At the end of last summer, I blew a sizeable chunk of my leaving-teaching-redundancy payment on perhaps the most indulgent purchase of my life – a shed. Not really a shed, actually. I am the only person in our family permitted to use the term “shed”; everyone else has to elevate its status to something like “office”, or “studio” (my preferred term, because it sounds artsy and creative and a little bohemian!). Despite my insistence, it has become known most commonly as “mum’s shed”, and I am learning to live with that title.
In here, I have stashed and artfully (!?) displayed all of the stuff I had accumulated over the years, and taken in to school to put in my classroom whenever I observed my husband looking questioningly at one of my candles, or pieces of artwork, or my Tibetan singing bowl, or the glass jar full of crystals, or the sign instructing those who enter to “think”. This shed contains all of the gifts from former students; some of my favourite writing-related books; all of the “bits and bobs” of what makes me who I am; my second-hand bureau, long on my wish list and eventually purchased in secret by my husband as a birthday gift; my nan’s old wooden rocking chair, a shiny patina on the arms from years of sitting and rocking young children (me more recently, and her over many decades prior). There are myriad candles – fragrant, crackling – and I light one by way of ritual each time I arrive here at the bottom of the garden to work.
This is my room, my space. It is warm in the sunshine and supplied with electricity to provide heat in the absence of sunshine, and light when candles don’t suffice. It allows me to sit at the bottom of the garden and work, or write, or read, accompanied by birdsong, watch the clouds float by, or notice the shade of blue of the sky shift from dark to light, and back again. It removes me from the proximity of the laundry, or the vegetables to chop for dinner, or the dust under the comfy chair, the crumbs beneath the breakfast bar, the phone, the doorbell…
I venture from here back into the house only to boil the kettle every hour or two. It is stacked with memories, and plans, and inspiration, and the fluffiest deep shag pile rug into which to sink my toes as I rock myself back and forth in my nan’s chair. No one else comes in here, so the energy is whatever I make it to be. On the coldest of days, the frost makes patterns on the full-length windows, and on brighter days, a tiny blackbird perches on the higher window-ledge on the back wall, peering inside the open vent-window and chirruping a background song.
I know how lucky I am, not only to have the space but also to have a job and a life that allows me the time make the most of it. “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself”, as Ms Woolf herself once said.