Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sheds and things

 I like sheds. Always have done. Always will.

  Thanks to my  Scottish Grandad I discovered  The Shed. He  introduced me to my very first, which sat directly opposite the backdoor of his two up two down cottage. A roughly hewn affair, painted  yearly in foul-smelling, coffee-coloured creosote. It had a small, cobweb- covered window (too high to see out if you're only 4 years old) which faced onto the  narrow garden.The strong  door had a sturdy lock - in case of robbers, and an enormous key which Grandad kept on a large cup hook on a  high shelf in the scullery for fear of losing it - (or perhaps robbers again?) For sure, I couldn't reach it, not even when I stood on the rickety, kitchen stool, which meant I had to wait for days before Grandad would once again  open  up the shed and reveal all its wonderful  treasures.
 It pleased all my senses; the feel of cold steel tools, the rough and smoothness of different woods, the intense smell of fresh wood shavings and the rhythmic, soporific sound of sawing.

 Great emphasis was placed on the annual task of painstakingly coating every inch of the external wood. Brushes had to be prepared, old clothes assembled in case of spills and I was ordered to, 'stand well back and not touch anything!' Anyone who knows me will realise this was an impossible request- for touching things, holding things, smelling things, tasting things, is what I do well.
Nanny would  call out regular  instructions from her vantage point at the kitchen sink as she watched the  process unfolding. 'Charlie, mind you don't get that stuff on my  clean washing.'
At the end of the task, as brushes were cleaned and the drips wiped from the outside of the paint tin, I would feel a loss for the  natural, silvery, sunbleached wood, all but erased. It would take another full year of weather to wear away the ugly coat of brown.

All manner of treasures were kept in the shed; bolts, washers, nails and screws of all shapes and sizes, stored in jam jars with rusted lids and  old tobacco tins. Strange implements  of torture, all neatly arranged on hooks around the walls.Tools - which I now recognise and can name, but back  then, were beasts that required taming and where  'wee fingers could get trapped or worse, chopped off!'  I never heeded these warnings, so my Grandad in his  great wisdom, decided to show me how to use a few  simple tools such as a hand drill and a  screwdriver. Also, a dainty hammer, which he called a 'Lady's Hammer'- just light enough for my  fumbling, little hands.

 I now know this was the beginning of me making things with my hands.
Grandad's shed was his haven, his retreat, his domain, his castle, his place.  He shared it willingly with us wee ones and  over the years we watched him shape and form many a thing with his shaky, bony hands. We marvelled at his  creative skill to turn bits and pieces of wood into useful everyday objects.
And now I have a shed.
A real shed  for dreaming,thinking, creating...
and no creosote in sight.


  1. love it! I always wanted a shed when i was younger, knew exactly how id turn old crates into tables. All i needed was a bean bag and a kettle!!x

    1. And now you have one, a beauty it is too!

  2. Reading this while sitting in my shed! lol. Lovely post. Both my Granddad's had wonderful sheds and your memories are bringing back the smells and excitement I also felt when exploring them. One of my Granddad's kept a tray a broken egg shells for putting on his plants. We loved to crush them! I think that hand drill you have photographed there was my favourite tool as well :)

  3. Sheds are special places. I can just imagine yours all covered in wads of rainbow- coloured fleece, no doubt with a view across the highlands!

    1. I'd love one to work in and day dream about it all the time! Mine is just a wee tiny summer shed for sitting in but it's good on a warm day for hand sewing etc. We live in Fife so our view is rural but not majestic like the Highlands. Has a charm of it's own, oh and a herd of Highland coos next door :)
      I think it's a shame that many people don't have sheds anymore so lots of Grandchildren won't ever know what it was like to venture into a proper work shed. There is definitely a shed 'thing' in some people though. We definitely have it :)