The Garden Shed – From A Storeroom To a Place of Meditation

Virginia Woolf claimed that writers needed a special place to work and concentrate. Hers was a shed on the edge of a graveyard in Sussex, in the south-east of England. Roald Dahl, the creater of many children’s stories including Charley and the Chocolate Factory wrote his magical tales in a little white cottage in the grounds of his Gypsy House.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a shed as somewhere used for storage or shelter, but these days sheds come in all shapes and sizes, from the ancient garden shed, full of rusty spades and plant pots, to the ultra-chic models, some almost the size of a small house, that modern home workers use as offices.

The word ‘shed’ was first used as far back as 1481, when the printer William Caxton described ‘a yerd in which was a shadde where in were five grete dogges.’ (A yard in which was a shed in which were five big dogs), but the shed as we know it now came into being during the 1920s and 30s, when four million new homes were built, for the first time giving many people a garden. They needed somewhere to store their tools, so built a shed. From this humble beginning grew the idea of the shed as somewhere to relax and, in more recent years, as somewhere to work – although it needed to be somewhere a lot more refined than simply somewhere to store a spade and a few plant pots.

Sheds have provided a sanctuary for many people, not just writers; somewhere to sit and think and while away a few hours watching the world go by. They’ve been an integral part of British life, though rarely acknowledged in a big way until the Daily Telegraph ran a competition for Shed of the Year in 2006. The newspaper thought it would be one of those amusing little page-fillers with a few photos, and were totally surprised when hundreds of photos were sent in of pink-painted thatched-cottage sheds, upturned boats used as sheds, gypsy caravans, a shed that floats when a nearby river floods, sheds fit for a palace and sheds fit for nothing except their original use of storing garden equipment. What they also discovered was that the British are extremely proud of their sheds and, like many aspects of British life, are extremely eccentric about them. (The winner was a Roman Temple, complete with Roman columns, amphora, grape lights, blue LED mood lighting, Interior mural panels, a mosaic table and two time zones — Britannia and Rome time.

Dave Flynn has his ‘shed’ at the bottom of his garden in Blackpool in the north of England, and is in no two minds about the effect it has on him. “I could easily tip over into being slightly eccentric about my shed. I’ve got cowboy hats there and often put them on, so there’s an element of your shed that allows you to do that. While you wouldn’t walk around the house in your cowboy hat or your cowboy boots or your Tai Chi outfit, you can do it in the shed, because there’s nobody to see you and you revert to being whoever you want to be. It’s perhaps that slight English leaning towards eccentricity, and I think the shed will allow you to be eccentric. Even though it’s only twenty metres from the house it’s still like a million miles from reality. In a way, you enter a different world”

I am a freelance journalist living in Valencia City, Spain, although my work takes me throughout the country. My work is pretty wide ranging, both in subject and geography, but my heart lies in Spain, which is where most of writing concentrates on. I’ve written two successful guide books to the Valencian region, on Spain’s eastern coast, Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca and Small Hotels and Inns of Eastern Spain, as well as many articles for national and international press. While most of my work features the idiosyncratic side of Spain, I’ve also written extensively on wine, gastronomy and hotels.

To discover more about Spain, visit [http://www.derekworkman-journalist.com] and http://derekworkman.wordpress.com.

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