Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Blokes Shed

This is my very small shed. It is 2.4 x 1.8 metres (8 x 6 feet). There is just about room enough to swing a cat so long as you hold onto the stump of the cats tail and the cat is pulling its head in firmly to its chest - it's a very small work space.

I have been varnishing a storage box that I have built for the good ship Mariner which is on the stool in the middle of the picture.

To be able to work at all I have to haul out the bike and numerous other boxes and bits and pieces. The small space becomes a lesson in tidiness and ingenuity as I struggle just getting bigger projects through the door.

As I was working away on this storage box today I remembered a book about sheds written by Jim Hopkins. Its called 'Blokes and Sheds' and he makes some interesting comments about sheds and their relationship to the Kiwi character.

.......... " What sheds do, undeniably, represent is something about the way we want to be. Much is spoken these days of New Zealand identity. A lot of it is self serving twaddle, an argument promoted by certain superior souls who want other peoples money to pay for the things they enjoy doing. What they tend to overlook is that, apart from the unique, painful and evolving relationship between Maori, and European, most of our 'identity' comes from somewhere else. Our religions, philosophy, notions of class and gender, our legal system, our political processes, our media style, planning concepts, even our fairy stories and notion of Father Christmas mainly come from somewhere else. We can't even claim to have invented a sport of our own.

What we have invented, or evolved - and it's often confused with identity - is an attitude, to the world, and each other, that's ours and ours alone. If anything summed it up , it would probably be Ed Hillary's line after climbing Mount Everest, "We knocked the bastard off". Laconic and tongue-in-cheek, it treats the extraordinary as commonplace and makes it a team effort as well. That kind of self - effacement in important here. We particularly dislike the growth hormone that can make some people too big for their boots. And we particularly like self reliance, the willingness to 'give it a go'. Born of necessity, it survives by choice. Being willing to give it a go is expected, it's part of how we want to see ourselves, it's part of our attitude. Which is why sheds, and what they represent, are important. We've got our share of famous sheds. The one in which Richard Pearce built his aeroplanes (and flew before the Wright Brothers), of where the jet boat, the electric fence and the animal tranquiliser gun were developed. Then, of course, there's Rutherford's den (a sort of basement shed) where he first picked up a chisel and split the atom.

......... There's a tradition of ingenuity we enjoy and still discover out in the shed..... "

- Jim Hopkins - Blokes and Sheds (pub 1998)



Dan Gurney said...

And there's another thing to be said about you New Zealanders that I think is worth saying: you're damn good sailors.

Alden Smith said...

Yes, well we did wrestle the Americas Cup off you guys in 1995 in San Diego and only lost it when our skipper Russell Coutts took the money and ran to the Swiss syndicate taking with him a boatload of Kiwi sailors and won it for them (still rankles some of us Kiwis - but that's professional sport for you.

Thanks for the compliment Dan, we do like our sailing as do you North Americans