New Year, new broom…

5 January 2014
Ben Pentreath

I’m afraid the photography is going to be the most basic ever. Ever!

Bridie and I have spent the entire weekend having a massive clear out. I don’t know quite why yesterday afternoon at about 2pm was the moment when I suddenly decided that the shop needed a huge shift around and a tidy up and the many-headed monster that is our tiny and out-of-control stockroom needed slaying… but it just was.   Needless to say this coincided with the first Saturday of our sale (and what else is London going to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon than to go sale browsing?) much to the amusement of many of the customers who suddenly materialised from nowhere the minute I tried to start the reorganisation.

“Sorry”, kind customers kept on saying, “Im in your way”.   Well no – to be fair, I was in your way, but Sophie and I and lots of visitors all huddled along and it was great to chat to quite so many lovely people all afternoon in between going a little crazy with the, well, ‘visual merchandising’ as I believe it’s known in the trade. Someone told me it was more exciting than meeting Elvis. Proving that the greatest admirers of the shop are completely mad.

Tomorrow, if I’ve got a chance, I’ll pop over to Rugby Street and post some snaps of what we’ve been up to, for all those many many readers who are only able to visit us virtually, on the website.  It’s looking so great in there.  But literally there was no time for a camera in the last 24 hours. You know when you’ve got a cleaning frenzy going? There’s no time to take a photo is there? No, there is not.

Well, I did take a couple of shots and these will have to do for tonight:

Farewell, Christmas window displays past! Yes, it really was time to clear out the basement and for a few brief minutes Rugby Street was suddenly enlivened by giant Georgian doorcases and fireplaces.  The photos were for instagram and twitter.  I popped up a quick post saying ‘PLEASE HELP YOURSELF’.  The most useful sort of twitter post there is, really – what, for me, it’s all about.  The instagramsphere suddenly went a bit crazy and the phone started ringing off the hook with nice ladies saying ‘Please can we reserve them, we will come and get them in a week’ and so on… but sadly – before we had blinked, they had already disappeared.

That’s what I love about cities.  I’m so excited that all our old engravings have found happy new homes in about 13 minutes flat.

If you’re not following me on Instagram or Twitter now might just be the moment. Who knows what will happen next?  Although I would entirely understand if giving up social media was your New Year resolution. (I will be even happier, of course, if I am the menacing person who made you break your resolution. You know my views on resolutions).

Talking of the great clear out… Londoners… please watch this space for details of our crazy 2-day firesale that we are holding in the shop on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd February.

When I said the stockroom was out of control, earlier, I really meant it.  The firesale is going to be for all sorts of treats and delights that we just don’t have space for anymore, and for things that are just a bit damaged and just can’t be sold any longer in the shop – lovely posters and prints where the frames have got a bit damaged, or mint-condition books that we are drowning under… that sort of thing. You get it!  Most importantly everything must go and will be priced to fly out of the door.  50p/£1 bargains; £5 and £10 tables.  Cash only so be prepared.  The early bird will catch the worm. You are welcome to pitch your tent on Friday evening.  We’ll open a little earlier than normal on the Saturday and there will be a party all weekend long. Bridie and I will be there all through so please pop over to say hello.

So there.

I LOVE CLEARING OUT STUFF. It’s literally my favourite thing. The feeling that derives when you start with something chaotic and end up with a perfectly organised space… well, for me, it’s as close to heaven as you can get.  I’m sure you’ll agree if you are a loyal reader of the blog.

It’s been a week of it, after all.  I had a crazy new Year’s eve party in flat and woke the next morning feeling very worse for wear. Dreadful. All pleasures must be paid for, mustn’t they?  But man oh man did I feel better after 3 hours of hoovering up 100000s of tiny glitter stars that burst out of the party poppers. I’ll be finding those stars in 10 years time. Still, my flat suddenly looked like this again (another photo for the inner instagram in you):

Now as some of you may know, I’m off on holiday for a couple of weeks on Friday – to Mexico. Mexico City followed by Oaxaca; quite frankly then lying on the beach on Tulum with Valentina who is literally exhausted after the most successful Many Kitchens Christmas ever (well, it was only her second Christmas, but it was crazy…), and then Merida and then home.  It will be pretty amazing to say goodbye to drenched London for two weeks and say hello to colour and heat.  Please do lend me any tips (and yes I will promise to travel safely and not get sold into international slavery by a drugs cartel).

You can rest assured I’ll be taking a lot of photographs.

But the blog is having a little holiday too.  I’m sorry if I’ve just RUINED your next two January Monday mornings but I am sure you understand.

And then the blog is going on a little trip of its own.  When I’m back, Colin the magic man will have transformed the blog page entirely and it will have a new home, over at, where you will be able to go to a single page to check not only the blog but also all the shop news and so on.  The redesign by Connie is looking stunning and I’m very excited.  Doubtless there’ll be some crazy glitch or two, there always are, aren’t there? But I know you will forgive us those.

Thanks, by the way, for so many great comments on the previous blog and I will do my best to get printing.  79 Streets is not too hard to organise, as the original is hanging in the loo at the Old Parsonage. I think the rest are going to live in photographs alone. I have no idea where the original drawings for those are. But perhaps, just perhaps, this will be the year when I get around to drawing a poster that I have been dreaming of for years now… London A to Z. Oooh.

On that note, good night, and if by any small chance tomorrow is your first day back at work after the holiday, and life feels a bit, well, grim… here’s a parting thought to cheer you up:

I’ve just noticed the mornings and the evenings getting a little bit lighter every day.

Have you?

15 comments on this post

That is Great to be going to Mexico City and to be able to enjoy some of the sun and sand.
Have a Wonderful Holiday

I love Mexico City and Oaxaca (city). I could have sworn that I commented on your previous post about the Ethnobotanical Garden in Oaxaca, but I don’t see it, so I second Linda’s recommendation above. And make sure to eat as much molé and drink as much hot chocolate as possible since it’s impossible to replicate the deliciousness of those two Oaxaca specialities without very specific ingredients.

Wow Tulum and Oaxaca are my absolute faves-went last summer for my honeymoon and seriously been trying to conjure up how to leave South London, and move there ever since! Theres So much gorgeous textile inspiration in the Oaxacan markets, and an amazing craft shop called MARO which supports local women designers. Hope you got some excellent pics, and managed to squeeze in a dinner and cocktail at Hartwood in Tulum.

I do hope all is well with you and your neighbors after the floods.

Stephen Archibaldsays:

If you need a break from the bustle of downtown Mexico City we enjoy the Coyoacan district (where Cortez lived with his mistress). Some beautiful colonial streets and Frida’s blue house. I’m fond of the market there with a Feliz Candela designed concrete thin shell roof. The beautiful Capilla de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad also with a Candela designed roof is on the edge of the district.
We have also visited Luis Barragan’s house and his convent and they were both sublime.

Ben, you are smashing, and always bring a dash of something into my day which otherwise would be sorely missing. You seemingly had quite a little buzz going for this post – it’s leaping off the screen and it’s infectious. Long live major blitzes which bring calm from chaos and long live your creative interfacing with the world. Hope you have a really wonderful trip, and even though one of your skive Mondays is my birthday I forgive you!


Well its a lovely -12 F (but feels like -38 F with the winds!) here in “Chiberia” as we are calling it today. Today was supposed to be back to work and school for many people here but most things are closed/cancelled, except for my office which is open even though 75% of the people can’t make it in. Anyway pictures of warm Mexico sound lovely. Looking forward to those.


Baby! Party on! Enjoy that fresh fruit buffet!

The infamous stock room – now with room to rummage what treasures will it hold? Bring on the Fire Sale! perhaps you can light the little fire in 17a to signal the start. Lucky locals with your beautiful boards Happy New Year & a wonderful 2014 to all at Pentreath and Hall.

Looking forward to your take on Mexico but one thing – please please just DON’T post any photos of the massive everyday Mexican lizards such as the one my daughter bumped into last week on the way to the supermarket (NB juxtaposition of the hideously exotic and hideously banal) and snapped. Or at least not without an appropriate warning. It almost caused a reptile-induced heartfailure here.

Oh you are a kindred spirit – please come to New Zealand one day! Just the same thing happened with us except on Boxing Day afternoon completely rearranging our gallery and preparing it for the hordes of holiday people who all have time to be enjoying the fruits of other labours. Just as well we love it!! It has a mind of its own and drives us all with its own life and soul!

We do love your blog, your website and all you give creatively. Have fun in Mexico and soak up that colour and chilli pepper life! Love from Louise, Julia and all the team at Birdwoods Gallery in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand!


Speaking of books- before Christmas I treated myself to a copy of your ‘English Decoration..”and only now had the time for a leisurely read.
I just want you to know that this is one of the best design books written, and will certainly be one of my favorites. I plan on leaving it out on my coffee table, because find that I pick it up during odd moments of the day just to have a little break from reality.
I am enjoying it so much!

Andrew Lagesays:

I go to Merida almost every year at this time and have never had any problems. The weather is delicious and no one is more hospitable anywhere. Really, the people of the Yucatan have not been affected by the drug thing. The Mayans are not interested in any if that although the federales are a bit intimidating. (they are not invited into anyone’s home).


Mexico eh? I have been told it is a security risk. Although I know people who have been. Just don’t go falling into any wild familial fisticuffs or unstoppable existential crises. Please. No really, please. Thanks for your cheery thoughts on winter days. If you want another one, read Fascinating /Fashionable Aida (I can’t remember which), found it on one of those book stores on the Tottenham Court Road. I had a clear out of all my books, otherwise you could have it. But I am sure it should be easy enough to get a copy. (Why no links?:-( Expect happy campers!

Leave a Reply

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