What is a Shed?

This was a question I was posed yesterday by someone who should be in the know.

It depends on the context, and even the season. At the recent nativity presentation by Sleights Primary School the answer might well have been a place for cattle with a manger “for a bed”. It might not have been a wooden structure but a stable built into rock for animals of all-sorts. Cave-like.

The context in which I was asked the question was Sheds – the kind we are doing for men’s and women’s well-being in Whitby district. It is very relevant to us embarking on The Quieter Shed. Is it a Shed as a Shed should be? That is the question . . .

The way one starts to answer can lead to different places. Our Sheds belong to the UK Men’s Shed Association. They are there to guide and advise and be a force for good in the gospel of Sheds. However, it has the word “Men” in it. That poses a problem and can divide opinion as to the place of women in Sheds. Through a legalistic lens it is a cut and dried matter.

The supporting argument goes that women have many activities available to which they can belong and they are more experienced at friendship building. Men have far less available that is social, non competitive and does not involve drink. Sheds is one of the few activities specifically aimed to address men’s isolation. It’s for them surely. It is, but . . . .

Whitby district was among the very first providers of a Women’s Shed anywhere in UK. How did that happen? It certainly wasn’t in our mind to do when we started SAMS. Well, for different reasons two women came our way. One was from Germany, ostensibly to improve her English after retirement, and the other, from Redcar, had always wanted to use a lathe.

Over time, it became clear to us (and to them) that there were deeper issues of isolation at work. They were no different to many of our men and we regarded them as men in terms of our operation – including the banter. All benefited, quite frankly.

We had “brushes” with other women too that proved positive, so the idea for Whitby Women’s Shed came about. Our Sheds are “primarily Sheds”. Primarily men but with some women having good reason to be there also involved. Primarily for women but with some men (case by case).

We now have The Quieter Shed on the cards with controlled noise levels for some with the understandable need for that. Hand tools and small power tools, yes, but not lathe and bench saws in use (without agreement!). There will up-cycling, work on fabrics and IT as well as crafts like pyrography and carving. And for both sexes.

ARE THESE ABERRATIONS FROM THE HISTORICAL NORM ACCEPTABLE TO BE TAGGED AS “SHEDS” AND BELONG TO THE UK MEN’S SHED ASSOCIATION?

Yes (IMHO), but only if operated in the character of a Men’s Shed i.e. embracing banter, being on-the-go, with have-a-go culture, not knit and natter conversation mode, a Shedderhood!! Regarding a female at the Shed as a fellow Shedder not a woman! Peer to peer, men and women. Equality:-). That’s what we can offer women. They seem to welcome it too.

What do you think, reader? We say that Sheds work for some women as well as some men. We hope that a Quiet Shed will do the same, being no less ambitious than a normal Shed.

Sticking with the Christmas theme of sheds, nativities . . .

We made Nativity scenes last year that were placed around Whitby, mainly in the rural area of Sleights. Look in recent blogs. We made a few more this year on request, as well as a trio of wise men as “accessories”. Then today, Graham visited the display of Christmas trees at St. Mary’s Church at the top of Whitby’s famous 199 steps. Our tree was there (complete with wooden dangling tools and fabric ornaments).

However, the Church Warden approached. She is Barbara ,a Street Angel, and wanted a favour from the Sheds. “For next year we need a stable for Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.” She unwrapped the figurines below. A member of the local community had rescued them from the fate of being placed in a skip at the hospital now being redeveloped and brought the family to sanctuary. So, a covered stable to protect the family group is needed next year in the grounds of St. Mary’s.

Finally an account of an angel in Nigeria. By one of the BBC correspondents. Published today. I cannot believe you won’t be moved by this.

The ‘angel’ who secretly pays patients’ hospital bills – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-46637822

Seen an angel? In shades?

Extracts: “He remembers Montserrat – a woman who bled for 11 months because she needed a hysterectomy. Zeal paid $400 for her operation. And on today’s visit to this public hospital, there is a good deal more digression.

The Angel Project picks up the tab for a patient who needs a leg ulcer operation, and Zeal wants to know about the progress of a 10-year-old who is awaiting further intestinal surgery. He has paid for her treatment so far, and will continue to do so until she returns home. The social worker says the child is doing very well.
Zeal has met this little girl, but he does not want to see her again. “She has my son’s eyes,” he remembers.

Be a Shed Angel, giving what we can to each other and receiving gratefully.

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