Take delivery of the new kitchen – sounds simple but…

The time has come. We’re ready to tackle installing a new kitchen at the mill. We’ve found the kitchen we want, designed it all and ordered what we need. That took quite a while in itself, but that was the easy (and fun) bit.

Having looked at furniture and appliances in France, investigated the choice of sizes and cabinets types, examined the quality and robustness, done the maths…it became clear that we would do a lot better if we sourced our new dream kitchen in England.  (more-than-£6,300-cheaper kind of clear, I mean)

Three years ago when Colin and I were dreaming of life in our watermill (which at that point we had only viewed once and hadn’t even yet worked out how we were going to afford) we decided to spend a cold, wet English Saturday exploring the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon, Wiltshire.This centre brings together expertise, products and exhibitions of everything the keen self-builder, renovator or green technology enthusiast might need, under one roof. We had spent the day looking at energy-saving boilers, septic tanks and all manner of whizzy ecologically sound items that might be useful in our future renovation, when we happened upon a display of kitchens. Not only were we taken with the style and quality of these cabinets but the prices were incredibly reasonable. We left with armfuls of brochures (OK, not very eco-friendly) and yet more dreams in the planning, to add to the massive project we were working on in our heads.

Wind forward to August this year when we decided to go and have a look at this company’s offerings again. They are based in Dudley in the Midlands so we combined visits to friends and family and did a whistle-stop couple of days trip during one of our visits to the UK.

New kitchen plan
New kitchen plan

To cut an even longer story a bit shorter, we liked what we saw, placed our order and arranged a date in December to take delivery of the finished kitchen.

So far, so good.

Except that the company doesn’t deliver abroad. Hiring a delivery service was going to cost silly money, so we would need to go and collect it. Rather than flat-packs the cabinets come as rigid, ready-built cupboards, complete with all internal accessories, so our own Renault Trafic would not be big enough. We would have to hire a box van. However, there was nowhere within 100 kilometres that had a box van and would let us take it across the Channel. So we would need to hire a van in Bristol, drive up to Dudley to collect the kitchen, drive home to France, unload and drive back to Bristol to return the hire van. OK. That’s do-able! The hire van was located in Bristol and reserved.

So far, so good.

Except that we weren’t sure that the van we would get would be long enough to take the 4m+ lengths of worktop. We would need to go over to Bristol in the Trafic, rather than the car, in case we needed extra van space and to strap the worktops onto the roof-rack. Right, we would drive up to Caen and catch the ferry to Portsmouth on the Thursday, pick up the hire van on Friday and drive both vans up to Dudley on Friday, load up the kitchen and take it back to Bristol. (With me so far?) On Saturday we had a crossing booked to take the hire van back to France, where we would arrive home at about 5pm, unload the kitchen and then on Sunday catch the ferry back to the UK to return the hire van. That meant we could then spend a few days seeing friends and family before returning to France in our van, the following weekend.

So far, so good

With everything ready and packed during the weekend before we were due to leave on the Thursday, we were looking forward to spending a relaxing Sunday afternoon with our friends, Jacques and Marie-Claude, enjoying one of the regular informal concerts they host at their lovely watermill. It had been raining a fair bit during the week and they live at the end of a long, single track lane, where the only parking is on the grass verge. So we decided to take the van rather than the car, which is more of a low-slung, two-seater affair.We arrived to find the lane full of concert-goers’ vehicles so decided to turn the van around in the entrance to a field so that we could get out easily at the end of the afternoon. But the van got stuck on the muddy terrain, didn’t it?. It wouldn’t move backwards or forwards, just settled further into the grass, transforming it into a sticky, red gloop.

After a quick discussion with our hosts, and not wanting to delay the start of the concert, we decided to leave the Trafic sinking gently into the field and round up some helpers to get it out after the concert. Jacques’ son had offered to tow us out of the mud with his van, but when we all went outside in the dwindling daylight later that afternoon, he discovered that his van had also nestled itself cosily into the soft grass verge. By the time a team of volunteers had freed his vehicle and he had hitched a rope to our tow-bar it was pitch black dark and raining steadily. Luckily he managed to extricate our Trafic and drag it onto hard ground again.

Phew!

Once the rope was uncoupled, I went to reverse back to the edge of the lane to let the now-departing concert-goers pass in their cars. Erm…“Colin, I think we might have another little problem”

No gears. Nothing. The gear leaver just wobbled about like a Weeble, but wouldn’t engage with anything.

Nothing for it. We wouldn’t be able to get anything sorted tonight, so after pushing the van off the road into a (firmer) field entrance and gratefully accepting a lift from a lady who lives in our village, we went home… and opened a bottle of wine.

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