By Ralph Edmunds
The move that we recently made set my mind thinking, it amazed me just how much essential junk that people can accumulate. The old saying that junk expands to fill the space available is so true. Most people have an emporium of essential things that just might come in handy, for instance my Dad’s shed is legend amongst those who are lucky enough to know of it. My Dad is often approached by people who ask “Dave have you got ‘so and so’ in your shed?” Or conversations often find the solution “Don’t worry Dave must have one in his shed.” The lack of access to a ‘shed’ of my own was a very serious problem that I had when I first left home. Where was the drawer full of essential empty carrier bags or the empty jam jars that were always available? I then realised these things are acquired over many years and cannot be purchased anywhere, although Lakeland come pretty close. My mind started racing (a gentle jog more like). Men seem to prefer cellars and sheds, these are places that hold useful things that do not go well in a family house, however there are houses inhabited by men that boast pieces of car engine in sinks. Cellars are not places for the faint hearted, they are often dark, damp dangerous places with very differing smells. I remember as a child I was very wary of cellars but sheds were fine as my Dad and granddad had them. Sheds are places that are readily available to young children but cellars are places of mystery that are only inhabited by adults and gremlins. My uncle Les had a wonderful cellar full of tools for lorries of the past, he had been a mechanic in the times when tools were not readily available, if you needed something, you had to make it yourself. Alas as time moved on, Imperial became AF then metric and the tools became useless. But like so many ½ empty tins of paint and various other things that were either too good to throw away or would come in handy one day, they achieved some sort of immortality and lived on in the cellars of various dads. I realise now that I am not doing proper justice to sheds, not only is there a shed in the garden but also there is the gardening shed. I am not completely familiar with this icon of English life but I understand that it contains all kinds of garden tools, bags of compost and hosts of drying things ready for next year. I hope to become more knowledgeable about these things as I now have two in my new garden. We had a greenhouse as well, but I was so phased by it’s rustic-
ness, that we released it. It now lives happily with Karen’s dad.
Another repository for ‘junk’ is the attic, a common occurrence in Enid Blyton stories and others of that ilk. After reading such books I demanded to know where our attic was, had it been explored and if so what treasure had been found. Alas our house only had a loft and had nothing of interest in it. I was somewhat put out by this but I was to visit my one and only attic soon.
At the end of our road was the doctor’s house, a large forbidding house and I was a friend of his youngest son. This house was a different world, they had an attic and a cellar. Both of which I visited but alas no treasure.
Men do not have it all their own way, Mums are more clever, they have many places to accumulate junk things that might come in useful, the recipe books and cuttings that hold the secrets of many treats and delights. My Nan possessed a cook book, so ancient, that it had no gas or electric settings, it just said things like ‘build up the fire’. But in it was the recipe for ‘reesoles’ (my Nan was a master of getting words wrong, she meant rissoles) but reesoles they were and always will be. We have tried to recreate the wonders of reesoles but like Merlin’s spell book only the master can create. Bread Pudding, is a thing of great mystery, there is no recipe, every mum learned it from their Mum. The only certainty about it is that whoever makes it says “it’s not as good as my Mum’s.”
Another wonder that cannot be bought but must be lovingly created is the button tin. In this are held such wonders. My Mum’s holds three red ladybird shaped buttons from a dressing- gown that I had when I was about 4 years old. The things in this box are not necessarily to be reused but hold a much more magical and psychological purpose. The tin can be used by harassed mothers to quiet rowdy kids, when asked where is ‘so and so’? She can reply “look in the button tin” she knows they will be gone for ages. Another use of this tin is a party game, ’who can remember which garment did this button come off of?’
The button tin game can be played by adults as well, after all who else would know what a single suspender was?
I gained possession of my great grandmother’s tin after her demise. I spent ages going through it; my Mum even remembered some of the buttons. The only thing that I kept was a 5 pfennig coin (my great grandfather must have bought it back from France in WW1); it had no use or value but was too precious for her to throw away.
Garages are another place where ‘one- day’ useful items are kept, some unusual people use them solely for storing their cars but I understand that this is rare. I have been told that they are excellent for storing home- made beers and wines. Again ½ empty tins of paint and part used rolls of wallpaper are favourites for the garage owner.
I have little experience of garages; we were too poor down our street to have them (except for the Dr’s house).
Needlework boxes and bags of old wool are other fine places to keep junkprecious items, I could continue ad nauseum about these things but I intend to quit while I’m ahead.
But as I relate these tales a new phenomenon is arising, now that we have become ‘middle- class’ we possess a utility- room. It is of fiendish design; it has a sink, a worktop, a cat- flap, a freezer and potential for so much more. This could become a ‘female’ shed as Karen has more input to it than I (my only input is 2 boxes of old LPs, perfectly preserved that are soon to go into the loft. Don’t worry there will be no treasure there.)
The utility- room is acquiring a life of its own; it is already growing shelves of things that are of vital importance. Karen tells me that it will be very useful in the future for items too precious to be left outside in the shed.
Whether it be a shed, needlework box or garage wonderful things appear from them and things that appear beyond hope somehow get the ‘Lazarus’ treatment and live on.
I am often envious of people that create. I’ve been a wheelchair user for about 13 years and have no ‘shed’. Then it occurred to me, my head has all the attributes of a ‘shed’. It has things stored away neatly in places that can be readily accessed and a pile of ‘junk’ in which sometimes I find things of use. But only rarely do I find things of pith and import though.
Has it ever occurred to you that ancient burial mounds and pyramids are really super sheds or cellars for the afterlife.
Ralph ‘I’m sure there’s one in here somewhere’ Edmunds
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