I was thinking of writing a sequence of poems about Dad’s shed.
Okay. I know how lame that sounds. It’s not a subject that leaps up on the table with jazz hands. But honestly – there’s so much to say about that shed. It was so much more than a rickety old hut he knocked up one weekend. It became his place of retreat, his sanctuary. The one place he could be alone, and sit at his workbench with a cup of tea, and stare through the windows into the garden, and wonder how the hell he’d got there.
We’d started off in London, in a much smaller flat above a flower shop in Pimlico – which sounds ludicrously Ealing Studios, especially given the old woman who lived immediately below us, banging on the ceiling with a broom handle and running a pair of scissors down the prams in the hallway. When things got too much, Dad took a job that came with a house, at a printing works in Wisbech, Capital of the Fens, (I’m guessing when they awarded the title the only other place in the running was a cluster of apple shacks). The house was bigger than the London flat, but the kids kept coming – so relentlessly you’d think it was by some other, novel process, like vegetative budding – until we’d outgrown the new place but couldn’t afford anything else. So a three bedroomed house had to accommodate six children and two adults, and occasional visits from Grandma, sleeping on a zed-bed behind the sofa. If you imagine someone lifting the roof off, cramming us all in, then slamming the roof back on and sitting on it like the lid of an overfilled suitcase, arms and legs sticking out of the windows, you’d be close. If it wasn’t for the fact the garden backed onto woods, apple orchards and playing fields, we’d have gone completely insane.
So without anywhere else to go, the shed became Dad’s sacred retreat. And even though it was made of scavenged wood, with a door so thin if a wolf came by he wouldn’t need to huff and puff, he could force entry with one paw whilst innocently inspecting the nails on the other – in our minds it was something much more, something powerfully and spiritually aligned with the essence of Dad, as brightly as the rows of jars of odds and ends with their bolts and screws and panel pins and nails of every size, ingeniously fixed by their caps to the undersides of the shelves he’d put up, and his tools, sitting in their outlines like they’d burned their shapes onto the hardboard by sheer force of utility, and that single bulb hanging from the ceiling hook like a torturer’s light, with a rough tin shade cut from an oil can. All these things. So utterly DAD.
And then one day, he’s gone. The shed falls to ruin. And I drive over to pull it all down and throw it in a skip.
So maybe, somewhere amongst all the spiders and Pifco torches with the corroded points and the drawers filled with anonymous crap, maybe there is a poem or two to be salvaged.
But a sequence?
Speaking of poems about sheds
Here’s the latest:
There’s also a new post in ‘Voices’: Daisy D.
Thanks for reading!
8 thoughts on “shed head”
I loved the shed poem the other day, it was very poignant.
Thanks Martine! I’m so glad you liked it.
I might try to write a couple more things based on the shed episode, working out from it. Quite a good exercise, if nothing else! 🙂
This made me cry…
having had and lost 90 acres of land, Dad’s garage was so, so precious. His space. He kept so many ‘precious things’ that would come in handy… He’d have been horrified that 10 years after his death we emptied it all into a skip at a cost of over £150 quid. Then when mum died, seven years later, we discovered we hadn’t actually emptied it, somehow ‘useful things’ seemed to weep from its walls, they made my brothers and I smile, they made us cry… many many trips to the tip, it was done and we wondered what exactly other than stoicism was holding it up. The man from the council. came to cast his eye over mums house, to see what needed to be done before they could re-let the house, ‘not bad, not bad at all, I’ll have to do something with that bathroom though’. Then we showed him Dad’s garage, ‘Oh dear asbestos! Sigh’ And the garage was gone.
Yep. My Dad would’ve been the same – absolutely horrified that something he’d devoted so much time to, all those things he’d collected over the years and carefully stored away, all of it ending up in a skip. It would’ve been unthinkable to him, even more than his own death, probably.
I like that idea of things ‘weeping from its walls’ – it perfectly describes that haunted, inhabited feeling. And the sense of guilt, clearing it all away.
Asbestos – what a curse! When we moved in here I tore down a cow shed at the bottom of the garden wearing just a face mask because of the corrugated asbestos on the roof – but had to hire professional contractors to dispose of it. It gave me a shock when they turned up in what looked like full bio-hazard suits!
Thanks for such a lovely reply, Jane. It’s great to hear from you again. Hope all’s well with you & your family xx
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Hi Jim, we’re nursing Spud the dog at the moment. Google ‘spaniel elbow’ we regret stopping his insurance… https://www.nwsurgeons.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/NW-Surgeons-Newsletter_Issue7-E-version.pdf
Very sorry to hear that, Jane. Poor Spud! I just Googled spaniel elbow – sounds horrible. Does that mean lots of x-rays, injections & anti-inflamms &c? I hope it’s not as bad as that, thought, and Spud recovers soon. Give him a big ol’ stroke from us… x
Surgery, plates, pins, gabapentin, anti inflams, six weeks crate rest, six weeks rehab… He’s been a very good patient
Blimey – that’s tough! I hope he gets better soon 🙂 x