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Published 31 July 2020

In my 75th year, I’m still not the retiring type but nevertheless I ought to write my flattering obituary before somebody invents the truth.

Born London, educated Essex, London University Civil Engineering, married 1970 and straightaway moved to High Wycombe to join my first and only employer, Taylor Woodrow in West London.

A Civil Engineer then? No. Although becoming a Chartered Engineer it was by the then novel route of research in engineering analysis and the exploitation of IT in diverse aspects of the company’s operation.

It became of lifetime significance that the team I joined was a small, go ahead, know-no-bounds type of group favoured by Frank Taylor for its flexibility. Conventional design offices were ruled with “rods of iron”.  My half dozen colleagues and I were a Shed!

I prospered, but it may surprise you that I suffered from hidden low self-esteem. Others saw me as confident and achieving, but I didn’t feel that. Somehow I never enjoyed the fruits of success. I was always heading into the next uncertain challenge.

I changed focus to European research projects with universities, research centres, technology exploiters and industrial partners. Adrenalin and success were high but that esteem problem still lurked, buried a bit deeper.

At 55 I was in Scandinavia for meetings on three projects when I could not face another meeting. I was drained, felt humiliated by myself and finished. However, that was not to be.

It took a year to feel anywhere near normal. I retired. Out of the blue came a call from a former research friend in France. He had a problem with team relationships in a multi-team internal project. I was wanted!

The call started my proper recovery. My perspective on life changed and it was the start of a renewed association with European colleagues. A new journey also began, building teamwork in community projects starting with a 7 year stretch of forging connections in all directions for a new church-based community hub. Lots of Shed type work in that and some self-esteem!

That concluded just as a town night shelter was conceived to be worked on. Next a prison release project, exercise classes for Caribbean elderly, a Job Club and mentoring a food bank start up.

In 2011 we moved to near Whitby. Local community activities seemed to be waning so I got pedalling to help start Street Angels in busy Whitby and a food bank.

There is a son and family in Sale, Victoria, AU. In late 2014 I saw my first Men’s Shed accompanied by my 7 year old grandson. It impressed me and lodged in my head.

Back home I became engaged in a non-community project when it terminated suddenly. What do I do now? “Do a Shed” I replied! With a handful of men I’d discovered similarly “at a loss” we went for it. We received encouragement from North Yorkshire County Council who having not heard of Sheds strangely trusted us with money. A Methodist Chapel delivered a back room. Within 3 months Sleights Area Men’s Shed (SAMS) was running, North Yorkshire’s first, followed by one of the first She Sheds in UK and two further Sheds on the Whitby coastline.

The best thing about Sheds are the Shedders. People not palaces. Care about each other and occasionally for each other in mateship. Whitby District Sheds have wonderful Shedders, some even with skills. We are families.  Of all the community projects I’ve been involved with Sheds is the best, because I am a beneficiary of other people’s care for my wellbeing.

From 65 years of church, boy-man-old boy, Sheds can be more like churches than churches! A word to any church – please look beyond the obvious DIY of a Shed to those doing it. Many need a lift as I did. Could/would you accommodate a Shed probably not run by you but the Shedders, and risk being part of the life of the Shed? Scouts similarly. Two of our Sheds are in Scout premises.

Obit done. Put the lid on, but no screws yet.

Shedders, do you feel the urge to promote Sheds in your area?  Become an Ambassador while being yourself. Talk to Kate Gordon. There’s good news to share. – Graham Storer

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