Helen Martin: Hell’s kitchen? I give you Hel’s

Gordon Ramsay's kitchen nightmares have nothing on our Helen's. Picture: Robert Perry
Gordon Ramsay's kitchen nightmares have nothing on our Helen's. Picture: Robert Perry
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I DON’T think anything, except a death in the family, is as traumatic as having a kitchen remodelled.

Okay, being destitute, homeless or seriously ill probably tops it, but even moving house is less stressful. After a few days of packing and emptying boxes, it’s over. This has been going on for weeks.

There is no point in doing any housework until it’s all finished and the dust stops. The contents of the old kitchen are all over the floor in boxes so there’s not enough visible carpet to vacuum. The bathroom sink is subbing for the dishwasher. I do realise the health hazard of washing plates and cutlery next to where you . . . . yes, well the water’s disconnected in the kitchen, so there’s no alternative.

Carry-outs and convenience meals are not our thing. I am yearning to boil a potato, make a pot of soup or sink my teeth into a crispy bacon sandwich. When I offered the painter some shortbread with his tea he asked if it was home-made. “How the bleep-bleep could it be home-made?” I asked gesticulating round at the disconnected appliances and rubble.

Kitchen alterations are testing for relationships too. Himself was quite sanguine to begin with. He could hardly be described as “houseproud” and is quite at home with mess while I become genuinely depressed living in disorder, exhausted and on the verge of explosion or tears. But then came his breaking point. He ran out of underpants. With no washing machine, the laundry fairy was on strike so – too old to go commando – he trundled off to the laundrette where the obliging lady agreed to not only supervise the wash for him but fold his briefs!

While the kitchen is full of tradesmen who assure me through the gritty clouds that it’s all going to plan, every other room looks like a scene from TV’s Obsessive Cleaners . . . as in the dysfunctional hell hole they’ve come to sort out, where boxes of cat food share chair space with toilet rolls and out of grim necessity the only thing within easy reach is a bottle of wine.

Unfortunately the other night I managed to lock myself out of the kitchen after I’d put the wine in the still-functioning fridge. After painting, the door handles were balanced in the doors and the inner one with the spindle attached had fallen off. Attempts to access via the outside back door failed when I realised that had the same problem – and the cat was miaowing and must be locked inside. I phoned the long-suffering joiner, who couldn’t answer because he was at the movies and Himself was at a sports dinner. Wielding the screwdriver I eventually managed to remove the outside handle, jiggle the mechanism, retrieve the wine and some “picnic” food and conduct a thorough search for the cat, who turned out to be in a different room altogether.

I find it interesting that people say the same thing to women having a new kitchen put in as they say to women in the delivery room between grunts, screams and contractions: “Just a little longer, it’ll be worth it in the end.” Probably. But for now, the wine’s chilling in the front porch.

Rifkind shows disconnection to those he serves

UNTIL last week, Malcolm Rifkind still commanded some sort of respect in Scotland, if only for standing up to Margaret Thatcher. As far as Conservatives go, he seemed quite moderate, sharp and astute but with an affable exterior.

Then came the statements for which he can never be forgiven. He described himself as “self-employed” denying he was paid a salary (probably because it was a paltry two and a half times the UK average) and, just when it couldn’t get much worse, he said someone with his background was “entitled” to earn more. The tragedy is that he will earn a lot more – by using that parliamentary experience.

Rifkind is an example of the arrogance, conceit, delusion, greed, weird morals and downright ignorance we see in our politicians, and how disconnected from and disrespectful towards ordinary people they can become in the Palace of Westminster. Anyone who watched the wonderful Cromwellian Wolf Hall on TV which ended last week might conclude that, apart from the frequent executions and fashions, nothing much has changed since 1536!

Hotel will take soul out of Royal High

AT first sight, the Cockburn Association’s objections to the Royal High (of which my late father was once dux) being turned into a luxury hotel, and their proposal that it should instead be mothballed until an alternative use is found, looks crackers. With no income, how can the landmark building be maintained?

But by the time it has been split into bedrooms, reception and lobby, bars, restaurant, toilets, kitchens, laundry, offices, gym, swimming pool, sauna and function suite and given the internal, modern makeover required by a 21st century hotel plus two large extensions, it will be unrecognisable.

Only a cultural role as a museum, gallery, performance space or all three, would sympathetically allow its integrity to remain intact.

Heading for trouble

AN Italian surgeon is planning the first head transplant in two years, essentially to give paralysed people a new body from a donor who is brain dead. Surgery may be possible in two years. Resolving the medical ethics may take a lifetime.