The Shed That Granddad Built

April 2003

My maternal grandfather, Denis, was a tremendous craftsman, although he had little in the way of formal training. As I write this, it occurs to me to wonder how he acquired his skills because for a large part of his 83 years, there was no internet or YouTube to learn from.  When computers and the internet did emerge, he wanted no part of them.

His particular skills were in carpentry and woodwork, although he was capable of building an entire house, except for gas installation and electrical wiring. When my parents brought their home, which required significant renovation at the time, Granddad built a large shed at the back of the garden.  I believe this was around 1974.

The shed stood for decades. It may still be there, but a Google Earth view is not clear enough for me to tell.  It spanned the two-thirds of the width of the back garden, had a wood store in the roof with a hatch through which planks could be fed and two windows that could be propped open.  Inside was a large work bench and all the other junk a family accumulates over time. Dad had run an electric supply up to it, so it had lightning and power. Both Dad & Granddad had overlooked a source of heating though, so it could be quite chilly in the winter.

I used to enjoy pottering up in the shed, somehow thinking I was engaging in woodwork or other construction activities, but in reality simply fiddling about with tools I did not understand whilst trying to make things, despite not being entirely sure what I was trying to make. I credit my passion for sheds to the many hours I spent there.

In my teens, I had an old radio, that had belonged to Great Aunt Edith, which was in perfect condition. I would contentedly listen to the radio whilst drinking tea and achieving not much else.

Sometime in the third decade of the shed’s existence, the side of the shed that contained the door developed rot, due to pooling water and the frame was in danger of giving out each time the door was opened. Undaunted by a singular lack of ability in the area of construction and unaware, at that time, that Granddad mixed concrete that will resist nuclear explosion*, I set about effecting a repair. I decided to cut out the entire rotten section, slide in a new piece which could be secured with various splints and screws to the existing frame, then drill the new piece into the armageddon-proof concrete and paint it.  Simples.

I purchased the required wood, cut it to size, extracted the rotten section and pushed in the new one. So far, so good. Securing the new section to the frame would be similarly uncomplicated. I paused for a cup of tea, delighted with my progress and surprised that thusfar, my usual DIY misadventures had not shown up to hamper me.

It was at this point that inspiration struck me. The replacement section would surely benefit from a nice metal plate covering it, in order to protect the wood from chips as bicycles, lawn mowers and so on were pushed in and out of the shed. We were in the process of dumping and old metal filing cabinet that no longer had opening drawers, so I took a hack saw to part of it and fashioned a three sided plate to fit around the section of wood under the door. I elected to drill through this with a metalwork drill bit, through the wood with a woodwork drill bit and finally into the concrete to site plugs and masonry screws to secure the frame, via the new section, into the base. This is where the wheels fell off. Drilling the metal and wood was fine. Drilling the masonry cost me three masonry drill bits and a trip to the DIY shop to buy new bits, before there were holes sufficient to admit the plugs and screws.  This inconvenience led to much muttering and cursing on my part, but was soon forgotten once I had put the section in place, proudly bonded to the end-of-the-world resisting concrete, secured it to the frame and painted both the wood and, later, the metal.  It looked as good as new. Later, on a visit to the UK, the great man himself, Granddad-Who-Built-The-Shed, surveyed it and gave a seal of approval.

Granddad was responsible for a number of sheds in the family and I helped him to build at least one of them, at Roy’s house. I suspect this one is probably not still standing. Mostly because we built it on plinths of paving slabs, as Roy had not got the base quite ready. From memory, there were six plinths. One at each corner and one each in the middle of the longest sides. The last I knew, when Roy sold the house some years ago, and many years after Granddad and I erected the shed, the base had still not quite been laid.

*I wish I could remember the ratios of cement powder to sand and ballast that Granddad used, but despite him telling me many times, I cannot. Suffice to say that when a builder saw him mixing cement once, he observed that he would never be able to employ Granddad because the cement bill would be too much for the business to bear.

Putting a Couta boat back in the drink

During the summer, I crew on a Couta boat for various races. Usually, the Twilight races at Mornington Yacht Club on a Thursday evening. The boat, C1992 Camilla Rose, has spent the winter ashore at Corsair Boats having a bit of work done, the annual out of water check-up if you like. Today, another crew member and I met Mark, from Corsair, and his colleague and between us we launched Camilla Rose.

A Couta boat has a significant amount of lead in the keel to act as ballast. In our case, between 1.5 and 2 tonnes. This takes the form of 7 – 8kg blocks. They all come out before hauling her out and all must go back in once she is afloat.  Then, the mast needed to be re-stepped and the boom and gaff replaced.

Thereafter, Darren and I motored her from Mt Martha up to Mornington Yacht Club, where she is now moored awaiting our further attention and racing. Before we can race though, we need to get the sails back on. Hopefully we will do this next week.

This picture is just after she went afloat, sans lead, hence she is sitting so high in the water.

Back in the drink

The Playing Field

Here is a film I made earlier this year. Whilst visiting family, I took my teenage son to the park he used to visit as a youngster. He wanted to have a play on the climbing frames he remembered so well.

It was a spring day, the sun was shining, but still low in the sky given the time of year. The light it cast across the park was quite special.

I had recently downloaded Filmic on to my iPhone 6 Plus and so, quite spontaneously, Joshua and I decided to shoot a bunch of scenes for a film. We lacked a particular concept, but as I filmed and then edited, thoroughly enjoying the control that Filmic offers, a short movie emerged that we think shows the wistful nostalgia of a teenage boy enjoying the climbing frame, the park and the trees, but knowing that a time of great change is approaching.

We hope you enjoy the movie and look forward to any comments you might have.


The Playing Field from Mark Savage on Vimeo.

Morning Sun

Spring Sun - Throwback

This photo means a lot to me.  I took it from the back door of our home in Attleborough, Norfolk, in May 2009.  I remember the morning very clearly.  It was a beautiful spring day.

Our home was a small, one and a half bedroom, starter home.  We moved there in 2003 with Samuel, Joshua was born the following year, then we left in 2010 when we migrated to Australia.  The house was so tiny but very cozy and we were extremely happy there.  We shared the home with Micky, the collie in the foreground who was the most wonderful and devoted pet for thirteen years.  Gina, just in front of him, was an independently minded cat that we had as a kitten.  We re-homed her before we left because the area of Australia that we now reside in has a ban on cats being outside.  It would have been intolerable for her to be a house cat, not to mention completely confined during quarantine so sadly we had to leave her.  Micky survived his flight and 30-day quarantine, and lived the last five years of his life here in Australia, enjoying trips to the beach and local walks.  He was truly a wonderful dog.

The Yukka tree in the pot and the Eucalyptus behind the play house were my wife’s way of having bits of Australia in her British life.  The Eucalypt was free but later cost me money to have cut down when it grew taller than the house and somewhat more fragile.  The climbing frame, playhouse and sandpit (under cover) kept the children entertained for many years and in some ways I still miss them.   We did dismantle the climbing frame and transport it with us, but it never went back together as intended, stood in our garden for year unsafe to be used and has finally been dispatched.

The house is still ours. When we check it on return visits, we wonder how we managed in such a tiny place, but equally part of me hankers for the simplicity of a small house and a more minimalist lifestyle, the like of which is probably not possible with teenagers.

Ducks and Geese

Ducks & Geese

A few years ago, I stopped using Flickr for a while.  I had enjoyed photography immensely and become quite fascinated with it. I felt I was accomplished with the technical side, ISO, aperture, shutter speed etc., and reasonably proficient with post-processing in  Lightroom, but still my photographs lacked something.  As with music, it seems I am able to learn technical skills, but not artistic skills.  The artistic photographer, with a mediocre camera, will create something remarkable that I could not hope to capture with an expensive device, however well I set it up.

Eventually, I reached an accommodation with myself, accepting that I would have to take photographs as best I can and be content with that.  It’s better than not taking any photographs at all.  The enforced break helped me to think about things and come back a little better in terms of how I  approach cameras and photography.

This photograph is interesting on a number of levels that all relate to above.

Firstly, it is taken on an old (four years old at the time) iPhone 4S.  Not the Canon DSLR.

Secondly, it’s my second most viewed photograph on Flickr (after the Explore picture) and it went wild shortly after being posted, without actually making Explore.  Sort of proves the point about the camera quality versus the picture.

Thirdly, I didn’t take it.  My wife did.  She would not be certain what an aperture or shutter speed is, nor particularly concerned about ISO.  Which proves the point about artistry versus technicality. She is very artistic with a camera, paint or a musical instrument.

To give myself some credit, I enhanced it in post-processing.  The original had a reasonably exposed foreground, with poor white balance, no detail in the shadows and a blown out sky.  Not completely blown out, clearly, as I recovered detail, but significantly over-exposed.  Through Gradient Filters in Lightroom, I was able to create the balanced exposure above and an atmosphere that I really like.

I hope you like it too.

Country Fire Authority

Fire Station at night

It is my custom most evenings that I am not at work, to walk the dogs in the evening to settle them down for the night.  They have their main big walk, swim, play during the morning and this walk is a nice way to round off their day and mine.

We take a couple of short routes, either down to the fire station and back, or out along the highway a short way and back.  I have always loved night photography and the different colours and shadows that one gets when photographing at night.  Despite that, it rarely occurs to me to actually go and photograph at night, either because I am at work or happily tucked up in bed.

Although I am not in the fire service, I have always felt a degree of associate membership of the global firefighting community as my paternal grandfather, four of his five children and one of his nephews are, or were, firefighters.  Granddad served 38 years and finished his career in charge of his fire station.  He was a well respected Sub-Officer and had a distinguished career.  Dad was extremely passionate about the fire service and equally well respected as a firefighter and junior officer.  With the often found hero-worship that sons apply to their fathers, I dreamt of following in his footsteps and becoming a firefighter. My not insignificant myopia prevented me from achieving that particular ambition.

Fire stations and fire engines still hold the same fascination to the adult me as they did the five-year-old me.  So walking past the station each night it quickly became my intention to photograph it.  For this shot, I used my iPhone 6 Plus and tried out an app called “Camera +” which offers greater control over the camera settings than the standard iOS camera app.  Using Camera + I could separately control focus point, exposure and ISO to try and create a clear, balanced shot.  Unfortunately, on this particular evening two out of three engines were away, but in many ways, the actual engines were secondary to what I intended to achieve on this occasion.  Overall I’m comfortable with the final image, but attempts to reduce the ISO noise in Lightroom did cause some loss of detail.

If I wanted a perfect version of this shot, I would take my SLR and a tripod, it is really the only way to get good night shots.  The biggest limitation to iPhone photography is the lack of aperture control, so I have stopped using Camera +.  It was worth a try.  If I take the tripod, though, my true anorak self will be revealed so I best leave the secret with you…..


Treasured instruments


This shot contains a few of my treasured possessions.  In the background is my Sigma Acoustic Guitar, purchased for my 21st birthday by my mother, back in the 90s.  I play it regularly and love it. I traipsed around Denmark Street in London looking for the right guitar and I chose well.

In the middle foreground is my all-tube, 1W practice amp.  It has a nice tone for an amp so small, especially if played in our wooden floored, open living area, where it sounds much bigger than 1W.  I intend to hook-it up to an external cabinet sometime, to see how it sounds coming out of something other than an 8″ speaker.  I picked it up second hand at a local music shop a few years back.

In the foreground is my Telecaster/Nocaster.  This was a lucky find when I was in the market for an electric guitar at the end of my medical degree as a little reward to myself.  I was on the verge of buying a new Fender ’52 reissue, when I found this gem in a Cash Converters store for a fraction of the price.  It plays very comfortably, although I am sure the sound could probably be improved with different pick ups.  I have no idea what brand the guitar is, but it has always been about the sound rather than the brand for me.

I have been playing the guitar for almost 30 years. It is one of the few constants in life, given how readily I drift from hobby to hobby, or interest to interest.  I could be a lot better, given how long I have played, but I have rarely dedicated myself to study or persistent practice, preferring fun and playing with a smile on my face.


Lakeside Station

This photograph was taken at Lakeside Station, in the Dandenong Ranges.  It is one of the main termini of the Puffing Billy tourist railway that runs along the route of an old agricultural narrow gauge line.

I am fascinated by railway tracks.  If you were to look at my “Faves” on Flickr, you would see that many of them feature railway tracks and more of them that do are tracks without a locomotive than with.

I have tried to work out why and am never sure I have reached a conclusion.  Perhaps it relates to the opportunity to move on and move forward to somewhere else, which has been a habit of mine over the years, but perhaps the tracks offer the security of a set direction, rather than roads, which can allow you to follow a myriad of different routes.  Trains do not have to be steered after all, it’s just a matter of starting and stopping at the correct points.  It may be as simple as the accessibility of something that was ‘hidden’ in London where I grew up.  Even though our town had an overground BR line, as well as our ‘Underground’ station actually being elevated on a bridge, the tracks were always fenced off and trespassing was, sensibly, discouraged.

I have fond memories of watching the trains from the bridge with Mum when I was quite young and being chuffed (see what I did there?) when the drivers would wave or blast the horn.