Mothers Day was postponed in our house this year for reasons well and good. Last Sunday was the day earmarked for the demolishing of the wonky old shed-like structure christened ‘The House That Jack Built’ by the removal men as they shoved boxes of our toot inside it on moving-in day. It was an edifice constructed by the previous owners some thirty or forty years ago…indeed photos of next doors garden restoration which took place at some vague point within that timescale (the album was spread open proudly after dinner soon after we moved in) showed sightings of the shed from across their boundary fence looking slightly more perky but still, if I’m honest, no less ugly. Its dark brown facade was adorned by plaques sporting varying slogans and quotes of which the previous Pebbledashed Pad owners appeared so fond. Others we found stuck to glass windows (see pics in this post for the resurrection of one such sloganed tile as part of a prank pulled on S by the builders), etched in paths and made bespoke in cement for the front of the house and whilst all have since been removed I keep meaning to hide that particular sentimental monstrosity with a plant pot or two….
Suffice though to say that the shed had a good innings but in the winter of its life it was being held up not by conventional construction methods but by the above mentioned toot propping it up from within. Its time had come…..
Home from O’s swimming lesson and with lunch washed down with a few extra cups of coffee it was already looking decidedly more like afternoon than morning so S, reprimanding himself for the late start, ascended the stairs to get prepared. Returning downstairs his attire was greeted with quizzical looks from his son.
“Daddy….you going to bed?” O asked.
Muffled cursing could be heard as S fought with what should be called a door on the understairs cupboard but fails to act or even look like one. In a situation of which the proverb ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ accurately describes, it was originally fashioned by C to look like a wall (a not-so-rare moment of communication breakdown between us), then adjusted by another handyman to fit the heightened floor after it had been tiled and later sawn in half to create a concertina kind of effect by S. Despite the many craftsmen involved in its creation it has not yet been hung, something about the wrong …or more probably lost…hinges, so instead the instability created by its hinged middle causes it to flop and whack against both wall and you as one reaches into the black hole it is designed to conceal (another error of judgement there….no light) on the hunt for tools only to find …funnily enough….more toot.
Once the battle had been won and the door prised off a head emerged from within the cupboard’s deep abyss.
“You going to bed?” O repeated.
“No son. These are my work clothes….not my pyjamas.”
“You going to work?” O asked.
“In the garden. Yes.”
“I help you.” The line was delivered not as an offer but as a done deal.
“No son, it will be a bit dangerous.”
“We’ll do some planting down here” I promised indicating his new caterpillar propogator sent by his Nana. A nod indicated he was satisfied with my alternative proposition.
“Right.” Said S “I’m off to B&Q.”
I looked at him. “What do you need?”
“Ok…” I said hesitantly, wondering what role a broom might play in the sheds demise. “Would you like us to go so you can get started?”
“No. I’ll go.” And before I could utter the word ‘procrastinate’ he was off, leaving O and I an empty kitchen within which to make an orange and lemon Mother’s Day cake complete with pink icing made in pleasant error by the discovery of a rogue blood orange lurking at the bottom of the fruit bowl.
I was wrong to criticise as the B&Q trip did indeed yield a broom (which I used to sweep up the mountainous piles of pussy willow catkins scattering our terrace) but more importantly a metal thingamy S was to describe later that day as his New Best Friend. But before it could be put into use the sheds contents had to be removed. So whilst O and I busied ourselves sewing Sammy Sweetcorn, Polly Peas and Bertie Beans (ignoring the advice to sew only two seeds per pot and choosing instead about 36) S began the extraction. Out came a gazebo which I’ve not yet ever witnessed being used, four dismantled and graffitied old school desks (more about these here), soggy cardboard boxes jammed full of plastic plant trays and pots, an old limescaled sink bought from Ebay for £8 and collected from Colchester for about £40, ladders, lawn mower, tarp, jet washer, varying wood cutting tools borrowed from a friend for the Secret Project, garden tools, boxes of leftover tiles, old paint pots, buckets, an assortment of broken garden deck chairs, my mini plastic greenhouse and finally S’s beloved bike which once hung in engineered splendour from pulleys above the entrance staircase in his maisonette flat but which his girlfriend-to-become-bossy-wife insisted come down as soon as the maisonette was made inhabitable by the female species….ie……a carpet runner on the staircase and fresh unmarked paint on its walls. An alternative accessible storage solution has never yet been found meaning the bike has been forced to undergo temporary (S hopes) retirement …
As I watched each item emerging it became clear that distinct piles were being formed, many of which looked dangerously like they could be a holding area for objects of questionable fate. I was right to be worried.
“What do you want doing with these?” S asked as he nodded disdainfully in the direction of the dismantled desks.
“Put them in the snug and I’ll refurbish them” I suggested.
“The snug is turning into a dumping ground again…..” S warned.
“Where do you think then? Loft?” I asked.
“I was thinking more like dump….”
“There’s about £200 worth of desk there.” I spluttered. S politely refrained from mentioning that might be what I had paid but was unlikely to be what they were worth and instead set about shifting them into the snug as I called out promises to his retreating back that I really would (at some point….) refurbish and sell them. Meanwhile I hastily rescued my greenhouse and boxes of plant pots before they too found their way to the dump and, with my green fingered partner now snoozing in bed, began the therapeutic job of pushing seed into soil in the hope that I might have a little selection of homegrown plants ready to pop into the vegetable patch we (optimistically) plan to have built by summer.
With shed thus empty S surveyed the job in hand.
“Can you take it down on your own?” I asked.
“I can probably blow it down” he replied “but first I think I’ll get the roof off so that doesn’t land on my head when I do.”
Deciding it might be best to get out of the way I woke a sleepy O and we watched intently from the upstairs window as S mounted the ladder and wrestled with the felt.
“That’s the life” he called over our adjoining fence to a neighbour. “Eating an ice cream in the sun….yes….got a new one coming Thursday…. it was a bit big wasn’t it though I fear the new one might be bigger……..no…..well…..I think M wants a potting shed but seeing as I’m doing the work I think its my call. I’m having a workshop…..”
Humph. I thought.
My plans for our new shed, delivered in panels on Thursday to fearful muttering from S of “I think I’ve bought the wrong one….its huge” consist of Farrow and Balling its exterior, fixing window boxes overflowing with basil and tumbling toms beneath its windows and training the old fashioned rose whose fate was first questioned and then saved last year to grow up its side. That all said fellow blogger Junkaholique’s His and Hers sheds have inspired envy of the greenest kind and while the temptation most certainly is to get a separate potting shed of my own I fear its not a feasible solution (though if I continue to measure the garden in feet and claim they are metres we might just fit another in….)
But while I busily dream …..so does S…..
“Perhaps I’ll make a flip up bench across the doorway…like in a pub…” he mused yesterday. I gulped down my response but he knew it was on its way nonetheless.
“Its my shed….” he retorted, “I’ll do as I like.”
And so, it appears, a territorial war has commenced…..but this morning I received the welcome news that I have a rather powerful ally. Tearing open an envelope addressed to me by my father-in-law I pulled from within a note and a newspaper cutting….
‘No husbands allowed!’ declared the headline. ‘Think sheds are only a refuge for men?’ it went on. ‘These women built their own backyard havens…’
Hoes and hoses had been replaced by a fifties diner, a sweet shop, a craft hut and a stained glass masterpiece (admittedly made for the wife by the husband).
S picked up the note inquisitively, a smile curling his lips, as I snatched it back.
“Er I’ll keep that” I said tucking it away in case it needed to be called upon at a later date but as I did so I realised I might need to stand back from the fight and wave the white flag. Considering I view the house interior as almost wholly mine I figure allowing S some space to make his own can’t be such a bad thing. That said my motives are not altogether pure….. without his bench, be it fashioned awkwardly across a doorway or not, there will be no snug shelving, hallway console or wooden bathroom shelf. If I’m to set my man to work I must, I’ve belatedly realised, at least recognise he needs a place to work within.
I swiftly changed my tactics.
“Why don’t you have a big bench across the length” I said “and then do as my Dad does and have a board up with all your tools hung on it? He even draws around them so he knows where to hang them again. Then you will be able to find things…..”
S nodded thoughtfully.
“And there might be….perhaps….a spare corner for my pots?”
“There might be” he said “on a little shelf outside…..”
“Oh…..and I draw the line” I added, images of Friday Night Dinner in my head as dad Martin hides in his shed amongst piles of National Geographics next to a mini fridge filled with beer..”at you having an armchair and TV in there….”
“Understood” S replied.
The new best friend