Belfast Telegraph

Why living in the garden shed takes the biscuit ...

By Robert McNeil

Men like sheds. In three words, I have summarised the essence of our gender. The reasons for our love of sheds are not immediately obvious.

In many cases, it will be the privacy and the simplicity of the surroundings, far (if only mentally) from family and increasingly complex domestic gizmos that forever need maintaining or upgrading, usually at hideous expense.

In the shed, luxuries are few, and man can contemplate the world in wood-smelling austerity. In the shed, man can relax. In the shed, man can think. In the shed, man can excavate his beak or bid his bottom blow a raspberry without attracting glares and tuts.

But, having said all that, I would not like to live in a shed. At some point, we all have a human need to watch television, cuddle the wife and feel centrally heated. There is a little Spartan in all men but, thankfully, he only works part-time.

How we look on with awe, therefore, at Steve Morris (60), of Weymouth, Dorsetshire, who lived in his shed for a year, sleeping under a worktop. To be fair, Mr Morris had a reason for so doing. That reason was fear. Fear of his many creditors.

When I say “many creditors”, perhaps I am conveying the wrong impression, one of someone who doesn't give a hoot and is financially irresponsible.

But Mr Morris was not like that. He was just a normal man who fell on hard times. A self-employed engineer, he took out a bank loan for an expensive bunch of equipment, but the investment proved misplaced, and soon he couldn't make the repayments.

Letters started arriving from those horrible people who are always so nice to you when trying to get your custom, but show their real, greedy faces when matters go awry.

So Steve emigrated. To his shed. Here, he locked himself away, though I am not sure how he shopped or fulfilled nature's more earthy functions.

At any rate, he kept himself out of sight to such an extent that the neighbours became worried and alerted the plods, whose sleuthing skills soon shed light on the situation.

With the help of the Citizens' Advice Bureau, Mr Morris came to some arrangement to repay his debts and has now moved back into his house, while his shed has resumed its rightful role as a place for occasional pondering — and not a place of permanent residence.

But I fear that, if current economic conditions continue, many more of us will be taking to our sheds for the duration. There we may lay down surrounded by Custard Creams. For a top report suggests that worried citizens are eating biscuits like never before: 17m a year, to be precise.

Who can blame them? What's the one thing that never lets you down? The one thing you can always trust? That's right. A biscuit.

Is it little wonder then that men are taking to their sheds with comforting packets of Jammie Dodgers, while the storms of economic misfortune rattle at the rickety door and bailiffs peer fruitlessly into the house for signs of life?

I think perhaps that is why we men love sheds. Deep down, we know they are our last place of refuge.

There's no mortgage on a shed. They are places where a man can be free.

Belfast Telegraph

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