In 1968 Monty Python's Flying Circus presented a sketch in which a man, a very serious looking man, a composer, was interviewed on a very serious looking highbrow arts show. He was introduced as Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson, and rather than talk about his music, the interviewer spent the entire time on his nickname "Two Sheds", eventually calling him by that alone. Now, just 45 years later, Fred Hopkinson comes out with The Joy of Sheds, an entire book on shed culture.
Shedding its confining skin, the Joys of Sheds bursts forth with every conceivable use and application of sheds, around the world and throughout history. And all in under a hundred pages.
The book sheds light on an underappreciated subset of humanity, mostly male, mostly western, who like to hide out in sheds, mostly of their own design and/or construction. 28% of shed owners claim they are a refuge from the world. They have turned them into bars, museums, bowling alleys and worse. Clearly, some of them have gone well beyond the backyard shed where the lawnmower shares space with rusted tools and spiders. A lot of writers, composers and other creatives find they do their best work in their sheds, from Grieg to Hirst. They are all noted here.
Hopkinson divides sheds up in relevance: Shed History Hidden in a Shed Sheds in Music Created in a Shed Shed Art Sheds in the News Shed Lit Shed Facts Sheds on TV Sheds at the Movies Specialty Sheds Shed Imposters and Shed Plans
Each brief chapter is a small collection of anecdotes on the topic, showing, I suppose that sheds can be relevant to anyone. About the only thing missing is a chapter on Shed Widows, though there are stories of women with sheds of their own. And no mention of Shediac (Canada), which I thought was the Cadillac of sheds when I was a child, inspired by the likes of Pontiac (Michigan).
The most disappointing shed story belongs to a glass bottle collector in England, who turned down 80,000 pounds for his 17,500 bottles lining an ever-expanding shed. But don't shed a tear; he actually preferred the bottles to the money. Personally, I would have sold it all including the shed, and started over bigger and better, cash in hand.
All in all an unusual journey shedding light onto a subculture that has received little recognition.
I've bought this for a friend who loves his shed, but also has a good sense of humour and enjoys books with interesting facts, anecdotes and trivia.
I haven't read it all myself but have flicked through, and must admit that there is plenty of interest for even a non-shed owner. There are 12 chapters after the introduction with titles such as 'Sheds in the news', 'Specialitiy Sheds' and 'Sheds in the movies'. Interspersed throughout are interesting shed facts - including that there are at least 52 Grade II listed sheds in England and Wales, and sheds are feared in Slavic folklaw. The book also reveals that businesses such as IKEA, Harley Davidson and Hewlett-Packard started out in sheds, and were places where Marie Curie carried out her research.
A fascinating read, I would recommend it to anyone - or as a gift for anyone - who is similar to my friend.
The Joy of Sheds is one of those books that you simply can't put down. The characters have such clarity and you almost feel like you are actually there. I would compare it favourably to say the Bible or perhaps the complete works of Shakespeare. Absolute masterpiece.