Meeting John at the MenzShed

Last Friday I met a fella named John. I met him quite unexpectedly as I was cutting through the lovely grounds of the local community house – a converted mansion – whose location has to remain secret for now (I’ll explain in a wee while). Being a nice autumn morning, I was walking the long way around to the supermarket to get a little air and exercise. I work from home doing ‘office work’, and my bum tends to get used more than my legs do at times.

“Hello,” John called out from his seat in front of a fairly unimpressive and small aluminium garage over by the fence of the grounds. Being the highly sociable person that I am (on another planet), I veered off course and went over to him. “What are you doing?” I asked, small talk being something I view as an optional extra the older I get. I also find that I’m not as averse to distraction as I once was, although I’m not sure if that’s to do with being older, or just being able to juggle my time more freely now that I work from home. John, who hadn’t yet introduced himself, gave me a lengthy explanation about something to do with a water feature. It seemed very creative, and even if I didn’t understand it all I’m pretty sure I made the right noises in the right places. But I’m not entirely certain if men really notice, anyway. Then he introduced himself, and we shook hands as I introduced myself in turn.

John went on to tell me all about why he was sitting there in front of a small, unimpressive, aluminium garage. And it was just the right sort of morning to be distracted from my mission with a good story. John had moved into a unit in the nearby social housing complex, and one day not long after that, he got into a conversation with the woman who runs the community house and grounds about said shed. She explained that it was a MenzShed, a place where men (and women, too, now) can get together, chew the fat, and make things using their practical skills – but it was closed up because there was no one to take charge of it anymore. ‘You’re looking at him,” says John. And two days later he had the keys.

I’ve got to admire John, because he’s clearly not a guy in the best of health, yet he put his hand up for getting involved and taking this on.

When he first opened the garage’s roller door and saw the amount of shite in there, he closed it right back down again. Then he got a phone call. Unbeknownst to John the grapevine had been working, and a woman from the Ministry of Social Development rang him. “What do you need?” she asked him. “A bloody big skip,” he said, “by Friday.” That was Wednesday, and on Friday morning the skip (these might be called dumpsters elsewhere) was there. “Thanks for that,” John told her a couple of days later. “Can we have another one, please?” John’s wish was her command, and another skip materialised.

“Now,” she said, “how much do you think you’ll need for tools?”

“What’s the limit?” John asked.

“I’ll give you six to start with,” she said.

“Six what?” John asked.

“Six thousand.”

John nearly fell off his chair.

So the MenzShed got up and running again. Understandably, John’s pretty proud of what he’s achieved so far. Community initiatives like MenzShed are great for social cohesion and mental health. There’s no need to be a social butterfly to feel comfortable, although at this particular MenzShed, I’d imagine that John is social enough for anyone 🙂

I asked him if I could take a couple of photos and write about our encounter, to which he quite happily agreed. “You need a sign on the shed to advertise what it is,” I told him, as I got my phone out to take some pics. To his credit, he didn’t roll his eyes or say “Oooh, what a good idea – why didn’t I think of that.” Alas, it turns out that the shed just isn’t burglar-proof enough right now to advertise its presence to every casual passerby. Looking at the rusted spouting running around the garage, I guessed its age didn’t help it’s lack of robustness, either. Hence why I feel the need to keep its location a secret – just in case my blog gets read by the wrong people, because you know how fascinating the ‘wrong people’ find an older woman’s blog.

After asking me again what my name was – a not uncommon occurrence – we parted company. I’m sure our paths will cross again.

John sitting in front of his MenzShed (wonder where the supermarket trolley came from 🙂 )

11 thoughts on “Meeting John at the MenzShed

  1. Trish Stewart Clairvoyant

    Love it. I’ve been following Mr G from G News. I think his name is Gerrard Otto, I’ll send one of his posts to you. Between you and him I’m getting inspired to write my take on being an Aucklander . …. in an uncertain time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Frances Sullivan

    Great story – just what I needed. Heavy days for me lately – feeling stuck and kind of useless. These feelings will pass but helps to read about social initiatives like this one and how supported they are. Doesn’t matter where – just that they exist. 🙂 Would also like to be able to avail myself of his skills not to mention, tools, though. LOL. And the shed’s got a really good roof and looks very solid so he’ll have it safe and sound in no time, I’m sure. Especially if he gets the right sort of helping hands. Btw, meant to ask if you were okay when I read about the earth shaking and possible tsunamis in NZ yesterday. I take it all’s well for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agh – heavy days suck. Is it a sense of purposelessness you feel, or something else? Yes, all’s well with me – thanks for asking 😊 The earthquakes were off the coast of the top half of the North Island, so some distance away from where I live.

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      1. Frances Sullivan

        Great question. I don’t think I feel without purpose. I feel stuck despite making lots of changes both physically and emotionally (more so the latter). I’m just not where I want to be and am struggling to see a way to get ‘there’. It’s like taking 10 steps ahead, then retracing more than half of them before the next step. Lots and lots of repeating going on. I’m also very much solitary and I need a friend or two. Hehe. I thought I had one, a confidant of sorts. But on a particularly low evening, I wrote a note and shared a fragment or two about feeling a tad lost and stuck. I deeply regret it now. Her reply was harsh. In fairness, I don’t do criticism well, but less so when it’s just unfair and pretty subjective – as if someone who barely knows me has the inside scope on me and all my motives. She has replied that she is a promoter of ‘raw truth’. That curdles my ire. Truth shouldn’t be confused with opinion or insight, let alone, a feeling. Part of what she wrote to me is certainly valid, but it was couched in reprimand with a tone of ‘how dare you’ as if I’d done her wrong! Can’t stand folks justifying their thoughts about this or that by stating they’re truth tellers! It’s our opinion of someone else, not the truth of who they actually are, for goodness sake! Anywho, the experience has left me extra heavy. Trying to see it all as an opportunity. Not easy when I can’t shake how awful it makes me feel along with the other stuff I haven’t shaken off. Oh well. Life goes on, eh? LOL.

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      2. It’s my opinion that what you’re feeling is quite normal when we’ve changed a lot within ourselves, yet our external circumstances haven’t kept up. For example, I love getting older for the mental and emotional changes I experience. However, my body is not only not keeping up, it’s going the other way – lol! Not that I’m in a bad way, or anything. Also, I’m nearing the end of my working life, and not looking to forge a career or status with my new-found wisdom and wondrousness. However, I do want to turn my new-found wisdom and wondrousness to something – but when we’re getting older, what is that something? Our society doesn’t have much in the way of ‘out there’ older role models to see how we do the new us. I’m sure there are plenty in reality, but because older people aren’t ‘sexy’ they aren’t featured anywhere much. What all this waffle is saying, is that I believe what you may be feeling is a bit lost on what to do with the new you. I have – and still do – feel that, as well. However, seeing as I’m still working, I don’t have much time to think too much about it, but I still do think about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Frances Sullivan

    This answer of yours nailed it for me! And the fact you’re working… a key. As I was finishing my meandering moany message, I did think, “If I was busier, doing something productive etc., I’d not have time to care about this silliness!” And yeah, painting a picture of I don’t know what exactly, on a blank canvas, with few or no numbers to follow! That’s it. Brilliant. Years of therapy summed up in a succinctly. Hurray. Great insight. SO happy you asked and I replied so you could deliver your wondrous thoughts on the matter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha – you’re welcome! if you do by any chance decide to climb a mountain or drive across the desert in a buggy (is there a desert in Canada?) remember to take lots of pics for your followers, and write lots of stories 🙂

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  4. A Menzshed seems the perfect place to gather in a sheltered place that permits conversation in a safe area among many things that comfort old menz — being one myself in fact. John is quite the engaging fellow there. The shed is home to a demographic niche that includes all manner of stuff, including that rolling remnant of a supermarket trolley. Certainly the antithesis of interests of younger generations, but that just keeps things interesting, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know what the supermarket trollies are like in the USA, but that one in the pic is a fully functional one here, and not a remnant of a bygone era 🤣🤣

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