10 Nov The Shed
I have to be honest – I’ve been putting it off for months. I was going to do a big spring clean in April as soon as the garden furniture was hauled out, having spent the winter in the shed. “Perfect time”, I thought to myself. “to pull everything out, chuck away things that I’ll never use, give it a thorough sweep, put everything back in an orderly way.” I could see it all in my head, the perfectly swept floor, the neat stack of boxes, the clean tools hanging from nails, the empty bags of potting compost that can be recycled for rubbish folded carefully and stored in the old Sainsbury’s shopper whose provenance I forget. I think someone brought me cuttings and I didn’t give the bag back – hopefully they never intended I should.
I can’t remember what got in the way of my good intentions – which suggests it wasn’t anything major. More likely I managed to talk myself out of it. As a result, over the months, the space at the front, that small area just inside the door about 2 feet square, is the focus of all activity. That’s where the blue plastic tub with the handle either side containing the tools, gloves, twine and other gardening clutter sits inside its big green brother which I use for collecting weeds. Admittedly there are times when I need to get something from further back. This involves taking a deep breath then: balancing carefully on one leg (the stronger one ideally) to reach across the plastic box filled with Weedol, Rose Plus, Squirrel Stop, ant powder, stuff for aphids and black flies and the other little critters that pitch up to wreck the pastoral scene I attempt to create in my urban garden, that lies on top of the plastic box filled with half-spent tubes of Polyfilla, an unopened box of grout reviver, three partly used bottles of paint stripper, scrapers, rollers, light switches, ancient paint brushes stiffened to an almost sculptural form, tools I can’t identify that leave me wondering if I once had a plan to set up a circus act as a medieval torturer, and a tin of Turtle Wax, definitely not used in the 6 or 7 years since we discovered the Croatian chaps along the road who do a fantastic job in a fraction of the time, and quickly and erroneously filed (not by me!) among the decorating stuff (pause for breath and to adjust weight-bearing leg), trying desperately to avoid leaning against the shears perched on a screw fixed into one of the side struts and precariously balanced there above the similarly perched but slightly more stable loppers. It’s a battle involving mind and body to get my hand on the lid of the box where this year’s store of marmalade lies elegantly labelled, stashed here because there’s not enough room in the under-stairs cupboard in the house, which, in any case, is of such deeply shallow proportions and complicated, injury-risky access that it would pose other dangers, regretting that, in a moment of haste, I had slung the box of leftover kitchen wall tiles on top so that it’s impossible to open the box and fish out a jar of the delectable sweet orange stuff to slather on my toast unless you have the upper body strength of a prop forward and the leaning and balance capabilities of an elite gymnast. I may be fit but that’s a stretch.
I shift my body weight back to two feet and try to centre myself, sigh deeply and growl inwardly. “Going to have to pull stuff out to get at this”, says the voice in my head. As I do so, I notice the two saws that Himself was looking for when he disappeared to Wickes muttering something mildly accusing along the lines of “have you thrown the saw out?” and bought a third one with a fetching hyacinth blue handle which now stands on its straight metal end in the corner on the right just inside the door, its teeth seeming to grin sarcastically and dismissively at me. These are the times when you determine absolutely and without doubt, hesitation or possibility of second thought that you WILL set aside a day this week to have a proper clear-out.
Back indoors, you check the weather forecast. Has to be a dry day for the job and almost every day in the next 7 has raindrops showing over Teddington except for the two days I have commitments. The creeping sense that there’s a secret conspiracy at work alongside my unappealing capacity for procrastination is difficult to shake off. It gets put off again. And again. Put off until it’s time for the garden furniture to go away again so that now it’s unavoidable and the worst of times. There will be spiders crawling out from under an old glove hardened with encrusted earth or scurrying from behind the plastic sheath that holds the sunshade that came from my mother’s house 8 years ago and that we hardly use and certainly didn’t use all summer, there will be cobwebs hanging from every corner, insects running for cover, dust and grime to infiltrate my nostrils with germs. Everything will be cold and damp including my spirits.
Next year, next year…