The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - September 5, 2019

The shed as it stands (just) today
The shed as it stands (just) today
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Spirit level led us into a shed load of trouble

You know when you have one of those moments where you catch yourself doing something so extraordinarily dismally middle-age and mundane that it suddenly makes you feel incredibly depressed?

You know the kind of thing, listening to Gardeners Question Time and enjoying it; driving to a supermarket specifically because they’ve got a special offer on duvet covers; carefully re-sealing a near-empty pot of Dulux paint because ‘it might come in handy sometime’.

Well, it happened to me when I found myself on the internet googling ‘best sheds’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I did need a shed.

It would have taken it to a whole new level of sadness had I been sat googling ‘best sheds’ while not needing a new shed. Crikey, anyone who googles sheds to get their kicks has a serious problem.

I need a shed because we’ve had an extension off the back of our abode and as part of that have had to demolish a little outhouse where we stored all those items you can’t fit in the main house (bikes, lawnmower, barbecue, tent, machine gun, that kind of thing).

I needed somewhere to put this rubbish in and so it was that the other week I found myself on a website called whatshed.co.uk studying sheds and reading about their merits or otherwise.

Mrs Canavan saw me on my laptop and asked what I was up to.

I was so embarrassed about looking at sheds that I hurriedly attempted to close the screen without her seeing, then realised this may make it look like I was midway through doing something seriously inappropriate, like viewing a pornographic movie or watching Ed Sheeran’s new song.

“I’m, erm, reading about sheds,” I owned up to Mrs Canavan.

Not for the first time I saw a look of huge discontent and disappointment flash across her face, as if she were realising she’d made a tragic mistake when choosing who to marry and would most definitely like a divorce but was aware of the financial implications and the disruption to the children and would probably have to sit it out until we were at least in our 50s, meaning she had another 15 years of daily drudgery and grind to get through.

Aware of this, I tried to salvage the situation by saying something fiery and sexy. “Look, this one’s been manufactured from square cut overlap timber which allows flexibility and movement and helps rain water run off,” I said, evocatively.

She walked out without responding and went to the kitchen to get a large whiskey and an anti-depressant tablet.

I spent the next hour or so looking at different sheds – I mean there are so many different decisions to make: whether to go with overlapping tongue and groove construction, the height of the eaves and thickness of the battens, whether the door has extra diagonal framing … honestly it’s a minefield.

Anyway not because I liked it but mainly because I was so bored I was on the verge of popping a cyanide pill, I ordered the first shed I stumbled upon which looked sort of ok – the 8’ x 6’ Forest Overlap Apex Pressure Treated Wooden Double Door Shed, on the off chance you’re interested.

It cost about £300 and there was an option, if you paid another 100 quid or so, for a bloke to come round and build it for you.

“Pah,” I thought, “I’m not spending that – I’ll do it myself, I mean, how hard can it be?”

I began to slightly regret that laissez faire attitude when a package roughly the same size as a double-decker bus arrived in the back garden a few days later.

Now as anyone who knows me will testify, my DIY skills are not so much poor as non-existent, so I called the only friend I have with a well-organised toolbox and an electric drill (and – crucially – two small children, so I knew he’d be keen to get out of the house).

He came the following evening and we set about erecting the shed.

I was confident we’d be able to do it because before we’d even begun my mate produced something called a spirit level to check the paving flags (he was clearly a pro, as previously I’d though a spirit level was something to do with alcohol).

“He must know what he’s doing,” I thought, and relaxed and cracked open a second lager.

The spirit level showed the paving flags were not level, so we cut into small bits some old wood I had lying about and used it to balance the bottom layer of the shed. We chopped up quite a lot of wood but eventually managed to get it beautifully level. Then we began to build the thing.

To cut a long story short, we made good progress – though we did have an enforced 15-minute break while I ran to buy Savlon from a nearby Tesco Express after my friend accidentally drilled a screw directly into his thumb (I’ve not heard a such a high-pitched shriek since big Dave got a football smashed into his testicles from close range at our five-a-side session).

Then we reached a crucial part where we had to put up the back wall.

‘Right,’ said my mate, by now very confident and imagining he was Nick Knowles in an episode of DIY SOS, ‘we just need that piece of 1635mm timber – where is it?’

We searched through every bit of packaging we had but could not locate it, which was puzzling.

We searched a bit more, then, stopping to scratch our heads and ponder, suddenly looked at the bottom of the shed and specifically at the bits of wood we’d chopped up to make the shed level.

They appeared worryingly similar to the wood in the instruction manual – the wood we were looking for.

We exchanged looks, experiencing an emotion somewhere way way beyond horror.

We had – and this is absolutely true – unwittingly chopped up into small pieces a large section of the shed that had been delivered less than 24 hours before. It would have been deemed too far-fetched for even a Laurel and Hardy movie.

Unable to finish the job, we had to stop, obviously, and a week on from this disaster my shed remains half-completed and covered by a sheet of tarpaulin which, because of the amount of rain we’ve had, has a huge pool of water in the middle, which is quite weighty, and has pulled in the sides so the wood has split and broken.

The upshot is I spent last night back on whatshed.co.uk and am about to buy a replacement shed, which will cost me another 300 quid at best.

Mrs Canavan has never detested me more.