It’s odd how your priorities change as you get older. In my younger days I lived in London with access to a communal garden. I was content to wander round, cats in tow, safe in the knowledge that someone else would mow the grass and sort out the weeds.
Today, my garden in semi-rural Lancashire is all I can think about. Just seeing it from the bedroom window makes me happy, and stepping into it, no matter the weather, brings my heart rate down and suffuses me with a sense of glorious wellbeing.
When I moved here last year, I acquired a fairly barren space with plenty of potential. I also inherited a shed – my first one. I shoved all kinds of stuff into it, intending to tackle the mess in summer 2021. Then I broke my ankle and was housebound for four months.
Now that my crutches are consigned to the back of the cupboard, I can get stuck into the shed. Truth be told, it’s a pretty flimsy structure, long neglected, and there’s definitely not enough room to swing one of my cats in there. But I have fallen in love with it anyway.
Owning a shed is a complete novelty – and something I have embraced wholeheartedly. Aside from the convenience of finally having somewhere to store my garden paraphernalia, I genuinely love the idea of ‘popping out to the shed’ for secateurs or a bit of compost.
And so, earlier this month, I spent two solid – and wonderful – days arranging my shed. While my little helper (my 10-year-old niece) quickly bored of sorting pots by size and banging in nails to hang trowels, I couldn’t get enough of the reorganisation. Much in the way I redesigned rooms in my house, I gave serious thought to every item, faffing about with string, bug killer and watering cans.
As I stood back to admire my work, my thoughts turned to my grandad. In my last article, I wrote about my gran’s love of gardening and her ability to turn a small backyard into a riot of colour. But my one of my main memories of my mum’s dad, who died when I was 16, is his pride in his shed.
Born in south Wales, during the war he met my nana and spent the rest of his life in the north east. He was an intensely practical man, able to turn his hand to anything, not least carpentry. I still have the cracket he made for me some 40 years ago and it’s still the most robust piece of furniture in my home.
Although it’s a long time since he died, I can vividly remember him pottering away in his shed. No matter what he was doing, he was always smartly dressed – shirt, tie and buttoned-up cardigan. He was a man of few words, but I got the strong sense that he was happy when left to his own devices, free to retreat to his shed and away from the world.
As my shed is tiny in comparison, I’m giving some serious thought to buying a new one. But even a quick Google search for ‘shed’ is overwhelming. Man, people love their sheds. There’s an endless list of designs, from metal, plastic and wooden buildings to bespoke sheds, pub sheds, and so-called ‘shoffices’, the latter aimed at people who want to work from home in a high-end shed.
Hmmm, I think I’ll leave a new shed on the backburner and just enjoy the compact and bijou one currently in my garden. Now, where are those pruning tools?
This article first appeared in Catena magazine