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Saturday 10 December 2016

Why I have joined my local Men's Shed

Joe Barry

Published 07/10/2015 | 02:30

Hard at work on the raised beds at Kilcock Men's Shed
Hard at work on the raised beds at Kilcock Men's Shed

While on my way to our local post office recently, I ran in to a friend who mentioned he was about to visit the Men's Shed. "The what?" I said. "Our new men's shed" he replied, "Follow me, we can have a cup of tea there"

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Until then, I was totally unaware that Kilcock possessed such an asset. It was no more than a short stroll away and what a great place it turned out to be.

On entering, the first thing I saw was a large open courtyard partially surrounded by larch lap fencing and containing neatly constructed raised beds filled with various vegetables and divided by paths. It was a sunny day and a few men were planting and tidying while others were relaxing on garden chairs.

Passing through another doorway, I found myself in what seemed like a cross between a club premises and a workshop that also included a kitchen area, while at the far end of the room there was a long bench with a huge collection of woodworking tools. I already knew many of those present and the atmosphere was so friendly and relaxing I sat down to enjoy the tea and the chat.

It was mid-morning and some of the members were tucking in to plates of bacon, egg and sausage. The aroma of delicious freshly cooked food was seductive and an hour passed happily as people came and went.

Before leaving, I made sure I was signed up to join. Currently the Kilcock Men's Shed is open two mornings a week but it is planned to extend this to at least five days, organise classes for various skills like woodworking, gardening and cooking and also visit other "sheds" around Ireland and share ideas.

The Men's Shed movement started in Australia in 1995 when a conference was held to discuss the increasing problems there relating to men's health. Back then there was little encouragement for men to socialise (outside the pub) and most men were unwilling to discuss their feelings and wellbeing.

Now this all sounds very much like modern Ireland where we still have a sort of "macho" culture that limits men's social life to sports clubs or the pub. Have you ever heard a man say he was fed up looking at the four walls of his home and would like some company?

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Few would admit to this and the ads on TV depict men as always being in groups, interacting happily or being part of a gang where everyone is popular and good looking.

Isolated

Lots of Men's Shed members are undoubtedly popular and good looking, but you don't have to be. You can just be yourself and do as much or as little as you wish. It's a bit like the blacksmiths' forges of old where you were sure of a welcome and a chat.

There used to be numerous places where men would gather and talk such as the creameries or small garages and the many local shops that welcomed us.

Compare this with modern supermarkets and the dwindling number of marts and other potential meeting places and it is easy to see why, especially in rural areas, people become isolated and lose that essential social contact that we all need.

When I mentioned to friends that I had joined the Men's Shed, some looked at me with raised eyebrows as they simply didn't understand what it was all about.

They tended to associate Men's Sheds as solely for people who suffered from depression or isolation or whatever. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The brilliant thing about the Shed movement is that it provides an outlet for the energy and underused talents of people who enjoy having a place to meet others and fill in the day usefully. This has to be better than that alternative occupation of walking for hours after a golf ball.

Sheds do, of course, also provide the perfect antidote for depression or isolation, something that is all too prevalent in rural Ireland today. I

Imagine you are recently retired and are lost for something to do with all this spare time, or perhaps you are a farmer who often sees no one from morning to night.

Maybe like me, you frequently drive in to town to buy a newspaper or whatever and just feel like stopping somewhere for a cuppa, catching up on the local news and spending an hour or so chatting with kindred spirits. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

A friendly place where men of all ages can work and learn new skills

A Men's Shed is a dedicated, friendly and welcoming meeting place where men come together and undertake a variety of mutually agreed activities.

They are open to all men regardless of age, background or ability.

It is a place where you can share your talents and knowledge with others, learn new skills and develop your old ones.

The movement originated from the shed in a backyard scenario, where a man would go and carry out tasks, such as restoring furniture or fixing lawn mowers.

The Irish association was established in 2011 to support the development of the movement and sheds are now located on both sides of the Border.

Energy

One notable difference between Australia and Ireland is that here men of all ages participate while in Australia it is mostly retired men.

This greatly broadens the scope of the movement and has the advantage of bringing in the energy and drive that younger men possess and removing the tag of just being a club for senior citizens.

There are now over 260 sheds up and running in Ireland and the number is increasing rapidly with almost 6,000 men attending their local sheds on a regular basis.

Visit www.mensheds.ie for more information and details on a Men's Shed near you.

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