Happy times, in two parts

7 May 2017
Ben Pentreath

P A R T   O N E

The blog was on a bank holiday last weekend. Did you notice?  It’s not that I’d stopped keeping my eyes open, but when Monday evening came I decided it would be nice, for once, to have a night where we just watched a film. We’d had a fun weekend down in Dorset with our friends Christopher and Arthur.  Which had involved absolutely nothing new at all under the sun, because we were visiting lots of old haunts.

So it was a good thing that on Saturday morning, early, when I was catching the train down to Dorset (having had a rare Friday evening in London at the Rugby Street 450th Birthday Party), that I got to Waterloo Station half an hour early, in gorgeous sunshine. I decided to go for a brief wander.

Unintentional pattern making…

The station facade is a grand piece of Edwardian Empire-building architecture, fine in its way. 

Sunlight glancing across the arches….

I walked across to the beautiful Greek Revival church that I had admired so many hundreds of times on my way to the station – but had never once had time to look at properly. 

The graveyard was full of suitably architectural monuments… 

And giant echiums.

The east front…

The portico.

I hadn’t known anything about the history of the Church until I looked it up.  Bombed heavily in the war, it was restored in 1950 and rededicated as the Festival of Britain Church.

The train sped down to Dorset; Charlie collected me, and we got home just in time for Christopher and Arthur to arrive. Fun times! After lunch we headed up to Somerset to three of our favourite gardens – Tintinhull, Lytes Cary, and Montacute.

The Camassias at Lytes Cary were breathtaking….

(Mavis, photobombing my picture of the dovecot, if you look carefully):

The camassia meadow in the orchard….

Then to Montacute, stately as always.

On Sunday, the rain swept in – we couldn’t, in one sense, have been happier. We went up to Mapperton, and shortly afterwards it was time for the boys to head on to their next destination (all the way to Derbyshire) and we settled into the quietest two days at the Parsonage. Then back to London for another manic week. Do you ever get the feeling, like me just at the moment, that you are running just to stay still?

P A R T   T W O

And so, on Friday, without quite pausing for breath, to Suffolk. We were staying with Charles and Rachel Morris – Charles, my old boss and mentor from so many years ago. On the Saturday we were meeting for an annual lunch, with all my old friends from the office, in memory of one of our colleagues, Gavin, who was snatched from us by cancer about three years ago – leaving his young family. It’s become a tradition and the nicest way to get together, in his memory, and think about the old days 20 years ago now when we all worked together.

But the day started early with a walk in the bluebell woods nearby…. looking their absolute best at this particular moment. 

Rachel and her grandson Otto…

There are, I think, few things more magical than an English bluebell wood in the first week of May, and I cast my mind back to similar trips past in Dorset, with Bridie.

Back in Blythburgh in the afternoon, we arrived to find Charlie and Mavis who had driven up from London that morning. Charles took Charlie on a tour of the garden. Mavis was rather wishing that someone would throw her a stick.

On Saturday evening we went down to Southwold for supper at the Harbour Inn, which is pretty much the perfect pub.  A sea cloud had rolled in over the town.

I adore the haphazard assembly of black fisherman’s huts down on the harbour front. 

Seagulls greedily eyed fish and chip eaters.

Local knowledge has it that Samantha K’s is the best place. 

And finally we were at the Harbour Inn, whose facade is marked by the 1953 Flood Line, which is something to give you pause for thought.  And we had a fine evening eating fish and drinking pints of Adnams Broadside, before walking back up to Southwold as night had fallen.

Today, Sunday lunch with the family – a walk beforehand….

Back up to beautiful, placid, lucid Blythburgh church, with its great roof of carved wooden angels….

And a quick pop in to brilliant Darsham nurseries and cafe (Charlie came away laden with special and interesting seeds), before a long and delicious and happy lunch, and a contented sleep in the sun afterwards, and an early evening drive back into London through the strange and restless edgelands of the A13.

All this feels a long way away already:

Tonight, an early night for us both as we are up at dawn to head to Dorset, where I am for work. Bonkers. I just have a feeling, it’s going to be another of those weeks.

12 comments on this post


I’ve never commented on a blog post before, but i felt I needed to let you know that I am so grateful for your generous sharing of your life and loves.
Your gorgeous photos and beautiful words have often been a welcome balm for a world gone slightly mad. Thank you.


I just love the photographs of the fisherman’s huts….


You may miss a session but you don’t half make up for it when service is resumed. Some random comments: pattern and graffiti sprayers (how do they do it?); the theme is blue and green, and gorgeous; must try some camassias for next year; that ladder is positively vertiginous; hope Mavis’s stick issues were sorted or she’ll photobomb again and again. Many thanks. Best, Nicola


Dear Ben,
Thank you so much for continuing to share the exquisite glimpses into the life that you, Charlie and Mavis lead. I save up reading your blog as a treat for when I need a special moment. It is more uplifting and less fattening than the finest chocolate (which is a big statement from someone who regards chocolate as a major food group). I don’t mind waiting for your blog. I am just delighted when it is there.

Rose D.says:

I wish I could send you a pan of brownies or some cookies as a thank you for all the weeks you send out this blog. Every entry cheers me up and I just wish I were there to see all the sights. Thank you again and again for finding time in your busy life to bring such beauty to our rather boring life in Ohio.


I never look up when entering Waterloo station but I’m going to next time and have a good look at that lovely clock and entrance. The Greek Revival church has always caught my eye, for years, and it is great to know more about it. You captured the carved wooden angels so beautifully, such soft colours. It was so nice to meet you briefly after my wonderful cut flower day. Just lovely.

Patricia Taylorsays:

Slow to get started this Monday morning and then read your
blog – it never fails. I’m off to plant some pots on the
terrace, bake a cake for tea, and then sit down to enjoy
your latest book a birthday treat to me from me !! Thank
you, your blog is certainly inspirational.

dana jenkinssays:

did we notice the break? we always notice the break and are so grateful when you reappear. I love how casually you tossed in, and that no one else found it remarkable, that you left London late last weekend because you were attending a 450th birthday party!


A rolling stone gathers no moss… A lovely peak into your doings,I hope your upcoming week isn’t too laborious.


What a busy life you lead and quite an enviable one rich in family friends nature and beauty and adorable Mavis.Your blog lifts the spirit inspires and for me it gives a message to live life to the full observe and be grateful for so many blessings.Thank you for a wonderful perspective on life which is pure joy so much needed in a world we live in today. As you quite rightly said in one of your blogs we might not be able to change the world but we can make a difference by living in a way that radiates peace love joy and compassion and a grateful heart God Bless you Ben for sharing with us.The wooden angels at Blythburgh church are wonderful one of the loveliest carvings l have seen l must find out more about them. Have a lovely week.


love that you continue and so agreeably’ escort us to exquisitely ancient churches and grave yards, that only an englishman could and would(!). blythburgh church is like architectural lace! hope samantha k’s serves her fish and chips in newspaper. thank you for sharing your! england with us, dear ben, my life is richer, each week, for your heart and soul filled generosity. am looking at snow that fell uninvited last night, your english fields of wild and tamed flowers are a gift.


David Sanderssays:

Nobody can accuse you of not having a full and rich life Ben; here, there and everywhere – I really must get out more myself.
The railings outside the Greek Revival church have interesting buttresses in a sort of rococo form; conforming to the rule of the golden ratio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *