Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England

Shed or shrine, a place to tinker


Tinkering in the shed (well a garage, actually) my late father did a lot of that. It was his happy place.  When I saw this video I was so moved, not just by the dedication of Lee John Phillips, skill and determination to record the contents of his grandfathers shed, no, it was the Flora margarine tubs with there handwritten scrawly labels, that caught my breath.  My Dad did that. I can feel the brittleness of  each tub,  see the aged  yellowing plastic, the presence of its weighty load of rusty screws.


Dad’s garage may have looked chaotic to the uninitiated, but it had a filing system as complex as a giant Amazon warehouse,  just minus a robot.   It was all in Dad’s head.

When Mum died five years ago, and we set about the task of  clearing the family home, my siblings and I were pretty confident, we’d got the garage sussed, Dad pre-deceased mum by 18 years and a couple of years after he died, we’d hired a skip (at a price that would have horrified my him) to dispose of all those important little things he’d been saving just in case. Screws, wingnuts, little slithers of Formica, rubber belts and brushes. Old keys and watch faces. Tobacco tins and string. Bits and pieces that would have saved him a penny or two, and given him the priceless satisfaction of making and fixing.  At the time the task seemed never ending, my brother installed greedy boards on the skip as it started to overflow.

The task wasn’t as dangerous as dealing with his secret hoard of home brew,

home brewBut the second wave of garage clearing revealed  more stuff and memories than we’d bargained for (I saved this WWII ammunition box, and a selection of tools for Joe, they cleaned up nicely).

Dad's amo box_

I’m glad I took some photographs, drawing every item would have been beyond me in both skill and time. We’d kind of forgotten how ingenious some of Dad’s creations were, a tad Heath Robinson at times, but he made what he’d got, work for him (here, on the right, a device for trimming the climbing rose around the front door)

Dad's clippers

Dad often made his own tools, the childhood swing that he made for me, would disappear from time to time, seconded into the garage, to be used to support a pulley to lift out car engines, just as he designed and fabricated it to do.

As the world starts to realise the necessity of Reduce Reuse and Recycle, I can think how wrong I was, Dad was ahead of his time not behind it.



Author: uphilldowndale

Watching the rhythm of rural life, from the top of a hill in northern England. Having spent most of my life avoiding writing, I now need to do it! I am no domestic goddess, but if I were expecting visitors to my home, I would whisk round with the duster and plump up the cushions and generally make the place look presentable. I hope that by putting my words where others may see them it will encourage me to ‘tidy up and push the Hoover around’ my writing. On the other hand I may just be adding to the compost heap. Only time will tell! Pull up a chair, sit yourself down, I’ll put the kettle on.

9 thoughts on “Shed or shrine, a place to tinker

  1. Oh well done, Mrs Uhdd! This is one of your best, I think. The guy was drawing every item in his grandfather’s shed was taking time out from teaching, so that explains it. Luckily you don’t need that kind of therapy. I love the bit about the filing system like an Amazon warehouse, and the swing that was designed to take car engines too. Hahaha your dad was definitely ahead of the curve.

  2. We do need to go back in time a bit, I agree.

  3. The more things change, the more they stay the same. No margarine tubs for us. My dad preferred one pound coffee cans, while my mother chose Mason jars. Me? I use pint-sized Talenti gelato containers. They’re clear, like the canning jars, but don’t break!

  4. Wonderful post and pictures, with interesting links. My dad was a hoarder and his large shed was always filled to overflowing. I’m the opposite and always been a bit of a minimalist. xx

  5. Thousands of kilometres away, but you could be describing my Dad.

  6. This is lovely. When we bought our first house, the shed at the bottom of the garden was still padlocked shut so we were offered the contents as part of the deal. We still have some of Arthur’s tools (he wrote his name on some of them) – indeed I rode his bike for a while until I shamefully got rid of it. He favoured tobacco tins for his screws rather than flora tubs, but the instinct to save things in case they come in handy seems to be universal. Now we have Men’s Sheds and Repair Cafes so hopefully all the expertise is being shared and also homes found for the things which still could have a useful life …

    • It must have been very exciting, opening Arthur’s shed (well I’d have been excited). Tobacco tins, so much more resilient than margarine tubs, not so good for heart and lungs though!

  7. Pingback: Where did you get that cone? | Uphilldowndale

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