Gareth And The New Shed

Just like the doctor’s tardis, Gareth’s new shed was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.  “It’s very spacious,” his wife remarked on stepping into it for the first time.  But when Gareth lowered his voice to a conspiratorial hush and told her that it was, in fact, thirteen inches longer on the inside than it was on the outside she looked at him with incomprehension and said, “Well, it is a very nice shed.”

It was a nice shed but Gareth couldn’t settle in it.  He had filled it with all his papermaking equipment just as he had planned but there was no way he could make paper in here, not with the empty space at the far end which seemed to stare back at him.

The situation was disrupting his sleep.  Sometimes he would get up in the middle of the night and go out into the back garden with a tape and a torch and measure the shed again, just to make sure.  It did not matter how many times he checked, it was always the same.  On the outside the shed was nine feet and seven inches long.  On the inside it measured ten feet and eight inches.

Gareth’s few friends all had sheds but none had ever experienced anything like it.  On a rare excursion to the pub, perplexed Terry sipped his pint of mild and then told Gareth, “It depends how you look at it really.  Is there an extra thirteen inches on the inside of the shed, or is some of the outside missing?”  Gareth made his excuses and hurried home without finishing his drink.  In the garden he cleared the space so that there was nothing within thirteen inches of the back of the shed, which involved disturbing a semi-occupied rabbit hutch and a bewilderingly large pile of plant pots.  Then he measured the shed again, out of habit.

“You should have bought one from the big store down the road if you wanted to avoid all this trouble,” his wife scolded him.  “Instead of chasing a good deal on the internet.”  But to Gareth there had seemed to be nothing disreputable about the men who delivered his nice new shed and the online ordering and payment had been a stressless joy which he would recommend to anyone.

The shed had been delivered in the dead of night.  The company assured Gareth that they did this in order to keep their costs low, there was less traffic on the road and the truck barely had to stop to hoist the shed over the fence and into the garden before it set off on more deliveries, like some kind of ¬D.I.Y. Santa.

As the months passed by, the shed continued to trouble Gareth but his nocturnal visits grew fewer and fewer as he pushed the problem to the back of his mind.  His papermaking equipment stood unused and he began to clutter the house with his presence, rolling around like a lost marble.  “A shed’s a shed,” his wife would say, irritated and hoping that he might busy himself there instead of getting under her feet.  He would merely grumble incoherently and wander off.

Time passed.  The rabbit died and Gareth dismantled the hutch, thought about finally sorting through all the plant pots and decided against it.  Nothing much changed.

Until one Saturday afternoon when he came across a copy of the invoice for the shed.  Gareth was having one of his rare days when he was feeling pro-active and energised and so he decided that today, today was the day for sorting out the shed.

He picked up the phone and rang the telephone number on the invoice, not considering what he might say until he could already hear the rings on the other end of the line.  Fortunately no one picked up his call and his incoherent complaint was spared.

He decided to send an email instead and after several drafts had been deleted he sent the following:

“Dear Sirs,

I recently purchased one of your standard garden-bound easy maintenance sheds.  I was delighted with both your ordering and delivery service and the shed is sturdy and keeps out the wind and rain as advertised.

However, I have one small complaint to make – it seems that the shed is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside by a matter of thirteen inches.

I wonder if you could perhaps look into fixing my shed so that it there is no such discrepancy between the interior and the exterior.  Alternatively, you could perhaps bring me a replacement shed.

Many thanks and kind regards,


Gareth sat up all night watching his inbox, clicking refresh at regular intervals.  And at four in the morning he finally received a reply.

“Dear Valued Customer Gareth,

We are sorry to hear that our shed does not meet with your expectations and will, of course, provide a new shed with the correct measurements at the earliest opportunity.

Apologies for any inconvenience,

The Customer Services Team.”

Which seemed very easy and straight forward.  Gareth now began to feel a little foolish that he had not taken this step earlier, saving himself months of head-scratching and shedlessness.  He offset the feeling by picking up his torch and heading out to empty the troublesome and soon-to-be-replaced shed of papermaking equipment straight away.

He had finished the job by half past five in the morning, just as the first light of the new day was beginning to seep into the night sky.  Looking around the empty shed, Gareth couldn’t resist measuring it one more time.  Of course, it remained the same as ever – thirteen inches longer on the inside.

But standing there in the half-light, the months of frustration and confusion seemed to fall away from Gareth and a smile began to worm its way across his lips.  It was quite funny when he thought about it, though it could just have been the sleep deprivation.

He stood right at the back of the shed so that his whole body was in the mysterious extra thirteen inches of shed and wondered where he was.

Stopped there for a moment.

And then stepped back into the world.

Gareth flopped onto the settee and slept long into the morning.  His dreams were full of sheds and black holes and reams and reams of paper.  When he awoke he walked to the shops and returned with a newspaper and a bunch of flowers for his wife.

The new new shed arrived that night.  Gareth heard the rumble of a heavy vehicle pulling up alongside the garden and then the sound of his shed being winched up over the fence.  He rushed downstairs but by the time he had made it out of the back door in a shamble of hastily-applied dressing gowns and slippers, the delivery men had gone.  The shed which now stood in the back garden looked much the same as the one they had taken away.

There was just one thing Gareth had to do before he went back to bed.

Barely able to control his excitement, he measured the outside of the shed with shaking hands which struggled to grip the torch and tape measure.  As expected, it measured nine feet and seven inches.  He slid the new bolt across, the shiny metal running like a dream, and opened the door.  His heart beat faster and faster as he pulled the tape measure along the inside of the shed.  Until… yes, nine feet and seven inches.

Gareth almost burst into tears.  He wanted to move all his papermaking equipment in now and get to work.  He wanted to make so much paper.  He would, from now on, live in the shed and make paper all day.  He ran his hands lovingly across the wood.

Papermaking could wait.  He would need a good night’s sleep so that he could get everything set up tomorrow.  With a sigh he left the shed and turned to close the door behind him.

And then stopped.

Shone his torch into the space, illuminating each corner in turn.  He did sad little laps of the interior with the beam of light.

The inside of the shed looked so small.

Workers (#2 – The Blueberry Seller)

He stands at the doorstep, wood-shy, wood-still and smelling of wood.  Damp winter late-afternoon in the background.  His mouth, his lips, his tongue mute and chattery cold.  Behind me, wood burning with coal in the fire to warm, warmth to dry the cold and damp of the day.  As though my home were the sun and he the dark side of the moon and I the earth between the two.

My hands dusty with old paper and my brain dusty with old paper and my lungs dusty with old paper and my eyes heavy with grief.  In the house, lots of letters.  Endless human correspondence like nothing happens unless it is written down.  I have been snapping old staples from old letters, the iron breaking into tiny pieces which find their way under the nails, under the skin, into the throat and lungs, into life and into death.  Just like the letterwriters no longer stapled together.

He is still at the doorstep and in his hand is a bucket full of blueberries.  The bucket is an old paint container, now used for blueberries instead of paint.  It does not matter what colour paint was previously stored there.  He just stands there, mute as sin and cold as the forest.

We could not stand there forever, and even if we did it would not mean anything.

I reach out and take the handle of the bucket, pull him into the house.  Sit him down in front of the fire of forgotten forest wood and dry hopes and fears and burning years.  He counts blueberries into one of my tins whilst I search for the money to give him and wonder where this could all end.

Workers (#1 – The Barber)

The sign in the window says ‘open’ but we are inside and so we can only see ‘closed’.  As though the world outside is off-limits.  There is only one person in front of me and he is in the chair already – a man-boy adoloescent, still marvelling at the places his body can sprout hair, watching in silence as the barber removes them.  The barber – silently mean or kind – cuts his hair, turning today’s fashions onto the boy’s young head.

I watch the people outside – closed – watch them make their grey way through the cold afternoon.  Headphoned, pregnant, swaggering, laden down with shopping, struggling with children, worries, faith, the weather.  It is not raining.  Not quite.  Everything happens so coldly, calmly, quietly on the outside.

The barber has his clippers out and the sound of these battles against the sound of the music which he is kindly playing.  The music is cold and cinematic, building, building, looking for a legitimate crescendo and then just building some more.

The people outside look frail, husks of husks.  The barber is steady, all strong muscles and control bones.  I look at my feet, my knees, my knuckles.  The barber finishes with the boy and now it is my turn.

I have more hair than some others though I know that this makes little more than a tiny difference to anything once we are here and we are shorn in the chair.  The clippers zip and zed all over my head whilst hair falls around my shoulders.  I cannot see the people outside, looking straight into the mirror I am presented only with myself.

The music is lost under the sound of the clippers.  Over my cheekbones, around my ears, noises up close, noises that could be up-close computer complaints.  And the hair continues to fall as the barber works on – what – his hundredth,  his thousandth  head of hair?