My grandfather had a shed. That isn’t a boast. That would be like boasting that he had a wool-knit cardigan. Or that he said that things were better in his day. Or never talked about the war. That would be like boasting about having had a grandad. But, oh man, I loved that shed. It was at the end of the garden, past the goal I had set up, past the beds of flowers I trampled with a ball, and it smelt of wood. Glorious wood.
It was a workshop. Beyond the clanking of a triple lock on the door was a treasure trove of saws and nuts and bolts and screws and sanders and vices and chisels and bar clamps. Coils of wood shavings covered the floor. Tiny particles of ash hung in the sunlight shining through the little window. The air filled with a deep, fresh-cut scent. No wonder Jesus was a carpenter: the smell of wood is next to godliness.
I was reminded of all this when I passed a furniture shop last week and saw a man in overalls sanding down a table in a small courtyard. Of course, I was never any good at cutting wood, or carving or sanding. I made a lot of “door wedges”, a lot of “spare Jenga blocks”. But I was humoured enough to have a go, and isn’t that one of the greatest gifts of grandparents?