Year Turning

11 August 2013
Ben Pentreath

I’m writing on Sunday evening, at the Old Parsonage. It’s completely still and quiet. Perhaps the stillness is exemplified by the departure, earlier, of my friends Tom & Masie and their two beautiful little children Moss and Vera. All I can say is… I don’t know how parents manage. I love it when my friends with children come to stay. There’s a dimension – a richness and unpredictability that is simultaneously, curiously, combined with a total simplicity, that’s entirely missing in the rest of my life. But… wow… I’ve got respect for everyone who’s got to carry on looking after their little guys… ALL THE TIME.  I’m not sure I could manage.  I’ll be honest. I don’t know how you do it. It’s 9.45 in the evening, and I’m in bed already.

The landscape is resting, pausing, on the brink of autumn. Suddenly it was dark so early this evening.  Have you noticed? The garden’s gone crazy. It’s either dead or wild, producing like mad, like some hectic civilisation that’s watching the clock and knows the show is nearly over. I went for a run last night – the hedgerows are mental too, bursting with thousands of blackberry brambles, on the brink of ripening. I love the place like this. There’s really no point in tidying up. That expression… ‘going to seed’… well, I guess, we know where it comes from and precisely what it means… but hasn’t it come to suggest something negative? Whereas there’s an exuberance just now that’s irresistible, something so poignant about this moment that I relish it.

I’m off on holiday next week. To Valentina’s house in Italy. I can’t wait.  Every pore of my body is longing for that first moment stepping off the plane at Pisa when the heat, smell, light of Tuscany hits you. The drive towards Siena… the country getting softer and more familiar the closer we get to the place that I realise has been like a home from home for perhaps 12, perhaps 13, years now. I hope you’ll understand if I say the blog might be going on a little holiday too. After my dummy run of no laptop, no phone and no email for a couple of days in Norfolk – I’ve realised again the deeply relaxing power of really switching off. We’ll see. There’s a side of me that wonders if I’ll get a little twitchy?!  But a side of me that knows even better that things are going to be gently taken care of while I’m away.

And then down to Rome, which I’m pretty excited about too, dusty late-August Rome, when I know it’s not at all done or seen to be there, but I’m very happy. And then – back to London, in September, my favourite moment of the year: new notebook time. Start of term. There’s a LOT of exciting news that will be coming your way from Ben P Ltd in September. One way and another…I think there might be quite a bit happening.  Which is all the more reason, just for now, to savour the quiet time – the moment of balance… as the year turns.



I should add. One of the very exciting things that’s happening is a bit of a re-build of our rather creaking website. The blog has become more popular than I could ever have imagined, and the system isn’t coping so well. The shop site has been getting a bit in need of life support too. Bridie and I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to make improvements. We’re thrilled to have on board Colin Ozanne, who joined this month, who’s rather a genius, it turns out, at sweetly letting us know that, in website terms… we’ll, it’s a bit like being told you’ve been walking around for the last couple of years with your underpants on the outside of your trousers, or something.

I’d absolutely LOVE to get your feedback – good and bad – on what you like or dislike about the website design, the way things work, or don’t work.  For instance, I know that a lot of people have stopped getting a little email when I post a blog.  For me, I’ve got to be honest, that’d be a complete relief, but we’ve had a few emails asking ‘whats happened’?  That’s just one of the things which has been going a bit wrong recently.

If you could let us know your thoughts – send us an email to or just leave a comment here – I’d be so grateful. Is there something you want to see on the shop pages that doesn’t exist? Are you driven mad by the way the shipping works, are there things you find confusing or which don’t work?  It would be really great to have your feedback on these sorts of questions, or anything else that comes to mind. Thank you – very much indeed.

35 comments on this post


Hee hee! Thank you for having us, Ben Pentreath!



calhoun sumrallsays:

I will try to get a few Americans to do their part!
Your #1 fan from Sharon, Connecticut!!


Ha! Ben, As Joanna said, nothing much to change on your website, except that it is virtually impossible to buy from abroad. Well at least I have never managed and had to pester very nice people on the phone to get my order through. Could you please change THAT, and that only, so that I can lavishly spend my money? Thanks!


DEar Sylvie – we’re definitely getting on that case, yes!! B


Your garden is something I aspire to – one day hopefully a place in the country! The blog is just right the way it is. Calm Peaceful and Inspiring. Happy holiday!

omg. whatever you do, please don’t make the new design too “slick”. lately I feel so tired of blogs, including my own. i love yours!

Nicola Barriesays:

I too love the blog the way it is. I agree with Dianne Keane, and would LOVE to see another book (happily I ended up with three of your first – I bought one, then my daughters surprised me with one for my birthday – and in the meantime I saw a copy on Ebay and bought it for my daughters – but they already had a copy. I now have one in our shearer’s quarters in far western NSW – which I dip into when we stay there when mustering etc! – perhaps the shearers do, too). I’d also love to see some more photos of your new flat as I think it was a work in progress last time you posted a blog about it. Have a great holiday. How could you not! Enjoy Valentina’s birthday celebrations.

Ben, thank you for your kind response to my comment(s)! I’m sure when you started your blog, you had no idea you were birthing something so time-consuming—who needs kids!? So I especially appreciate your taking the time. I believe we have all come to love the Parsonage and enjoy spending “virtual” time there. But you write so well that anything you turn your attention to would become the subject of an interesting book. In the meantime we will possess ourselves in patience! Enjoy your holiday!



Keep taking us places and showing us things Ben. You have a wonderful eye for proportion, character, humour, style, history, humanity and beauty. We, who have more tethered lives, need you..


Dear Ben

I don’t see anything that really needs adjusting from a visual point of view on your website. It all reads and seems to work very well, although, for some reason when shopping on the website, if you request for your goods to be collected from Rugby St, so no cost for delivery is taken, then the system still asks you for a delivery address, (or my browser automatically inputs those details), and then the goods get sent out anyway, with no delivery charge! Obviously free delivery is an excellent idea but as it stands you’re losing £££! Best wishes


Yikes!! Joanna that’s exactly the sort of thing I am talking about….THANK YOU 😉

Matthew I think some form of testing is rather a good idea. Mainly, it’s to do with sorting out a lot of creaks and groans behind the scenes in the shop. The blog will probably be migrating a little more into the shop site and architecture and decoration is taking a step sideways. If that makes sense. Ben


clearly people don’t want to see too much change to the blog!.. why not show us a beta version of the changes (in the way a game developer does), aggregate some feedback ahead of rolling out the final version.. ?


Ben, It might be helpful to allow ‘Shop’, ‘Interiors’ and ‘Architecture’ to remain under the same umbrella, but partition the writing/blog portion of ‘Inspiration’ to a new address ( which we would all continue to love and read.) Have a wonderful, much earned holiday in Italy.


Love it all – in picture no 7 are the orange flowers cosmos? I have grown them for the first time this year from seed alongside he usual dark pink cosmos, wasn’t keen at first, the foliage is more ordinary but the bumble bees love the bright colour. Intrigued to see the changes come autumn and do have a wonderful break in the sunshine.


Sharon the orange flowers are marigolds. Grow like crazy. B


Dear Ben,
the content and visual design are marvelous. That said, I might suggest tagging posts by theme (gardens, travel, books, etc.) but also by season. I’m not a particular fan of the apparatus tagging necessitates, but it is undeniably handy. Having presumptuously asked for tags I would then request you absolutely *don’t* tag like a boring design site (bathrooms! bedrooms! kitchen!). There has to be a little bit of fun and a little bit of serendipity in the search, with room for tangents.
While I am commenting, thank you for not decorating with books, but instead showing how you live with them. Books should be everywhere.


as i am a new reader of the blog, must say it is fine with me whatever you do. xxpeggy

Dear Ben, I love your blog, so glad I found it! AND your shop is amazing, as is Bridie, so much talent on view. Being in the U.S., I have not ordered anything but I enjoy browsing (the exchange rate is abysmal right now too—although that’s a good thing for you!)

As for the blog, I don’t know how you could improve it, except to post more often. I did sign up for blog alerts, and I do get the emails, but I don’t know why I bothered since I’m on your site every day anyway. I agree with Lilian, I would like to see your blog made into a book. I commented once that I’d love to see a “Life at the Old Parsonage” type of book, with your wonderful photos of the gardens and interiors through the seasons and accompanying holidays. I would enjoy seeing the interior of the church, too.

Actually, I can think of one thing that would improve the blog, but would also a great inconvenience for you, and that would be if you responded more often to people’s comments and questions. After reading one of your posts, I feel like I’ve been engaged in conversation and I want to respond and continue! But of course it would take too much of your time. It would be worse for you than email!!

Have a fabulous holiday in Italy, Ben! I know you’ll be taking lots of photos for posting later. Greetings to Valentina from your blog family!


Dear Diane, you’ve been posting so many interesting comments on the blog (people should search for them) – but you’re right – I’ve been a bit time pressed recently and keeping up with comments on the blog is like another whole email in box. But thank you for all your comments – I love reading them. I have thought about a “year at the Parsonage” book but I am just a bit nervous it’s the sort of book I’d write a blog saying how much I don’t like it!! 😉


Have a safe & happy trip to Italy. Take lots of pictures,to possibly share with us! Enjoy!
Thanks for the wonderful pictures this time round, too.

Pierre Bourassasays:

I love your blog as it is and never missed a week since I have discovered it . Have a good holyday. A presto!

Patsy Orlofskysays:

Don’t change a thing.


Ben, I am new reader to your blog – and absolutely love it! I have now read all of the archives and will be visiting the shop in the next few weeks. Have a wonderful holiday.

Lovely post – you’re right the garden is going bonkers and is beginning to look a bit of a mess but I don’t want to think autumn just yet, I am still enjoying the summer. Have a great holiday, you deserve it as I know you work very hard. Not sure if it is WordPress or my computer but I find the blog very slow to load. I still receive my Monday morning email which I always look forward to seeing. Definitely looking forward to your next post about your Tuscan/Italian adventures.


Our Monday morning ritual; the reading of what Ben has to say, accompanied by toast and coffee. The blog is great as it is, with lots of insightful text and brilliant photos. I browse the shop site quite a bit as well and will be interested to see how it can be improved. All seems fine with me!

Penny Msays:

Will miss your blog posts! Have a wonderful time. Like others, I find it hard to criticise your website, as your blog is my main point of contact, and it loads and reads beautifully. I was directed here by Jane Brocket’s blog, Yarnstorm, and have never looked back. Quality writing is so rare on the web. Your prose is like a fragrant cup of Earl Grey on a Monday morning. Thank you Ben. Enjoy your well-deserved holiday.

Mary Jeansays:

I love your blog too, but have a good holiday and come back refreshed.


I’m afraid I’m no help either as I too love your blog just the way it is. Hope you enjoy your holiday (but if you decide not to switch off completely, some Italian pictures would be lovely!).

fix the backend but the design is fine for me… love all the photos. email notice for post would be nice. dont know about shop as i am in US.

as you are living the dream i have yet to achieve, no matter how your blog looks i will be a faithful follower

I would not change a THING. It is perfect. I wouldnt mind more pictures and writing but know you dont have time. I would like to have a book of your blog.

Have a wonderful holiday! I love your blog just the way it is. THe photos load quickly on my creaky old computer and it’s easy to read. Possibly not the most helpful feedback, but as it is it works for me. Buon viaggio!

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