"You do realise that most normal people would prefer to be in the south of France," my husband commented.
It was a cold, very cold, February afternoon, and he and I were having lunch in my allotment shed, sheltering from the bitter cold wind and the snow, which now swirled around the plot. Inside, thanks to new roof felt, we were snug and warm with hot soup and cheese sandwiches. I considered his remark. Certainly normal people in my own corner of Scotland would be, if not in the south of France, at least out shopping or at home watching old movies or the racing from Wincanton. On the other hand, "normal" is not a particularly useful term if, as I have long suspected, allotments are in fact a sort of 3rd Rock From the Sun parallel universe.
And they?re catching on. Allotment sheds have long been recognised as the last refuge of henpecked husbands; today they are increasingly popular among the hard-pressed female of the species. The reason, quite simply, is they are not normal at all, but magic. I had arrived that Saturday, ratty from the week?s exertions, only to find myself fully restored when sitting on a stool in the shed. Does the magic have something to do with having one?s very own shed? Do sheds tap into childhood memories of dens, treehouses, caves, hide-outs: secret places where we made plans, kept diaries and shared secrets, hiding from the grown-ups with our gang?
Now grown up myself, I have no way of hiding from anyone. Mobiles, text messages, e-mails, landlines and children pursue me into every corner of my day. So perhaps sheds turn back the clock to childhood.
I am not alone in feeling this. I have brought high-powered women friends down to the allotment to share a bottle of wine, only to find that once they have stopped teasing me about my corkscrew hanging next to my dibber, my old past-it designer handbags being used as seed packet carriers, and marvelling at the shed?s general Second World War shabbiness, they relax and eventually confess to feeling a million dollars. Perhaps I ought to charge health farm prices?
Allotment sheds are a state of mind; their magic is unaccountable and therefore, as it cannot be counted, can bring infinite happiness. So, as I told my long-suffering spouse that snowy lunchtime, "love me, love my shed". Or, in the words of a Londoner walking past one day as I was painting the door. "Blimey darlin?, it?s not a shed, it?s a dacha!"
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