New uses for old bunkers #11 – what’s the first thing you do after moving house…?

So you’ve just moved to a new town. You have a young family, unpacking and home-making to attend to. What do you do first? Excavate the Anderson Shelter you’ve stumbled upon at the bottom of your new garden?

I’ve just come across a fascinating blog by Stephen Geraghty in which he enthusiastically recounts – blow by blow – the discovery and excavation of his very own air raid shelter shortly after moving into his new home. He’d found a mound at the bottom of the garden whilst looking for somewhere to dump some rubble. He took an interest and set to work digging. He unearthed the shelter and – when it was too dark to dig – provided the world with progress updates on a blog set up for the purpose.

Getting ready to shift some of that soil

Three thoughts spring to mind here:

First, I get it – and his blog is a great read. It wonderfully captures the way in which you can become gripped by an urge to see a task through, especially the urge to uncover something.

Secondly, it smacks of classic ‘displacement activity’. This condition is defined by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as follows:

“the performance by an animal of an act inappropriate for the stimulus or stimuli that evoked it. Displacement behaviour usually occurs when an animal is torn between two conflicting drives, such as fear and aggression. Displacement activities often consist of comfort movements, such as grooming, scratching, drinking, or eating. In courtship, for example, an individual afraid of its mate may, instead of fleeing or courting, stand still and feed or groom itself. “

Applied to this 36 year old male human, perhaps the urge to uncover this bunker loomed into view and blocked out the raw heat of the 1000 things requiring his urgent attention back in the day to day domestic world.

And thirdly, it reminds me of an article of mine that will shortly be published in the academic journal, Gender, Place and Culture. In that article I look at the gender bias in bunker hunting, specifically the question “why is it mostly blokes who have these urges?” Amongst a number of avenues that I explore in the article is an attempt by me to look upon bunkers as shed-like, the potting shed being the classic male refuge.

Here two quotes (which I explore in more detail in the article) are helpful, they come from an article in the Independent 10 years ago by Joan Smith, who writes witheringly of men and their shed-love thus:

“I spent years trying to find a man with an internal life and ended up with a series of blokes with sheds”, and

“The point of a shed is that it is not a domestic space. It is a refuge, embodying fantasies of impermanence, making do, the frontier spirit. It also provides an escape from women.”

In my article I take issue with Smith on some of these points, but for now we will leave Stephen to his shelter.

Stephen’s blog: (well worth a read)

Bennett, L (2012) ‘Who goes there? Accounting for gender in the urge to explore abandoned military bunkers’, Gender, Place & Culture [forthcoming]

Smith, J. (2002) ‘Beware men with sheds’ The Independent, 13 October


About lukebennett13
Reader & Course Leader, BSc Hons Real Estate, Sheffield Hallam University, UK. I TEACH: built environment law to construction, surveying, real estate and environmental management students. I RESEARCH: metal theft; urban exploration & recreational trespass; occupiers' perceptions of liability for their premises. I THINK: about the links between ideas, materialities and practices in the built environment. I WAS: an environmental lawyer working in commercial practice for 17 years before I joined academia in 2007. I EXPLAIN: the aims of my blogsite site here: LINKS: Twitter: @lukebennett13; Archive: EPITAPH: “He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances.” James Joyce, Dubliners

2 Responses to New uses for old bunkers #11 – what’s the first thing you do after moving house…?

  1. dianajhale says:

    Hey I love sheds! However, although I like bunkers in theory, for their outsider, strange, deserted etc qualities I would not want to spend a lot of time in them and probably not alone! Look forward to the article.

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