It’s no secret that I’ve never counted DIY as one of my strongest life skills.
I’m more than willing to have a go at manual tasks, but, like a dog distracted by pigeons during its daily walk, I often have trouble staying on the right path.
On extreme occasions I’ve even been known to call my da for help when putting together the toy in a Kinder Surprise egg.
Which meant that lately I’ve been left daunted by my shed situation.
To explain; when I moved into my current house some years ago I became the owner of a large, wooden garden shed.
As my house exists sans garage, the shed became the dumping ground for all non-essential items.
In short, it was filled to bursting point with shite. Old CDs and cassettes, various old kitchen gadgets, unwanted ornaments, garden tools, a pool table, a dart board.
And books, thousands and thousands of books.
But even a garden shed needs a little love and attention and, like a selfish spouse, I neglected it over a long period of time.
And as I filled the shed with more flotsam and jetsam, it began to slowly disintegrate.
First the floor began to collapse. Then vines from next door’s garden began to grow through the wood panels. Then a hole appeared in the ceiling. Not a little gap which could be stuffed or filled, but a proper hole which you could imagine a stunt motorcyclist trying to jump over in a daredevil aerial challenge.
In truth the shed reached the end of its natural life about two years ago. And it was around this time that my wife started pleading for me to do something about it.
But I’m a slow starter and I did nothing, allowing the shed to deteriorate further. The walls started to collapse, the door fell off. By the end there was very little left. Months of rain entering the shed had destroyed all of the contents beyond any useful state.
Finally, much too late, I was forced to act.
I rented a skip and undertook the unpleasant act of emptying the shed. At times I was ankle deep in sludge as water damaged books disintegrated in my hands.
Once it had been gutted, I knocked the shed down. This consisted of the enjoyable task of me wildly swinging a sledgehammer. On the odd occasion I even struck the piece of wood I was aiming at.
My da then brought down his chainsaw and the shed was sawn up into small bits which I could throw in the open fire (my da did this job, I could just about be trusted with a sledge, but being let loose with a chainsaw was not a fate any of us were prepared to tempt).
The demolition of the sad, old shed was the first part of the equation. Now I was faced with the urgent need for shelter for my lawnmower, barbecue, bike and tools (my wife was strangely unwilling to let me bring them into the dining room).
So I went online and ordered a new shed. Much smaller than the original, plastic and (apparently) one that could be built at home. This new shed would be just for essentials. Strictly no shite.
The online purchase process included a guarantee that the delivery driver would text me to let me know when they would be dropping off the item.
Instead a large lorry arrived unexpectedly at my house at 9pm on a Friday night when I was in my pyjamas and had half of a bag of popcorn caught in my beard.
The jolly delivery men left the large cardboard box in my back garden.
I stalked it for a couple of days like a hungry cat eyeing its prey.
And then, one sunny day last week, I put on my old pair of jeans (well, my only pair of jeans), and cut the ties on the box.
The instruction booklet was forty pages long. The first part I read said: Two person assembly required. Do not undertake on your own you bloody idiot. (I may have invented that last bit).
I scratched my head and looked around. My son was racing toy cars around the garden. I decided to plough on.
I set out the parts and ensured all the fittings were present.
Then I went and had a cup of coffee as I tried to mentally reconcile myself with the task.
In truth, this is not proper DIY. It’s really just following instructions, like doing a big jigsaw. It’s not like I’m cutting down a tree, chopping up the wood and fashioning a shed from the timber. But we all have to exist within our own capabilities.
I started to put together the floor. Then the walls. Then I stuck them together. It didn’t fall over and looked oddly shed-like.
Encouraged, I went on.
In truth, the actual building of the shed was not the most time consuming bit. That honour belonged to reading the instructions, scratching my chin and saying Bajaysus a lot as I searched for the right bit.
There were hundreds of screws, all in little plastic bags with strange codes. While the s13b screw may have looked identical to the naked eye to the dS26bg screw, I couldn’t shake the fear that to use the incorrect one might have grave, unknown consequences. Like triggering a mega-tsunami which washes away the whole east coast of the United States. I spent a lot of time making sure I used the right screws in the right places.
The roof was the trickiest part. This is where another person would have been really useful. I found that as I attached one side of the roof to the wall fixing, then the opposite popped out. Then when I tried to remedy the facing side by fixing it into place, the original side popped out.
This went on for some time, leaving me feeling rather flustered and foolish. It was a conundrum I eventually solved by weighing one side of the roof down with a large bag of rice. Unconventional perhaps, and not something I’ve ever seen on a home improvement programme on the telly, but it worked.
Once the door, window and air vents were attached the shed was complete. It had taken me four hours.
But the task was not yet over. I now had to create a level and firm base for the shed to rest upon. Building a proper foundation with concrete was a little too ambitious, and my original plan to rest it on a bed of sand didn’t really work out because it was too soft underfoot.
So I set about creating a solid base from flagstones left over when our back yard was paved last year.
My rough idea was that I wanted the base to be somewhere close to level. Close was acceptable.
On my hands and knees with my little spirit level I laid the flagstones upon the sand, knowing for the first time what it must be like to be my own da.
It won’t win any awards but the end product was pleasing to the untrained eye. Then I slid the newly built shed on top and began to fill it with tools.
About five minutes after I finished, it began to rain.
I sipped coffee until the shower passed and then I stepped outside again and admired my own work, basking in self-satisfaction at an achievement that I genuinely feared might be beyond my abilities.
I opened and closed the door several times and ran my hands along the walls. I could feel the exhaustion caused by the unfamiliar strain of manual labour entering my limbs.
I stepped back and took one last look at my smart new shed. Then I had one last thought:
‘Christ, it really does look just like a portaloo.’