Who flicked the crazy switch?

6 July 2014
Ben Pentreath

It’s taken me a whole weekend to recover… and that includes a whole afternoon lying in bed watching the tennis final… do you know what I mean?

What am I recovering from? Thursday night.  We had the private view of Ed Kluz’s beautiful new show in the shop – which for those of you not able to make it to London can be seen right here online. I love Ed’s new scraper board drawings, which are quite beautiful. Someone please tell Nicky Haslam that there’s a drawing of his wonderful Hunting Lodge. And there are some rather special Ravilious and Bawden drawings that I’m also dreaming about now.

But it wasn’t just a private view. Do you remember me writing, it feels like years ago now, about the beautiful shop sign that Bridie and I were going to have made to celebrate and announce the new shop name?  That was back in September last year. How time flies! Well, for various reasons we couldn’t do the sign with Dave Smith, who’d we first started talking to. Then I met Ged Palmer at the Art Worker’s Guild one evening. Ged turned out to be a sign painter. Ged, I said, we need you. And the rest is history.

It took a while to get Ged going; it took ages to source strengthened restoration-quality glass (helped by our friends over at Jamb, and the beautiful sign Will Fisher had made for his amazing new shop on Pimlico Road). Finally… it all came together. And suddenly, completely unexpectedly, because we didn’t think it would be with us for another few weeks, our new sign was going to be up the day before Ed’s party.

Adam our builder put it up all day on Wednesday. I was out of London at a site meeting, but began getting various texts and emails saying ‘I flipping LOVE the new sign’ and other similarly un-enigmatic responses.  It was late by the time I drove back into London but I couldn’t resist sneaking by to Rugby Street late that evening. The new sign was up in all its glory, and it was so beautiful it made me happier, perhaps, than I’ve felt all year. Here it is. See what I mean?


It’s really pink when the sunshine shines on it, but at dusk it goes the most extraordinary mauve colour.

Anyway, we were all having a lovely time for Ed’s view:


When suddenly the Morris Dancers turned up. Nothing premeditated. They just arrived. And someone flicked the crazy switch.


These guys were completely bonkers. And, by the way, unless you thought (like I did) that Morris dancing was unspeakably grim, wait until you see a really, and I mean REALLY hot young Morris dancer and let your prejudices be re-assessed. You can just catch a glimpse here…


…And then here he is with Lucy, from the Decoration department, who has very luckily gone on holiday this week.

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See what I mean?

So this was all well and good, but then the really crazy switch got flicked.
I’d noticed a couple of coppers at the end of Rugby Street, just quietly checking on proceedings. After all, had we got permission to close the street and have a crazy party? Um, no, we had not.


I was a little nervous we were going to get shut down. Although the policeman on the right was, how can I put it… quite hot too.


Let’s face it. So I remained vaguely hopeful we’d stay out of trouble.

Then, suddenly, and I really don’t know what happened, the policemen were in the middle of the Morris Dancing madness. The rest is history. The street was cheering like it was the final of the Tour de France. People from the neighbouring restaurant seats were standing and clapping. You’re about to see why.


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I mean, who ordered the gay strippergram? But actually, before anyone complains, this was the most fantastic bit of community policing I think I’ve ever seen in my life. These guys were up for a laugh, and they pitched it perfectly. I’ve never heard support like it. Brilliant. Thank god we live in England. I can’t imagine a single other country in the world where the Morris Folk Dancers would grab a policemen and survive.

The Morris dancers left to make their way to The Lamb, the ancient Victorian pub at the end of the road. The shop sign felt well and truly christened. No sooner had everyone calmed down, however, than the Mexican band arrived. Bridie did a swift bit of negotiation and the musical entertainments continued.


The party went mental. I’m very blurry from this point onwards. Here’s Ed outside the shop:


and here I am hugging Greg, master furniture maker who works a lot for us. Don’t ask who was holding the camera, I haven’t got a clue. But good that I got it back.


Social media fans went a little mental too. Here’s Decoration department Luke, and his bf Duncan, letting the world know what’s going on.


Luke suddenly appeared with the samples of his newly designed tiger fabric. I can’t wait to see the full batches. Incredible.


We tipped into Cigala, the Spanish restaurant, next door: Ed’s crowd, the shop crowd, the architecture practice crowd, the Paul Smith crowd (Zoe my brilliant practice manager used to work there, somehow we managed to steal her, as they kept on reminding me), and random other crowds. At the end of dinner SOMEHOW we all ended up in my flat. Dreadful. I cannot tell you how appalling I felt on Friday morning; not helped by the fact that there was a crazy heatwave, and not helped by the fact that various guests were still fast asleep in my spare room and on the floor, and really not helped by the fact that I had a new client meeting for a potentially exciting new project in Devon. I just about survived. Almost, but not quite. And then, a few other bits of paperwork dealt with, it was time to escape to Dorset.


Bliss. From time to time I wonder if I’m making life more, not less, complicated, by renting the Old Parsonage. I don’t know. I’ve been loving travelling recently, and that’s hard when your head’s in London and you’ve got your heart buried deep in the countryside too.  But to be honest, there is nothing, just nothing, like getting down to Dorset and being completely quiet and peaceful and pottering about in my garden. Perhaps that’s why I’ve just extended my lease by another five years, and I’ve spent a whole Saturday thinking exciting new garden thoughts with my friend Jane Hurst. Watch this space.

It’s ten o clock. I was pondering, earlier, whether I should battle back up to London tonight. But it was the most perfect evening, the sort you cherish in the long dark days of winter, and cannot  imagine coming again. The air was completely still, the sun was setting gently, and the pull of the Parsonage was too strong.

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I love life when it goes mental. But I’m probably even happier when it’s calm. It’ll be the 6.30am back up to London tomorrow morning, but that’s a problem for another day.

28 comments on this post


love the new sign. It is not scary good taste like the old one.
That one takes it self too seriously.
the colours would entice me in and the other one would frighten me.
The flowers and the new sign are “talking” to one another.
What is a day without flowers?
Keep the darling dahlia Dorset Garden.
I think the flower power is influencing you when you are in London..even when you may not know it.
The sign says tipsy tulips to me whereas the other is slightly constipated.
Love the street scene…urban theatre meets Noddy meets Gilbert and Sullivan.
You couldn’t make it up.
Wish we had a shop like this in Harrogate!

A Job in Devon? I ache for you to design my home but thought you’d never do jobs in the far reaches of the West Country?


LOVED the old sign. LOVE the new sign. It’s your mauve moment. A lavender mist. It’s Bunny Rogers. It’s Beardsley. It’s Alexandra Feodorovna in lilac velvet reclining in her mauve boudoir dreaming of Rasputin’s eyes. It’s a sheave of lilac carried by a sturdy young cossack to his lover.

Laura Harrisonsays:

O.K, I shall be the “odd man out”, and actually confess, I do not like the new sign. I thought the old one looked much classier. Maybe not as hip, but hey I live in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario, and there is nothing hip happening here, so maybe I am just not used to VIVID. Love your blog though Ben and practically everything else you design/chose. Just this once, not feeling it. Glad you had such a great party. You really do know how to squeeze the joy out of every day—maybe that is the feeling you want to impart with the new signage.


How do you keep rabbits out of the garden????? I do the London Devon weekly commut and share your Sunday evening dilemma. Love the pics

There’s a buff shop-keeper in London,
Whose life is a joy to look on!
His parties are gay,
When from Dorset he strays,
And even the cops do not bludgeon!
So raise your glass high,
It’s to Rugby Street or die,
Where gay lads and pretty girls abound!
At Pentreath & Hall
We’ll have a ball,
And crash on Ben’s floor ‘til we come ‘round!

(With apologies from Diane) 🙂


Oooo! I forgot to say that i visited the shop for the fist time TODAY! Very nice indeed! The purple sign and the flowers above look smashing! I wanted to ask: that yellow sandy colour at the back of the shop, where you have plaster casts displayed-what is it? Very very nice!!
Thank you!


LOVE! Please so it again! Ant special thanks to the policeman—makes me proud to be British!

Deb Millersays:

Ah yes Morris Dancers . . . love it when they turn up out of the blue . . . always an excuse for everyone to go a bit nutty . . . must be something to do with the bells and hankies!!


“There’s a riot goin’ on…” Ben, I gotta say I adore that sign.

Pierre B.says:

A very inviting sing, not very georgian but gorgeous!


I don’t know, Ben. It all looks like a Ben Pentreath/Monty Python co-production. I wish there were some photos of the after-party and the after-after party. Sounds like an epic hangover! I will definitely try to come to England for the next bash.
Love the sign!


Luke’s shoes. Perfect.


This post is a BLAST!:)


Morris baton and Truncheon both look so “happy to see” one another. It really is the sort of community policing one can get behind. If I wasn’t at a party with many a PYT myself on Friday night, I would be jealous. Please though, when a shop in Paris so I can readily join in the fun? You are one of my favourite English things and make me miss Albion just ever so slightly on Mondays.
Oh and Will needs to be on that hot list!


Let’s face it, Ben Pentreath is looking quite hot himself!LOL!


Perfect post ! thank you, Ben

Lucy Claytonsays:




Southern Gal (@sogalitno)says:

cant imagine how you can bear to be away from that gorgeous place … except to know that you will be back soon… and of course living in London helps.

the garden looks fabulous as always … cant wait to hear the glorious plans for the next five year!


Ben, there’s Summer in the trug; perfection.

I dunno. I’ve done the country/city thing for years and I can’t imagine not doing it. It does, you’re right, add another layer of complication to life, and a new set of ties. I seem forever to be lugging bags with half heads of broccoli back and forth. But, for me, I need that tension between rural and urban. Couldn’t be happy being entirely in one or the other. So I think maybe you have to add complexity in order to achieve simplicity, in the sense of having what only the country can give you, and which you could never get in the city, no matter how big the garden, or how free the weekends. But you’re also talking about travelling and that makes me wonder whether the idea of buying a place in Morocco has come closer and become more beguiling…

I love the new sign. Very splendid. It would make me happy to walk past it. And the Morris dancers, the Mexican band, the policemen? I nearly cried.

Looks like good crazy to me. Hopefully I’ll be visiting the exhibition sometime Thursday afternoon(after perusing sofas in West London).

You must be chuffed to bits with your beautiful signage and accompanying plantings. They look terrific. It is always such a relief to find the right artisans and materials to pull it all off.

It also appears that your garden has had its crazy switch flicked – it looks gorgeous in its summer finery.

Nicola Lawrencesays:

That all looked like great fun….bonkers and fun… Don’t give up the Parsonage – but if you do – may I have it?!

karen fleersays:

I met my first Morris Dancers at a church garden party in Rhode Island. Outstanding, silly fun — they sang The Maid of the Mill: “The maid of the mill, the maid of the mill. If the daughter won’t, the mother will.” My mother was in attendance and, at 92 now, has never forgotten it.
PS: fabulous sign!


Fabulous, and completely perfect, in every way.

i love you so hard. i love this blog just as hard.

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