Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Man's Shed is his Castle


A man and his sheds...

My Dad's greatest passion
was his garden

All of the accoutrements
necessary to maintain his gardens
on his 'eighth acre pavlova paradise'
were contained in his sheds
He began with one
which grew to two
and eventually the garage 
became another
and then the spare room 
his final sanctum

his first shed
bore the name of his birth town
in the South Island of New Zealand

I asked my Mum last week
why the secateurs were hanging on the wall 
outside the shed
in the weather...
They became lost one day in the garden
and were unearthed years later
so were hung as a reminder 
of his negligence

the new seedling tomatoes
raised in his miniature glasshouse
were tenderly watered
with the old teapot

come with me now
let's unlock his first shed

and see the accumulation
of nearly 60 years
of hard work
and industry

the precious tools
so meticulously hung

like the instruments
of a surgeon

the more valuable tools
initialled with JN
His given name was Geoffrey
but he went by
the Scottish name of Jock

the seed box
I loved to explore as a child
but only under supervision
as the shed and its contents
were sacrosanct

now rusted tobacco tins containing
packets of miniature seed

and this appears to be a plan
of the rows of veges
he plans to plant come spring

old plastic salt shakers
were fashioned
to dispense the fine seeds

lawns were mowed by hand
trowels stored on the shelf above

a hand made binder twine dispenser

and another for finer string

the worker's boots
now sit idle

paint brushes cleaned
and reused many times over

In shed #2 everything has a place

there is innovative storage

 well maintained tools
hang in their mini shrouds

I can see his large hands
gripping the clipper handles
to trim the privet hedges

little bows of string
hang from nails

the dusty
but working wireless
sits in a corner

the black cat
from my Grandfather's garden,
that frightened
not a single bird
from the strawberry patch,
hangs from the rafters

the garage
has a below the ground pit
where I learned to pass the tools
for an oil and grease -
there being no boys in my family
and above, the rings 
from which my father hung and spun
and twirled
dazzling us
with his gymnastic ability

over here the hook
from which his punch ball spun
and sang a rhythmic boom ba ba
boom ba ba

binder twine 
and New Zealand
go hand in hand

stacks of mats

and jumper leads

my Dad's sheds
are painted with the stories

of his activities
and his loves

stories of a whole life time...



  1. Delwyn, it's an honour to have shared this tour of your father's sheds. For many men, especially those of his generation, sheds are sanctuaries, aren't they? A place to think and plan, as much as a place for storage.

    I love the innovative storage, by-the-way, and the whole 'waste not, want not' philosophy that is so evident.

    He has made his mark and left so much more for you to remember him by. A man who lived. Your dad.

  2. Hi Martin

    you are right, they were a refuge and a haven. My Dad was never ever idle and as he grew very old it would seem that he spun out some of his jobs so that his days were filled. A neighbour we call the Guardian Angel for his unflagging care and help, told the story in his eulogy of offering to drill a hole in metal for my Dad - a task that would take him just a few minutes. My Dad declined and instead filed the hole by hand over 5 or 6 days!

    He certainly passed on that protestant work ethic to his three daughters.

    My Dad also recycled before that word ever became a part of the common lexicon. He had hundreds of plastic containers and bottle caps, all sorts of bits that he couldn't bear to throw away.

    I was going through his jacket pockets and found a handful of those little plastic squares that you use to seal plastic bread bags. He always thought these bits could possibly have some use in the future.

    thanks for your comments Martin
    happy days

  3. Delwyn - I think this is a very beautiful tribute to your dad. I think it is right and fitting to show something of his life and interests. When I go back to Christchurch I never feel close to my Dad at the Ruru Lawn Cementry, but I do feel close to him walking on the Port Hills, viewing Lyttleton Harbour and all the other places that we sailed and shared together, that's where the memories are, that's where he is in spirit.
    I think your dad would have been chuffed to have known that the whole planet can now look at his very own special shed - he would have been proud of you.

  4. Ah Delwyn - what a tender, loving way to honour your father. Each tool touched by his hands, treasured by his heart and mind. Those tools and resources hold many a story. What a meticulous and organized man he was. He certainly lived an active and productive life.

    Your love for him is evident in every gentle word. You were so blessed to have such a father.

    Thank you for letting us into your father's sanctuaries.

  5. Your father was a man of deep love, loyalty and respect...his sheds say so much about him Delwyn and your appreciation of them says much the same about you!

    I am moved...I will look at my own husband's 'collections' a little differently after this.

    Thank you, Delwyn!

  6. Delwyn, that is a lovely, lovely tribute to your Dad. You know my Dad had a shed just like that, all his tools so carefully looked after. He had a notice hanging in the shed which read "A Place for Everything, Everything in its own Place.

  7. Beautiful--my father had a woodworking shop he built himself, & his tools were also meticulously cared for. It's wonderful that you've captured these images, & done so so evocatively.

  8. It must have been so wonderful and so sad to go through his sheds. so many memories. so much love.

  9. Your beautiful tribute has left me in tears... of admiration, of peace, and a sense of a life well-lived. His legacy lines the walls of his sheds, his sanctuaries. I feel so very honored to have been extended this glimpse into his most treasured space. Thank you for sharing him with us all.

  10. Your dad's sheds are a treasure trove for a gardener!

  11. Oh dear girl,how much love in this!!
    Thank you for a few moments of pure love Delwyn,
    happy days!!

  12. Hi Alden

    I hope so. Thanks for your supportive comments. I can hear my Dad saying..."Did you put the key back?"

    and "You left a drawer open in the seed rack."

    Happy days

  13. Hi Bonnie

    I am glad that a few of my blogging friends have sensed the identity that is housed in these humble sheds and have gained an impression of the fastidious and hard working and quirky man that he was. These attributes made him distinctly and idiosyncratically 'Jock'...

    thank you Bonnie

    happy days

  14. Hi Wanda

    As a child I was intrigued by and in awe of his treasures and then as a teenager I thought he was pedantic and overly obsessive about his tools but now that I am getting older I get a much better sense of the value he placed on his belongings and the importance that they held for him.

    Happy days

  15. Hi Ann

    you will be able to empathize with me and understand some of the inner workings of this man. My Dad would have got along well with yours.

    Happy days

  16. Hi John

    So your Father would have held the same high regard for his tools and maintained them well like my Dad. My Father would have loved your Dad's shed as his own Father was a carpenter and he had a huge workshop in Timaru. I loved the smell of shaved wood fresh from the plane that lay in ruffled curls on the shed floor.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments John.

    Happy days

  17. Hi Ellen

    It is sad to see the sheds' contents gathering dust but as one of my sons is mechanically minded some of the tools will eventually find a loved home over here. My Dad spent most of his days even in the cold Christchurch winters, done up in warm clothes and his favourite beanie, traipsing in and out of the sheds intent on his many missions of maintenance on his little plot.

    Happy days

  18. Hi Vicky

    That word legacy had me put pen to paper recently for a post, as yet unpublished. And you are so right...this is one of his legacies, and they are also the metaphor or symbols of the way that he lived his life. His values were very important as were his care and maintenance of friendships.
    Happy days Vicky and thank you for your sharing. I feel for you as your Dad slowly ages.

    Happy days

  19. Hi Janie

    yes he was 100% self sufficient as a gardener. I wish I lived closer so that I could use some of his tools.

    Happy days

  20. Hi Aleks

    It is funny but I thought I was just writing about sheds and their contents, but I wasn't. I was writing of my Love for my Dad and admiration for his quirky traits and wonderful values.thank you Aleks. You are a wonder. I love you.

    Happy days

  21. Dear Delwyn,
    What a lot this post says about your Father - a man of order and passion who loved the Earth. A saver and a doer. A dreamer and a person of common sense. We should all hope for such an insightful and loving tribute. I'm thinking of you.

  22. My Dad's been gone a year yesterday...I have a pair of his shoes in my car...

  23. Delwyn,

    Such beautiful memories of your father here. My father passed away two months ago and I've been out to his shop a couple of times, briefly and cautiously. Each time I've half expected him to appear from behind a piece of machinery and say my name. It smells of him and every inch is filled with him. He loved being out there working. We've talked of selling his tools and machinery, but disturbing those memories is so very difficult.

    Your photos and words are beautiful. I hope you found this to be a calming experience.

  24. Hi Cloudia

    we are all of an age where Dads and Mums are getting very elderly...

    thanks for the visit...
    happy days

  25. Hi Cindy

    Oh I am sorry ....we are going through a similar loss.

    It will be hard to dismantle the sheds and the memories that lie in amongst the tools....

    happy days

  26. A beautiful portrait.

    I think your father and mine would have gotten along. My father comes from a long line of English gardeners, and is never happier than when he is out in his garden.

  27. Love you too,from the beginning of our time you sweetheart. Hope you are OK.Wish you all the best,you know that! Send my love to the ocean and those lovely koalas and precious Kookaburras,will you??


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