Having worked for the NHS for 35 years I had seen many retire and underestimate the impact that retirement has on mental and physical health. I was determined to stay busy and fill up my day with the things that I enjoyed doing and more importantly “stretched” me.
The one thing that I had always had an interest in was woodworking and making things so I set about clearing my garage and made some room for a workbench and dug out the tools. I made a few things but realised when working on my own the one thing I missed was being with other people and banter that comes with it. I had previously suffered from a period of depression which I had recovered from and was determined to do everything I could not to go down that same route so looked for options.
I had heard about the Shed movement and the benefits that belonging to a shed can bring and decided to contact Redditch Community Shed. The founder Roly Duke spoke to me on the phone and I decided to go along for a chat and a cuppa, something I later know is the most important thing at any shed. I went along expecting to be quizzed on my woodworking credentials before being accepted into the group, but it was clear from the first time I went that this isn’t what the shed is about. The guys (and one female member) were very welcoming and showed me around the workshop and told me a little about themselves and why they were members. Some members were very active and were busy constructing their own projects but others were building planters ready for a local infants and junior school. Other members were just sitting and watching but clearly enjoying the general chat and banter.
The general atmosphere was great and I knew I wanted to be part of the group and pitched up the following week and haven’t looked back since.
I'd been self-employed for twenty-odd years and was at a bit of a loose end when I retired. Working by myself on short contracts meant I made no work friends and spending so much time away from home meant I'd lost touch with other friends and neighbours. All in all my social life was fairly empty. In 2016 I heard that a Men's Shed had been set up in Redditch so I decided to give it a try.
The Shed was busy making Christmas decorations when I turned up at the Old Needle Works. Half a dozen men in a small workshop unit were
making wooden reindeer. At the time, the Shed was run by Age Concern and the reindeer were wanted for sale in their shop. I was given
some sticks of wood and told to make necks. No enrolment process, no questions asked - just sort out some sections of about the right
diameter and cut them to about this length. We had a cup of tea and chatted. The morning passed very pleasantly and I decided to give it
another try next week.
Week followed week and slowly the Shed filled a gap in my life. I've made new friends and with the help (and despite the despair) of
fellow Shedders my woodworking skills have improved. At first I was a bit nervous. Redditch is an industrial town and a lot of the
Shedders were skilled craftsmen. I'm not. It wasn't a problem though - I was given advice rather than criticism when I made mistakes and
I'm getting better. They still watch me out of the corner of their eyes when I go near any powered tools though!
I was also helped with advice when I fell ill last year. There had been a notice on the wall about prostate problems for a while and
one day I realised that the symptoms seemed familiar. I'd left it too late though. Tests showed that I had advanced prostate cancer
and I had to go in for surgery. This was a scary thought but some of the Shedders who'd been through this sort of thing before supported
and reassured me and six months later I'm nearly back to normal again. As a quick warning to the rest of you; a short midnight toilet
break is part of growing old, a toilet break where you stand there waiting and waiting and waiting is not normal. Go and see a doctor.
On a brighter note, my biggest project has tidied up my garage. No more jam jars full of odd screws, I've got it all sorted with a nest
of drawers. Short thin screws are in the top left drawer, long fat screws are in the bottom right, and everything else is in between.
Call me obsessive but I can always find the right size screw for the job. Building it took an eternity though. Twenty identical drawers
of scrap plywood; forty runners of oak from a broken sideboard, and the structure made of offcuts from a hardwood door frame. All very
satisfying and I wasn't at all upset (or surprised) when a Shedder said that I could have bought one in Wilko for £9.99!