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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Say you could still just bail when you felt like it. You know what you would look like when you did it? You would look like this raccoon.

Many thanks to reader and supporter MV for bringing this absconding racoon to our attention.

The Hairpin commentary on the racoon is a tad bleak. It posits that we can’t abscond anymore because “there is nowhere left to bail to. The darkness is closing in on all sides.”

I know what she means. Workers’ rights are being eroded. The precariat swells. Free movement is under attack. But I’m still at large and if I believed for a second that escape was impossible I’d lose my final marble.

“Happy to discuss,” as a bastard might write at the end of workplace email.

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Letter to the Editor: They Just… Lost Track of Me

To send a letter to the editor, simply write in. You’ll get a reply and we’ll anonymise any blogged version.

Hi Robert,

Re: the intangibility of debt. When I was 20 or so, I took out a $5,000 personal loan and a credit card with a $5,000 limit. The loan was to pay for the removal of my wisdom teeth and the credit card was because I thought it was just a thing adults are supposed to have.

I ended up moving overseas for two years instead of making any attempt to pay them off, and in that absence they just… lost track of me.

A few years later, I applied to get a copy of my credit report and there was no record of either of the defaults.

The only info they had on me was an address I used to live at, and one of the many jobs I’d (officially) worked at. There was almost no detail whatsoever. I’m not off-grid or anything; I’m on the electoral roll and I pay taxes so it’s not hard to find me.

So, yeah. I don’t think the whole red letter, scary-scary, “protect your credit rating at all costs” thing is real.

I think I probably got lucky – but only a bit. It was two unrelated financial institutions, so I think it must be pretty common. I figure the people who attend to low-level debt are just random people who aren’t great at their jobs and don’t care about them (nor should they), so of course it doesn’t get tracked well.

I don’t know if I can go as far as actually recommending people just stop paying their consumer debts off, but I can definitely recommend that people not feel like they are under a perpetual dark cloud. Because the bank sure as hell as isn’t thinking about it.


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