This is my shed, of which I am very fond. Once pigs lived in it. Then it was a place full of work-benches and bits of old mouldy rolled-up carpet. Then I came into its life and cleaned it, sort of, a bit, and filled it with arts paraphernalia and filmed poetry videos in it, while also keeping rubbish at the other end. Spiders and mice thrived. Some sort of hardy plant tried to thrive too, but I did not encourage it. I like the shed so much I blogged about it once before, last year; and as you can see from the respective photographs, I have since repointed and repainted the south-facing wall, and painted the door a glossy red.
But the shed’s days as a shed are numbered. It is now a boiler-room-to-be. As I type this men are out there working on it; extending the height, having torn off the corrugated metal roof, with breeze blocks, cement, and stone taken from a sort of jutting bit in the front garden that they’re smashing up as they go along. Because I write my blogs in bits, by the time I get to the end of this, they will be gone, and it will be night. But they’ll be back tomorrow.
On Sunday I cleaned it out, transporting all the paint pots, demijohns, half-used bags of cement and arts paraphernalia to a rickety, partly rotten wooden shed further up the garden using a rusty second-hand wheelbarrow. After sweeping and dustpanning the lot I found this one little piece of paper left on the floor. I didn’t arrange it (honestly!) so I was pleased to see it bore a complete sentence; the last line from the last but one poem I recorded in the shed: Sculptures of nothing. I’d torn up each line and burnt part or all of the paper bearing the line during the recording. (For fun, I suppose, but with a veiled artistic intent too.) This, being the last line, was discarded unburnt.
And there it lay on the floor of my empty shed like a bitter eulogy for the art I’d performed there in front of the camera; alone, frequently drunk, usually following five-or-ten minutes of painting, over the last year and a half.
To the left is the finished painting. Although perhaps “abandoned” would be the more appropriate word; I didn’t so much complete it as stop painting it. Now the roof depicted in the top-left corner is gone. The bit of hardboard above the door on which the piled tiles and tile box supported the camera are gone too, as is that annoying plastic thing that’s hanging from a beam that juts from the wall in the bottom-left. (I never really wanted to paint that, so its detail is even sparser than the other items in the picture.)
In the most recently recorded video, “Doubtless” , the penultimate of the 33 poems from “Mistaken for art or rubbish”, I began not by painting, but by cleaning up the shed; packing the things in boxes and removing them from the shot before recording my poem, learning it on the spot as I usually do with the shorter ones, and settling on the first complete take, which was the fourth attempt. As luck would have it, this was the same take in which I accidentally broke an unconnected striplight while swatting a fly. I took the above photo after I’d removed the rickety workbench, leaving only the shed itself and its organisms.
The next morning the builders came, and my youngest daughter Fury was very interested in what they were doing, peering into the garden while we ate lunch.
At the end of that Monday I took a few pictures of the work that had begun on converting the shed to be tall enough (and secure enough) to externally house the biomass boiler the government at (sort of) paying for us to install, and which will heat our old stone house in a green and friendly way for many years to come, we’re assured.
It’s one of those renewable heating initiatives that seems to make more sense than burning a tank full of oil three or four times a year but involves an initial outlay of cash that would surely make anyone but the super-rich resort to extra jumpers or the burning of fossil fuels. I guess one day the technology will either be cheaper or fully subsidised? No idea. But the boiler won’t fit in the house, so in my shed it will go. And my shed will become a boiler-room. This picture shows the outline of where the metal roof has been removed from the wall, and the beginnings of the nex wall whose height will accommodate the boiler; and indeed a human being of average height. Which it didn’t before, except at the apex. The boiler will be in that corner, but I’m not sure how much room it will take up or whether it will want me in there being drunk and reciting poems at a camera balanced on top of it. It will probably be too hot to balance a camera on top of, for one thing.
Finally, this picture roughly recreates the camera’s angle from the hardboard shelf above the door when it filmed me in the 32 videos. Funny how a roofless shed suddenly looks like an historic ruin, and the addition of a scaffold makes it look like an expensive renovation project. A day before it was just a shed.
You can just see the almost-empty oil tank behind (in dark green). I’m supposed to be selling it as I type this.
Does anyone want to buy an empty oil tank? It’s big and green and empty of oil but full of regret. It might have absorbed some poetry over the last few years.
A S H Velky