Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chris Routledge - a shedworking story


Chris Routledge is a confirmed shedworker and his shed appears in the seminal early article on shedworking on the BBC web site by Giles Wilson, Shed Heaven. His shed is pictured above (and the Nevada inspiration for it is at the end of this post). Chris very kindly agreed to write a guest post for Shedworking which I'm delighted to publish below. You can read more about him at his web site here.
"I built my shed in 2003 after a visit to the Alternative Energy Centre in mid-Wales. Before then I was thinking about buying a basic 'off the peg' summer house and customising it with insulation and proper roof materials. But our visit to the AEC, which has buildings on display to show how they are made, inspired me to do it myself. I'd put up shelves before, so how hard could it be?

"Actually it was a challenge but it wasn't that hard. My wife and I were editing a book about the philosophy of language at the time, so my brain was locked into two very different kinds of project and they tended to leak over into one another. My wife, who is also a writer and who also works in the shed, summed up my attitude rather well. While I was preparing to construct the roof our neighbour came over to take a look. I was up there on top of the frame hammering away and he asked her if I had someone lined up to build the roof sections. She looked at him and asked 'Does he look like a man who is about to order something ready made?'

"I took some guidance from David Stiles' excellent book Sheds, but the design is basically my own. I took the 'post and beam' approach that is common with American wooden houses, though in my case the posts are bricks, and tried to make it look at least a little like the small wooden structures you see in towns in the American West. The one-room shacks where miners and farmers lived in the nineteenth century.

"The actual building was a lot of fun and a real challenge. As a place of work it needed to be warm and dry and connected to the outside world, but it also had to be a pleasant environment. In the winter our part of Lancashire can be very bleak and dark so I added big triangular windows in the gable ends to bring lots of light in. In the summer our garden is crammed with wild flowers, so although it's a small space it is a bit like working in the middle of a meadow. The commute is lovely.

"The great practical advantage of working in the shed over working in the back bedroom is of course that you are out of the house, away from distractions and callers. I love the incongruity of talking on the phone in the shed with people who are sitting in shiny high-rise offices in more glamourous parts of the world, but I am also finding that I now connect specific pieces of work with the place they were written. I've just finished writing my first book (Cains: The Story of Liverpool in a Pint) written entirely in the shed and in my head it is very definitely a 'shed book'. There is something very elemental about sitting and working under a roof you put up there yourself."

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