We have a shed at the end of our small London garden. Well, it’s not really a shed as such but an octagonal summerhouse made of cedar wood with five sides glazed. So when sitting there in our two armed chairs, we can view the garden for about eight months of the year.
We inhabit it for conversation, for reading, listening to music and cricket commentary, computer business, baby-sitting, drinking, and meals. From it we can see, from beneath an arbour of grapevines, the back of our house, a sculpture of lovers, our flowers, vegetables and wild life. It is lovely.
Even when the autumn evenings draw in, we can close the door, light three candles and enjoy our “den” in the warmth given out by the two of us and the three candle flames.
We are not the only ones who make use of this little paradise. Mise like to shelter there when the weather turns cold. And in the summer we have trained robins to fly in to eat grated cheese and stand on my knee.
Of late, a wood pigeon has befriended us. It either flies in directly or hops in through the door and flies up to the cheese-feeding tray. This large bird also stands on my knee and walks around under our feet. We speak to it as if it was human and it takes us for granted, even turning its back on me as it eats, knowing that I could so easily grab it and turn it into a nice terrine.
We surround the inside of this small shed with objects that we seem to need. There’s a clock, a torch, three candleholders, a dye marker, a miniature Stirling engine (to demonstrate for children and the incredulous), pencils, pens, India rubber and tooth picks. With these is an Indian, enclosed and vented incense burner (decorated by me in silver , dazzle camouflage), incense sticks of many kinds, spare spectacles, insect repellent, and touch-up nail varnish.
There is a small table for food and things, a hanging rubbish bag, and two quite large pastels in frames of Aircraft Shadows (ex Mayor Gallery) and a fisherman in a tree landscape, made up of blocks of green and yellow colour. Like most of our pictures, they are changed every so often.
Inside are also two very heavy wooden, folding chairs, and three large plastic containers for bird food.
The home-designed, glued, wooden bird-feeder is made of two pieces, one of which slides over the other to reveal the amount of grated Cheddar cheese that we think appropriate at the time.
Then there are paper kitchen towels, scissors, nail file, secateurs and a gas lighter for candles and the Stirling engine. There’s a fly swat too.
At one side is a rug and woollen shawl for when it is cold. Beneath the table is a box of garden accoutrements (seed in a tin, wire brush, granular fertiliser, gloves and all sorts). And beneath one chair is a box of sprays, insecticide, rat and mouse poison and so on. Books are on the floor next to several kinds of fertiliser and two pairs of wellingtons.
And of course there is a screw pull corkscrew and a hook, and a knife to cut away bottle capsules. That knife must be over 100 years old as it was used to scrape eggs when my wounded father had a chicken farm after the First World War.
From our little paradise, that seems to contain so much, we look out onto a summer garden in complete privacy. Although surrounded by houses, the leaves from our grapevine arbour and general greenery shield us. For much of the year our lovey shed forms a major part of our house and life.