Magazine article The Spectator

Time to Sit and Stare

Magazine article The Spectator

Time to Sit and Stare

Article excerpt

A Shed of One's Own by Marcus Berkmann Little, Brown, £12.99, pp. 248, ISBN 9781408703236 Hermitic, oneiric withdrawal from responsibilities and threats is the most effective way of alleviating the pangs of middle age, suggests Marcus Berkmann. In his fifties, he is a frank and eloquent expert on ageing, by turns indignantly curmudgeonly and philosophically resigned. He is observant and witty, but there were moments when he reminded me of complaints in Punch of neighbours who failed to return borrowed lawnmowers - perhaps my fault, rather than his. He recommends a shed of one's own as a refuge in which to escape from stressful reality. 'If I had a garden, ' he writes, 'I would have a shed. In fact the main reason for getting a garden would be to get a shed.'

In the meantime, without an actual shed, Berkmann makes do with what he calls a 'visceral shed', a 'virtual shed', a shed of the imagination. He says the ideal shed should be 'largeish', 'with room for a desk, a chair, certainly a kettle and maybe a mini-bar.

Most important of all, the shed must have a window. You need something to stare out of for hours at a time, contemplating infinity, ' not the ungardened garden, nor that phenomenon which make s many a middle age peculiarly so anguished, a family. …

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