Need some guy time? Join a men's shed
From DIY to GIY — with some singing thrown in — men’s sheds have a host of activities, writes Sharon Diviney
"What we have, you won't get the same in the shops, I can guarantee you that. Because we get it straight from the garden to the table."
For Michael O'Donoghue, the garden project in a patch of waste ground at his local Kilcock Men's Shed in Kildare is the perfect post-retirement pastime. "It's therapy. You're near to God when you're in the garden, I can tell you that much," says Michael, who was a lorry driver for 50 years before he retired. "It's very good if you're stressed and you're bothered. Go out to your garden and even just look at the flowers. Look at your hanging baskets. Look at your window boxes. Nature is wonderful.
"I always had an interest, and my father before me and my grandfather had an interest in gardening. But I was always on the road, I never had the time."
The other sheds total 400 nationwide, with about 10,000 men involved. The community-based, not-for-profit movement started in Australia in the 1990s after concern was raised about men's health and ways to socialise and discuss feelings and wellbeing. In Ireland, the shed values include openness, leadership, equality and inclusion, and Ireland now has more men's sheds per head of population than any other country in the world.
Woodturning, metal work and singing are just some of the other activities taking place in men's sheds around Ireland. In Kilcock, the focus is on gardening. Member Liam Farrell said the men's group there is working to make maximum use out of its back yard space. "We've 36 members and we're here every Tuesday and Thursday, sometimes starting off with a big fry-up," says Liam. "I'm one of those who just enjoys the results of the work, I don't know a whole lot about the gardening side." The members were delighted when O'Donoghue's Nissan garage in Naas answered a call for local support and donated a veg and fruit polytunnel, which holds tomatoes, peppers, chilies, cucumbers and courgettes.
Outside the tunnel, the men have also set up a little orchard. "We have four apple trees - two eaters, two cookers - a plum tree and a pear tree," says Michael. "At the minute, we also have a good harvest of raspberries coming on that we give to anyone who comes in to talk to us. We give away our produce. And it would keep us going as well, each of us would get a bit of whatever is in season to bring home to our own houses."