Graham Field: Exquisite Isolation, Shed Life part 1

I was self-isolating before there was a term for it, it got me thinking of how my shed life has evolved.


The shed, the shelter, the statuary for sanity, security and mental peace in the form of mechanical meditation, observation and inspiration based on engineering ability, ingenuity and budget.

When I had a bicycle, my dad clamped a piece of thick grey tarpaulin to the wall with a bit of wood for me to keep my pedal-powered transport out of the weather. The cover stank, I've never smelt anything like it before or since, and if I witness that odour again it will take me back to that mouldy damp canvas, too thick to fold and as brittle as thin ice. It impregned hands and saddle with its stale aroma. Looking back, by definition of ‘shelter for a vehicle’, it was my first shed. By its utter inability to stop moisture, permeate light, give warmth in the cold or insulate from heat, the odds were good that the future would hold improvements to meet my shed expectations and it did, but the progress was slower than that bicycle in a head wind.

My father was a keen gardener and every space in his plot was allotted to a vegetable. All a teenage boy with a budding motorcycle awareness wants is to have his private erection, a 4’ x 8’ structure was frequently pleaded for. A dry dream, my own bike shed, that would be the good life but the unreal estate was a dream that had to wait until I had a mortgage.

The compromise was a plastic wall, it segregated the garage, my father could still get his car in and I had a shelf for my socket set and socket for my radio, and if the cat came in when the bike was out it could just about be swung. Translucent wall? I couldn’t hang anything on it and it didn’t keep me out of sight. It was horrid but my friends weren’t doing much better.

I had a shovelhead mate who worked on his bike kneeling on cold concrete under a big plastic bag, the one his mother’s new tumble drier was delivered in. It wasn’t even considered recycling, it was simply acquiring the discarded to create a necessity. The same happened when we dived into skips. How fucking dare health and safety try to protect us from ourselves at the expense of the planet. Everyone’s waste is the vacancy in someone else’s space. Jump in and grab it, the skip never fills and the landfills all the slower. It was recycling on a personal level and worked better than Exchange and Mart.

Ironically one of my first jobs was a skip driver. Well a lorry driver delivering mini skips and I still, over 35 years later have items I pulled out of the metal treasure chests.



Keeping the recycling theme, when I finally got my own place, building the shed was a community endeavour. Windows supplied from a mate’s caravan, as he moved out of it when his name got to the top of the council house list. It was first world scavenging construction, it was the bike that was homeless not me. The best piece of luck came when, as an agency driver, I worked for an insulation company. The storeman didn’t like the