A Shed of One’s Own

A Shed of One’s Own - Lighthouse

Last week I had a dream.  Not the humanity-inspiring kind of dream, but the kind where you find yourself stranded in a shopping trolley in your pyjamas on top of a national monument.  In this particular instance dream-me could hear noises coming from the bottom of the garden. I crept across the moonlit lawn to the shed door and opened it, only to find my old primary school Principal trapped inside.  On the face of it, this might seem like the surfacing of long-repressed memories about my school days or my subconscious view of authority figures. But it was, in fact, a dream about sheds. 


It makes perfect sense.  The Easter holidays are over and the summer term has begun. I’m glad to say that my worst fears regarding keeping small one safe during the Easter hols while the house was re-plumbed proved to be unfounded (I did have to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on the dog due to plasticine-related choking, but this was entirely unrelated to the renovation).  But now the evenings are now growing longer and the sun is climbing a little higher in the sky each day (at least I’m fairly sure it is: it’s hard to be sure because staring straight into the sky causes the torrential rain and sleet to sting my eyes) it’s time to start imaging a season when we might venture outside for more than 5 minutes at a time.


Left behind at our previous house were not only most of the plants I had nurtured for 10 years, but also my beloved greenhouse. This is why I feel at a loss this spring. Usually at this time I begin spending serious amounts of time pottering.  Seeds are sown. Cups of tea are drunk. More seeds. More tea… you get the picture. In stark contrast this year I find myself in the middle of planting season with not so much as a flat surface on which to balance a couple of plant pots and my framed portrait of Monty Don.


Although sans greenhouse, our new garden did come free with a bonus 30 foot long garage.  I say “garage” because that is what the long, low building situated somewhere at the top of the drive is usually called.  In this case, despite having all the appearance of a garage, the building in question turned out to be something else entirely.


We should have been tipped off that something was rotten in the state of Denmark (or in the state of the felt roof) when we wrenched open the peeling door, hanging by its one solitary hinge, to find an unexpected wetland habitat of some significance. It’s a wonder the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust hadn’t already earmarked it for special protection due to its enormous biodiversity. On closer inspection a list began to form: the things inside the building that needed to be replaced.  It read as follows: the roof (as previously described), the pedestrian entrance door (also refer to previous), the up-and-over garage door, the walls and the floor. We did not need to consult with a structural engineer to know that there wouldn’t be much left. The haul of architectural salvage was also disappointing. Items not water-logged, to the point of looking like they had been recently dredged up from the deck of the Titanic, amounted to 13 in total. These comprised 12 roof tiles and a car sponge that had seen better days.


Once we knew the garage was a goner, my brain started working overtime. A thought started to bubble inside my head. And the thought was shed-shaped. The idea that I might be going shopping for a brand new custom-built wooden she-mansion began to consume my every waking thought. It made my previous excitement over interior paint cards pale into insignificance (pale but not too pale.  Maybe “Sludge” or “Hint of Yeti”).


Apparently I am not alone. We are a nation of “sheddies” - yes there is indeed a name for the passion. (See? Plenty of people have Pinterest boards for their shed. It’s completely normal. Cool, even. I bet Meghan Markle loves a good shed). For those of us whose shed is worthy of its own Instagram account, entry into the Cuprinol-sponsored Shed of the Year 2018 is an absolute must. Previous winners have included a mushroom-shaped playhouse den in Surrey replete with 2 staircases, a trap door and stained glass windows, a three wing shed named “The West Wing” in Berkshire constructed from recycled materials and with a roof made from wild turf growing out of 400 plastic milk bottles, and a distillery in the Highlands built from a dilapidated hen house. Last year the competition had nearly 3000 entrants.


Back in Thompson Towers, however, I am setting my sights significantly lower. I don’t intend the new lady-lodge to be competition-worthy.  Neither am I going to use it to trap ageing authority figures from my past. But rather to corral the standard outdoor stuff: tools, patio furniture, bbq, lawn mower.  Perhaps, since after all it will be all new and gorgeous, I might go a bit wild with the storage solutions. Paint tins arranged in rainbow order, industrial peg board to hang my trowels, that kind of thing. (Who says I don't know how to let my hair down?)


As well as shed-shopping, having cast off the calf blanket I donned on the 1 November 2017, I have also begun to have the uncomfortable, but all too familiar, feeling of having forgotten what I normally wear at this time of year. Winter is simples - It’s all about the layers. The colder it is, the more cardigans one has to apply. It’s a pretty forgiving look.  But now I can’t hide beneath all the wool, and at some point might, oh horror, actually have to bare my legs (!). Spring is, as Gok Wan might put it, a transitional season. One has to wear something that can deal with both the frosty school run, and, a much balmier appointment with the lovely ladies with whom one lunches dahling. In all my springtimes I have yet to work out what these garments might look like.


Once my shed arrives, however, I can simply hide in it. Problem solved. My gardening garb is very much more “Farmer’s Market” than “Harper’s Bazaar”. Sometimes I would be ashamed to be seen at the Farmer’s Market.  Once the warmer weather comes in and April slips into May, and I am in the garden in every single free moment from dawn until dusk, I am often to be found gardening in my pyjamas. I don’t plan it that way. I usually nip out to “put something in the washing machine” and get distracted into a bit of weeding or thinning out of seedlings and an hour later realise that I have forgotten to get dressed. As this is so often the case I wish I was the kind of person who looked elegant in the morning. Perhaps sporting a linen kaftan from Uniqlo or some tasteful ethical organic cotton item I found on Etsy. In reality I am clad in garb more usually favoured by the elderly and infirm. Last winter I started getting ads for zimmer frames, and those long handled instruments used for helping people who can’t bend to put on their socks, popping up alongside my Facebook feed. No doubt a direct result of my constant internet searches for “flannelette”.  


And so it was with much excitement that I finally ordered the exhaustively-researched shed.  Like an expectant parent I am now keenly awaiting it’s arrival in 4-5 weeks time. Brimming with anticipation I have even moved on to exterior paint colour cards (“Meandering Dolphin”, “Astonished Weasel”). I can almost smell the scent of newly planed wood drifting down the breeze, like far off smoke signals, emanating from the workshop where it is currently being lovingly formed by artisan shed-crafters.  


While I am waiting, however, it might also be worth taking a beat to fully celebrate the fact that winter has really ended (at last) and that the long anticipated spring has (mostly) arrived. To this end the googling, the planning, the endless paint samples and, (most, most, most of all), the vacuuming, can wait.


I think perhaps instead it might be the just the time to wile away ten minutes sitting on the doorstep cradling a mug of tea (and maybe a cheeky custard cream or two) while enjoying the gentle warmth of the youthful springtime afternoon sun.  Apart from anything else this could also be the perfect opportunity to stare into space and to conjure in my mind’s eye a beautiful utopian vision of the future. A future no longer based only in my dreams but in reality. A future when, at last, Monty and I will, once again, have a workbench to call our very own.

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