Making connections

13 January 2013
Ben Pentreath

If you had a look through the bookshelves at the Old Parsonage, the chances are, I suspect, that several hundred of the books you would find had been bought over the years from that brilliant bookshop in Bridport, jointly run by Rose Young and Caroline MacTaggart, called (with a pleasing honesty) Bridport Old Books. Here are just a few that were immediately to hand:

Do you see what I mean? I can’t think how many Saturday mornings have involved a cup of tea and a long chat and a slow wander around the shelves of Rose’s shop with her superb selection of architectural and graphic books, topography, gardening, literature… everything is there.

And so it was, that with my friends Ed Kluz & Simon Martin (Ed, whose brilliant exhibition we put on in the shop last year, as described here by our good friends St. Jude’s – for whom Ed has designed textiles and now a wallpaper) staying for the weekend, we made our way to a drenched Bridport on Saturday morning to find the antique street market rained off and even the brilliant Malabar store closed for a January tidy up.  A perfect excuse to head to Rose’s where we spent an extremely happy hour or was it two, catching up and browsing the shelves.

As the dark grey morning rolled into afternoon it was time, in a sense, for us to move on, but while chatting we had realised that Rose knew the people coming over for supper that evening. “Of COURSE I do” she enthused, with typical enthusiasm, and so it was we left only having made a plan for Rose to come over that evening.  Rather nicely, I had never met our guests, Gracie and Adrian of Little Toller Books, the fantastic new publishing house based just up the road from me in Toller Fratrum, and from which I know we can expect great things. But we had been emailing a lot, Gracie and I, and Ed and Simon knew them well, and the opportunity seemed to good to miss.

Everyone arrived in a monumental rainstorm. Much wine and hilarity later, we realised that we were, with Rose, in the presence not just of the owner of the best bookshop in Britain, but (confirmed by a google search or two) one half of one of the fabulous BIBA twins who had set swinging London alight in the early 60s. I note there is a new BIBA exhibition on at the Brighton and Hove museum, which seems like a good excuse for Rose and me to visit Ed & Simon on their home ground. Anyway, here is Rose and her sister (Rose on the left):

And here is Rose again, in the foreground:

And here she is again, being adored last night by all:

And here we are, getting completely wasted:

Literally, my perfect sort of night… in that ideal, unplanned sort of way. I’ve got to admit I’m not very good at making social plans. When a long-organised supper eventually takes place, don’t you find you’re never in the mood, or someone is ill, or somehow the atmosphere isn’t there?  I’m all for spontaneity, although I am afraid it doesn’t make me a easy neighbour to tie down for a date in Dorset or in London for that matter.

What’s all this about? It’s about joining the dots. Rose has known Gracie since she was a girl; I’ve only known the boys for a year or two, and I’ve known Gracie and Adrian for 3 hours, and here we all are, somehow playing the briefest yet happiest game of six-degrees-of-separation that you could know. One of the things that I have enjoyed most of all about opening and running our little shop in London is the way in which it allows me to make connections and collaborations. I’ve got to admit that from time to time these are probably all a lot more fun and exciting than what I would call my day job. Next week I’ll be back to planning the roads and drainage layout for a housing development, and how glamorous is that?


This kind weekend ended this afternoon with a visit to Chilcombe, home of the artist John Hubbard (father of my friend Kate… or is that enough already) for whom Simon is writing a introduction to a new exhibition catalogue. We spent a superb hour in John’s studio, drinking in the atmosphere, and paintings, and charcoal drawings, although for me the most startling moment was, perhaps, the view as the sun softly lowered behind the woods, as we left for the station to catch trains. A Dorset dream, and in some way or another, I felt, a circle completed.

11 comments on this post

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben, how will you possibly have a better weekend? Such wonderful guests… I can just imagine the chatter- over the clinking of the glasses!

Michael Crawleysays:

I am a regular customer of Rosie and bought a sublime Sitwell/John Piper volume from her this week.As she struggled with the chip and pin machine she reccommended your blog and gleefully said I would see a picture of herself.Am so glad I did as it all fits into place, always thought she was a sixties girl and it immediately bought back memories of feather boas in Biba and the people I was with. Hey Ho.
Mike in Dorset


I saw that book!!! GLORIOUS!!!


Your book collection looks interesting, and such beautiful covers. I’ve had to be restrained buying books recently because of lack of shelf space, and decided to borrow books from the library instead. There is a wonderul private library in Nottingham called Bromley House, founded in 1816, and housed in a Georgian town house. But while borrowing novels from the library works for me, its not the same for reference books which I want to look at again and again. I think its time I bought some more shelves.


So good to hear of bookshops doing well, not one independent in the Birmingham area and with the failure of HMV let’s hope that James Daunt will be able to keep Waterstones afloat. Lovely post!

I wasn’t sure where to post this one but here goes. Christmas morning in Australia, guests due and turkey in the oven despite a hot day ahead, I finally opened my beautifully wrapped present. Your book! Yay and joy- my husband had ordered it from a small bookseller up North. It is wonderful to hold and browse, the envy of my friends, and I’ve been a keen follower of your blog for years now. Well done and Happy New Year.

Connor McNeillsays:

Little Toller Books are wonderful, have you got their edition of The South Country by Edward Thomas, I think you would enjoy it and for that matter have you reads his poetry. It really is wonderful.
Love the blog,

Barendina S.says:

Your blog is so wonderfully positive! You are great at finding beauty, sometimes in surprising contexts, and then sharing it with the rest of us. Although you make all look great fun, this must take rather a lot of hard work on your part, too. Rest assured that it is much appreciated. Your magical enclave of loveliness – in the middle of an often not-very-obviously-lovely web-world – has brightened many a dull day here. Thank you for all that you do.

Jill Rowesays:

You do lead the most charmed life!

I just love your blog! What a charming evening and a charmed life you lead; it’s such a treat to read and see!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *