Real life

Melissa Kite: Hell is a porcelain kitchen tile

16 December 2017

9:00 AM

16 December 2017

9:00 AM

If only I knew whether I would have a kitchen, I could order a turkey. But despite having an almost finished kitchen space, half the kitchen units are still stacked up in the dining room and a weighty impasse has developed over the delivery options for the rest of it.

Naturally, the shop can deliver the cooker, dishwasher and worktops right now, but there will only be one man in the van and another man will be needed at my house to help him carry the worktops. I can’t carry them, and I am not remotely insulted by the gender bias this implies.

Stefano, meanwhile, is refusing to come back until all the units are on site. I told the kitchen manufacturer this and they said they could deliver the kitchen now but they will need another man.… It’s chicken and egg, or should I say turkey and egg. Do turkeys lay eggs? I feel I should know that.

It had been looking quite hopeful that I would be hosting Christmas in my new house after I managed to choose a kitchen floor tile, against all odds. I spent many hours online deliberating between Partenon Grey and Toscana Taupe, sending for samples and laying them apologetically in front of Stefano as he got more and more stroppy.

Several months into picking up the pieces of my sad and sorry love affair with the builder boyfriend, which is to say trying to patch up half a house renovation after the BB and I fell out, as usual, Stefano is nearing the end of his patience.

He wants this finished so that he doesn’t have to deal with me and my bizarre bad luck for too much longer. As such, he is insisting that everything entails the fastest, easiest option for him, which usually doesn’t mean it’s fast, easy or indeed cheap for me. He says he wants porcelain tiles, 600 x 600, and I’m not entirely sure I’m in a position to argue.


I walked into the tile superstore pop-eyed and the first thing I saw was a tile slashed from £35 a square metre to £9.95. It was porcelain. And it was 600 x 600. ‘That will do,’ I said. But when the man entered my order for 22 square metres, we found that the warehouse had run out. ‘A woman in Farnham has just ordered the last of it — a few minutes ago, in fact.’

‘Goddam it!’ I cursed. The woman in Farnham had condemned me to wander aimlessly round the store, a refugee from sanity, weighing up the pros and cons of Replica Steel and Quarcita Grey.

‘What do you want?’ said the man.

‘It’s hard to say, in general,’ I said. ‘I used to think world peace. But now I think I’d like a bloody good war. And I’d like to be on the front line. I mean, give me a gun. You know? In terms of a tile, anything. If that’s what you mean.’

He pointed me to Bristol Marengo, which was slashed from £35 a square metre to £15. It was porcelain, grey, with bits of brown in it. I ran my hand over it and it felt how I imagine smallpox would feel. ‘I’ll take it,’ I said, not liking it at all, and feeling absolutely no emotion whatsoever about that.

Two days later the tiles arrived while I was out but Stefano called me and wailed down the phone. The grout wasn’t there. I think he must have been at breaking point because he threatened to charge me £500 labour for his wasted time.

When he had calmed down, I told him to go and have some lunch. I would pick up the grout and bring it to him. Was that all right? He sobbed that it was. Stefano tells anyone who will listen that before he met me he had black hair, not silver.

He does a lot for me for old time’s sake, because when we met I was fully competent and recommended him to a lot of new customers. He has done a wonderful job of tiling the kitchen, so it doesn’t look too much like my floor has smallpox, unless you look at it close up.

I still wouldn’t care if it did. I just want to know whether to tell the keeper to hold me a turkey.

I usually choose my own. I go to the enclosure and wave a hand in the vague direction of the blighter I’m supposed to fancy. One year, Cydney chose the turkey by breaking into the pen and chasing a particular one round and round until I thought I might be bringing it home early, organically plucked.

The turkey lived to tell the tale, but only for a few weeks, of course. As it ran in circles clucking, I thought, I know how you feel.

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