Days Lengthening

16 February 2014
Ben Pentreath

Well, who knew we’re an eighth of the way through the year already?  At this rate it will be time to plan your Christmas holidays.

Just when you thought we were still in the grip of winter storms, did you notice that today it really was quite light in the morning, and again in the evening?  As very loyal readers of the blog may know, I used to have a great guy called Luke who worked in the architecture office. Several months ago Luke headed to the Prince’s Foundation, where he has a much more glamorous time designing buildings for Prince Harry and masterplans in Gabon. A very long time ago, I used to work at the Foundation. We all met up for drinks the other day. ‘You never warned me Luke’s sense of humour was so miserable’ said his new boss, my good friend Ben. And indeed: it was about this time of year that Luke, as regular as clockwork, would comment on a Monday morning… “ooh, the evenings will be drawing in soon”. Well, that always made me smile (that little tale may, I suspect, have already made it into one or two blogs, the sharp-eyed reader will recall).

But everywhere I look, there are signs of spring in Dorset.  I know, I know… I’m a great looker out for signs of spring. Call it the optimist in me. But when I went for a walk over to Bellamont, for lunch on Saturday, I was pretty happy to see these in the verge.



The valley was soft and peaceful after the dramatic storm on Friday night, when yet again, for the tenth time this year, I wondered if I might wake up underneath the copper beech tree crashing through my bedroom ceiling (it held fast).

P1000282Kingston Russell House gleamed in the pale sunshine.

Coming back from lunch, and waking from a deep afternoon sleep to find brilliant sunshine at 5 o clock, I had one of those peaceful happy moments when I realised the days were getting longer.  I don’t think we’re through winter at all (in fact, I’m wondering when the cold snap will arrive, and I’m wishing I still had Tulum to look forward to, aren’t you?)… but it was still good to see the valley bathed in late evening sunshine.

P1000288 P1000300 P1000298 P1000296 P1000290P1000306Saturday night was Valentines Night in the village. Did you have a happy Valentines?  I’ve always been rather traumatised by Valentine’s Day (does it have an apostrophe or not) ever since I received, anonymously, an extraordinary orchid in a very suspect vase, from M&S, delivered to the shop one year. WAS IT YOU? We could never quite figure out if it was a spoof. Can I be very honest? A lime green vase from M&S with a droopy pink hothouse orchid in it is not the best way to my heart.

Well, the other reason for my Valentine’s day trauma is, I suppose, because I am single, but that is a trauma that I am sure one or two readers of this blog share at this time of year.

So I was very happy that on Valentine’s night proper I was in bed at about 8.30pm (by myself I should add) at which point there was a power cut in the middle of the storm while I was chatting on the phone, appropriately enough, to Valentina, and it was time to go to sleep.

Saturday night in the village hall was my type of party.  All my favourite people.  Balloons, hearts, cocktails (£3 each), a giant buffet and a lot of laughter. And no orchids.

P1000316We had all dressed up in black tie. It felt a bit like a sixth form prom, to be honest.P1000319my kind of Bar prices.


Our esteemed landlord looked extremely swish, or like a mafia boss from the late 60s, depending on your point of view. Mike, on the right there, is the saviour and guardian of my Morris Minor.

P1000328An extremely drunk Ben and much less drunk Nic at the end of a random piece of dancing.  Yes, I couldn’t for the life of me find my bow tie (secretly I am not really in favour of bow ties). I think my only disappointment of the entire evening is that there were fewer dancers. I suppose our startling, brilliant display made everyone else nervous. I staggered home shortly afterwards, although not before rather embarrassingly trying to chat up the three extremely handsome young farmhands who have recently moved in to the village.  I don’t think they minded too much.


I woke up at dawn. It was a beautiful morning. The valley was perfect, still, calm. P1000350 P1000345 P1000338 P1000337The sunrise was early, and by 7 o’ clock the air was filled with the sounds of birdsong. It was a wrench to tear myself away, but I had an early train back to London.

P1000372 P1000380 P1000377 P1000375 P1000373This evening I went for a walk to Fitzrovia. 5pm, and the sunshine gently spread across the south side of Fitzroy Square, with the post office tower peeping over the rooftops and chimneys… two of my favourite buildings in London, and the days lengthening… and the year gathering momentum, and under the surface, the feeling of time beginning to rush by.


22 comments on this post


Oh! You’re here! I realised that you hadn’t been showing up in my RSS feed for several aeons and so did a little google sleuthing to see whether you’d decided to stay in Mexico. And there you were. In Dorset and in Fitzrovia, which is my own special place in London. I used to live around the corner and I’d always pop round to the square when the wind blew to hear the London Planes whispering. And I was there in December to have a look at the Valeria Nascimento exhibition at the Woolf Gallery. Ahhhh. Back in Sydney again now, and just beginning to get over the raging homesickness which sprang up howling during my December visit, only to find these shots of Dorset and Fitzrovia and be flung back again. You will keep doing this. But I’ll put this new location on my RSS feed, so I suppose I must like it.

A hothouse orchid from M&S in dubious packaging is not the way to my heart either – it seems awful to dislike a plant, but these orchids seem to be beginning to represent a particularly fake kind of transaction between people. Recently friends came to stay. One couple made the pudding and brought some wine, thus making my weekend, as hostess, much easier and more pleasurable. The other brought a £3.50 M&S orchid – as if it was the smallest present they could ‘get away with’. It’s not about the money, but about emotional generosity – a bunch of daffodils or a pot of jam would have felt more sincere.


Dear Alexandra, now there is the way to my heart, a bunch of daffs. Or a pot of Jam!!


Wonderful, heart-lifting images as always, Ben. Thank you. A few catkins here in mid-Wales, otherwise, the rain it raineth every day. And a few snowdrops. My little grandson got shrieked at the other day for picking snowdrops. ‘But they’re for Granny’, he replied. And so they were. They now adorn my kitchen table, and in our house are referred to by their old name ‘The fair maids of February’.


Dear Anna, I remember picking snowdrops for my granny too. All best, Ben


Soul soothing. Thank you.

Southern galsays:

Lovely to see the snowdrops. Here in the Hudson valley we have mounds and mounds and feet after feet of snow. Sigh. Spring seem likely never to come with a garden buried under four-five feet of white stuff.

As always love your photos.


To all in america, here is a wish for a thaw and for spring!

lissy parkersays:

Happy Valentine’s Day! Your garden looks amazing—so jealous. Still lots of snow on the ground here in N.C., but my hyacinths and daffodils are blooming in the windows. Thanks for the inspiration.

How is your Morris? Nelson’s just been in having bodywork fixed, bottoms of doors etc. Looks fresh and new all ready for spring! The Norfolk lanes quietly whispering the promise of earlier today. We took a trip out to Salle and Heydon and Reepham.


Dear Sarah, hmmmmm my mog is, um, a trifle ‘winterised’ eg so damp she won’t start. Up to Norfolk on Friday but only for a whistlestop day trip I am afraid….


No sign of spring here. Just more snow coming today. Our Long Winter continues.

I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day. I use it as an excuse to make funny Valentine’s to send to my friends (this year with lots of glitter!) and eat chocolate. My mom always gives me a porcelain or glass heart to add to my collection. The party at the village hall looks ideal.

Still lots of snow on the ground here. 16+ inches on Thursday and another 3 inches expected this evening. So lovely to see your pictures, and know that spring’s on its way.


Ben – put those farmhands down. At once! I want them for myself…


Maisie come on down. 😉 xx


Your blog had disappeared from my email for some reason but happily has reappeared.

Your writing complements the beautiful photographs perfectly.
Spring has announced its arrival here in northern Florida with green pollen everywhere!

Signs of spring up here too in Lincolnshire, a hopeful sign last week in the midst of all that foul weather. Ben, I really don’t want to re-ignite your (or anyone else’s) Valentine’s Day trauma but I’ve just posted on my blog images of the Valentine’s Day ‘book’ I made for my bf this year. Apologies to everyone for the shameless plug!

Jo in NZsays:

Your photos – oh, your photos! You have such skill. Both places looked achingly beautiful in those shots.


Happy Valentine’s Day Ben. As I sit here in Michigan in feet of snow, it is wonderful to see signs of Spring back home. Nice to see the parsonage garden just before the first burst of growth, I can’t wait to see the colour scheme this year. Have a great week, Team Dorset


Fun party! Wish I were there. New York has been covered in a mountain of snow for six weeks.


i can’t tell you how much pleasure your blog brings me. you are a gifted writer ben.
have a great week.


Thanks Jo! Ben

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