Relative values

15 March 2015
Ben Pentreath

I’m about to go a very long way and I’m getting so excited I can’t tell you. Charlie’s been home in New Zealand for a few weeks now. As I think I wrote previously, he had been invited for two weddings of close friends, seven weeks apart from one another.  So he’s been there for a month and on Thursday I’m heading out to join him.  At first, time moved very slowly. Now it’s rushing by to the minute I’ll be jumping on the plane.

What is so strange, after our wonderful, whirlwind relationship, is that it is only now that I’m about to meet all my new relatives on the other side of the world. I’m getting the feeling my right hand is going to be rather crushed in three week’s time.  I somehow suspect that the New Zealand farmers are going to have rather firm handshakes.  And I’m going to be shaking a lot of hands.

I’ve been thinking a little bit just recently about how many people must have made the journey to New Zealand, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, knowing that they would never again see the home they left. The Pentreaths made a great exodus to Australia about that time. In fact my own dad grew up for the first ten years of his life in Australia, making the perilous journey back to England in the closing months of the Second World War.

I’ll confess, until I met Charlie, it always seemed a bit far to go. And now, of course, it’s going to become part of my home too. And it doesn’t seem so far at all.

We’ve been talking every day. One of the nicest things of all about New Zealand is that it has a 13 hour time difference to London. I know that sounds strange but when I’m just getting ready to go to bed, Charlie’s just getting ready to get up, and vice versa. At the beginning and at the end of the day, it’s an ideal time for a chat.

But this week, tensions were running a trifle high. I could tell.  Charlie would say things like ‘okay, B, i’m going to let you go now….’ a lot more, and a lot more quickly, than usual.  But as it happens, there was no time to be wasted. It was the Mayfield A&P.

The Mayfield A&P, for the uninitiated, is the Mayfield Agricultural and Pastoral show, held annually in the tiny village of Mayfield, south of Christchurch, where the McCormick clan lives and farms.  This year was the 90th year of the show, held on Saturday. Amazingly, Charlie’s grandfather Hamish has been to every single one.

Charlie meanwhile had decided to enter 40 categories ranging from Floral Art to Baking. He had a lot on his plate, literally.

Here is Hamish, photographed by Charlie. I love this photo.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 17.06.22

And some scenes from the Parade which Charlie was sending me:Unknown-6 Unknown-1 Unknown-2 Unknown

The action, though, is really all happening in the Produce Shed:Unknown-7 Unknown-3 Unknown-5 Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 17.07.26 Unknown-4

There were 219 entries in the baking category:Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 17.06.56

This is a photograph not of one of Charlie’s actual submissions but a flower arrangement he made as part of his talk to the local flower arranging society earlier in the week. It is included here for dramatic effect.Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 17.07.51

And then, what we’ve all been waiting for: Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 17.06.34

It turns out that Charlie not only won prizes in twenty five categories, including the hotly-contested Chocolate Cake entry, but that the aforementioned cake, and one of his flower arrangements, were each the “PREMIER EXHIBIT” in their class.  Of 219 baking entries, Charlie’s cake was deemed the best. I think this is a fact that everyone in the office over here in London will find easy to believe.

He’ll probably kill me for writing this blog but let’s all hope that I’m forgiven?

I can’t wait to arrive in Mayfield and to meet my new family.  This time next week I’ll be there, at the end of my first day in New Zealand.

Things felt very quiet in London by comparison, pottering about and getting ready.  No holiday is complete without a visit to Daunts on Marylebone High Street,

Unknown-1 copy

And no trip to New Zealand is complete without reading this, I think, which I found in the neatly-shelved Australasia department:Unknown copy

The blog may be going on a bit of a holiday I think, as well, so that we’ve got time together, and so that I’ve got time to enjoy what I’m seeing and to take it all in. Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll get the urge to write it all down…. who knows? If not, see you in April.

29 comments on this post


How wonderful to meet, marry and be shown a whole new world in under a year.

New horizons opening up in front of you with totally different beautiful landscapes, mountains, rivers, colours, light, plants, wildlife all on the other side of our planet with a wonderful guide!
( I have been following your IG photos as well).
Night, night, from old side of the world,
Best wishes for your future together.

Amanda Towesays:

Ben, you are right about the people who left Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries expecting never to see their homeland and family again. My great – grandfather left a small village in Norfolk in about 1873, trying sheepfarming in New Zealand but finally settling in Australia a few years later. He did not return to England till 1927 when he spent six months in Sussex. I would have an educated guess that he also made the short trip across the channel to see the grave of his son who died in Pozieres in 1916. No wonder people were such good correspondents.

Your post brought back so many happy memories of country fairs. I’m from Christchurch and have lived in London for 25 years but you can never take NZ out of the girl! It’s the light that always amazes me when I go home. I’m wondering if you found that too.

I’d love to try that winning chocolate cake!I love baking myself but I never really found a chocolate cake recipe that would speak to me, maybe because I’m more of a cheesecake fan. I’m sure this cake would persuade me though… Have a great time!


Lovely to hear about your new family in New Zealand – have a wonderful trip!

A little snippet of New Zealand history for you: many years ago I worked in the National Archives and made a delightful discovery one day in the Colonial Office records. Having sent convicts to Australia, the government of the day planned a new scheme for New Zealand. Instead of convicts, they selected fine young men of good character to populate the new townships. They travelled in well-appointed ships and, en route, were taught to read and write. Some of their exercise books, with slow, careful lettering, are preserved in the records. They brought tears to my eyes. Most moving was a note from the teacher saying that letters had been written by the men to their families and given to a passing ship that was homeward bound.


I wonder how the Kiwis like being filed under “Australasia” – I guess that by now you know a bit about the (mostly) friendly rivalry between the Kiwis and us Aussies ;). Like you, my family made the gigantic move to the other side of the world in the 19th century, but my Charles and now I live in London.

I hope you have a brilliant time.

Hi Ben, I was DELIGHTED to see this post. Beautiful as ever, and I loved the mention of the Pentreaths spreading far and wide to Australia. Like you, I happen to be about to fly to Sydney with my partner to meet her family!!! We’re going a whole year, not just a month. So I wanted to say ‘hi’ and wish you all the best fro your trip – have an amazing time in New Zealand. Rosie P x


Hi Ben, I love your blog so much. I have lived in Wellington New Zealand for 30 years, came here from London with my Kiwi husband. Hope you have a fantastic time, Kiwis are such welcoming people and I am sure you will be welcomed with open loving arms.If you have time try to get a visit in down to Queenstown and Arrowtown, both lovely this time of year. Our New Zealand wines also are pretty special.Have a great holiday.


You won’t be able to resist sending us photos Ben! I lived in Queenstown 30 years ago and bought a book of landscape photos and wrote in the flyleaf “Remember in years to come the colours REALLY are this amazing!!’


hey ben, try and get a copy of ruth park’s dear hearts and gentle people, and Elizabeth goudge’s green dolphin country, ripper books set in new zealand

OH, HOW I LOVE THIS!!! Gorgeous horses! Lovely goats! The food and flowers! And Ben, have you ever married a talent! Charlie, I am SO IMPRESSED that I’ve gone all SHOUTY!

Enjoy New Zealand! Kisses!


Have a wonderful time with Charlie and your new family. My father was born in Christchurch, and I made the trip in 2004 to meet all the extended family I have in the North and South Island. I’ll miss your post but look forward to hearing all about your adventures. ps I think Charlie should frame all his awards like an intaglio group.

Deby (in Canada)says:

Your excitement for your upcoming travels fairly bursts off the page (screen)…
What an adventure it will be… relish every minute of it, take a blog vacation…
then share with us in your unique style when you return…
25 cheers for Charlie!!!
big hugs from soon to be Deby (in London)


Congratulations Charlie! I became obsessed with figuring out what kind of chocolate cake he made that everyone on Instagram was raving about. It looked like a flourless chocolate cake? So, I had to make one during the holidays but perhaps he’d share his recipe one day.

julien devergniessays:



I’ve been following Charlie’s adventures on IG,NZ looks splendid and I’m sure you will be in fine company. Safe travels & I look forward to hearing your impressions upon your return.


You will be missed (on a Monday with a glass of chilled white) but I hope you have a wonderful time.


Get used to being called ‘Bin’! Have a fantastic trip. Last visited NZ North Island in 1980. Nothing had changed since 1950. A good thing. Nicola in still chilly East Devon.


Oh, I’ve been away from your blog for much too long! Trying to catch up now, working my way backwards through your posts. I’d have been in the bookstore for hours, they’re always such a dangerous place for me. I end up walking out with a stack of books. Marvelous photos from NZ, reminds me of the country fairs around New England. Enjoy your vacation with Charlie!


I’ve been calumphing all over Dorset, Paris and Florence these past few weeks and have been missing out on reading blog news. And then I come here and discover that Charlie is a Kiwi! How wonderful. I do so hope you love your trip – I can’t see how you could fail to. It’s a fantastic country – full of spectacular beauty, and the people are some of the best, anywhere, ever. You can say hello to a complete stranger walking down the street and still be there, fifty minutes later, chatting away. There is also a disproportionately high degree of creativity in such a small country with so few people.

Have a brilliant time Ben and Charlie. Congrats on the choccy cake prize Charlie.


Hope you love NZ – I do. Especially the people, the food, the wine, the landscape. The latter as far removed from England as you can possibly get, but in its own way, beautiful.

Simon Csays:

Dear Ben, the similarities between the Mayfield fair and the Port Hope Fall Fair are astonishing. You and Charlie need to come and visit. I had a gin and tonic with @theotherqueenmother this afternoon to wish her bon voyage for her trip to London and so we could both toast you and your safe travels.

Rose in Ohiosays:

Have great fun and watch out for the horrible cyclone that is approaching New Zealand.


Greetings from NZ! While you are looking forward to coming “downunder” I am excitedly planning a trip to London and a visit to your shop …. I am embarassed to admit I had never heard of Mayfield until reading your post … the South Island is beautiful especially at this time of the year. Travel safely.


Dear Ben, sitting in the tin can for all those hours to get here is pretty vile but when you do what an adventure ! It will be such fun to read your impressions – I think there will be much that will unnerve you slightly because it seems familiar and yet so different at the same time. All good wishes for the happiest holiday yet. And thank you so much for including the photo of Daunts – heaven !

Nicola Lawrencesays:

Dear Ben. Congratulations to Charlie – he, like you, is very clever… I think his floral arrangement is beautiful but that photo of his grandfather is wonderful…. what a beautiful portrait. It should also hang on the wall behind…. (I wonder if any of Charlie’s family members are hanging on that wall?). Rats to your father leaving Australia…. although I suppose your existence would have been dependant on your mother also being in Australia at the right time (I am only thinking of how we would have enjoyed having your and your talents ‘over here’). Have a great trip and travel safely. Cheerio, Nicola


Hi Ben I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it each week, and to say a big thank you. It really is inspiring to me and I enjoy both what you write and you great photos and commentary. I have learnt such a lot from them and also found out about some really interesting and inspirational people . Have a great holiday and look forward to future posts!


Make sure you get yourself a Swanndri wool jacket, practically indestructible and perfect for just mucking around in Dorset!


Fab post the excitement of your trip shines through have the best time and please do not give us all a second thought until you get back.

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