The Shed operates mainly on second-hand nails and screws, of course.

When I moved in, I therefore filed, with satisfaction, a small inheritance from my predecessor including a couple of pounds of soft copper tacks with a washer incorporated under the head. I think I have identified them as roofing rivets, designed to secure some kinds of tile, because they are easily bent over on the inside of the lath they are fixed to.

I had a triumphant moment when I ran out of felting nails, supplied with a kit for a garden tool bunker . The bunker is for some stuff of my wife’s which failed a scrupulously applied formula for space actually inside The Shed. It cost £70, as opposed to about £3,200 for The Shed itself, and this discrepancy in resource allocation has been the subject of some comment locally, I believe. I admit that what you get for £70 is unlikely to become the subject of a poem but one of these days, The Shed will spawn a small copy of itself for almost nothing, I have promised.

Anyway, you don’t get a lot of spare nails for £70 and I was able to use the copper ones to finish the job. Only 4,063 left to find a use for.

I made the mistake of leaving them in their original cardboard pack, which was probably at least a decade old, and the bottom fell out of it when I lifted it to put it back on its shelf.

Picking them up was undoubtedly good exercise, for my back, my knees and my patience, but I forgot all my mantras while I was doing it.

I was a clumsy child. If I was born later, I might have been called dyspraxic. But basically, I was just impatient.

I remember my mum making a mild protest when I poured biscuits into a tin so that they all broke. I said: “But they all get broken when you eat them.”

My mum decided it was not worth arguing.

It was the same in the garden. I didn’t see the point of pulling out bindweed roots when we would get more of them whatever we did. Nor of unwinding bindweed rather than pulling it, and stripping your plant of leaves and very likely flower too.

I rolled my eyes when somebody told me I was stepping on a flower. If it mattered that much, why put it in a garden?

Now I see the importance of unbroken biscuits, or at least of the care involved in getting them from shop to plate. I can weed properly and mop properly and think twice before I take a step in any direction in a flower bed or a room with an open tin of paint.

In short, I can put up a prima facie impression of being reasonably handy. But my true nature is always waiting and checking the bottom of the packet of nails must have seemed like one fuss too far for it.

It is the same when I go fishing. With proper preparation and low ambition, I can sometimes get everything working after a fashion. But eventually there will be an accident to remind me that the best I can hope for is a few minutes of order in a world which is constantly threatening to crumble into chaos.

Here in the Shedmosphere, we were disappointed to see that Domestic Science, or whatever it is called nowadays, is in danger of being taken off the list of studies deemed worthy of a GCSE. It seems to us that a Shedmanship module might be a good way to upgrade the subject.

Children could be set a series of challenges, such as finding the nozzle for the WD40, or coming up with something else which will do; making a match for Matador Pink using only a bit of leftover red gloss, some white emulsion and soot; hiding an ashtray on a nails and screws shelf … the syllabus could go on for ever.

But Domestic Science already has plenty of scope in it, we would have thought. And far from being removed from the list of GCSE options, the Shed community would make it compulsory. We would go further, and require any household to have at least one person in it who has a qualification in running one – The House Driver’s Licence, or something like that.

Students would learn that cheap wine and cheap bin bags may not be worth the savings.

They would be able to recite the 10 commandments of being allowed to use the sewers.

They would always remember that washing is no good without proper drying – whether cleaning hands, mopping a floor or washing down a pig lorry.

* Filofacts of the Week:


3 4 5 of course.


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