It was a Sunday afternoon and the phone rang.

“It’s for you,” said the person answering it, which was quite surprising because we weren’t at home at the time.We were visiting my brother, and the caller was Keith, my father-in-law, who lived just down the road from us. We must have mentioned where we were going that afternoon.

“Hello. Graham?” said Keith.


“You’d better come home. Your shed is on fire.”


“Your shed is on fire. The fire brigade are just arriving.”

We got home to find that our next-door neighbour had decided to start a bonfire, which had got out of hand, setting fire to a fence.

Tip number one: never start a bonfire next to a fence.

And because our shed was the other side of the flaming fence, that was catching alight, too.

Actually, “your shed is on fire” turned out to be an exaggeration. It was charred and smouldering, but not actually in flames - and was saved.

All this happened about 20 years ago, so we are over the shock now, but I mention it because of what happened last week. When the shed rose like a phoenix from the flames.

It’s all to do with the recycling challenge I set myself during lockdown. Because the beginning of it coincided with a long spell of good weather, I was determined to make good use of the time and get round to all those building and maintenance jobs in the garden that I had been putting off for years.

And because it was difficult to get materials, with suppliers closed (and even when they reopened, there were long and scary queues), I decided all my projects would also become recycling challenges.

As any self-respecting handyman will testify, it is essential for everyone to have a store of bits of wood that might come in handy one day.

Working on the principle that as soon as you throw away a piece of timber, you will need it, and because wood is never cheap, I have been storing away all kinds of offcuts, redundant shelves and bits of old wardrobe for years, along with the jewel in my collection.

About five years ago, thanks to the fire damage, warped door, broken window and the beginnings of woodworm, my wife decided it was time for the old shed to go, and ordered a bigger, better and brand new one.

This left me with the tricky job of breaking the news to her that we weren’t going to dump the trusty old one.

Like many people who aren’t experts in DIY - and I am sorry to say I have noticed they are often women - my wife is not a great believer in keeping bits of wood that might come in handy one day, but boy has that shed proved her wrong.

As the front of it was OK, and not at all fire-damaged, I decided I would cut out the middle, but keep the front intact.

It now stands at the bottom of the garden, looking for all the world like any other quaint little shed, except if you go round the back you will see it is only a foot long, having become a shed-shaped cupboard for gardening tools.

Then, last week, I am proud to say I took various large and small parts of the former shed and recycled them into the mother of all compost bins, which I covered with leftover blue paint. So tip number two: if you look after your shed, your shed will look after you.