Sunday, July 12, 2009

Men and sheds

click photo to enlarge
For a certain type of Englishman the garden shed is the centre of his universe, the place where the chaos of the world is brought under control. In the space circumscribed by its four walls he is the master of all he surveys: nothing enters or happens without his say-so. It used to be said that "an Englishman's home is his castle". That was never true because it was usually heavily influenced by a female hand. However, for the kind of man I'm talking about the shed really is his castle, a place of retreat and solitude, with a Chubb lock and a stout tongue and groove door in place of the drawbridge and portcullis.

Only in England, I think, could a book called Men and Sheds find a publisher and an enthusiastic readership. And only in England could it spawn sequels and imitators with the titles Shed Men, The Shed Book, and 101 Things To Do In A Shed! Woodworking, metalwork, model railways, DIY, astronomy, sports, TV watching, music making, collections of various sorts: it seems that men can use a shed for anything that takes their fancy. And, lest you think that sheds are solely the province of those of lesser means, you should know that writers such as George Bernard Shaw, Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl found their inspiration working in these humble structures; though in some instances they might have had the grander (but no more accurate) name of "summer house". A few days ago my newspaper carried an article about the "shed of the year". It had been nominated for the title by the website (yes, such a site really exists!) and has a bed, a compost toilet, telescope, dart board and satellite TV: a veritable mansion in the world of sheds!

My photograph above prompted these thoughts, not because it is the archetypal man's shed, but because it looks like it's probably a member of that rare species, a woman's shed. Potting sheds, like the gardening that they support, are the province of both sexes, and this one has a clue that suggests it may be the domain of a woman. It's not the group of planted pots by the door that makes me think this, or even the vase of flowers next to them, so much as the words "Potting Shed". Each letter has been individually painted in bright colours with a few flowers dotted about for good measure, and the whole is on a white board that is fixed to the door. To my mind that is a female touch: a man's sign would have been either more utilitarian or more elaborate, and definitely not as pretty!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/160 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On