Quiet times

4 December 2016
Ben Pentreath

Mavis and I don’t entirely know what to do with ourselves.

Yesterday afternoon we drove Charlie to the airport and said a sad goodbye as he headed off to New Zealand for a week or so, just before Christmas, checking in with family and friends, and with the mother country. Mavis and I carried on down to Dorset where she spent the next few hours looking around the house everywhere for Charlie. Yesterday evening I found her curled up hidden under one of the old cast iron beds upstairs.  The thing is, wherever Charlie goes, by and large, Mavis goes. I might be stuck up in London with this and that going on while Charlie is down here, hard at work on the flowers or veg patch, but Mavis is always with him. So it’s definitely quite a shock to her system, and anyone who says that dogs don’t understand things in quite a lot of detail probably needs to think again.

This morning, bright and early, we went for a nice long round walk up top, the sun just rising, the wind bitterly cold. We got back down to the house as the sun was beginning to warm things up.p1070532 p1070533 p1070535

A frost in the veg garden, and all of Charlie’s incredible hard work in the last month making everything look more organised than it has ever been.p1070537 p1070543

One person isn’t really allowed in.
p1070545 p1070547 p1070548 p1070549

Henry makes a rare blog appearance. The cats are missing Charlie too, I would say, but not in quite the same way as Mavis or me. So long as they have their cozy bed in the boiler room or on a bed or in front of the fire, and as long as there are large quantities of food in their bowls, they are pretty happy.

But what is interesting (and un-photograph-able, generally) is how much Percy in particular is being very sympathetic to Mavis, giving her little licks all morning.  Here is Percy in more normal mode, about to pounce on a leaf.p1070553

My brother and sister-in-law came down from Bath today and we went for a beautiful walk over in Abbotsbury. I know everyone flocks to Dorset in high summer but if I’m really honest it’s all the more beautiful on these chilly, clear, sunny days in winter, with low sun and slanting shadows and skies as clear for as far as the eye can see. It was a magical day.p1070555 p1070556 p1070558 p1070559 p1070561

We had a lovely walk to the tiny chapel on the hillside above Abbotsbury (that I have blogged about before) bringing Tim & Lisa’s new puppy Monty, who is very good friends with Mavis (photos on instagram). Lunch in the pub afterwards.

When we got home, and they’d left, the house felt very quiet again. The sunshine was streaming in.  Geraniums are over-wintering in the Dining Room bay window.p1070562

Another glimpse of the kitchen sofa….p1070563 p1070564

The garden is looking amazingly beautiful at this time of year, not least because over the last couple of weeks Charlie has applied a huge layer of well-rotted manure as a mulch over all the beds. p1070567 p1070569

Charlie decided, as we normally do, to leave the dahlias in this year – protected, we hope, under a thick mulch. Fingers crossed!p1070591But at least this side of the house is warm and sheltered…. soaking up every last ray of afternoon sunshine. p1070596p1070572

The new yew hedges around the flower garden are settling in well and provide an amazing frame:p1070573 Here and there, tiny and unexpected touches of new life – an early, early primrose, flowering at completely the wrong time of year…

… and bulbs are shooting under the beech tree.  Signs of optimism.

While elsewhere a late rose is still flowering…p1070586Still looking:p1070585Charlie’s enormous pumpkin is holding on.  Moments later, the sun had gone down behind the hill on the opposite side of the valley.  It soon got cold and we were inside for tea.p1070601

Tonight, we’re still missing Charlie, but I’ve just spoken to him all the way down in Auckland, about to make the final short leg down to Christchurch, which feels a world away but just a fraction of time and space away as well. p1070606And Mavis and I are sitting by a hot, glowing fire, and the cats are in the kitchen, and I suppose I’m thinking to myself – just how much life has changed in a couple of years, and just how unbelievably lucky I am to be able to miss someone this much.

21 comments on this post

Deborah Wagnersays:

Ben, I know how hard it is to watch a dog miss its master. When my husband travelled, our dogs used to be nonplussed for a couple of days and then go into a full-on hunger strike. I spent the rest of the time on my hands and knees begging them to eat and feeling very inadequate. This will pass, though, and Charlie will be greeted with delerium when he returns. I expect he misses you all every bit as much as you miss him.

Suzy Fannngsays:

Ben, I so appreciate your kindness and generosity in allowing us to share in your life. As expressed by other commentators, many of us are ex pats who live all over the world. While I love my life in the States, your blog encapsulates what I miss most about home. Mondays are always better when I sit down at work and the first thing I get to see are the wonderful photographs and imaginative descriptions in your blog. I am so happy that you have a family with Charlie, Mavis and the cats and that you have a reunion with your husband to look forward to when he returns from his trip. Have a peaceful week, Suzy


As others have noted it is a very precious gift you give us and it is most appreciated.If architecture and design were not your avocations then writing would be. Your ability to sum up the human condition in the most intimate terms always makes for a delightful read. I do hope one day in the future you might consider compiling your musings & photos into a good old fashioned book.
The old bit of Charlie’s clothing should cheer Mavis up and perhaps one of his jumpers might help his clearly devoted husband.

Carolyn Arringtonsays:

Here in Boston, we had the first snow fall of the year. It’s cold and dreary and after the election we are all a bit down and even fearful. The loving sentiments expressed by you and Mavis warm my heart and give me hope for our care of one another.


Thank you so much for sharing your lives on this most beautiful blog. My favorite, by far… Merry Christmas, and I hope Charlie is home soon. For all of you!


I know what you mean about missing someone, our daughter is in your neck of the woods, lovely London and we are home in New Zealand. No matter how long the ones we love are gone whether it be a day, a week or years the missing them never lessens. How blessed we are as you say Ben, to love someone so deeply that when they are not with us we miss them so much. Hopefully you are coming down under to spend a wonderful Kiwi Christmas with Charlie and his family.


I’m sitting here in sunny S Florida looking for a distraction from the back pain I’m experiencing (I’m just out of the hospital). In reading your post, not only am I distracted but I’m transported to a beautiful place. Thank you for your thoughtful words and for the distraction. I think I’ll write myself a prescription to read more of what you write (love the photos also). Charlie is Quite the gardener; you can see how much work he’s done to prepare the garden for winter.

I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate the distraction from pain.

Thank you.


Rose Dwightsays:

You are so amazing. Each Monday morning in Ohio I rush to my computer to see if your post is up. The photos and your words just give me a boast. I deeply appreciate all the care you take with the photos and comments. Hope Charlie is back soon.


When leaving on a trip I usually bring the suitcases up from the basement and let them air for a day or two. Our golden starts to mope around the house. It’s so heartbreaking. However, when we all get back, I love how excited he is and how he cries with happiness. So, yes, dogs do have a pretty good understanding of daily details…and sometimes he likes to remind me!


Dear Ben

I feel for you and Mavis, you are lucky indeed, and take comfort the time will pass quite quickly and you’ll all be together again. I definitely need a Charlie to look after my garden! I am missing my little house in Swanage as my cat in London has been struck down by some mystery illness and Ive been London-bound for the past few weekends, whilst she hangs on and perplexes the vet and empties my bank account. I whole-heartedly agree that out of season is best in Dorset, you must head up Purbeck way in winter too when you get the chance, I can share a few good walks ideas with you. All good wishes.


Looking forward to your Monday posts has become one of most anticipated moments of my day here in the U.S. Both with photos and words you invariably manage to capture some essence of the beautiful English countryside and traditions, as well as offer a glimpse into the personal and intimate moments which make up all of our lives. Well done!

Diane Keanesays:

The photo of Mavis staring over the garden fence, yearning for a glimpse of Charlie, would be heart-breaking if we didn’t know the whole story. I can’t wait to see the photos of the rapturous reunion! Percy’s markings are gorgeous, I don’t recall seeing a cat with a coat like that before. How sweet that he is trying to comfort Mavis. Cats know, too. Thank you for another heart-warming post.

Hugs, and an extra big hug for Mavis!


Anna Ksays:

A wise and moving post, Ben. ‘How lucky I am to be missing someone so much.’ I shall remember that.

Re: Mavis’s melancholy. If you have an ancient shirt, scarf or sock of Charlie’s that you can sacrifice, pop it in Mavis’s bed. It will remind her of him and he won’t seem so far away.


Dogs understand. And, yes, winter light is very beautiful.

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben Such a beautiful and wistful post…we are lucky to share…the work Charlie has accomplished in the garden is a wonder! Give Mavis lots of extra hugs and treats while he is away… I want to be sitting on that kitchen sofa with my knitting and morning coffee…
cheers Deby

Lindsey Backsays:

As I swelter here in Brisbane (not so far from Christchurch really) I enjoy your photo’s of Dorset in winter. I am English (I grew up in Sussex) although I have lived in Oz for many years. I still find that sense of ‘place’ that I grew up with stirring within me. I think it always will for I identify with the landscape so much I could never consider myself wholly Australian (much to the chagrin of friends who don’t understand). Thank you for feeding my desire and I hope Charlie will be home soon both for you and Mavis.


Beauty…. If I could figure out how to put heart emojis here, I would!


Once again you have managed to intoxicated the senses with your heartfelt blog.Charlie has certainly worked very hard in the garden even in winter you can see how much it is cared for strangely even more beautiful nature having a little rest before once again she reveals her magnificence often the joy of anticipation and preperation is as rewarding and exciting as arriving at our goal reminding us that it really is true that the best things in life are worth waiting for.There is a whole lot of love around you wonderful that you share it with others.Cest la vie.

Mike Esays:

Oooh, that picture looking across the hill to the sea – the pale green grass and the pale blue sea and the paler blue sky. It’s gorgeous.

The only good thing about leaving a dog when you go away it the raptures of delight they go through when you come back home. I suspect it’s the same for husbands.

Pierre B.says:

“L.amour c’est pas quelque chose, c’est quelque part.”

Réjean Ducharme


” Love is’nt something, it’s somewhere.”

David Sanderssays:

I could be reading too much into this, but in your photographs of Mavis, she really does look a bit down – poor old thing. Charlie has certainly picked a nice time of year to visit New Zealand; summer has just arrived, and everything is still looking very lush in Canterbury NZ; it begins to dry off in Jan/feb. The last photo looks so incredibly cosy, that I could almost begin to miss the winter months – so everything is fine Ben.

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