Just after I moved into my house here in the south-west corner of the English Lake District I designed a shed to be built at the end of the garden. It was insulated and double glazed, and therefore useable year-round, not just a summer house. The first roof blew off in a southerly storm, but the company replaced it for me and learned valuable lessons, they said, about how to combat the weather. When it was built I wasn’t a writer. But now I am, and the little ‘shed’ has become my writing place. When I work out how to take a photo, download from the camera and upload into my blog, I’ll post a picture of it.
As I walk the fifty metres from my back door to the shed, something seems to happen in my brain. I switch from a multi-tasking busy person, partner, grand-mother, resident of our tiny street community, into a single focus writer. Currently I’m writing in the 1950s, so that’s where I am. The characters are my friends and family: I know them inside out, their feelings and reactions, on-stage and off-stage. It’s hard to remember that they are fictional fabrications. They live in that shed with me for about six hours a day.
The shed is cut off from contact with the contemporary world. There is no internet or phone access. It faces south, away from the house. The closest neighbours are next-door’s hens and the sheep in the field beyond the hedge. If I need information I add the question to the list of things I need to check when I return to the house and the real world. I have electricity there for my laptop, a blanket for my knees or shoulders, and a little radiator that I switch on before my breakfast to warm up the space. If it’s sunny the big windows capture light and heat, but I have to adjust the screen to avoid the glare.
In the summer the double doors open onto a small patio, where the hot tub sits. I can’t afford to keep it on all the time, but it provides an occasional idyllic experience, especially on cold clear nights when the steam rises from the water towards the stars overhead.
There’s a big sofa bed in the shed, to sit and read, or even sleep through short summer nights. No people, no distraction. I’m so glad the shed is there. I love it.