High Summer morning

14 July 2013
Ben Pentreath

I’ve got some interesting things to be writing about this week, but tonight, I’m very sleepy and I’ve got what you might call an early start in the morning.  I’m rather looking forward to waking before dawn. I remember years ago, when I was about 10 or 11, at prep school – how I used to love waking incredibly early in the mornings, while everyone else was fast asleep, and climbing out of the attic dormer window and lying behind the wide stone parapet of the old country house (which had been turned into a school just before the war)… and watching the world waking… wildlife on the lawns… alone. Probably the only time in 10 years at school that you could find to be truly alone. And perhaps that’s why I still love getting up really early in London… that sense of feeling you are one of such a small number of people awake in the city. I don’t know: it must be so numbing… to only experience London between the hours of 9am and 9pm  – the London that belongs to everyone, not just to you.

Anyway, tomorrow, I’ve got an early start, and a drive across the chalk down lands, in the indescribable soft light of early mornings in high summer, from Dorset up to Oxfordshire.

So I am going to save writing for later in the week. I had friends over for lunch today. Much to their disappointment I hadn’t cooked beef wellington. But I did cook tarts (the recipe from the every-single-time reliable, and delicious, Popina Book of Baking, which as a simple quite specific cookbook I reckon cannot be bettered). Flowers from the garden. I love summer days like this.

Such heat in the day. It’s funny thing really.  Do you remember about 4 weeks ago all you could read in the paper was some random story that we are now about to have 10 years of miserable summers?  I suppose it’s a particular condition to believe that what ever is happening to you right now is going to happen for ever. Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to predict things, and just to enjoy them as they happen?


13 comments on this post


I was in Marylebone a week or so ago and my favourite thing to do was wake and go for walks through the gardens and streets before everyone else. London early morning is the most magical!


Thank you all for the help! I love a “good value plant”–will definitely track some down.


Sarah – it’s Alchemilla Mollis or Lady’s Mantle and once it’s established it returns every year and self seeds too. The ultimate good value plant that sets off blues and pinks beautifully and lasts a long time in the vase. Gawd, I hope I’ve spelled that correctly


Thanks Kitty & Lyndsay – hadn’t had time to reply!! Ben


Sarah……..the lacy green flowering stuff is Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle). Really easy to grow, it will self seed, it’s hardy and is happy in most soils.


I have a foolish question–what is the name of the lacy green flowering stuff tucked in with the roses? I keep seeing it everywhere but can’t remember the name and Googling “green flower perennial” is completely hopeless. I want to plant some for exactly this kind of thing–saw it in a little bouquet recently with some blue larkspur and it was gorgeous.

Tim Ssays:

Bit of a jolt reading this. I’m just wondering if I’ve EVER experienced a very early morning when I wasn’t in a mad rush or feeling groggy. Have I ever even seen the sun rise?! (Possibly when full of alcohol or from a plane, but I’m not going to count those times). Your magical descriptions of early mornings are deeply attractive, and makes me wonder if I am missing out. So, I’m going to try it – wish me luck!

nicola chippssays:

The heat of these lately English summers is not as I remember. I have idealized them to cool and forgiving, given to the relief of mid afternoon clouds gathering, the cool respite of breezes in the trees, shady places for tea.
From the views now here in San Francisco, it’s the cool fog rolling over the golden hills and settling at the waterfront that provides much nearer to what I recall. I am still terribly sentimental for England, bur refreshed and inspired by this delightfully and always changing place. My dearest Brits friends found here, all happily agree.

Hot, hot, hot – I love being in the veg garden very early in the morning in this weather – snipping sweet peas and watering the runner beans – bliss – whilst everyone else seems to be zooming about in their cars – I waft down the rows of veg. Love your little posies and the tarts look oh so good.

The vegetabel tarts look utterly divine, and no doubt tasted the same. How could anyone possibly be disappointed??


I love those summer suppers made from whatever the garden yields that day! Heat and humidity reign here in Alabama…but is expected and looked forward to. Means meeting friends at the neighborhood pool, picnic baskets in tow. Listening to the cicadas and frogs as night falls. I, too, love the early mornings. Quiet, peaceful,…soft start to the day.

deby (in Canada)says:

Just back from a lovely,evening of great food and wine with dear friends and the beauty of this post leaves me speechless… but curious… what did you end up doing with the broad beans Ben? We have had crazy heat and humidity here this weekend but we expect it here in Canada- I think it more startling in England… agree- roll with it as it comes…

Leave a Reply

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