Herds of sheep must be queuing up for relocation in Chipping Norton since David Cameron installed a traditional shepherd’s hut in his garden. Although, if Cameron wanted the full experience he’d be better off sitting on his lawn under a waxed poncho for weeks at a time.

Mind you, regardless of your politics, it’s easy to understand the appeal of a hideaway. Doubtlessly he will be writing his memoirs in there, and he can’t be expected to do that in his local artisan café, even if populated by the Chipping Norton set.

Beach huts hold a similar appeal, with writer’s justifying borrowed money off future royalties to secure the ideal creative environment. There’s probably stronger grounds to buying one as a holiday getaway with children, but they’re as conducive to writing as a malfunctioning burglar alarm.

The wish to own a beach hut is timeless. It’s the sort of fantasy shared by 5 year olds to 80 year olds. They look like boiled sweets from a distance and serve the same purpose as a garden shed, without the need to do any gardening. They are an escape. It’s basically middle class caravanning, although their sole purpose really is to provide somewhere to boil a kettle, when it’d be easier, and far cheaper, to buy one from the local cafe. Australians see the beach as somewhere to demonstrate physical prowess; the Brits see it as somewhere to dunk biscuits in hot drinks. I know whose side I’m on.

The first thing you’ll notice is that owners spend less time writing or stripping for a swim, than they do stripping wood to treat, varnish and paint. It’s never ending. If you like DIY then buy a beach hut, but if you like sitting around in the sun watching other people work then visit a friend who owns one. If you get bored you can always admire the procession of increasingly complicated mixed breed dogs and overhear snippets of conversations as people stroll past. Apart from following them, the only way to enable more complete eavesdropping is to station friends at regular intervals along the row of huts, but before you’ve even completed any admin on this you’ll have wondered why the hell you’re bothering instead of brewing another cup of tea that you don’t want just because you can.

The most important skill is to not look too smug. This is harder said than done, as beach hut owners’ smiles achieve new depths of smugness. And I’ve basically become one of those annoying people who, like a new parent drawing attention to a baby, look for conversation opportunities, like a boxer eyes gaps in an opponent’s defence, to mention owning the hut. I’ve basically become one of those who introduces a subject without any grounds whatsoever for doing so, like Diana Abbot when asked to back up costing of her latest social policy

One of the joys of a hut, like a houseboat or tent, is that you can reach everything you own without having to go upstairs to look for it while forgetting what you went up for. Mind you the fact that everything is within reach doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find it, but there’s something comforting about it; it’s like a well-kitted out womb.

As to the writing, it’s all very well achieving the perfect environment in which to create, but all the best ideas for novels come when you’re running for a bus without a pen. which is actually a far harder environment to maintain with any continuity, although it a bit cheaper.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – – 

A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –