London Special Double Billing…

28 December 2014
Ben Pentreath

I hope you’ve had the best Christmas ever. We were down with Mum and Dad on the Isle of Wight, and had a lovely time. But this time, the blog this week is about two happy days in London either side of the holiday, as your little sneak preview last week will have let you know. Let’s call it the holiday double billing.



Early on the Saturday before Christmas we met our clients Justin and Paula at Portobello. It’s funny, looking at these photos, to think how we all feel the two or three days before Christmas, and how we are a couple of days after… That is, I suppose, the definition of anticipation. Fair enough. I love Christmas – beginning, middle, and end.

Notting Hill sparkled. We were there with the early birds, the delivery trucks and market traders setting up stands.P1070094

You’ve got to know your way around the arcades, but inside some are amazing treasures. My favourites are downstairs at the Admiral Vernon and at the back of the Gallery Arcades.P1070097 P1070099 P1070102 P1070105 P1070107

We had a good rummage and made even better buys. Then it was time to say goodbye. Charlie and I  were heading to Peter Hone’s for lunch. Welcome to heaven. P1070139P1070110

P1070115Peter’s flat, as you will know from blogs past, is laden with extraordinary architectural fragments from which he makes amazing casts in plaster of Paris. P1070113 P1070114

The kitchen is like a Portobello dream stand:


The bedroom is painted the palest mint green:P1070141and in amongst the castings, you find Basil, Peter’s extremely naughty Jack Russell.  There is more about Basil in a minute.P1070117

Lunch is eaten around a beautiful pink and white striped table:

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Here is Peter amongst his collection, tapping away on his i-pad (Peter is not afraid of technology).  But lunch was over. We were taking Basil for a walk.P1070132

Basil’s playground is Ladbroke Square Gardens.
P1070143 P1070145 P1070146 He doesn’t like being kept on a lead.

He does like chasing tennis balls, which Peter confiscates and keeps in one of the urns in the middle of the garden, just in case you are looking for your tennis ball. Walking past that particular urn drives Basil mental.  You can see why:

Basil is virtually impossible to photograph. He never stands still:P1070157

Which is possibly a good thing. He has recently caused a bit of a raucous in the gardens.  If you look carefully at the gardens noticeboard you will see four tell-tale sticky bits on the outside of the glass.


What on earth has been going on?  Peter confessed.  Basil got in to terrible trouble the other day, and Peter received a letter from the Gardens Committee.  Peter initially tore it up but on reflection was so incensed that he glued it together and stuck it to the noticeboard. He sent me the evidence.

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Obviously the blog could never in a month of Sundays condone the behaviour of naughty dogs in London gardens, but we do, I’m afraid, condone blowing a raspberry to the Dog Sub-Committee. And of that, Mr Peter Hone is a master. I suspect there won’t ever be a statue erected to Peter and Basil in Ladbroke Square Gardens, but I feel there should be.  Peter is one of London’s greatest geniuses, and Basil his soul-mate.  Best not to tell them they can’t run in the garden. (Apologies if you are a member of the Garden Committee reading this blog. PEACE ON EARTH).

We headed home through streets rushed with last minute shoppers. The last rays of the sun caught the top of the Post Office Tower and all felt very very well with the world.



Today was a first. I got on a Barclays bike. I’ve got a confession to make. My trusty Pashley has had a flat tyre for about 8 months now, and I always forget to mend it until the moment I need it, by which time it’s too late and outrageously I resort to a taxi every time. I think it’s time to rethink the Pashley. Charlie got me on it. Barclays bikes from now on.

Charlie and I headed to Primrose Hill.  I’ve written about Primrose Hill before, of course. It’s one of my favourite parts of London. But it was Charlie’s first visit, and it did look remarkable in the slanting winter sunshine.

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If we lived in a tall Victorian townhouse in Primrose Hill, I think this would be our kind of car:

The view from the top of the hill, looking out across London, was as beautiful as ever…P1070188 P1070189

But I was fascinated to see how many cranes were on the skyline (far more than October 2013 when I last photographed this view):P1070187P1070192 P1070193


London construction is booming, and I’m not always sure for the best.  But somehow I suspect this view will always remain amazing.P1070195

We wandered back through the ice-cream coloured streets of Primrose Hill.  The blue house in Chalcot Crescent featured recently as Paddington Bear’s London home, and I wonder if the father and child walking by were having a close look for that reason?P1070199 P1070203 P1070206

I love the palettes of Primrose Hill. The award for the best colour scheme of all time goes to this house:P1070209

We walked back to King’s Cross along the canal.
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Where we slightly fell in love with this canal keeper’s cottage…P1070244

I am thrilled every time I visit the amazing Kings’ Cross redevelopment. It’s brilliant.P1070245

And then home, past St. Pancras glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. I’ve just been reading about the battle for St. Pancras in Gavin Stamp’s brilliant little collection of essays, Anti-Ugly, which I can’t recommend enough.P1070250

Thank god for the Victorian Society, Pevsner and Betjeman, in the 1960s when all this was due to be swept away:P1070252 P1070253 And… home.

Have a really happy New Year. Haven’t the last few weeks and months flown by? I’m so excited about 2015, and I hope you are as well.

19 comments on this post

Emily A. Knappsays:

Hello! I’m an artist and would like to know where Peter accumulated many of his figures in his studio. I assume he’s accumulated them over a number of years but if you know of a good source where you can buy them new that you care to share, then I’d love to know! Old casts have so much more character but I haven’t traveled for a while not are they easy to find in Palm Beach, Florida. The only source that I know of and use is


PS. somehow this sentence was missed out, ‘There are so many lovely places in which to live,’ in between ‘blissfully happy time’ and ‘now I live’…


It’s been another entertaining year for readers of your blog…here’s wishing you a happy 2015!


Thanks for sharing. I loved the photos of Primrose Hill and the treasures in Notting HIll. Happy New Year!


Lovely post Ben , thank you. At one time I lived facing the top end of Primrose Hill, and daily walked to and from work in Great Ormond Street through Regents Park. My daily shopping was Lambs Conduit Street and in Primrose Hill village.A blissfully happy time. Now I live in Italy; has Will found his dream house yet?
Wishing you continued happiness in 2015.

Pierre B.says:

Great post, Ben, thank you. You definitly live in my favorite part of London (for personal and litterary reasons). I wish you a happy and still inspiring year!
Basil may appeciate a harness instead of a collar… if he must wear something… My dog (a terrier too) does.


Hmm. The ‘proper family community’ of London squares. Complete with fussy Victorian governesses watching from their benches, apparently. I can’t read what awfulness Basil has actually done when off-lead. Maybe it’s simply the infraction of a rule which brings on the conniptions. But I hope Peter Hone picks up his (Basil’s) poo. Even geniuses need to pick up their dogs’ poo.

And speaking of governesses and their twitchy sensibilities, I was filled with pleasure at the sight of the sugared almond colours of Primrose Hill. Especially the pink and green. Oh! Here, in our heritage terrace of three, we are all strictly policed so that we have identically coloured facades and paintwork. Off white and off black, the offness our one point of interest. Not even a coloured front door! It’s sensory deprivation, I tell you.

I’m glad you had a wonderful Christmas. May you have a wonderful year.

You are making me yearn for a root around Portobello market, a must each time I visit my hometown. Mr. Hone’s place looks just as intriguing as the market and a place I’d feel most at home if I had the privilege of visiting.

The photograph of the cranes on London’s skyline is rather alarming. Poor St. Paul’s; I worry that it will soon vanish and be enveloped by modern monstrosities, sigh. Wren will be rolling in his grave poor man.

Heavens, what a scrumptious-looking lunch! I enjoyed Peter Hone’s response to the dog contretemps–I am just now reading Rowlings’ “The Casual Vacancy,” I can almost picture the Garden Nazis as part of the novel. (There’s not a single shoot of Basil off his lead, obviously someone pointed to the wrong dog!) Thanks to Peter for allowing your readers to share his luncheon, and to you for inviting us there and on the subsequent tour. An afternoon well spent!


What a fun read! So happy I found your blog…..
BTW, you are hilarious and a very talented writer! Loved hearing about the antics of Basil and his owner. Also fell in love with the canal keeper’s cottage. Thanks so much…….

lillian sharpsays:

What i love about you is that you see beauty in everything. So do i. It’s absolutely wonderful. Your pictures are exquisite . Thanks .

Happy Holidays and New Year to you and yours. Reading your blog always sets me up for a great day. It makes me feel I’m in England for the moment.

I stayed on Regents Canal on my recent trip over, and had many opportunities to admire the architecture at St. Pancras. It’s a great building and the redevelopment efforts look terrific.

Hope you, Charlie and Bridie had a great Christmas, and all my best wishes for a brilliant New Year!


I loved this all. Thanks again for sharing and Happy New Year to you both !

Portobello & Primrose Hill are 2 of my favorite haunts in London – thanks for all the great shots and a wonderful 2015 to you.


Glorious, everything. I especially liked P.Hone’s response to the dog people and your imaginary Primrose Hill car.
Happy 2015


Not a church, st pancras station, silly me!


What a good walk, canalside! I must try it. The House of Illustration in the kings x redevelopment is wonderful, next time you’re there.
And I adore peter hone’s pink and white tablecloth, stripes are brilliant.
Is that little house nestling under the ? Hawksmoor church where you live? Even better than the lock keeper’s cottage!!


Thank you for this swoon-worthy (and swoon I did) post. Thank you for every week’s adventure filled with so much beauty. A very happy New Year to you and all at Pentreath & Hall.

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