The word is evocative. For those of us of a certain age, everyone’s dad had a shed. Either in the back garden or on the allotment. They were the stuff of dreams, a retreat of quietude and repose for us blokes. The unique smell of pine, creosote, potting compost and tobacco. Flaky green paint. The sun streaming in the single window, dust motes dancing in the beam of light, and spiders snoring in their webs on the ceiling. A valve radio humming the BBC Home Service quietly in the background. A small paraffin heater creating a fusty fug in the winter. Somewhere to keep your copies of Health and Efficiency away from the prying eyes of the curious.
Shelves carrying all sorts of oddities. Pots with dried-out plants resembling wizened homunculi. Paint brushes of inordinate hardness. Pre Great War biscuit tins that cannot be, or should not be opened. Broken tools. A sledgehammer head, but no handle. Stuff that is spell binding in it’s strangeness to a small boy.
The small but efficient workbench created out of scrap roof trusses with the vice bolted on – so long disused it’s asking for a cup of diesel and some tapping with the sledgehammer head to be kindled to life in 95 seconds. The tin 5L oil can with the large side cut off (with edges tapped over to avoid bloodshed) to serve as oil draining catcher, but never used again and became storage for mixed nuts, bolts, springs and washers instead.
That tomato box on the top shelf with useful spare parts like 2 almost perfect typewriter rollers, a post-war telephone with missing earpiece, the electric drill minus its brushes – just too old, no spare parts… The handy watermelon box beside it contains more useful things like the slightly bent wheel spanner, 3 electric irons with bust elements, all different and with the genuine original cloth-covered wires, a working sewing machine motor looking for a home, 4 complete ceramic fuses and holders and a little cardboard holder marked “5 Amp, 10 Amp, 15 Amp” and a yard of different thickness bare wire rolled on. Also 2 tape measures : one without the little 90 degree metal “catch” mechanism, the other with a broken spring so it won’t recoil without a beer & 4 minutes of irritation.
And in the corner 2 disabled brooms waiting to have the brush heads reattached. Nine paint rollers needing new rollers – only 1 is “loose” with the useless roller rolling. A bicycle wheel with almost new tyre but with 4 missing spokes hangs from a bit of fencewire on the far wall. Complete, never used carburettor for a Ford Anglia, still in waxpaper dressing, with a “Checked : AW” signed and dated 8/11/51 ticket attached.
My grandfather kept a bottle or two of Navy Rum there, a taste he had acquired on the Western Front. A taste ruthlessly suppressed by my grandmother, a member of the Band of Hope.
And why, you ask, am I so fondly reminded of sheds? Simple, really, working from home and in the company of a 4 year-old. Peace and quiet permitting concentration is a distant memory.
Working from home seems to be provided with a licence to stop what you are doing to deliver and collect the precious mite from day school, to fetch milk from the shops, to express an opinion on when rubbish is to be transferred to the bin shelter.
The normal noise level is only a decibel or two above standing 10 metres behind Concorde just as it is taking off. Everything must be examined, banged, thrown and shouted at.
The keyboard is to be ambushed and seriously pounded, particularly at the critical point of setting up a costing worksheet. Key documents are analysed to a background of the Disney Channel.
I dream of sheds.