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Now I came to this conclusion after twice in recent weeks I was directed to thinking about sheds by the same comment being made in my company, once about my own shed and once in someone else’s shed on TV, comments by members of the younger generation about a shed, or rather its contents, “Oh, look at that, just like granddad’s shed!”  

Now I think I have a minor claim to being something of an expert in sheds, as my family will testify, in that we have more than one or two sheds in our garden. I won’t recap history but will simply say that one of these various sheds on our property is designated, ‘Dad’s workshop’. It’s not so much that there are four saws (sorry, six!) neatly hanging safely on one wall that I have accumulated over the years (you never know when you’ll need two three crosscut saws or two three  rip saws), not to mention the hacksaws (plural), coping saws (also plural – people just give things to me when their elderly relative dies and I don’t like to refuse their kind gifts), and don’t mention the fact that I very rarely ever use these tools because they have been replaced by electric ones which do get fairly regular use.

No, the ‘granddad comment’ was occasioned on both occasions by the younger generation when they observed both in my shed and in the other shed, neat rows of jars containing various size, different-metal, and different-head type of screws (varying from tiny ones that would probably hold spectacles together to meaty three-inch ones), panel pins, tacks, nails of varying uses (oh, come on, you must know the difference between a masonry nail and a wood nail!) and varying lengths (you don’t hold 4x2 timbers together with inch nails!). And then there are bolts of various sizes (from the ones that held the back of the new washing machine steady, to the small ones that came off some smaller fitting) and of course washers of multitudinous sizes (to go with all the different size bolts, silly!) But then there are the bigger jars or boxes that contain hinges of various types and sizes, or small metal angles for joining wood, and there’s the big toolbox (inherited) with an old electric drill and a multitude of different sorts of rawlplugs and other fittings for hold brackets on walls – and yes there are four different sorts of shelf bracket, again of differing sizes, probably odd numbers or just one. Then there’s the box with a variety of curtain track fittings and fittings for holding down corrugated roofing. But it’s all orderly and there is a lot of it, and that is what creates this sense of mystique in younger observers.

Why, they wonder, have you got all this? Because I’ve been around a long time and you never know when you might need these things. They look on with wonder because they come from a generation that did not know Barry Bucknell and DIY, and so they mostly ring for a carpenter or plumber or decorator when they want changes to their home. I come from that generation of DIY frontiersmen who tried it all, and we’ve got the jars and the boxes and racks of mini-drawers filled with bits and pieces of half a century to prove it!

I think it is mostly the rows of jars and boxes and sets of mini-drawers  that create the response about granddad; it may be the comprehensiveness of the other stuff around the workshop, the two vices, the two different sorts of work bench (given by family at appropriate big-number birthdays), the drawers filled with eight sorts of hammer, five sorts of plyers, fifteen different sorts and sizes of screwdriver (as I said, I’ve been around a long time and have been a sucker for people offloading when their loved one has passed away – my kids will do it for me one day, no doubt!)  I look around the shelves; there is the tile cutter, the steamer for stripping wall paper, both of which get used only once every ten years.  

Some of the painting stuff and wood treatment stuff hangs out here, the while spirit, the methylated spirit, the linseed oil, sealants, adhesives, Polyfilla for inside and out, chain-saw oil, 3 in 1 oil, furniture oil, silver polish (when did we ever own any silver????), woodworm fluid, damp-start spray (when was the last time I had a car that needed that?), paint stripper, barbecue cleaner, ant killer, wasp killer, rust remover, a pile of sandpaper scraps, a beam cramp, several g-cramps, and some snazzy new types of grippers. Oh look, here’s a box filled with electrical bits and pieces, socket outlets (singles, doubles and trebles), light switches and light pendants, and another one with door handles and door locks. Some lengths of chain (why?), some lengths of rope (ah, lots of uses there.)  Michael McIntyre eat your heart out, you’re just a beginner!

When I start looking on the shelves where we keep garden stuff, powders and potions from yesteryear, I am reminded of one of the early parts of James Heriot’s books, when he first went to Skeldale House and met Siegfried Farnon (before WW2) who showed him round his dispensary. There was a mystique there as there is in “granddad’s workshop”; for them they were things they relied upon before science took over, things which now only appear in museums. In my workshop it is not quite that bad, but it does speak of the last fifty years collecting and not throwing away.

Some of us keep photo albums, some computers filled with photo files and we’re all doing the same thing – hanging on to the past. Some people collect plates, others collect thimbles, but it’s all the same, tying down memories – where did that plate come from? Did those thimbles come from Amsterdam or New York and was it in 1992 or 2002? Memories add value to life – yes they can sometimes be painful, but so often they bring a reassurance that we’ve got this far, and that is good. The other day I heard of a lovely couple who went off on a twenty-fifth anniversary second honeymoon and went to the same places they had gone on their first honeymoon. They took along an album of photos they had taken back then and retook them again in exactly the same places as before. What a brilliant idea! Some things had changed but amazingly much hadn’t. Just like my workshop. Who needs a time-machine with a time-Lord? I’ve got my shed, ‘granddad’s shed’. Wow! Awesome!

I hope some have identified with these ramblings; if you haven’t you don’t know what you’ve missed. Perhaps you’ve thrown most of it away and lost the romanticism of the memories created and held on to by jar, boxes and sets of mini-drawers. Shame. If only I had known what was coming fifty or sixty years ago, I would have set aside a small room, filled it with shelves and held on to my Eagle Annuals or whatever else meant things back then, because they’re worth a bit now as people clamour to get hold of the things of yesterday. Instead, I have some tools, mostly not worth much financially, but I do have one or two tools that my dad actually made, and they mean more than monetary value. Yes, perhaps one day my kids will consign most of it into a skip, but for the time-being, don’t you dare touch it, that’s my history! As always, let’s finish with a few quotes.

"A memory is a photograph taken by the heart to make a special moment last forever."

~ Unknown

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children."

~ Charles R. Swindoll

"Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things. "

~ Pierce Harris

Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ~ Kevin Arnold

I don't believe in trends. I believe in collecting things that you connect with. We should surround ourselves with things we care about, that have meaning.

Nate Berkus

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