Today I was going to offer my thoughts on the Egyptian crisis (or was I?), but then I received an email from Appleyard bringing me news of the winner of Shed of the Year 2013. As Bryan remarks, 'This is not a shed of which one could say shed shed and be satisfied'. It is indeed something of a masterpiece, made from an upturned onshore clinker, recycled caravan windows, wattle and daub and various parts of the owner's farmhouse home - oh, and a corrugated iron shed is in there somewhere. A worthy, a more than worthy winner (and thank heavens it wasn't the Tardis replica - a shed can only go so far before it ceases to be a shed. Or, in the case of the sorry edifice at the bottom of my garden, not far enough to claim the name.)
The winning shed's clever use of an upturned boat put me in mind of the Peggotty family home in David Copperfield, so lovingly - longingly - described by Dickens:
'Yon's our house, Mas'r Davy!'
I looked in all directions, as far as I could stare over the
wilderness, and away at the sea, and away at the river, but no
house could I make out. There was a black barge, or some other
kind of superannuated boat, not far off, high and dry on the
ground, with an iron funnel sticking out of it for a chimney and
smoking very cosily; but nothing else in the way of a habitation
that was visible to me.
'That's not it?' said I. 'That ship-looking thing?'
'That's it, Mas'r Davy,' returned Ham.
If it had been Aladdin's palace, roc's egg and all, I suppose I
could not have been more charmed with the romantic idea of living
in it. There was a delightful door cut in the side, and it was
roofed in, and there were little windows in it; but the wonderful
charm of it was, that it was a real boat which had no doubt been
upon the water hundreds of times, and which had never been intended
to be lived in, on dry land. That was the captivation of it to me.
If it had ever been meant to be lived in, I might have thought it
small, or inconvenient, or lonely; but never having been designed
for any such use, it became a perfect abode.
It was beautifully clean inside, and as tidy as possible. There
was a table, and a Dutch clock, and a chest of drawers, and on the
chest of drawers there was a tea-tray with a painting on it of a
lady with a parasol, taking a walk with a military-looking child
who was trundling a hoop. The tray was kept from tumbling down, by
a bible; and the tray, if it had tumbled down, would have smashed
a quantity of cups and saucers and a teapot that were grouped
around the book. On the walls there were some common coloured
pictures, framed and glazed, of scripture subjects; such as I have
never seen since in the hands of pedlars, without seeing the whole
interior of Peggotty's brother's house again, at one view. Abraham
in red going to sacrifice Isaac in blue, and Daniel in yellow cast
into a den of green lions, were the most prominent of these. Over
the little mantelshelf, was a picture of the 'Sarah Jane' lugger,
built at Sunderland, with a real little wooden stern stuck on to
it; a work of art, combining composition with carpentry, which I
considered to be one of the most enviable possessions that the
world could afford. There were some hooks in the beams of the
ceiling, the use of which I did not divine then; and some lockers
and boxes and conveniences of that sort, which served for seats and
eked out the chairs.
All this I saw in the first glance after I crossed the threshold -
child-like, according to my theory - and then Peggotty opened a
little door and showed me my bedroom. It was the completest and
most desirable bedroom ever seen - in the stern of the vessel; with
a little window, where the rudder used to go through; a little
looking-glass, just the right height for me, nailed against the
wall, and framed with oyster-shells; a little bed, which there was
just room enough to get into; and a nosegay of seaweed in a blue
mug on the table. The walls were whitewashed as white as milk, and
the patchwork counterpane made my eyes quite ache with its
As a boy I was fascinated by this image of a house - a home - made from an upturned boat. Perhaps Alex Holland, aka DJ Badly, was also inspired by some childhood memory of David Copperfeld and that house on the beach...