This was my husband's place - a space into which I seldom ventured, and was never invited. He built the whole sizeable structure almost entirely from reclaimed materials. Then he filled it with matchboxes full of meticulously sorted nails and screws, nuts and bolts. He loved those nutty chocolates that come in clear plastic boxes, because he could use the boxes for storing washers and curtain fittings. He had biscuit tins containing old locks and keys. He had a desk, two filing cabinets, an office chair, a radio, an electric kettle. He also had - far more than I had ever realised - a substantial range of expensive power tools.
Nothing was thrown away. Old plastic tubing, once used in a long-vanished aquarium, was kept there in case it might come in handy again one day. Old towels, which I had relegated to the recycling bag, were rescued, folded and stored in the pigeon holes because, again, they just might come in handy.
The shed is a place that defies logic to the female mind. Who needs a biscuit tin full of old locks which no longer work? Who needs twenty seven different lengths of string stored in a box labelled, 'String - Assorted Lengths', and a tottering pile of 'New Scientist' magazines dating back twenty years? I think only a man could answer this sort of question.
My husband defended his territory, suspecting, quite wrongly, that I might attempt to have a clear-out. He even had a lock on the door and hid the key. If I needed a hammer I was told, 'Leave it to me, I'll see to it.' It was implied that women could not use hammers, could probably not even tell a hammer from a bradawl. It was clearly stated that the contents of the shed were sacrosanct, that I would not be able to understand their significance. That is perfectly true, and I believe most men would agree with him.
I would never have attempted to clear-out the shed. My husband died two years ago, and I have still not done it. Sometimes I go in there and look, in a bemused sort of way, and remember. Sometimes I go and get a hammer, and use it efficiently. Widows can do things that wives can't. I can use a bradawl, too, and some of the power-tools, but I have not taken possession of anything, and I feel uneasy, somehow, making free with things that are not mine.
We have a summer-house, and a garden tool store, both part of the same building, and both built by my husband from reclaimed materials. I would not dream of calling either of them a shed. The summerhouse and the garden store are bisexual.
But sheds are for men.