Nature’s shed

Thanks to the excellent blog of my good friend, the Bristol-based artist Kirsty Hall, I’ve just become aware of an oddly British phenomenon, National Shed Week. Her post on it is a great little intro, with selections from the “best shed” competition (the winner was a shed that incorporates a fully-fitted pub bar).

Well, Shed Week 2008 is now over, so it’s a little late to enter this shed into the competition. In any case, it’s not “my shed”, so I can’t claim any responsibility for its wondrous condition. But I’ve been enjoying living with it recently. Kirsty claims a preference for “the more ramshackle” sheds; I’m sure she would appreciate it, too:


It’s way beyond repair. I’m not sure how long it would take me to get around to dismantling it if I owned the property. But it wouldn’t be pure laziness holding me back; there’s a messy, downtrodden poetry to it that would be missed.

I remember seeing a documentary where one of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters (or perhaps Kesey himself), showed the fabled original bus, the mobile freak machine that toured ceaselessly through America’s psychedelic meltdown. Currently it’s a rusting wreck among some trees on a farm somewhere. The guy showing it pointed out the slowly peeling paint and rusting body, and delightedly elaborated his vision of it as a slow-motion strip-tease, the decay of industrial artifice in the face of nature’s inexorable force as a kind of gradual, erotic revelation of essentials.

This shed is almost an opposite to that vision. Human construction is similarly being decomposed by the elements, but the abundance of foliage alongside this organic deconstruction, moving in to colonize the hapless wooden structure, is a kind of engulfment, an enfolding, an embrace. Erotic, but more intimate than theatrical.

Trees were felled, sliced into regular lengths, and reassembled into a shelter for human use. Now the plants are reclaiming their remnants. It makes me think of J.G. Ballard’s visions in The Unlimited Dream Company, of London overrun by tropical flora; or that recent book about how the biosphere would evolve in the next century or few if humans just vanished, leaving their artifacts behind for nature to molest and merge with.

I think it would be possible to pry the ivy-smothered door and creep in, but I don’t want to. It feels like it would be an invasion into private space, a corner of this dense city that’s been re-created as a pocket of wilderness. I hear foxes sometimes nest in there. The cat wanders in occasionally; but even she’s cautious.

Some day it’ll need to be torn down. But until then, I’ll relish being the neighbour of this mysterious icon of the wild.

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