Saturday, July 6, 2013

Shed of the year

I see that a hand-built cabin in the Cambrian Mountains has won Cuprinol's Shed of the Year. A prize of £1000 attracted hundreds of entrants - and about a million quid's worth of free publicity for Cuprinol. I bet their marketing team is delighted.

It seems that sheds are all the rage. There are books on sheds, brochures on sheds, TV programmes on sheds; there's even the equivalent of 'shed porn' websites (not really you understand)  on which enthusiasts download images and arrange shed parties or whatever else they do. I'd bet there's been academic papers with titles like 'the itinerant shed and its role in a post-modern society'.

Depending on your definition, I have at least two sheds and possibly three. The difficulty comes in whether our outhouse is truly a shed or just a room for the boiler. But let's not get all philosophic  - for the purposes of this blog we can agree that I have two, and I'll declare my working definition as being that a shed should have room to sit, read book and make a cup of tea. The ideal one would also have a sofa or bed, capable of accommodating at least a mid afternoon snooze.

In my case, the attraction is part nostalgic. My grandfather had a gimcrack cabin he would retire to after his daily trip to the Legion. It smelled of beer and leeks and had net curtains and a tripod table with a lace tablecloth. The walls were covered in our childhood drawings which in some cases he'd framed, though he was as good as blind.

There's also a need for space - 'thinking' a much as 'physical' - which some would argue is a reflection of our homes and lifestyles. But in fact, the idea of a creative haven has a long tradition, as well as practical application in so far as it allows for materials to be readily available and projects easily returned too.  My recent playing of the saxophone gives this a new twist - I'm regularly banished to give the family some peace, rather than the other way round!

I've often wondered about the benefit of installing sheds at the office - it's an attractive idea, but doomed to failure. In no time they'd be demarcated; there'd be rules and regulations, an on-line booking system, plasma screens and tea and coffee on demand - they'd be a pastiche of the real thing, a veneer for the ego; out of touch with the original purpose.

Not that there is some deep meaning or meta-purpose in the sheds themselves - that too would be bollocks. They are simply a means to fun, to reconnecting, to winding down, to time alone - or in my case, to time with Dylan - twice this week we've had a 'shed-night': watched a movie, had some snacks, read stories and woken up to the dawn chorus - precious times. What's that phrase... can never come again?

But if times can't come again; ideas are constantly recycled. I couldn't help noticing the shed of the year's resemblance to the upturned boats on Lindisfarne. They have been there, icons of time and place, for more than a century - the oldest dates from 1902. Believe it or not, they're now in the care of the National Trust - so much for the humble cabin.

And not a drop of Cuprinol in sight.


  1. I've always wanted a shed like the one Roald Dahl had - though possibly with more modern cons - somewhere to go and write. A musty man-cave with tea making capabilities.

  2. I grew up in a shedless environment.

    Both grandfathers, father and husband all collared and collar parts of the house for their enthusiasms...generally those parts most in general use.

    I appreciated your forecast of what would happen to sheds in the corporate environment where, it seems to me with the luxury of distance, anything valid is quickly perverted unless defended with whip and chair.

    And didn't Pegotty live in an upturned boat at Yarmouth or was that the film of the book?

  3. The first thing I treated myself to when I retired for the first time was a shed, which I used with great enjoyment as a potting shed for my kitchen garden. My husband had his workshop and I had my shed and greenhouse. :-)

  4. Well, that's a grand shed indeed, a person could have shed envy, and with a view like that.....
    We have several sheds. Luckily we have a large garden where they can be hidden, or the two smallest, knocked together sheds anyway. When we first came to this house over twenty years ago there was a large shed made from packing crates, ex Forces. All knocked together, corrugated iron roof, a window from goodness knows where, and all painted black. It had character, plus holes, spiders you wouldn't want to meet in daylight let alone a dark night, and a peculiar smell. It had been there ten years, which says something about the strength of Forces packing crates, but since they had been used for engines and engine bits, they'd need to be. We tacked on a small lean to greenhouse, equally knocked up from bits of doors and so on. It did the job and we couldn't afford anything more.
    In time it got replaced, when the garden went through one of its many changes. Now Himself has a medium sized blue shed down the bottom of the garden, a proper one this, not knocked up from bits of this and that. But the two smaller sheds have been cobbled together from a larger one, and both are hidden, one down the side of the house and one right down at the bottom of the garden in a corner, covered in honeysuckle. And then there is the summerhouse - now the potting shed on one side and gardener's rest on the other. Complete with fairy lights and bunting and close to the house, it looks prettier than the others and gets more use.
    I love sheds.

  5. My grandfather had a cement block shed with a tin roof in which he stored his riding mower and tools and which featured a work space that went increasingly unused. I think he would have been happier in retirement had he used it more often as a "get away."

  6. Local to me, there was a shed club (now sadly disbanded, mainly due to members falling off the perch) the sole purpose of which was to meet up in a pub once a month and talk about what you've been up to in your shed ... wonderful stuff. Inevitably, full of blokes of a certain age talking about restoration projects of various sorts, but none the worse for that really.

    I think a lot of the members would have described their sheds, first and foremost, as a haven. Not in a negative, 'got to get away from ...' way, but in a positive, 'this is my space' kind of way.

    I wonder if sheds are particularly important to the Brits as our houses and plots of land are so small in comparison to so many other countries?

    By the way, have enjoyed your blog and included it in my own blog's embryonic web links page, under Views from the Saddle. Hope that's OK.

  7. I have often desired a shed of my own but wouldn't it be hot in summers like this one? That thought comforts me and the cold in winter. :-)

    Where is the Cambrian shed I wonder?

  8. We haven't got room to put a lovely print up I won, so we need to build a shed to put it in.

  9. My shepherd's hut is my version of the shed although probably a very female one, as in no tools and a certain level of comfort. It is the separateness of the shed that matters to me, the quietness and the small scale. A big shed would not do it.

  10. you can see all the entrants over at