Novice allotment holder putting up a shed

Erecting the shed

Ever since we got the allotment, Dad has said, ‘We need somewhere to keep our tools, don’t you think, stop ’em getting pinched. And we need somewhere to go when it rains, to sit and watch all the other b*ggers get soaked.’

I’m taken aback by this robust view of things but later, in B&Q, I notice a shed for a hundred pounds . I ring Dad. He refuses to be drawn. ‘Let’s just play it by ear. There’s no hurry.’ So it’s with some surprise I answer the phone the following evening to find he’s spent the day driving around DIY warehouses researching sheds, then gone back ordered the B&Q one.

Dad likes driving, especially since he bought his tiny red Peugeot. Getting rid of the old car was a wrench because he and my Mum had driven ‘as far as the moon’ together in it. But he’s warming to the new one. ‘It’s a pretty flimsy affair, ‘ he says. ‘But then, what do you expect when you buy a car for £5,000 ? I must say, at eighty-seven I never thought I’d be driving a car described as having ‘cheeky looks’.’

He often modifies the things he buys and this car is no exception: he has jacked the seat up with a plank of wood and let air out of the tyres to make it a ‘softer ride.’

But back to the B&Q shed. It’s arriving at his flat the following afternoon.

‘You don’t mess around,’ I say. ‘We’ll have to start calling you Ted the Shed.’

‘Or Shedward,’ he says. ‘The only problem now is how we get it down there. Some of those pieces are pretty big. And heavy. But they’d probably fit on the roof rack of your car. Yes, I reckon we can manage it, between the three of us, what do you think? If we take our time.’

The ‘what do you think?’ is rhetorical.  What I think is that our plot is a very long way from the gate. I hatch a plan to hire a man and a van, perhaps without telling anyone.

But when Mr Mandy Sutter hears of this, he takes charge. He rings round local removal firms and arranges for the shed to be collected, giving Dad time to carry out a few modifications first.   ‘After all, it’s a pretty flimsy affair,’ Dad says. ‘But then, what do you expect when you buy a shed for £100?’

A chance for allotment humour: goats

The size of a small bungalow

Council regulations state that ‘huts’ on the new allotments be made of timber, and be no bigger than 4′ x 6′ . Although this seems unfair (in the established bit, they’re made out of all sorts and the goat allotment shed is the size of a small detached bungalow) I’m relieved there’s some kind of limit on things.

The regulations also say sheds must be ‘raised on bricks or blocks’. This makes sense: we’re by the river. And the river, as the people walking the back path so endlessly tell us, floods. So Dad is also building a base. I’m not there when the menfolk manhandle the base and shed pieces down to our plot. But when we all go down at the weekend to put it all up, I’m impressed.

More allotment humour: a shed on stilts

The shed next door

No one at the allotments knows quite what to make of the flood rumours. Two devil-may-care folk have erected their new sheds flat on the ground. Our neighbour’s shed, by contrast, is on stilts.

Dad, though, has got it exactly right. His base will position the shed a foot off the ground, high enough for any flood waters to pass through and back but not so high we feel we’re in a tree house.

Even more impressive, he puts the shed up more or less singlehandedly. He just doesn’t allow us to help much, no matter how anxiously we buzz around trying to. Mr MS has to content himself with putting together a self-assembly bench.

In the shade of the wych elm

The result? A smashing little garden shed and bench in the dappled shade of the wych elm. I can’t wait for it to rain again now, so we can sit inside and watch all the other b*ggers get soaked.