Look in a man’s shed and his whole life flashes before you. His triumphs, his experimentation and his spectacular failures. From the wheels off his first trike to the latest high-tech gizmo for blowing leaves off the driveway – it’s all there. And every little nut and bolt tells a story.
Why do men keep jam jars full of rusted nails and screws? They’re never going to use them. When they start a new project they rub their hands together with glee and head straight down to Bunnings to proudly acquire a box of shiny new ones. This is part of the fun of home-handymanism. They wouldn’t dream of using some old 1940s nails on their new matching-shelf-and-whatnot-extender. Or on anything else, for that matter.
Every now and then, when there’s nothing to watch on the telly and everyone’s on his back, a dedicated Shed Man will give his things a ‘clear out’. This means the little jars of nails and screws get shuffled around on the shelf. It’s Shed Man’s version of getting it sorted. Sometimes the jars get new sticky labels which say ‘nails’ and ‘screws’. But they never get thrown out. A real legitimate Shed Man will have at least 100 little jars. These used to hold the baby food consumed by his first child. That child now has children of his own.
There will also be tins of paint. None of these are any good because they dried up in 1963. There is half an inch of rubberised gloop in the bottom of each. Full of rust specks. You also have to bear in mind the sad truth nobody will ever want to paint anything Psycho Orange again – even though Shed Man is just waiting for the day.
Sometimes, there are car parts. They will never see the inside of another car – unless it’s on their way to the tip, which it won’t be. Shed Man keeps them in case he bumps into someone at Bunnings one day who just happens to be looking for a crankshaft for a 1934 Crapmobile. Then he’ll be able to say he has one.
There are jars of things which even Shed Man himself won’t be able to identify. He won’t be able to tell you where he got them, but you can guess. They have been passed down through his own family – from Neanderthal Shed Man to Pre-War Shed Man. In turn, he’ll pass them to your son. Or your daughter’s hapless husband. This is why you never find jars of strange objects if you go scavenging at the tip.
The remains of every toaster you’ve ever blown up will be somewhere in that shed. Remember how he took it out there that morning when the raisin bread caused it to fizz and spark and ignite the Psycho Orange curtains? Sadly, it never came back. That incident, unhappily for Shed Man, culminated in a trip to Kmart instead. Ditto the dilemma with the electric jug, hair dryer and a range of battery operated kids’ toys which you’ll find in the Too Hard Basket under the rear workbench.
Be honest, though – you didn’t want all that stuff back, did you? They had little labels glued on them which said ‘Must only be opened by a qualified repairman.’ It’s the sign of a dedicated Shed Man that he thinks he is one.
Gone are the good old days when he could pop down to NostalgiaWorld and buy a new element for that jug. He could proudly screw it in and bear it back, triumphant, to the kitchen for the little woman to sigh over. His family relied on him to be Mr Fixit.
The disposable age has seen the demise of the effective Shed Man. Appliances have a life span of a couple of years before it’s time for that trip to Kmart again. On any given Saturday morning, the aisles are bursting with despondent Shed Men, replacing toasters, jugs and clock radios and shuffling along behind their womenfolk bearing a sense of personal failure.
Which is a right shame. Your lovely Shed Man has enough stuff at home in that shed to build a 1934 Crapmobile from scratch. And quite possibly just enough paint to finish it off with two coats of rust-flecked Psycho Orange …