IMG_2700

Now that we have decided a start date (say it quietly) for our kitchen project, there are all sorts of decisions to make about the fixtures and fittings. I am aware I am about to bore some of you rigid with all of this, and still others will be gnashing their teeth at this middle class display of entitlement but hey ho, it’s my blog, MY refuge and no-one’s forcing you to read it. What a pity that innocuous self expression requires such a defensive disclaimer.

Our flooring for the interior, the kitchen and sitting room, is intended to match the flooring for the exterior terrace. If there are ever any sunny and warm days in summer – and at this point I consider the 6 or 7 degrees we’ve had lately and the overcast sky rendering viewing of today’s total eclipse completely impossible for us – we’ll fold and slide back our bifold doors and create a large in and out room.

But which flooring to use? The possibilities and budgets are infinite of course. I fancy slate, a natural material that is quite warm to the touch for stone. I’ve considered porcelain and granite tiles, and even polished concrete. My first choice was Yorkshire stone but that and a lot of these options seemed impossibly expensive, especially when compared with the Cbinese slate that was about a quarter of their price. I have become aware that my price expectations for floor coverings are at the level of about £90-£100 per square meter and that these expectations are unrealistic for people like us.

So begin the fretting and worrying. I don’t like ever buying the cheapest of anything. My parents always used to do this and, put it like this, there is always a reason why something is cheap. Considering the large floor area to be covered, about 120 sq meters, I did not want to buy cheap and ruin what is set to be a fabulous kitchen with a substandard floor.

How does China produce slate a quarter of the price of that prodcuced in Wales? Let us speculate: lower labour costs. Forced labour? Child labour? Poor Health and Safety practices? Extraction by unsustainable methods? Complete lack of human rights? Of course, this is speculation but, given my history with China, it makes me rueful and concerned.

Of course the price differential makes the Chinese slate tempting but at what cost? The OH quite rightly points out that many of the goods we take for granted are produced under questionable employment practices in China and if we boycotted these, we’d have to forgo most of the things in our house. iPhone, anyone? But the thought is still there, rankling away.

Not to mention the worry that so much of the cost of any product imported from China must be taken up with transportation costs. To me, it’s the same as buying wine from Australia and New Zealand: exactly how much of that £7.99 bottle pays for the ship that brings it half way around the world? And how can what is left be of a decent quality?

I’d love to set an example and use environmentally-friendly Welsh or Cumbrian or Yorkshire stone but I simply cannot justify the extra expense. Surely there had to be a reasonably priced alternative half way between the Chinese slate and the Yorkshire stone?

I took to Twitter and my local tweep @HazyGray recommended a stone dealer, whom I visited today, driving down into the rural idyll in sunshine that had appeared hours too late for the eclipse. On entering the yard it was clear that every expense had been spared to bring us competitively priced stone and bingo! I found the slate I was looking for at a reasonable price. It’s from Brazil which is, apparently a very good quality slate. The yard in question stock neither Chinese nor Welsh slate. Apparently they chip. That might be just sales patter. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to know.

If I Googled Brazilian slate, my fear is that they are cutting down the Amazonian rainforest to get at it. I don’t know but, being endlessly inquisitive, I’m sure I shall find out. To me at present, Brazil is about Samba and Bossa Nova, the statue of Bom Jesus, Rio, Ipanema, football, about complex jazz rhythms and therefore can’t be all bad. Hm. In the end we see what we want to see. You can see how a little information can be a dangerous thing.

This slate is, however, perfect. It is priced at the low mid point and exactly the right shade to tone nicely with our worktops and kitchen units. I think I’ve found my floor.