Today’s post is inspired by an interview on BBC’s Breakfast News programme this morning with Sandi Toksvig. Sandi is presenting a daily programme during the coronavirus crisis exploring relatively obscure historical events or people that ought to be more well known. You can link to the broadcasts here. However, it wasn’t the content of the interview that caught my attention (although it was typically insightful and funny), but rather the location. Sandi was being interviewed over a Skype link from her garden shed. To be fair, I suspect it’s less shed than garden office, and it did look to be larger than my living room. Nevertheless, it was all pine planks and just a bit sauna-like.
It was another beautiful day in Cardiff today, with bright blue skies, almost wall to wall sunshine and just a hint of breeze to encourage activity while outdoors. Just the perfect day, in fact, to take inspiration from Sandi and decide to give my own garden shed a coat of protective varnish ready for the summer. I really like my shed. It’s 2.4m by 1.2m (or 8 foot by 4 foot if you’re reading this and are of my vintage – which my daughter reliably informs me all my readers probably are!). It’s large enough to house all the essential things that a fifty-something male office worker needs to make him feel useful (jigsaw, drill, electric plane, flogging hammer) alongside all the things that are needed seasonally but can’t be stored in the house (Christmas decorations; outdoor furniture seat pads; gazebo). There’s also just enough room for a really comfy wicker chair. Somewhere to sit for a few moments and just be still.
I really empathise with people who have sought retreat in sheds and other similar buildings to focus on the creative process. Dylan Thomas’ writing-shed in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire is a great example. It’s not much bigger than my own shed, although is fairness, the views across the estuary and out to sea are absolutely amazing.
And Thomas was not alone. Other famous writers who sought inspiration in their sheds include Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw. Don Stratford wrote a poem about his shed which (I regret to say) is much nearer to the role that my shed plays in my life than the experiences of the literary greats.
A mans’ gotta have a shed y’know A place he calls his own Where he can go and lose himself Like a king upon his throne It can be neat and tidy With everything in place Or one unholy bloody mess Where there isn’t any space But you can rest assured old friend No matter how it fares It’s his domain and castle Down to the worn out chairs
My shed may not lead to a great novel, play or poetry, but it has provided the inspiration for this blogpost, and that’s a start. Isn’t it?