I Swear it’s not a She-Shed!
So, Week One in Lockdown, I was feeling slightly panicky at the idea of being locked in. I travel a lot, not much luxury travel, but fascinating, adventurous, often heart-wrenching, travel. I am not complaining, I love it.
I have a wheelie bag that sleeps near me. We are very close and it knows way too much about me. There is only one luggage label that works when you do my kind of travel and that is Samsonite.
We bang onto trains, bump for 7 hours, drive in snowstorms – potholes are our normal. The wheelie is like my dog when I am away, always beside me, never in the hold, always saves me.
I know it sounds mental, but I never travel without a ballgown or a suit and real shoes. The ballgown always scrunches up small, and the suit doesn’t crease. I have travelled to Russia to do one job in an orphanage, always bright and casual, our own rules. But before I know it, things can change on a tuppence and we can get an invite to the Kremlin or the Bolshoi Ballet.
The last time we got an unexpected invite to the Bolshoi, I was with two Irish women. It is the most breath-taking and glamorous venue on earth. We had our own gilt box, one of the super-posh VIP ones. A dear friend and very posh person had asked me did we want to use it. We said yes, it would have been rude not to. We each had a glam number in our cases, a “just in case dress”. Sweet Jesus, thank God we had because it is SUPERGLAM. Their jaws fell open. I have been a few times so was not as stunned as the others.
Ballet does not do it for me, other than being in awe, neither does opera. Give me a cinema any day, but seriously, the Bolshoi ballet is another level of talent, stunning bodies, world class athletes, masters and mistresses of their craft.
IT IS BREATHTAKING.
However, our lives are not about ballets. These are rare events and to be honest, pizza with the children we work with would appeal to me more, but if we are invited, we go. Who the hell wouldn’t?
(It goes without saying that there is zero cost to the Charity. If we ever did anything like this, we would always pay any costs ourselves).
So Bolshoi aside, Russian trains, snowstorm, forests that are hundreds of miles deep, sunrises over fields of sunflowers, lily of the valley being cut by children who wait for us, orphanages full of emotion, love, joy, smells of cabbage and broken hearts. This is our most natural place. It is where we are at our best and it is why we do what we do.
So, if you take all of that, as I regularly do, add in amazing company like Terry McMahon, Mairtin O’Dubhghaill, Grainne O’Driscoll, Dara Ferguson, Dermot Hearne, Sophie Deegan, or whoever is with us, we adore every second, but then hear the word ‘lockdown’, well, it was a bit of a shocker.
What is this word? I. Do. Not. Sit. Still. Ever. Bloody hell, a lockdown. Is that not for prisoners?
Thank the mother of sweet Jesus that the weather has been on our side and the sun was shining, even though our country was swamped in fear of the little green monster, as we listened to death tolls. I woke up one morning to the schoolboy ramblings of BOJO and I took my reaction out on my poor supportive Facebook friends.
JK Rowling calls Cummings a “fuckweasel”. I am sure she has similar words for Boris, but I do not have JK’s freedom of words, my Board may not like it as much as I do. We must always be nice. I work in a charity, so there are boundaries, but I had had it. “Fuckweasel” was too good for this man. God bless JK. This moron, raised in some type of arrogant, superior Harry Potter childhood, was running a country where my baby lives, so he had upset mommy tiger with his bungling inadequacies. I was in a rage. Ireland was asleep, l was locked in and I had no one to have a coffee with, or rant to. I took to social media.
That started a domino effect. Before I knew it, I had started a daily chat, DDPK (“Debbie Deegan’s Pink Kitchen”) with people all over the planet, people who are used to big challenges, people who are positive, warriors who rise to meet problems.
We were off! The chatter was daily, I had no idea how to load it to Insta, LinkedIn etc., as I am a luddite, but you learn fast when you have to. I had a backup team from the office, unpaid angels, very happy to help.
DDPK is a story all its own. I asked 57 people, only one said “no”. No probs, I have a database that is an inch thick that I know very well and I love the people in my life.
I try now only to have people in my life who inspire me and make me a better person. I cannot stand low energy, moany whiners. They are contagious. It is definitely good to socially distance from these types.
So locked in… Holy God. DDPK was great fun and full of great humans, humans that will change our world. But it wasn’t enough. It only filled the mornings, but it gave me a focus and a reason to iron a blouse. I am on the beach each day at 5 or 6am for the sunrise, so the day can be long.
I have lived in my house for 32 years and have never bothered with the garden, as we have had big dogs forever and the garden was not for human consumption, it was theirs. It is small and not very nice, so I avoid it. My hubby, Mick, cuts the grass and nurtures ferns. He is a smoker, so I leave him out there having a fag.
We had a shitty corner attached to the house with broken cement and a large broken wall from when we took down an ancient part of an extension. So, in mid-March we decided to make a deck to cover it, a deck with a wall to cover the crappy wall.
I watched this going on from my sun chair with my newly empty brain. If we just added two more walls and a roof, we would have a little house… a She Shed? Very Pinterest, I thought to myself.
I always start out with what the dream should look like in the end, but I had to shut up or hubby would have run a mile, as a picture was building in my head.
I drew pen drawings. From day one, I just knew I would end up with something cute, usable, bespoke to us and lockdown friendly, as the house was beginning to feel very small.
I can always see things on day one. I never ever know how it will be done, but I know exactly what it will be like upon completion. Luckily, I have a hubby with super talents who is incredibly happy to go along with the, sometimes mad, ideas.
He has worked at it daily for the last month. It was like watching a kettle boil. I wanted it yesterday.
In fairness to him, he has laboured daily in the heat.
I searched websites for old junk, I emailed my buddies who own salvage yards, I stole a few things from Mammy, I opened our shop as I had the keys and I sold myself the chandelier from the Fairview shop. I had an idea for it. (I will pay for it the day we reopen). I asked all of my girlfriends to send me a piece of their old jewellery, and I began to drape it from the arms of the lovely glass chandelier.
I got pieces from the most special people in my life. When the postman arrived, I was in heaven opening envelopes with old bling, ribbons, earrings, tiny old beady monkeys from Sophie’s childhood, Grandy’s pearls, Monnie’s silver, Brenda’s ring, it was endless.
Trish, the Queen of Bling, arrived with the first stash, and what a stash… absolute heaven.
I was interviewing Joanna Fortune on DDPK, who is usually annoyingly right, and she told me I do not do therapy because I use creativity when I am stressed. Me? Never! Yet, coincidentally, I got more and more creative…
More deaths, the charity struggling for air, no visiting the children, my mammy was sick with shingles. Me stressed? Needing therapy? Never. I carried on draping jewels… Joanna could not be right every time surely?
I spotted stuff from all over the country on sale websites, but I couldn’t travel. I became friendly with most of the sellers, so they held what I needed until I could get to them. I wanted a wall of old mirrors. I fell in love with a patchwork chair that I found on Done Deal. I had an ancient, worn out, garden table covered in a soggy algae, but I knew it would clean up and be beautiful with dirt-cheap velvet chairs that I had spotted in Athlone.
The build was looking lovely. We are collectors of old crap, so we miraculously had already stashed a giant bay window that we could chop up as the windows and I knew my Victorian lead church window would fit in perfectly.
Mick had few tools home with him and very little to work with, but he is fabulous at it, so he made it look easy. It was beginning to look like a dacha, a little Russian cottage owned by every self-respecting Russian. I have always wanted one in Russia and now I was getting one attached to my house! I could do dinner parties, food nights, chatter nights, wine sessions, the usual therapies we all use when we need our friends.
Mick keeps saying “it’s not a real house, get that out of your head”, but it is. It is a tiny space that is filled with the sounds of birds singing, no telly, no radio, but sunlight, warmth, candles and peace.
It is just an absolute picture. In bed last night I was thinking what it will be like with holly everywhere and a tree for Christmas Dinner! I am in love with it.
Is it a She Shed? Is it my longed for Dacha. Is it a fancy Barnashed? Is it our beloved restaurant in Portugal that we miss so much? Possibly… but I am seeing it with rose-coloured glasses right now. I cannot wait to have people over to lunch and dinner to drink and be merry again.
Ladies and gentlemen, we all need a room like this. Words cannot explain how lovely it is. Words cannot capture the silence from the house, the sense of peace, the absolute distance from the domestic world. A She Shed? No. An essential magic place to sit and think, eat, have friends over, write, work, meditate, contemplate what is ahead. I strongly recommend it. I am in love with my humble new room, made from a collection of random and very low budget items.
Think about it… if you can manage one, do it.