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This family has always got time for me

5 September 2014

A network of communal men’s sheds that provide a place for men to meet and make things is springing up across the English-speaking world.  Robert Blow visited the Big Lottery-funded Men in Sheds in Eltham, South London, and found a home from home

At Men in Sheds older men get together in fully equipped workshops to bang nails, plane wood, and drink tea. They also do a fair amount of talking.

The idea for Men in Sheds kicked off in Australia and has now become a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a place where older men come together to share skills and socialise in a friendly environment.

The Eltham Men in Sheds – one of the first in the country – is run by Wendy Smith, Pauline Cahill and Steve Cas-smiling-300x400 Paxman from charity Age UK Bromley & Greenwich. They told me that men – even when they feel lonely – struggle with the idea of joining a support group. Men in Sheds is perfect for them because it gives them the opportunity to do something and make a solid contribution, which men feel more comfortable with than sitting around and talking about their feelings.

If, however, someone needs to talk, Wendy, Pauline and Steve are there for them.

Caswell Pryce started coming to the Eltham shed in March, and already it feels like family to him. He comes to the shed two or three times a week to make picture frames among other things, but also to have a chat.

“I’m a former carpenter and joiner. I’ve worked for firms that when they take you on, you get a load on your shoulder. The work became very strenuous as the years went on. Eventually I ended up with a hernia on the last job that I was on, and it causes me a lot of problems.

“I couldn’t go to work as I wanted to, and that caused a depression. I started to slow down and then I went to the doctor. From there I had a lot of counselling. I had a 12-week course with Time to Talk*. I just wanted to get out of the darkness.

Cas-and-Teresa-300x400“At home I was thinking: ‘Where can I turn to?’The doctor recommended Men in Sheds. Whoever I spoke to – Time to Talk, Greenwich MIND – said ‘Men in Sheds’. The spirit in me said to me: ‘Let me phone Men in Sheds’. So eventually, last March, I did.

“When I phoned Men in Sheds a very pleasant man called Steve picked the phone up. I said to him: ‘I’m in this situation and maybe you’re able to help me.’

“Steve gave me a rundown of what Men in Sheds is all about and invited me to come down and see for myself. So I said OK.

“I came here two days later and as I walked in it was like when something falls in place. All the machinery, the workshop was just there. It was what I needed, I always wanted a workshop; it was my dream. I’m a practical person: I could see an image and make it. I always enjoy making things. As soon as I saw the workshop here, I thought: This is my home.”

Now Cas has been coming to Men in Sheds for several months, he can say: “This family has always got time for me.”

*Also funded by the Big Lottery Fund

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