I needed to open a can of treacle today. Mr G was off in the middle distance, roaring up and down the field on his tractor; the man who cut the hay had had a wobble mid field, and the resulting bend in his perfect tram lines offended him bitterly. No chance of attracting his attention in the midst of such an important task. I ventured into the inner sanctum, the atelier, Mr G’s version of ‘the shed’; alone, unescorted, free to roam; usually I am headed off to safer pastures at the first sound of my footfall.
The first thing to note is that the shed is precisely the same size as our house, indeed, it sits directly underneath our house. Some 8 metres by 15 metres. Or to put this tactfully from a more feminine point of view, we could double the size of the bloody house were Mr G to relinquish his shed. I might suggest it to him. Quietly. On a good day.
It is a most salubrious environment. It’s got pictures on the wall and everything. Sailing ships, Racing cars, and those ghastly Fairy pictures I won’t have in the house.
Cool, even in the present 35 degree heat. Cooled, I might add, by a most desirable asset, a glass floor over the mill stream, whence you can gaze in wonder at the sight of several gallons of water pouring out of the mill stream and tumbling over the rocks to rejoin the river. I have often found Mr G and his male friends standing companionably, stroking their chins in contemplation at this wonder of gravity, as they discussed important matters of state like whether a 35mm or 25 mm pozi-drive screw would be the correct fixing.
Not that it would be cold in the winter, for I note three radiators – one I recognise from the house before last, another, no couldn’t be – from the house in England? Surely it didn’t move house with us, must have done I suppose. It sits under a window with a perfect view of the river; a purpose made bench on top holds a model boat, a wondrous metre long confection with, so I am told, 3,000 hand made copper plates on its hull – but then again, it would be perfect for a computer on a winters morn, warm, cosy, inspirational, just the place to write whilst waiting for the bread to rise…
Unlike our kitchen, it has a perfectly tiled floor, easy to keep clean I told myself as I wandered around in search of the paint can opening wotsit. Spacious cupboards, that I recognised as being the wardrobes fitted in a previous house when we bought it (there’s a thing, I had no idea they had travelled with us!) line one end, keeping a vast array of power tools with perfectly coiled leads, free of dust. The doors glide effortlessly, oiled to perfection, one hand is all that is required to view the interior. Floor to ceiling shelving inside, just right for an array of bottled fruit, and all the china, presently stored in the garage. Wasted on some 30 odd items of Black and Decker drill sideways/up/down/in your ladies bedchamber….at the bottom, neatly stacked, stood a pile of rags – why I do declare, that is a piece of the duvet cover I threw out five years ago, and there, a piece of my aunt’s tablecloth, and look, the t-shirt I said I’d shoot him in if I ever caught him wearing it again. All neatly cut up. All neatly stacked up. Unlike the clothes I pick up from the bathroom floor every day.
To the right are stacks of drawers. Beautifully made wooden drawers, with brass handles (do I recognise those handles from Uncle Dave’s old chest of drawers? I’m sure I do) each one configured to precisely fit the tools inside. Sub divided, so that nothing ever gets muddled up. Two inches high for the spanners, 3 inches for the collection of hammers, another holds paint brushes in every size and shape, immaculately cleaned, spun, and lovingly put away. Still no paint can opener, but what a place to store your kitchen equipment! Why you could keep a mountain of kitchen gadgets in those drawers.
Then long wooden counters ( no wonder we spend so much money in the wood shop!) that hold a magical array of router bits, bits with the curve on top then a corner, some with the corner first, then a wavy bit, hundreds of them, each one sunk into its own purpose made hole. You could have the bread maker there, and the Magimix next to it, and still have tons of space to roll out pastry. You wouldn’t even have to put the toaster away every day, it could just sit there, sulking, in case you needed it. And look! Shelves above the counter, with slotted racks to hold chisels, dozens of them, all perfectly sharp, all facing the same way, big ones on the left, small to the right…why a girl could just move her wooden spoons and her potato masher into place without changing a thing!
Aha, a cupboard, what have we here? Hundreds of tins, square Oxo tins, oblong Old Holborn tins, round 50 Players cigarette tins, Tate and Lyle syrup tins (he must have been retrieving them from the bin for years) – screws, tin tacks, rose headed nails, more screws, washers, widgets, wing nuts, wotsits, and more wotsits, no paint can opener. Wooden boxes, large, small, in between, ancient; brass handles, old door locks, keys, Jesus wept, must be the keys to every house we ever had! Hinges, brass; hinges, iron; hinges, leather; – who uses leather hinges these days?
Plastic finger plates from the house before last, (why ever didn’t he throw them away?) rolls of electric wire, more wire, connectors for my computer, plugs, bit of plugs, more bits of plugs, old seed trays filled with more wire, washing machine connectors, a car jack, starter leads, tow rope, half a lawn mower – hang on, we ditched that lawnmower in England ten years ago, no wonder we needed a truck just to move the workshop! A set of pram wheels – pram wheels, for pity’s sake! What have we here? If it isn’t the neck of my stone swan! It’s been holding the door open since time immemorial without its head!
Ancient iron hooks, seed trays full of burnt iron nails – don’t tell me, he’s been saving them from the wood burner! Tubes of Silicone, Quick Fill, No Nails, Gutter Repair, Instant Stone, No Leak, Liquid Bitumen. Half a dozen of those metal guns you fit them in. Why would you need half a dozen? No paint can opener.
Lathes, and rip saws, flat bed sanders and chop saws stand on trolleys, on wheels, that they might be wheeled to the perfect spot for use. Planers, and Router tables.
Another cupboard, copper tubing, gas pipe fixings – we don’t have gas! Olives, end stoppers, connectors, plastic drain pipe, old taps, more old taps, plugs….mmmn, could do with one of those for the kitchen sink….u-bends, e-bends, 30° bends, 40° bends, 45° bends, quite possibly z-bends. Rat poison, tomato food, rose blight spray, broad bean black spot spray, rose fertiliser, grass feed, string, plant labels, seed trays, more seed trays, plastic pots, mouse poison, bits of wood with string wrapped round it, old trowel with no handle, axe head, grass seed, parsnip seed, carrot seed, aubretia seed (that’s where it went, been looking for that) old mug with no handle full of pencils, all stamped Ikea, better not ask….
Rulers, tape measures, an entire drawer full of them. Measuring gauges in all shapes and sizes. Set Squares, another drawer. Screw drivers, dozens and dozens of them, and what have we here? Screw driver with head bent over, just the thing to open a treacle can…
Yank, yank, creak, yank…ping!
And the lid flew off and landed on the floor – upside down, naturally, right at Mr Gs feet.
‘What the Hell are you doing woman, you’ve got treacle on my floor’, he said, reaching down to the ready cut up supply of perfectly folded cloths, and getting down on his hands and knees to wipe the offending blemish away.’Why didn’t you use the paint can opener’? sayth he, opening a drawer full of the bally things.
I’ve been banished back to my minuscule kitchen, that was to be expected. I’ll do the washing up first, so that I can balance the bread maker on the draining board; I’ll have to unplug the computer of course, otherwise there’ll be nowhere to plug it in. Whilst the bread is proving, I can get the ironing board from its hiding place behind the bedroom door, retrieve the iron from the shelf under the bathroom sink, the ironing from under the window seat in the front room, and PLOT. No wonder he never lets me in there.
I have to work this out carefully. My need is greater than his. He can have a shed down the bottom of the garden like everyone else. Size of shed? 6′ x 10′ should be big enough, once the junk is cleared out.
Your suggestions as to tactics would be appreciated. Should I tell him first, or just do it next time he goes down the wood yard for 3 lengths of roofing batten?
* ‘One Man and his Shed’ was first published on July 19th, 2012.
** Ms Raccoon is on her hols until Sunday, so has been digging some old posts out of the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet to keep you amused…she is happy to report that this post had its desired effect, and over the past six months Mr G was shamed into crafting a wondrous kitchen of desired size and storage capabilities, with adjoining proper larder, in what was the next door goat shed. It is a joy to work in, or rather sit in and gaze out of the magnificent new window – well, Mr G now has time on his hands again and is a perfectly competent cook. No point in barking yourself and all that. I am showing my gratitude by giving him five days off work and taking him to Marrakech. I’ve even ironed his shirt for him.