I have just finished building what will almost certainly be my last wooden shed.  It was a tricky job because it’s on the edge of a terrace up on the fourth floor and, without scaffolding and ladders, I had no access to the back or sides.  It all had to be constructed from the front which created some intriguing challenges.  All done now and looking splendid, with some twiddley bits and painted in a light blue (well, the front is painted I can’t reach the back or the sides).

I only mention this triumph because, whist building my final shed, I couldn’t help but  reflect on my long and glorious shed building career.  It all started in 1969 when I built a garden office (I’m using ‘shed’ as a collective term for all my wooden constructions), fully insulated and with electricity.  It had splendid views down the long and rather narrow garden we had at the time.  I wrote my very first book sitting in that shed.  After we’d moved, I passed the house one day and noticed that the new owners had demolished my shed.  It was difficult to resist knocking on their door and demanding an explanation for this outrage.  But I reminded myself that the house was now theirs and, if they were foolish enough to destroy such a valuable asset, so be it.  I just wish they’d told me they were going to do away with it; I’d have used the wood for my next shed.

Our next house had a much bigger garden and, over the years we lived there, I built a total of five sheds, all of them constructed from wood rescued from various building sites and skips. I say ‘rescued’ because it would certainly have been burnt if I hadn’t taken pity on it. I think it counts as stealing to take things out of skips, so I always asked permission.  The owners clearly thought I was daft (a) to want what they regarded as useless bits of wood and (b) to bother to ask.  Thus it was that, for no money at all other than for some screws and nails, I built two bike sheds, a shed for mowers and garden tools, a shed for odds and ends (essential to have one of those) and a really big shed that housed a ping pong table and a small gym.  And now, on the terrace of our fourth floor Penthouse, I have built, not one, but two small sheds.

Have you been counting?  That’s a grand total of eight sheds of different shapes and sizes.  Or, to put it another way, one shed every six years.

So what is it about building sheds?  When I was a teenager in the Isle of man I built dens and loved the cosy feeling of being cocooned in my own construction.  I also helped my dad to build a garage, but that was with bricks and mortar, a ‘proper’ building, not as satisfying as something more ramshackle built out of recycled wood. 

Do you suppose my strange shed building propensity is the hunter gatherer in me?  Perhaps in a previous life I was a pioneer out in the wild west building sheds with verandas and railings for cowboys to tether their  horses?  I like to think that if I was washed up on a desert island I’d be well qualified to build myself a shelter out of drift wood.  Perhaps even a raft.

Ah well, I’ve no more room for sheds.  Anyone want me to hire me to build one?

       

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