31. The Joy of Sheds
I suspect it was a few recent sunny days that had me reflecting on Sheds. Sheds had to appear on these pages some time; it was inevitable, For some of you, I am sure, this page is going to warm your soul. For others, you will be left thinking, “Whatever is he on about?” There will be those of you who already, at the very mention of sheds, have tuned in to enjoy the coming minutes - and you know you will. Sadly there will be others for whom the talk of sheds is like talking about a foreign language.
I’ve forgotten who the ‘great person’ was who said, “The man who has not entered into the joy of sheds is not a whole man,” but I understand what they meant. Sheds have the capability of separating gender, and of separating generations - the younger generation haven’t got there yet!
I have my family to thank for my ‘shed consciousness’ for over the years they have commented more than a few times that I am a shed man - I confess to having had nine in my garden at one time - but even that comment makes me realise that an excess of sheds can dilute the pleasure.
I can look back on a childhood where my parents, at one time at least, owned an acre or so complete with the occasional shed, but it wasn’t until we moved into a smaller house that just happened to have two small sheds in the garden that I had my own first shed. The delight, as a small boy, of having this kingdom where I had secret treasure troves under the floor boards, makes me want to weep for modern children whose joy seems to come from machines in their bedroom!
You don’t have to have lots of sheds to enjoy the wonders of a shed. When we were first married we had a modern terrace house with a short, narrow garden with a garage at the end opening on to a back alley, but it was the presence of a little shed about three foot square just outside the back door that brought pleasure to both my wife and I. In this shed we kept a single folding chair and from time to time set this chair up just inside this shed, with its door open, and bathed in the sun in the privacy of this little retreat.
I mentioned the garage and should ask you in passing not to confuse garages with sheds. This particular garage remained largely empty and had a soulless up-and-over metal door. (Real garages must have timber hinged doors!) Garages often become an early substitute for sheds but in the early days of marriage we just hadn’t accumulated enough to warrant this being a real garage. You do know that a real garage is for storing stuff, don’t you. You don’t keep cars in real garages. My only good memory of that particular garage was of taking a disused TV out there and throwing a brick into it to witness the explosion - don’t tell me you’ve never had the yearning to throw a brick at your TV?
Moving to our next house, where we have lived happily ever since, we found ourselves with a long garden populated by a number of decrepit sheds. Yes, there was a garage and, with the passing of time, it developed from an empty stone-floored, windowless hole, into a full-blown garage full of junk. That was it’s only redeeming feature because it could never have been used as a place to park a car after the late fifties, because the side drive was too narrow to allow access to any modern car; even a mini would have been a struggle. With the further passing of time this garage became so dilapidated that I had to find a new home for the now roof-high junk and pull it down, but our children still sometimes refer to the wonders of their childhoods when they made tunnels and dens in this Aladdin's cave.
But back to proper sheds. Even as the example of our garage indicates, like human beings, sheds have lives and lives come to an end. None of the sheds we discovered in the midst of the four foot high grass when we moved in, is there today. In fact over several decades these sheds have changed a number of times. In the early days of our married life in this home, I built sheds, often from scrap timber, old corrugated iron and so on. They were often quite disreputable. Why have so many sheds? Well, they were there to start with when we arrived, and who am I to change the character of my garden? But sheds are for storing things and all our sheds were filled with ‘things’. Five Summers ago I realised that one day my children might have the unenviable job of disposing of this lot when I passed on, so spent a happy Summer holiday clearing out some of these sheds and made seven trips to the local tip with a trailer full. (There is a certain pleasure in visiting the local Council tip but that is a story for another day!)
For the uninitiated, pleasure from sheds comes from sitting in them, contemplating the world and the cobwebs, and pondering on the wonder of life in the modern western world that allows us to accumulate stuff. Some of us even DO things in our sheds, like wood turning or carpentry, or just checking out tins of old nails or screws, or rummaging for that light fitting that I put in here ten years ago, knowing there would come a time when I would need it - but where is it? Pleasure also comes from clearing it out. In fact it was that exercise yesterday that prompted this article.
With the passing of time, my sheds have become less disreputable and have turned into a “potting shed” or “summer houses”. In case you think this is purely a male domain, my wife, while still being a beginner with sheds, does take joy in clearing out her summer house so that one day she’ll find time to sit in there again. (OK, she hasn’t really ever entered into the wonder of sheds, and I think it really is a male thing mostly.) In fact, when I dwell on the past, she has been a motivating force to bring change to the landscape of our garden: “Could you build me a summer house where I can escape to, to get away from the phone?” started a new level of construction, and then many years, later, “Now that the children are too old to sleep out there and it’s become a dumping ground for junk, could I have a new summer house?” (Now you see why the mention earlier was to summer houses. I mean you don’t pull down a perfectly good storage place, do you!)
So pleasure comes with building them, or buying them, sitting in them (sometimes doing something constructive in them), filling them, emptying them and rebuilding them. If all this leaves you cold, you are obviously someone who has a massive gap in your life experiences, and for that, I am sorry. But it’s never too late to start. All you needs is.....
Why have I written about sheds on the Silver Surfer pages? Because,as I suggested earlier on, I think there is a generational gap and you don’t come into full appreciation of sheds until you’ve gained some years and some experience and some memories, and that is what this has all been about. For fellow shed-connoisseurs, even as you have read, you will have identified with it and your own memories will have been stirred. What a good life it is, with sheds!