Short Story

The She Shed


Judy Norris © October 2021

Helen’s mobile was ringing as she entered the house. “Hi mum, I rang earlier but there was no answer. Everything ok?” It was Helen’s eldest daughter, Sophie.

“Yes, I’m fine darling. Sorry I missed your call. I was wrangling with the wisteria round the swimming pool. It was like Day of the Triffids out there!”

“Are you still enjoying being at home? No regrets about retiring?”

Helen had taken early retirement six months ago for a few reasons. She enjoyed her work as an adult educator with TAFE but was becoming disenchanted with the bureaucracy that increasingly impeded her freedom to actually teach. Also, Sophie had embarked on a single parent pregnancy. She insisted she didn’t want her mother to feel obligated to commit to baby-sitting duties, but Helen wanted to be available if needed and looked forward to spending quality time with her first grandchild. Finally, she wanted to have more time to write. She’d joined a local writing group and was working on a series of short stories she hoped to combine and expand into a novel.

The office space they had at home was adequate for her requirements and, before the pandemic hit, she was happy working on her ‘masterpiece’ looking out over the garden. Covid-19 meant that most administrative employees were forced to work from home, due to the lockdown rules. Her husband, Richard, was a financial advisor so Helen’s writer’s retreat was quickly transformed into a sub office of the Australian Stock Exchange.

“Mum, I’ve just had a great idea!” Sophie interrupted as Helen was bemoaning the loss of her writing space. “You need a She Shed. Remember that movie we saw a while back with Diane Keaton? She befriended a fellow who staked a claim to a plot of land in London on Hampstead Heath, I think. He lived in a dilapidated shack next to a stream.”

“Hmm, a dilapidated shack. Very enticing.”

“You loved it. It was full of everything that was important to him and inspired wonderful memories. There were goldfish in the stream and he’d built a little bridge over it. The shack was surrounded by pots and shrubs and those hanging baskets that are everywhere in England, with colourful annuals cascading from them.”

“OK, so now you have my attention.”

“Dad doesn’t use the shed at the bottom of the garden, other than to store ‘stuff’ that never sees the light of day. He’s taken over the office so you commandeer the shed!”

“It does sound tempting, Soph but I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Do what you’ve always told us to do … take one step at a time, starting with hiring a skip bin!”

Sophie went on to explain there was heaps of information on the internet about She Sheds and Helen couldn’t wait to start her research. She made herself a coffee and began to surf the web.

The first rule of thumb for constructing your own She Shed was to clean out your old backyard shed!  Which was where Helen began her conversation with Richard over dinner that evening. “You’ve been wanting to clean out that old shed for ages and this way I’ll be doing it for you.”

“That’s very kind of you sweetheart, but I doubt you’ll be as discerning as I would be when it comes to deciding what stays and what goes.”

“You could be right, but honestly Richard when do you ever go down there. The lock is rusted over, it hasn’t been opened for so long. I’m more concerned about what creepy, crawlies I’ll find in there such as spiders that have been extinct for years.”

“Now you’re being unkind. A man needs a shed it’s part of his Rite of Passage.”

            “Well, I wouldn’t need it if you hadn’t taken over the office and when Sophie suggested it this morning, I thought it was a wonderful idea.”

Richard was only teasing and he also thought it was a good idea, especially as Helen was happy to do all the work involved with the project.

The next rule on the website list, was to give the shed a fresh coat of paint and there were lots of examples. Helen fell in love with a white shed that had a daffodil yellow door. Rule 3: To have a purpose for your Shed, was a given. Rule 4 she certainly didn’t need an excuse to do. It was… Search antique shops and charity shops for unique finds to decorate the interior space. Surround yourself with nature was the next tip. Helen’s garden was already abundant with rose trees and various shrubs that attracted butterflies and bees. There were also Australian natives, that attracted the birds. There was a water feature she would move to the back of the shed, where she planned to fit French doors leading on to a small paved area. That way, as she compiled her novel, she could take advantage of sunny days by opening the doors and soaking up the atmosphere provided by the hanging baskets she was going to use to adorn the wooden awning.

“Of course, they’ll need to be a terrace area, Richard” Helen explained when he queried her reference to an ‘awning’. “A She Shed wouldn’t be complete without the sort of ambience it provides.”  His response was to feign horror that he could be so stupid, before he returned to his office which, he pointed out, was totally devoid of such indulged ambience.

Helen didn’t see the need to follow the final piece of advice she’s gleaned from her research, which was to ensure the She Shed was equipped for entertaining. She had absolutely no intention of sharing her ‘Helen carapace’. Scrolling through shopping sites that sold second hand homewares. she spotted a wooden sign which said ‘The Queen Is Not Accepting An Audience Today’. It was her first purchase.


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