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First it was the iron. Af­ter many years of ser­vice, there was a sud­den flash and a bang – and the power in my house died. I had to buy a new one.

Shortly there­after, it was the mi­crowave. The milk for my cof­fee re­mained cold, no mat­ter how many times that mi­crowave plate ro­tated. Once again, I had to buy a new ap­pli­ance – but just a cheapie be­cause in my kitchen the mi­crowave is hid­den away (I think it is by far the ugli­est item in an open-plan space). Early one Satur­day morn­ing, I found my­self in the sub­urbs be­cause there was a sale on at some store – I can’t even re­mem­ber its name. But I saved R100!

Then the ma­jor ap­pli­ances started pack­ing up. First the dish­washer tripped the elec­tric­ity, then a red light started flick­er­ing in the panel above the fridge-freezer door with my Calvinia lamb thaw­ing in­side.

The tech­ni­cians traipsed in and out. I had to leave piles of cash on the kitchen counter be­cause, of course, ev­ery­thing was COD.

Next, it was the wash­ing ma­chine. My house­keeper Mar­garet was there when the expert came to in­ves­ti­gate. Three min­utes and R550 later, the quote for the re­pairs to my 10-year-old ma­chine was R4 000. A new one (which would also save me wa­ter) would cost R5 000.

Mar­garet called me with the bad news, more con­cerned about the dirty laun­dry than my bud­get. “But Wic,” she said, “that man is wrong. You must come home. I used the ma­chine and it didn’t trip again.” I said I would check later but that for the time be­ing she must leave the ma­chine off in case it started a fire.

That same evening, I put on a load of whites – ever hope­ful – but within min­utes the house was plunged into dark­ness. The tech­ni­cian was right; Mar­garet was wrong. And just af­ter sun­rise, when the fur­ni­ture store truck ar­rived at my front door, I was an­other few thou­sand rands poorer.

In re­la­tion­ships, they speak of the “seven-year itch”. My kitchen is ap­par­ently suf­fer­ing from a “10-year itch”. Be­cause that’s how long ago I bought ev­ery­thing new as part of a pre­vi­ous ren­o­va­tion. Let that be a les­son: if you buy ev­ery­thing at the same time, it’ll all break down at the same time, it seems. It was a case of ‘delu­sions of grandeur’ all those years ago be­cause, of course, my brand new kitchen just had to have all new ap­pli­ances!

Now only the tum­ble dryer and toaster have yet to quit on me. They are on bor­rowed time, I reckon. And can I be sure that the stove, which is only three years old, will last an­other seven?

For­tu­nately, ev­ery kitchen in this is­sue will last more than seven years – check out our fea­ture on page 46. I was par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated by the kitchen is­lands which, over the years, have be­come such a core el­e­ment in open-plan spa­ces that it’s hard to imag­ine a kitchen with­out one!

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