Alexe Sayle

The closing prices at the European Shed Exchange in Munich are faxed to Half Price Sheds of Ealing at the end of each day
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Indy Lifestyle Online
One thing I have always longed for is to be the proud owner of a nice shed: there's nothing more attractive to my mind than a well-made wooden shed - plain maybe, or in an Alpine style with carved shutters and window boxes. I lie awake at night picturing myself humming contentedly as I move in and out of my shed rearranging my broken sun loungers, my pallets of out-of-date French lager bought from hypermarkets on the edge of Calais and all those bags of rusty bits and pieces that are bound to come in handy some time.

This longing grew to be a mighty desire, burning, burning at me day and night until I realised that I would know no peace until I got one of my very own. However, I only have a very small central London garden, so in order to have a shed I had to sacrifice part of our patio. I sacrificed it to the Hindu god Shiva, one of the three principal deities of the Hindu triad, in a rather charming ceremony on Hampstead Heath, watched by two dogs, a jogger and Michael Foot.

An obsessive interest in sheds is a very British thing. Your Continental might have his coal bin or nutty slack bunker, but he will treat it as a mere practical container, kept only as long as it is useful. Only the British cherish and love their wooden huts.

I remember a friend of mine over in this country from Brazil for the first time saw a patch of allotments out near Hounslow. Such was the magnificence of the huts guarding each patch of garden that he could only conclude that what he was seeing was a British version of the favelas, the shanty towns that surround his own home town of Rio de Janeiro - though in the UK, he commented, the shacks were equipped with particularly neat vegetable gardens.

Such was the complexity and ornate nature of some of these supposedly temporary shelters, he said, that in Rio they would have been the town hall.

The Italian takes vacations in a converted palazzo on the shores of Lake Como; the French drive en masse to holiday in converted farmhouses in the depths of the countryside. But the British, such is their love of garden buildings, like nothing better than to spend their two weeks at the seaside in a shed. Except they call it a "chalet". But it's a shed really.

Anyway, once I'd acquired the space, it was time to buy my shed. Flipping through the Yellow Pages "Sheds" section (for wigwams and yurts see under Tribal Dwellings Vendors) my eye was caught by one particular sectional building retailer going by the name of Half Price Sheds of Ealing, 2a Gordon Road, London W5.

Well, this claim of half-priceage was like a red rag to a bull for me. If you remember my long-running dispute with the printers of the "Try Our Delicious Salt Beef" posters, which they recklessly sell to sandwich bars not checking or caring whether the salt beef is delicious or stinky, then you'll know that what I wanted to find out was how the hell they could assert that their sheds were half price. Half the price of what? How could they possibly support this claim?

This is what I said to them on the phone. I said: "You might as well call yourselves Better Sex and Cure for Cancer Sheds of Ealing as far as I'm concerned."

After they'd put the phone down on me 20 or 30 times, and my lawyers had had the court injunction they obtained against me set aside, the managing director of Half Price Sheds of Ealing called me into his office and wearily explained to me that they could truthfully and legitimately claim that all their sheds were half price. Just as the buying and selling of natural products such as metals, coffee, rubber and cocoa are conducted in commodity exchanges such as the London Metal Exchange or the Chicago Pork Belly Markets, where the international price of these commodities is set on a day-to-day basis, so in Munich there is the European Shed Exchange, situated in a large Baroque 19th-century pine bathing cabana.

Shed traders bargain furiously with each other to help stabilise prices by regulating supply and demand. At the end of each day's trading the closing price for sheds, Portacabins and all manner of impermanent structures is set. This price is then faxed to the west London headquarters of Half Price Sheds of Ealing. They immediately get their calculators out and exactly halve that price and that's the price you pay for your shed.

Satisfied that I was dealing with honourable people, I spent a blissful morning choosing a sturdy, but attractive "Mini-shed". It is now installed and my life has begun at last.

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