My greatest challenge in the garden involved arduous building work. Our brick-built outhouse was remodelled into an open-fronted garden building.

While this project was underway, London's Millennium Dome was discussed often in the media, as a silly idea that would never be finished in time. I stood among the rubble and thought the same about the mess I was making. So the "Millennium Shed" it became, and has been known as since. 

The Dome had many pretensions. Sheds are buildings with no pretensions. While vast teams of people worked on the conceptual space of the dome, I worked alone, "up North", on the conceptual space of Millennium Shed.

The Millennium Shed project involved partial demolition, brick laying and brick "slotting", path laying, rendering, plastering, and severe arm and shoulder pain.

"Before" - a gloomy outhouse

Many Victorian houses have small buildings attached to the back of them - generally known as outhouses. They originally housed a toilet, coal, other useful things. There was no toilet in this one, or coal, just loads of old junk.

It was the kind of shed where you just opened the door, chucked something in as far towards the other end as you could, shut the door on it all and hoped for the best. You couldn't see anything much in there, though there was a window in one end of it. It was merely a small, gloomy, rubbish-filled building.

I'm not sure of the exact thought process that led me to decide to remodel the gloomy shed. Probably I was out in the garden in the rain one day, wishing for a roof. I saw a roof, but unfortunately it had a gloomy shed underneath it.

There was a interesting gap left just under the roof at one end, where some bricks seemed to have been deliberately missed out of the wall. The fact that there was already a 'breach' in this wall gave me an idea. Perhaps the front wall could be removed, leaving only the back wall and the two side walls, with narrow columns at the front to support the roof.

I could see that there was a sturdy piece of wood running across the front, supporting the roof, bedded in to the side walls. I hoped this would be enough to support the roof if the front wall was missing.

Great idea, which I couldn't wait to get started on.

Yet for all the great strides women have made, there are still areas murky and scary and not often ventured into. Female demolition gangs are not a common sight. I stood there by gloomy shed for many a day wondering whether there was some biological law that said that women couldn't knock walls down, or at least not without accidentally demolishing the entire street.

Learning about lintels, and bashing walls

Millennium Shed: 1 |2 | 3 | 4
The Shed as it was, November 1998

The Shed as it was, November 1998

Inside The Shed, Nov 1998. Rather gloomy. Ah, that's where I left the can of WD40

Inside The Shed, Nov 1998. Rather gloomy. Ah, that's where I left the can of WD40.