On various ways of catching up

10 June 2013
Ben Pentreath

I’ve had the quietest weekend you can imagine.

Valentina called from New York yesterday, for a catch up; and other than that phone call (p.s, Val’s mum, just in case you read my blog more often than you check out her Many Kitchens website, yes, she has updated it, and YES IT NOW WORKS AMAZINGLY BETTER, and yes, best you don’t tell her again that you hadn’t noticed anything new)… well, other than that call, and a quick chat with the supermarket checkout guy (…Q: “hows your day been?”  A: “quiet”), I didn’t really speak to anyone all day long.

As those who know me well know, its, how can I put it? – rare – for me not to speak for that long.

And today too. Another silent day, until tea time. I just pottered around in the garden, alone with my thoughts.

From time to time I crave being alone down here in Dorset. I literally start dreaming about it, counting down the days. In fact on those happy weekends when the house is full of people and that strange form of laughter that only really can come with good friends, when someone starts laughing for no reason and five minutes later you are all just pissing yourselves, speechless, unable to breathe (that sort of laughter)… well, secretly, if you’re staying one of those weekends, there will doubtless be a moment when I’m outside looking at the garden thinking ‘okay, okay… when I’m down here alone next weekend I can get all that lot done, and I’m really looking forward to it too’.

The funny thing is when I am alone, you can end up feeling quite lonely. I’ve got to admit – the house felt pretty quiet last night while I ate my chilled supermarket meal for one (only kidding, that part… sort of).

But from time to time, for me, I find it’s a vital thing to be alone.

I did a lot of catching up. Fake catching up constitutes making a vague, if futile, attempt to clear ‘red flags’ out of my emails (what’ I’d really like to have is a white flag to hold up, which says: “I surrender, I am NEVER EVER GOING TO GET THROUGH ALL THESE F**KING EMAILS”).

But I did, properly, catch up with things..  I tackled a few little jobs in the house that had been waiting a while, and then, in the glorious soft sunshine of midsummer, I gardened.

When I’m in the garden, I really do get lost, alone in my thoughts. You need to stay intent on the task at hand but there’s just enough space to have your mind in other places too. I sowed a lot of seeds and I planted a LOT of dahlia tubers. Each hour is marked by the bells of the church clock next door and the slow rotation of the shadow of the great copper beech tree around the garden.

There’s nothing as satisfying as catching up in a garden. We all know that – that rare feeling of feeling, well, sort of ahead.

But mainly, I suppose, I was catching up with myself. I won’t say there were  a lot of conclusions to these thoughts – there never are. There’s a lot on my mind at the moment – we’re doing a bit of what I believe (if we were standing in front of a flip charts in a ‘conference facility’) is called ‘strategic planning’. I’d rather be digging. I think you get through a bit more strategy that way.

Well, I’ve been a bit of a recluse. In fact, complete reclusive. I think all part of not wanting to speak this weekend. Vows of silence are a serious business. Luckily, this afternoon, my neighbour Christine called to ask me over for a cup of tea. Perfect. And can I promote the second foodie website of the day in 5 minutes? Christine’s new website is up and running too, and very good I think her blogs are going to be too.

And then this evening I drove over to Powerstock, for a real catch up, with Jane and Johnny.  The journey, as ever, was breathtaking, but all the better for being viewed through the screen of a Morris Minor.

How’s it possible that your best friends live 15 minutes away and we somehow haven’t seen each other all year? I blame the longest, coldest winter: summer has taken us all by surprise. So we chatted about this and that, and I bounced around some of my plans, and we talked through some of theirs, and ate supper and the dusk fell, and before I knew it I was driving back in the little Morris Minor, stopping the car briefly to take a snap of the stunningly beautiful sunset over Eggardon Hill,

And that was the best form of catching up of all.



As a postscript – could I thank a lot of people who read this blog for the fascinating, thoughtful and useful comments on the previous post. I think I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by so many responses.  Thank you. I’ll try and answer the questions soon.

21 comments on this post

I can’t get enough of your blogs. Wish you would make into a book.


What are those mini tripods for over a row of small plants in your practically perfect veg garden? I’m looking for uses for hazel and willow in the veg bed and I’ve never seen these tripods before. Also, are they cabbages under your smart woven cloches nearby?


the tripods are protecting my kale! and yes purple sprouting broccoli underneath the cloches. Which will move to the kale shortly. B


Ben, I planted out my dahlias between the weekend ward rounds at work. I potted up my tubers back in late February and due to the weather they have been making extremely slow progress in the summer house until now – Ive had quite a high failure rate of tubers this year too. Hopefully they will thrive in the back of the new border as you can’t beat them for late autumn colour. There’s something decadent about the colour and texture of dahlias on a misty late autumn morning. I mix very large flowered dark purple ones like ‘Black Narcissus’, ‘Sam Hopkins’ and ‘Ambition’ with ‘Bishop’ types and smaller brighter more formal flowering ones like ‘New Baby’ and ‘Jescot Julie’. I wish my garden looked as good as yours!


Loved the last shot of your Minor. Hope you haven’t been abducted by aliens! By the way, your appearance in last weekend’s Sunday Times is exactly you looking happy in your garden.

Deirdre McSharrysays:

Keep writing Ben. There is another book there.

So happy to have found you.
Your posts make my heart sing.
I’d rather be digging, too.


Well the alliums certainly seem to have made an impact! What will I do to compensate? Big ahead I think!

So beautiful – I adore all of your Dorset posts. We made the move from Bridport back to London last year for work, but I dream of having a weekend cottage down there one day and a vintage car to cruise around the lanes in. Stunning, thank you Ben! x


Your garden is stunning – something I aspire to, and I so agree with the necessity of periods of total solitude and silence…and that is does get a bit lonely… I love your blog, having stumbled across it fairly recently, I get a little frisson of excitement when I see that the latest post has popped into my inbox – thank you.

As always lovely pictures of your garden in the halflight. Sometimes we all need real downtime to let the mind wander and gardening, in my view, is the best way to let your thoughts wander where they will. No wonder you crave Dorset – I feel the same way about N. Norfolk and long for the vast expanses of nothingness.

Mary Jenkinssays:

Ah, the drive to Powerstock – I know it well! It always is a surprise how tucked away it is! The pub looking across at Knap House – I have always dreamed of living in that house!

Frances Kassamsays:

Allium jealiosa bug time…love that you take the time to do you have this life ..really love that you share it with really makes me smile, laugh and think. Well Done and thank you for your efforts

Deby (in Canada)says:

Agree with Jo, the pictures of the drive to Powerstock make me feel like I am right there… so beautiful
There is nothing like a good potter in the garden to let your mind wander…
Confession… allium envy!!!

deb millersays:

I feel I should be listening to the Enigma Variations while looking at these beautiful photos and feeling quite tearful at the idyllic beauty of the land I left 30 years ago.

It never fails to surprise me that after longing for solitude as one longs for a drink of cool water, it is then, when it comes, tinged with that strange thing, loneliness. And how to reconcile the slightly hollow knell of lonely feelings with the knowledge that the solitude is still a wonderful and membrane-plumping thing.

And srsly, BP, does the Board for Dorset Appreciation and All-Round Homesickness pay you for your services? Because if they don’t, they should. Those bloody hills! Oh, those hills.

Your alliums are gorgeous, and the iris, and the drive. Sounds like the perfect weekend to me.

I’m thrilled to have just discovered your blog! These lovely pictures of your garden, and the gorgeous views on your drive to Powerstock totally have me hooked! And now I’m totally stunned by your amazing work in your previous post on Llandarcy! What a task that must have been to rejuvenate that wasteland into what is now a charming little village! And the decor of that house is fantastic! I could move right in! Thanks for sharing all this eye candy! :o)


Your garden is a feast for the senses. You seem to have the gift for planting schemes. I have to learn through a lot of trial and error and I don’t get out there as much as I would like /used to. So it is more error, less trial. Enjoy.


those pics of the drive to powerstock are some of the most beautiful i’ve ever seen.
also what is under the little twig teepee’s in your garden? are they protection from rabbits or something?
sorry for being nosey!

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