For most families, the garden shed is somewhere to stick the lawnmower during winter and a handy, spider-invested prison with which to threaten misbehaving children.
And so it is with a mix of awe and bemusement we greet the announcement of the Shed of the Year competition, in which the nation’s more imaginative homeowners compete for a £1,000 prize by turning the structure at the bottom of their garden into a games room, fully working bar or – in the case of one of this year’s finalists – a teapot.
This year, the competition has attracted a record 20,000 public votes and, inevitably, is being turned into a three-part Channel 4 TV show called Amazing Spaces: Shed of the Year, coming to screens on 24 July.
There is faint whiff of tragedy about shed fanatics, not unlike the guy who turns the front of his house into a migraine of blinking lights and plastic Santas every December.
But on the other hand you look at 73-year-old Richard Pim, the man from Pembridge who has created a beautiful dome out of 5,000 glass bottles that looks like an air raid shelter designed by JRR Tolkien (top and below), and you think yeah, actually, that’s pretty cool.
The whole thing, of course, brings the definition of a ‘shed’ into some disrepute. Few of these entertainment spaces or semi-art installations seem to qualify as a ‘simple roofed structure used for garden storage’ (OED), but where’s the fun in quibbling.
The Shed of the Year competition is a peculiar blend of parochialism and ambition that is, of course, as English as a crumpet dipped in tea. Long may it continue.