Life in a Cornish Shed

[The tourists] stopped their cars on the crossroads and spent ages trying to capture my shed with their expensive cameras. I couldn’t understand it at first. My shed was not typical of Cornwall. It wasn’t picturesque, like the granite cottages. I decided, in the end, that the shed must have looked like freedom. It was clear, by then, that someone was living in the broken-down building. Someone–me–had managed to escape.

In Escape Everything! there’s a chapter in which I describe the lives of hermits, people who have gone off into the woods to live in sheds or lean-tos. My tongue was half in my cheek when I wrote that. I wasn’t really suggesting that anyone go live in a shed, while also allowing that one could. One really could do it, and I gave some examples of it.

The reason I did this is because the extreme idea of going out into the woods and not coming back–being legally homeless and living by your wits–is perhaps the worst case scenario (WCS) and, as I say elsewhere in the book, it’s important to identify and understand the WCS. Not only does it show you, clearly, what you risk and so you can own you fate but also you’ll find that a specific WCS probably isn’t as bad as the general sense of “ULTIMATE FAILURE” you might otherwise carry around.

Now, a great and well-told book-length case study of living in such circumstance comes from Homesick: Why I Live in a Shed. It’s a brand new book by Catrina Davies and I can’t reccomend it highly enough.

Catrina lives in an abandoned metal-sided shed that once served as her dad’s workshop. Although it was rough circumstance–family poverty, the housing crisis and, ultimately, capitalism–that led Catrina to her unusual dwelling, she approaches the situation with a beautiful Stoicism and finds that it at least dovetails with her values. At least living in the shed, practically for free, means she can write books and songs instead of slaving in horrible jobs to make ends meet and pay the rent on someone else’s overrated property. Her impact on the natural environment she loves so much is minimal.

The book goes into how she made it all work (getting the water mains online, furnishing it), the horrors (having to evict spiders and rats when first moving in), the heartbreak (being burgled and then crashed into by a car), and the moments it truly pays off (swimming with seals, gazing at the moon and stars).

The book is available now and is clearly an important addition to any Escapologist’s library. ’tis good!

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About

Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

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