I once heard it said that every man needs a shed and from the moment my husband clapped eyes on the brick outhouse in the overgrown backyard of the house we were viewing, he knew he was home. Wired for electricity, this one time tool shed for a DIY fanatic would soon be reborn as a place to draw, sulk and get away from 'the wife'. Here was a place to smoke, create a makeshift artist’s studio and store the gardening tools.
The ivy we planted to soften the municipal exterior, has long since crept through the cracks of the crumbling brick work. Various unwanted objects have found a refuge here: a skeleton of a ram’s head, several ginger beer bottles, numerous cricket trophies, a ceramic lizard on a rock and three glass heads of various sizes. A heater, a gift from his brother to help him survive the winter months, is mounted on the opposite wall beneath a glossy brown papier-mâché pig’s head, with a huge snout and oddly feminine lips, made by our son when he was at primary school. The Pig gazes down, an animistic deity, protecting this outpost of gentle eccentricity.
Next to a battered garden chair are three cricket bats, several cricket balls, a stopped clock, a soft toy owl (a refugee from Top of the Form) and a framed photograph of Bolton Wanderers circa 1963. There’s an old tin plaque from a chapel of rest, dedicated by the Rev Eric Saxon, sometime Cannon of St Ann’s Manchester, a plastic sign stolen from the gents on a cross channel ferry and an ancient Palm Cross. On the door, opposite the garden chair, hangs a convex mirror of the kind you find on the stairs of a double-decker bus.
But ignore all this strange clutter. If you care to step inside you will soon discover that what we are really dealing with here is ten foot by five foot of concentrated spiritual and mental space. For once inside this tiny palace of wonder, my husband doesn’t just sit, think, scribble and smoke but, like a hundred-thousand other shed men across the nation, he crosses a portal into an entirely different world.