dream world changing

1 September 2014
Ben Pentreath

We’ve been back for 2 days and I’m in a dreamlike place. Do you ever have that feeling that however fast an aeroplane can travel, your mind only moves as fast as you can walk? Combine that fact with the strange moment of all-night insomnia last night… and you will know what I mean when I say I’m not quite in the here and now… just yet.

I wonder how many followers of this blog are insomniac, like your author: reading in the small hours of total darkness, of complete stillness… listening to the noise of nothing at all, if you’re deep in the countryside, or to the distant rumble and roar of city life if you’re in town? I’m sure that it’s just as many as those who read my ramblings over a cup of coffee on arrival at work. Anyway, that was my Sunday night. I was up at all hours. There’s a lot of change at the moment. I love change. It keeps things fresh.  But you’ll know what I mean when I say from time to time it can get overwhelming. We’ve moved office while I’ve been away, which has been a massive task. The shop has been turned upside down and repainted and is looking beautiful.  The decoration department is moving next week. And… by far the most important of all… well, how can I put this? Someone is in the kitchen cooking while I’m writing right now.

There’s quite a lot to take in there, isn’t there?

But before we think about that magical week in early September, which I always think feels like the start of the new year, really… this blog is all about Greece.

It feels like an another age ago that Will and I arrived in Athens. We were there for a day before heading south to Rhodes, to stay with my friend Jasper at his beautiful house in Lindos, dream-like perfection; and then to Patmos.

It’s years since I’ve been at the Acropolis. It’s looking spectacular.


I love the contrast between the ancient creamy stones, and sprawling, gleaming Athens beyond.P1040674 P1040687

And I love the delicacy of modern cranes and machinery housed within the powerful Doric skeleton against a clear dark blue sky.P1040698 P1040700 P1040705 P1040716 P1040723 P1040724 P1040725 P1040733 P1040736

I loved our short stay in Athens. I really want to go back and discover more.

If you’re not sure about Rhodes, think again. Head to Lindos. This was the view from my bedroom. A dream. We spent the happiest time diving from the boat all day and chatting long into the warm evenings.

And thence to Patmos. I won’t say 6 hours in stormy waters was the happiest crossing for some of our fellow passengers (a scene best left to the imagination)… but in the beautiful light on our first evening, on top of the world, all was forgotten in an instant.P1040834

At sunrise the following morning the light was crisp and clear.P1040854 P1040857 P1040872

Islands appear to float in the haze of the dark sea.P1040873

The monstery in Hora is one of the strangest, most curious, ugly-beautiful buildings I’ve visited. P1040889 P1040897 P1040898 P1040904

We settled into the gentle rhythms of Patmos life. The gloaming point, as the sun falls in to the sea and all colours merge, is, I think, my favourite of all.P1040921 P1040929

The tiny square was packed by night with an international fashion crowd. Which was all very well, but do you mind my confessing I prefer it early in the morning, with old men on scooters  winding their way through and cafe owners scratching their heads and sweeping up the detritus? It’s September, and the scene will have moved on now, but during the third week of August in Patmos the roar of voices in the square at night was like a New York cocktail party – and about as meaningful.P1040980

Hora is a curious place… full of dichotomies. In places it can be both beautiful and claustrophobic.P1040986In others there are moments of such pleasing perfect simplicity that I was in love.

This set of glossy brown benches by a church was a high point for me. I adore them.P1050005

Many houses have been beautifully restored. But I found something almost cloying in too much perfect paintwork and stone. Do you see what I mean?  P1050009

It was a joy of the house were we stayed that the character was there still, perhaps because it is still owned by people whose ancestors had built it.

I have a feeling my favourite moments were the small views of normal life carrying on despite the crowds of August house guests. Old ladies testing ladders (I couldn’t bear to stay and watch if she was going to climb to the parapet entirely by herself):

The fruit and veg market, in unintentionally beautiful shades of pistachio, brown, pink:P1050041 P1050042

The restored beauty of some of the most special houses was something to behold:P1050076 P1050088

but you almost enjoy more the incidents of little kids and little dogs eyeing each other:

Or of the closed-for-August cafe in Skala, turquoise and pink:P1050130 P1050136

Or dads and kids playing in the heat of the midday sun.P1050141

I never thought this would become a blog that posts photos of cats, but it suddenly did:
P1050167 P1050187

The turrets of the monastery peep over the beautiful mercantile town house that was our home:P1050198

I crave the small details (as I guess you will know if you’ve ever read about the floor polisher of the Pantheon).  This brush and pan is at the cave of St. John the Theologian:P1050210 P1050213

And another at the entrance gate:P1050214

I loved our tour around the rocky west coast:

Which ended at the Chapel of Profitis Ilias at sunset, with its beautiful view back to Hora:P1050241 P1050242 P1050243 P1050244 P1050250 P1050252

It was a place of extraordinary memories. I won’t go in to them all.

We left in a final whirl in a helicopter. That was my birthday present to Will, whose celebration year had precipitated the invitation to Patmos in the first place. As we took off, Maggie announced perceptively “there’s not a lot to a helicopter is there?”. It felt a wee bit like being in the Morris Minor, but floating in the sky.  We were battling into a force 9 gale back to Athens. Me, being me, I couldn’t help speculating from time to time what would happen when the pilot has a heart attack. I didn’t entirely trust Will as co-pilot.

But then you find yourself floating across a silver sea above rocky islands, and the magic of the Mediterranean starts to take hold.P1050310

P1050320 P1050313 P1050335P1050326And so we rushed back to Athens and back to London and time has passed in a heartbeat and I find myself quietly, deeply happy, at home, and looking forward with so much optimism to the rest of the year. Goodbye, August. Hello September. New notebooks.

17 comments on this post

All perfect, wonderful, and glorious, and very happy for you.

Without, I hope, sounding repetitious, Ben, welcome back! And having ‘someone in the kitchen cooking’ is lovely isn’t it? Sometimes it takes my breath away….


So glad you are back! What beautiful photos you have shared with us, it shows you had a great time away. And I am also happy for you that there is someone in the kitchen. Hooray!


More mog pics please Ben. 😉


Dear Ben, like the many many other admirers of your blog, I am so happy that you are back! I love your posts, your photos (the funny details like the “statue mess” on the frontispiece of the temple, the lady and her ladder, the blue and white, the everyday scenes) … AND THE CATS!!! Thank you for this beautiful photo!!! We love cats, their enigmatic character, their beauty and the love they give to us. Thanks so much! I can imagine this will become a blog with a little bit more cats :-)) … All the best, Gabriele.


all of the above, in triplicate!
fingers crossed ‘someone in the kitchen’ will also be ‘someone in the garden’ with you.


Dear Ben, This really brought back memories of Greece and its several islands. Heat, stones both ancient and modern, white, blue, purple haze, and cats with attitude everywhere. Welcome back and say hello to your special someone in the kitchen. Nicola


So so good to have you back. Such beautiful photographs and delighted about the ‘someone’ comment. I had my very good London friend in mind for you but delighted you have found a someone. Wishing you enormous happiness.


Where to start?!

There is nothing like a person cooking in the kitchen (particularly when the culinary arts do not interest one in the slightest except as an excuse to shop for Mauviel saucepans). When I found a guy who loved to cook, I married him.

That bench outside the church? “Landlord Brown” is what we call that color in the States. ‘Nuf said.

God bless your nerves of steel for taking that helicopter ride, but sometimes one must just gird one’s loins and do something because the risk is worth the experience. I took a little silver prop plane from San Francisco to Eureka, California once. I felt that if I looked over my shoulder, Rick and Ilsa would be sitting behind me (if the movie had ended differently). It was thrilling and so beautiful to fly over the Northern California coast.

Thanks for the photos of Greece. Transporting.

Missed you. Welcome home.


It must be the insomnia at work–the lady with the ladder was not old!!!!!!


Ben Pentreath, you’re a Master tantaliser!

I wouldn’t say the woman with the ladder was old – late middle aged most probs. I read the words before the pic and my mind sprang to rusty black crepe and an escaping white bun.

Insomnia – yes, ditto. But potato starch is an interesting antidote (much touted latest rave of the paleo set). Great prebiotics and the sleep and dreaming are a revelation, I tell you. Other side effects which are too coarse for this gentle blog.

The cook in the kitchen is a lovely piece of news. Much nicer than Greece, even, wonderful though that is.

Just received your book ‘English Decoration’ from my sister for my birthday – absolutely loving it and finding it hard to tear myself away and get on with all the jobs the garden is demanding at this time of year. Nice to have you back.


Glad your back, missed you. It all looks beautiful, love the moments you capture, you do have a good eye 🙂 Hate insomnia, it’s drives me mad and I will never get used to it. What’s cookin’ in the kitchen Ben?? 🙂 x


Well, I wouldn’t normally comment on private matters but… who cares about monasteries and turquoise-and-pink cafes? ‘Someone in the kitchen cooking’ is the best that can happen.

Deby (in Canada)says:

Hooray, you’re back. We will all say that today. Enjoyed the glimpses of your holiday on instagram… The best though is ‘someone in the kitchen cooking’… so happy for you…
hugs… Deby

Nicola Lawrencesays:

Hooray, you’re back. Hooray to the beautiful holiday and photos which capture it so well. And most of all – hooray to the ‘someone in the kitchen cooking’. That’s wonderful, Ben.


Hooray, you’re back. Beautiful pics although the helicopter ride made me feel queasy just thinking about it. This reader definitely shares the insomnia. I’ve given up fighting it and now embrace it and find something to do. There is beauty in those quiet hours. And memories and experiences, such as walking down to the Cobb and watching the sea at 3am, which I wouldn’t have had if I had been asleep. So glad your equilibrium has been restored.

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