So to ring in 2017, the kitchen has decided to fall to pieces. To be honest, it's not a shock: the thing's been in a terrible state for at least a decade; but in the last couple of weeks we've reached that point where our growing nervousness about the state of the cutlery drawer and the thing that corrals the rubbish has coincided with the absolute decrepitude of the rest of the physical plant among which we sit every day, to create a real need to go out and seriously look at some kitchen shops.
Actually I don't mind this as much as I thought I would. I quite like snapping open corner cupboards and caressing induction hobs. I also like imagining myself as the kind of person who might possess a handle-free work arena in high-gloss gunmetal grey with a six-burner pro cooker straight out of an ocean liner and a vast splashback made of a single sheet of sunflower yellow glass. The kind of person with a lifestyle, in fact.
Indeed I am so enthralled by hand-crafted demountable cutlery drawers and articulated shelving for those hard-to-get-at corners crowded with wedding gifts from thirty years ago, that I scarcely notice one vital omission: somewhere to put the booze. Yes, there are fridges in all permutations, plenty of room to cool your whites and rosés and sparklings, but what about general storage? If, like me, you're the kind of person who prefers to keep his wine near at hand in the kitchen - not far, indeed, from the boiler and/or oven - then you need a wine rack.
But I see no wine racks. What I see are those little filler sections that slot in your island unit or wall-length workspace, designed to hold - vertically - five or six full-sized bottles and so plug a space too narrow for anything else, unless it be a pair of made-to-measure solid oak tea trays, which I also saw a few of. All right, I understand how that might work: your real collection is elsewhere, in a proper cellar, like PK's below-stairs wine hovel, and so you bring up the stuff as and when you need it, keeping it in readiness in the six-pack silo.
Which I suppose is also the thinking behind the dinky refrigerated versions which I kept spotting: this year's fitted kitchen must-have, a six-bottle cupboard with a glass door and a chiller unit so that you don't have the faff of actually opening the fridge door (itself the size of a lock gate) to get at your Chenin Blanc. It's another lifestyle thing, the presumption that you'll want to be able to reach down to knee-level and with practised economy of movement whip out a bottle of cool £10+ white to enjoy in a relaxed setting, with a member of the opposite sex and a dish of Thai-inspired prawns. I get that, too.
But where is the space for my preferred booze holder, a traditional wood and metal 6 x 8 Leviathan with room on the top for a tray holding the spirits and speciality drinks? I think I bought mine from Habitat, which really dates it - as does the rime of dust and spillage clinging to every surface - but it's been one of the few dependables in my anxiety-making international roller-coaster prawn-filled lifestyle and I don't want to see it go. It embodies my philosophy of wine just about perfectly: robust, affordable, shabby. It also fills up what was once a fireplace about a hundred years ago, so it's more than just a place to stack my crap: it's a feature. Not only all that, it is also easy to use, unpretentious and almost impossible to knock over. I'd have given it a name, if I was that sort of person.
So when the time comes to re-invent our busted old kitchen as a timelessly contemporary hospitality locus with space for efforlessly stylish food passions, I have a conviction that my filthy old wine rack is going to have to be integral to the experience. I can't imagine it not being there and in a way, neither can my wife. I mean, our kids used to pin things to its wooden cross-pieces, so, even then, years ago, it was being effortlessly multi-functional and timelessly polyvalent. Maybe it could be loved up a bit; certainly a rinse with the carbolic wouldn't come amiss. We could make it look like a mediaeval artifact stuck in a Los Angeles art gallery. Or what if we balanced a new induction hob on the top? Would that work?