentrated on choosing the cupboards, the layout and a new cooker. Russell arranged for a designer to help us plan the layout, and then all that was left was removing the old kitchen and installing the new one – easy!
Easter Monday had been scheduled as the official start date, so we spent most of the Sunday rearranging our home. The fridge moved into the garage, the microwave, kettle, toaster and a minimum of plates, knives and forks etc found a new home in the utility room. Everything else was put into boxes and stowed wherever we could find a bit of space. Then it was off to the pub for something to eat! Russell had enlisted Dean as his right-hand-man for the project, and between them, they removed the old kitchen in a matter of hours, almost filling the skip on the front lawn. Within minutes of putting the old cooker outside we were visited by a truckload of what can only be described as scruffy “oiks” offering to take it off our hands. We let them have it just to get rid of them; they must have some kind of sophisticated radar that homes in on unwanted scrap metal! Dean then started rearranging the plumbing, and Pete came in to rewire and fit new lights, sockets and switches; this was followed by complete re-plastering, which took two or three days to dry. During this time we were eating out or getting takeaways – we must have tried every pub and restaurant in the area. Pot Deli were still at Missenden Station then, so we took advantage of their one-pot meals, but after the third time it was apparent that no matter what the meals were called, they all tasted exactly the same!
After the plaster was dry, Mike came in to do all the painting, and then it was time for the units to be installed. Despite never having done this before, Russell and Dean did an absolutely fantastic job. There were a few hiccups on the way: the mickey-mouse electrics in our house caused a lot of concern, then there was the whole day spent sanding the varnish off one door only to find it looked better with the varnish on, the morning spent cutting the architraves back to front, and the burst pipe at 9pm that took two hours to fix – at this point I would have happily have moved out for good!
But in the end, everything came together really well, you cannot see the join in the worktop, the tiling looks amazing, and the layout gave us much more space than before. All that was left to do was install the cooker. Russell followed the instructions exactly and had allowed a gap of one cooker width plus 5mm either side between the units – would it fit? And yes, no problem, the cooker slid into the space with exactly 5mm clearance on either side. This was probably the most exciting bit, as by now we were really tired of eating out and just wanted a home-cooked meal.
The kitchen was ready to use – all we had to do now was put everything back!
As many of you know, John does not like clutter, so this was an opportunity for him to chuck away everything that he considered to be “junk”, while I was frantically removing “precious items`’ from the skip. We eventually came to a compromise and most of it was dumped! Of the things we did keep, we tried to put them back in roughly the same area as before, but even now, two years later, I am still trying to put roast potatoes in the fridge and cartons of orange juice in the microwave!
Russell and his mates did a fantastic job in replacing our old kitchen. We would recommend Dean, Mike and Pete for their hard work and patience. He proved that our confidence in his skills (and those of his friends) was fully justified, and he has left us with a lasting reminder of his expertise and bravery in attempting such a large project with no previous experience. From a very young age he had wanted to be as good a carpenter as his grandfather, and this proved that he was well on the way to achieving his ambition. His next project was to be renovating a complete house; sadly he never got to finish this, but many of his tools did get used to complete it.
We learned a lot from Russell in the two weeks it took to replace the kitchen; with encouragement and determination it is possible to successfully step out of your comfort zone and complete something you have never done before, we saw how he confidently coordinated others to complete each part of the project, and how he was not satisfied with second best.
This is the best kitchen we will ever have; the only thing missing is Russell.