The best things never change

20 November 2016
Ben Pentreath

We had Bridie, and our friend and neighbour Gabby Deeming (of House & Garden fame) staying for the weekend… and had the quietest time you could imagine.

The kitchen sofa was where we spent most time of all, I seem to think.  We love our new kitchen sofa, which came from Mum & Dad.  Here it is through the kitchen window, looking very at home.


The only event on Saturday was a book signing at beautiful Brassica, the perfect restaurant that is our favourite of all in Dorset, right on the Square in Beaminster.  A couple of years ago now Louise opened her superb little homeware shop, Brassica Mercantile, next door. And that is where I spent a happy morning meeting customers and signing copies before we headed next door for a delicious, long lunch, watching waves of rain come beating across the tiny square from darkly leaden clouds. p1070229

We got home as evening was falling; stormy weather was sweeping across Dorset; we lit a roaring fire and hunkered down. Supper was followed by big-screen viewing – I could not recommend more getting a simple projector and a folding screen and plugging your laptop in to watch movies. Muriel’s Wedding, in our case. Perfect. God what a brilliant film. 

This morning, Charlie and I took Mavis and Max for a walk.  The countryside has shifted in to deep Autumn. The storm had passed but a chill wind was blowing.p1070231 p1070234 p1070236 p1070241 p1070245 p1070248 p1070250 p1070255 p1070258 p1070259

For those who have been missing the kittens, they are growing up fast. But I must admit they are rather elusive. Here they are in their little nest in the boiler house, where they like to spend most of their time when they are not out and about, or lying in front of the fire.p1070260 p1070263

Along with Charlie’s dahlias from the veg garden, lifted and drying.  This week, Charlie has been working like a bionic man in the garden, planting many thousands of tulip bulbs in a few days. p1070264

After a late breakfast we went for a little stroll around the village….
p1070275 p1070277 The lake was glowing in the final flush of autumn colour, before all the leaves are off the trees…
p1070310 p1070315 p1070317 p1070319However tempting the stick, Mavis does not like getting in….
p1070323 p1070325 p1070337

Max meanwhile is quite a water baby….p1070341 p1070343 p1070344 p1070355 p1070357 p1070362 p1070366

The garden glowed in pale wintry light.p1070369 p1070371 p1070372 p1070374

Rows of lettuces are still doing well.p1070375

Next years hurdles and pea-sticks neatly tied.p1070376

The compost heap is vast.p1070377

As is Charlie’s pumpkin, which provided a photogenic seat for Max for quite a little while.p1070381 p1070390 p1070399

But what’s it all about, really?

On Friday evening, we’d all had a great night at the village social club. It was the Annual General meeting. I opened my (Chairman’s) report of the year 2015-2016 by saying that in this turbulent year, which has seen the collapse of governments, Britain voting to leave the European Union, and the election of President Trump, it was curiously reassuring to know that here in the village, nothing had changed at all, except, I would say, in the smallest ways, for the better. The social club annual accounts were up £64 on the year. No disasters had happened (and we’ve had our share of disaster in the village from time to time). The seasons ebb and flow, and life just ticks along as it has always, always ticked along. The pace of life, without a shadow of doubt, is slowed here.

I find something curiously reassuring in this, just as I find reassurance in this season of autumnal decay. These days, it is Charlie is doing all the incredible work in the garden – my role is as a lazy and eternally grateful and equally impressed spectator (lucky me, and for readers of the blog, lucky us).  But the one thing I do know about gardening is that it is optimistic. Here we are, sliding into the darkest, longest nights, the shortest days of the year, and Charlie is planting thousands of bulbs. Our minds right now are all about spring; about warmth in the soil, lengthening days, and the green tips of hundreds of daffodils and tulips edging their way up through turf or flower beds. Right at the darkest time of year we are thinking about the next season, about the future.  And meanwhile, the beds are straightened, hedges planted, shrubs cut back, things neatened and tidied in the dormant season; the past is put in order.

It’s a good time of year. Things are revolving, but the best parts of life don’t change.

21 comments on this post


I’m with Gillian Charles! Enough with the kitchen sofa foreplay…photo through a window!?? Give us the goods – full frontal INSIDE the kitchen please!


I was grateful to you for previous mentions of Brassica a couple of weeks ago, when we were trompsing around West Dorset looking at houses (tried to leave a message of thanks last week but your blog wasn’t having any of it). We too sat and ate a perfect lunch while the square darkened, and was flooded and then cleared again to sunshine. The most perfect liver and cabbage ever.

I also wanted to say that I hope Charlie’s family aren’t affected by the NZ earthquake ( I wish nobody’s family was).

Dorset and Autumn – a ravishing couple.


Such a lovely reminder to stop listening to/watching/reading all the negative news. Thank you, as ever. Your travels and London delights make great reading but these quiet, constant, reflective Dorset ones just hit the spot beautifully. Gratitude to you, and for sharing the wonders of Charlie’s brilliant gardening.


God, I needed this! Thanks for a reailty check in the midst of the sudden, profound disquietitude I feel. I want to dig out my needlepoint and think of nothing, just stitch and snuggle with the dog and listen to Beethoven sonatas—you know, the really important things. Hugs.

Thank you Ben❤️ Change is a good thing-keep planting with anticipation of the spring to come❤️
xo, Lissy

Laura Butler-Maddensays:

Gorgeous post as always – hiding away in Dorset is the perfect solution to escape the current chaos in the world! LBM x

debra phillipssays:

i am missing lovely dorset but when i come back next fall, off to beaminster i go to try your favorite restaurant.
your photographs combined with verbiage warms my heart while the external winds of fear and insults surround us
thank you

Diane Keanesays:

Thank you, Ben for this comforting and encouraging post. Dear friends, furry pets to cuddle with, gardens to keep us hopeful, truly some of the best things in life. Here in the U.S., strife and uncertainty batter us daily, but I try to the counter this with counting my blessings, of which your blog is definitely one.

I agree with the others, your readers want—nay, need!!—to see that roaring fire, preferably with Mavis snoozing before it, and the new kitchen sofa, preferably with Charlie ensconced, sipping something warm and restorative. As we hunker down to weather the coming storms, we are grateful to know that the best things in life will always be there to keep us going.

Blessings to you all,


Linda Schubertsays:

Can your friend Lulu Lytle have a lovely fabric made with the fall leaves photo? Love the color and texture! I would want to live with this print all year long. Cheers, Brandon’s Mom Linda


Thank you for this beautiful hymn to life’s constancy and the goodness of the earth. I love the painterly images of leaves and water especially. Hello from a slightly snowy Boston.

Judith Haxtonsays:

Saturday in a foggy and warm Montreal we raked the leaves today our first Snowfall !!! Thanks Ben for your beautiful words on the changing seasons.

Teresa Personsays:

Such a beautiful read…. I feel like I have read a short chapter in an English Novel…along w/ your photos and discriptive words … So simple yet so beautiful…I love this time of year… Here in the states we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving… Which I have so much to be grateful for… And then on to Christmas Holidays…. I love your description of your cozy evening… And your friend visiting… And the couch in the kitchen…. Love the dogs… And their beautiful walks w/ you… Your Garden is so beautiful … Look forward to seeing your tulips blooming….I’ve been to London several times, but never to Dorset… I want to visit next time I am over there and your shop in London… Thanks for sharing your life w/ us your readers…Teresa


How uplifting! Day 4 of a brokem boiler here in East Devon, rain of biblical proportions today, and Max sitting on the pumpkin made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. Cheers, Nicola


Thanks for being the voice of optimism and hope during these discouraging times.

Emma-Jane Whelansays:

Thank you Ben. That was just what the Doctor ordered! Autumn and winter fill me with a gloom that’s hard to shift but your observations on this time of year have been really helpful to alter my perspective. Well done that man! Penreath on prescription! x

Gillian Charlessays:

More on the kitchen sofa please – that single tantalising glimpse is simply not enough!


Yes, indeed Ben, you have me loving reading your blog this morning and thinking again how lucky I am to have stumbled across your musings.You have such a wonderful outlook on life and a great talent in putting it into words. Big big thankyou!


Ben,your ode to the continuity of country life put me in mind of Countess Dönhoff and her unwavering optimism that life does go on,even in terribly adverse conditions. Her family’s estates were in East Prussia and even though she intuited that one day the land would no longer be German ( she lived there until the Russians invaded in the spring of 1945) she carefully maintained everything and even planted new apple orchards-knowing that someone else in the future would enjoy their bounty. Though her world was destroyed she fled to the west and not only survived but became one of W. Germany’s most eminent citizens. Her autobiography is aptly named “Before The Storm”- I think a lot of us are feeling that a great storm is brewing and are sorting out how to deal with it. Maybe like the Countess & Charlie we should all nurture our own metaphorical gardens as a testament to both our lives but our hope in the future.
I do quite enjoy your musings as they often provide a measure of comfort & reassurance. All the best.

David Sanderssays:

So cosy, reassuring and essentially optimistic. Nice blog Ben. I bet there is a fiery furnace developing within that ‘vast’ compost heap.


I can’t begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blog posts having only discovered them about two weeks ago.
I live in a small village as well (but in Canada) and so many things you discuss remind me of life here in my village… much is unchanged over the years and I too am grateful for that constant in my life. I was reminded of a verse I saw on a garden plaque “He who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see believes in God”
We all have faith that when we plant our seeds and bulbs they will burst forth and provide so much beauty the following season. I look forward to January when I can buy pots of daffodils and tulips to provide cheer in my kitchen during the winter months.
Thank you too for all the lovely photographs. I will be back in England next year and Dorset is definitely on my list to visit.


You had me at “kitchen sofa”! The kitty’s are so lovely. Cheers from a rare rainy L.A.

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