A lot of men have sheds. A lot of men spend a lot of time in their sheds. Other people, mainly women, either get irritated with, or ridicule men who have sheds and spend a lot of time in them. Father’s garage was his shed. He had two real sheds but he preferred his garage. It was big. In addition to the cars, it had room for work benches and shelves, neat tool racks, space for whatever carpentry job he was working on (he liked to build garden benches), room for his comfy chair, a two ring hob and a hi-fi on which he used to listen to Richard Tauber. It was bloody draughty and in winter perishing cold but he liked it. As young men, I have to confess, we boys thought he was a little barmy. After all, he could have been sitting comfortably in his wing back surrounded by his beloved books being warmed by a roaring fire. Instead, he preferred his cold and damp garage. What on earth possesses men and makes them yearn for uncomfortable solitude? His body was found there after a search party was sent looking for him when he failed to show for dinner. He had spent all day in there, had finished another bench and had died.
These last few days have been an official holiday in Angola. Tuesday was Carnival and no-one could expect the Angolans to turn up for work today after a heavy night’s partying so today was declared a holiday as well. Since there was only one day between weekend and Carnival Tuesday, no one went to work on Monday either. For the weekend and the next three days, therefore, four of Marcia’s nieces and nephews have been staying. Martha is six, Fininha is thirteen, so is Ju and Mauro is ten. Oddly enough, Alex at five is Mauro’s uncle. They were here to enjoy themselves and keep little Alex company.
This morning, there was a lot of shouting from Marcia who wheeled a very frightened little Alex into the house and demanded that I gave him a hiding. Regular readers will know that I have never laid a hand on a child. Apparently, in the shop, he had dropped his shorts and swung his pelvis to and fro as if giving something a good rooting. I was shocked. The best thing, as always when dealing with a woman verging on hysteria, is to do nothing so I sent Alex to his room. Just in case my female readers, of which I know I have many, think I am being sexist, well I am. I usually punch hysterical men or, if they are much bigger than me, hit them with something heavy enough to leave a lasting impression. Hysterical women who want to thrash their child with a length of garden hose are protected by law.
Talking to the nieces, slowly the story came out. Marcia, now calm, had taken the truck to run an errand so it was easy for me to be my normal soft self and let the kids do the talking.
It wasn’t exactly Alex’s fault, they said. Sure, he had dropped his keks in public but only after Claudio, that snot bag Marcia employs to look after the shop, had shown them all pornographic videos on his telephone. They used the term, ‘Filmes de sexo’, sex films.
‘Honestly, Uncle Tom! We did not look at them!’ They pleaded after misinterpreting my expression. ‘Will Mummy beat me Daddy?’ Alex asked.
‘No one is going to beat anyone.’ I lied.
‘When did he show you the videos?’ I asked.
‘Already on the first day,’ one of them replied.
‘And again today?’
They have been here three days. For three days this despicable pervert has been collaring the kids.
I told the kids to sit down on the sofa and watch TV. I wanted to keep them busy so they did not witness what would happen next. Best that this time they could honestly say they did not know. I made it halfway across the garden, but Alex had followed me so I took him back inside. ‘Can you make me some corflecks?’ He asked. So I poured him a bowl of cornflakes. I knew it would all end in tears if I gave way to the overwhelming desire to drag the scrote into the garden and kick the life out of him. Better to wait for Marcia’s return and explain everything to her, then surely I would be allowed to cut him. In the meantime, it occurred to me, he may twig something was up and delete the evidence. I needed his phone. I marched into the shop. He was just making a phone call so I grabbed his wrist, gave his arm a gentle twist and caught the phone as it fell from suddenly lifeless fingers.
Now I don’t know about you, but I am pretty hopeless with phones. All I want out of a phone is that it rings to let me know I have an incoming call as well as allowing me to make calls. I had no idea how to access any videos on Claudio’s phone so I asked the girls. They did not know either, so I persevered and found them. I have seen plenty of hardcore porn in my time and this ranked right up there with the most explicit.
Marcia arrived home and I told her. She went mad. She screamed at the kids and demanded to know what had happened. Frightened, they said they did not know. She took them over to the shop to confront Claudio. Now they had to stare the man they had accused in the face. They folded. It was suggested that Claudio had left his phone on charge, they had swiped it unbeknown to him and searched through it themselves. Marcia insisted I returned Claudio’s phone. I told Claudio he could report me to the police. Marcia told Claudio to come to the house where we could discuss it. I told Claudio if he set foot in my house I would kill him.
This was going to go nowhere so I rang Mauro’s father. He said he was in a meeting and would call back. He did not. A couple of hours later I rang again and told him what had happened. At least I tried but he cut me off saying he would call me back. He didn’t. Marcia came into the lounge and demanded I handed over Claudio’s phone. I said I needed to talk to someone first. Marcia laughed and said that if I was waiting for Roger to call, I’d have a long wait; she had already spoken to him and explained everything. Everyone, she told me, knows I hate Claudio. This was probably true. He is an oily, thieving, lying git, it is just that Marcia cannot see what I see every time she is away in town. So that was it. This was all down to my dislike for the bastard. She told me it was her job to see fair play. I told her it was my job to protect the kids. I gave her the phone.
I could not bear to be in the same room as Marcia so I grabbed my fags and went out into the garden. I wasn’t going anywhere near the shop so that left me few options. I strolled across to Stalag Luft III and noticed I had forgotten to nail a section of netting down so I did that. Then I made some handles for the door. Inside I nailed up a couple of beams for the birds to perch upon. With the sun dappling the netting, partially shaded as it was by palm fronds, I realized this was quite a nice place to sit, if only I had something to sit on. The kids came over and asked if there was anything they could do. So I made myself a garden bench and they helped. We sat on it. The seat was just the right height, it was very comfortable. I lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Peace and quiet, the tranquillity of nature, the kid’s faces glowing, knowing that they had helped, that I was not mad at them; it was a little bit of paradise.
Then it dawned on me. I had made my own shed.