Small moments

11 February 2018
Ben Pentreath

If you are driving along the lanes not too far from us, just to the west of the village of Long Bredy, you will see a beautiful display of snowdrops extending all the way along the verges, for hundreds of feet.  The snowdrops must now number in their thousands.  I’ve loved those snowdrops for years, now; this can’t be first or even the second time that I’ve posted photographs of them. But I learned recently that they were planted over many decades by Jill Maltby, our neighbour, who used to come to our church without fail every other Sunday, until she sadly died last autumn.

Every year, Jill would plant more and more snowdrops here, outside her house, and split the plants that she had already planted. Now, the verges will sparkle with the results of her labour for ever.

At moments when you might wonder what life is all about, I think Jill’s example is rather powerful. Quietly, unremarked, unnoticed, she has made-in a small moment-something extraordinary, for ever. 

If I’ve said, time and again on the blog, that my mantra is: don’t worry about the state of the world… fear not the things you cannot control; embrace the things you can. Make hundreds of tiny simple differences.  If we all do that, the world really will become a better place.

– – –

Yesterday, rain again came sweeping through west Dorset. The day was grey and grim. Like last week, we sidled in and out of a miserable Bridport, the market abandoned to the weather. The Parsonage was sodden as great waves of rain battered the valley. I caught up on a bit of work. Charlie suddenly discovered – after months and months of looking on at breeder’s websites – a corgi puppy for sale. So that was a turn up for the books. Sibyl will be arriving in a fortnight. Amazing. Watch this space!

We went for lunch with our friends Gracie & Adrian over at amazing Little Toller Books (it has been too long) and ate delicious lamb reared by their friend Alexa at Lower Hewood Farm, who was also there for the day. For a bitterly cold, wintry Saturday, life couldn’t have got any rosier. We ate and drank and chatted and darkness fell. Eventually we got home and had a movie night.

Today was bright and sparkling, but still with great waves of sleet and hail bursting intermittently across the landscape.   Our friend Emily (who, if you ever are travelling to Italy, you need to know: she runs Bellini Travel) was down, borrowing a friend’s house for the week. Could we come for lunch? We could.

After eating too much, again, we went for that sort of walk which reminds me why I love this particular part of our country so much. I think the pictures tell a better story than words.

We could for a moment have been on the Scottish moors.  As we turned and headed for home, a huge hailstorm swept again over the coast. 

It wasn’t too long before we were engulfed.

And then the weather cleared again, to reveal a beautiful soft sunset. We had had to tear ourselves away. I have an early start in the morning, from London. So I’m on the train, missing Charlie and Mavis and Henry, by the fire at the Old Parsonage for another evening.  It is very hard to tear myself away on nights like this, but I suppose that from time to time, that is life – one that is best made up of very small moments.

27 comments on this post

Jessica Marcumsays:

A corgi puppy! I can’t wait to see her. Our Watson (tri color Pembroke) will be 7 this December and I’ve decided we can never be without one. I’m sure you’ll love her! Also, thank you for your wisdom. I always appreciate a good reminder to lift where you stand.

Sally Stotler Leonardsays:

Ben, your stories of your and Charlie’s life in England are tonics to the soul. Although an American, who has always lived in Texas, I’ve been drawn to England for over fifty years. This feeling is so strong, I’ve wondered if I had a previous life there. Thanks again, for brightening my day.

Margaret Powlingsays:

Hello, Ben,
I’ve not looked in for a while, can’t think why, but here I am again. But before I look at all those lovely countryside photos, I must say one thing: corgis are little b&ggers! We had one when I was a child. She was called Sherry and looked as if butter wouldn’t melt, etc, etc (a Pembrokeshire corgi, not a long-haired Cardiganshire corgi). She was bought from a breeder locally and her grandfather was a Crufts Champion (I think her ‘real’ name was Jonlys Jewel or something like that, from the depths of my childhood memory.) As my parents had a shop, she was a very good house (i.e. guard) dog. After all, they were once used as Welsh cattle dogs, for herding cattle. She’d let anyone in, but wouldn’t let anyone out! She would go straight for their ankles and nip or even bite. Even members of the family suffered from this. When I was ready to go to school, my mother used to put her lead on her and hold her tightly so that she’d not bite me as she thought she was going out, too!
So, be warned! Corgis aren’t all sweetness and light (I’m sure you know this, though!) I read in the paper recently that with all a lot of attention on the Queen and the royal family recently, the age of the Queen, the Duke retiring, Harry becoming engaged, etc, corgis are once again in the limelight and therefore have gained in popularity (a bit like pugs currently being very much an ‘in’ dog, regardless that the little blighters find breathing difficult.) So, the best of luck if you get a corgi! If you soon nurse puncture wounds, don’t say I didn’t tell you, ha ha!
By the way, those snowdrops are wonderful!
Margaret P

Sarah Smithsays:

What a wonderful mantra, it has now become mine “don’t worry about the state of the world… fear not the things you cannot control; embrace the things you can. Make hundreds of tiny simple differences. If we all do that, the world really will become a better place”.

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, you are the only one who can make mud look beautiful. So nice that you started with the miracle of Jill’s snowdrops, before pelting us with sleet and hail! Will you and others continue Jill’s legacy, dividing and planting on as the years go by? That sounds right up Charlie’s alley!

Looking forward to meeting Mavis’s new little sister Sibyl. If you find later that another dog is needed (pets like to have pets of their own, you know) please consider adopting from a shelter.

Gratitude is the best exercise for mental health, thank you for your inspiration and example.


It was lovely to read your blog, as always, and especially to learn about your neighbour Jill Maltby and her wonderful legacy. Congratulations on the impending arrival of Sybil. I guess Henry the cat will be fine, since he’s used to living with a dog. But I did wonder if you’d thought about taking on a rescue dog, instead of buying one from a breeder? As you know, there are thousands of dogs, of all types and breeds, in rescue centres throughout the UK. I always feel that it is irresponsible of breeders to keep producing dogs when so many are desperate to be homed. I guess you’ve set your heart on a Corgi puppy and perhaps it would be difficult to find that particular breed in a rescue centre …

Jennifer Phillippssays:

What glorious images of your part of the world….fabulous juicy clouds and mellow colours. I could quite happily cope with a spot of cold weather as we are sitting here in NZ with ghastly humidity as well as hot temperatures again…..not complaining as such, but too much of a good thing sometimes! Look forward to the arrival of Sybil….very exciting. Cheers

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben …. as often- you leave me breathless- we are under snow and ice so this is extra uplifting and the story about Jill Maltby is a life lesson to all of us and the generous thing you do is share such stories with all your readers… thank you!!! Sibyl is the icing 🙂
hugs to you Charlie Mavis and Henry
xxx Deby


thank you for my good cuppa’ english, dear ben. i appreciate hearing of jill maltby and her making this planet a snow drop memorial to her caring kindness. a good reminder of what can be done, by one. sigh on sibyl, mavis will eventually love her sibyl. hard to imagine that there is a waiting list for corgi pups in england/hone grown. a good week to you, dear ben, with double english kindness back to you.

Debra M.says:

Amen to the snowdrops. And a corgi puppy? I am weak with her cuteness and I haven’t even seen her yet.


I do so appreciate your generosity in sharing not only snippets of your life via words & photos but also your sincere reflections on life. Thoughtfulness is a commodity in rare supply these days.
Perhaps it’s the difference of living in the states vs. the U.K. that causes me to diverge slightly from your sage words on living a life of being not only kind but purposeful. Indeed,yes,a million times over. But we must pay attention & be vigilant as well. Otherwise the nasty sorts who wish to commission you to build Georgian piles will prevail and we mustn’t allow that.
Congrats on the new family member,I can hardly wait to see Mavis interact with her new sister.
A very good week to you,Charlie,Mavis & Henry.


What an inspiring action by Jill Maltby – a quieter version of guerilla gardening. I’ve really enjoyed your last two posts in particular. Home sweet home, I suppose. Best wishes, Nicola


Oh how wonderful getting a corgi puppy. We have had four corgis over many years, 2 males and 2 females, our 12 year came from NZ with us a few years ago. They are wonderful dogs and I see you are getting a female which is our experience love to bark. I am very much looking forward to many photos. It is such a shame they are now on the endangered list of dog breeds in the UK


Snowdrops are my favourite flowers and always out for my birthday. They have been so beautiful at Kingston Lacy this year and today has been the third time I went to visit them 🙂

Cathy Dicksonsays:

What a wonderful legacy for Jill. The world needs people like her.


I seem to have fallen off your e mail, please please put me back on, I miss it,, I read a book a early female food writer, English, very well reviewed, very boring. The writer said ,all onions were imported to England be for ww2. Can this be true…. all those old gardens you go to look at must have had onions I would think. Best westonlinn@


Ben, really enjoy your world in word and pictures. My friend Linda ( from England) has introduced me to your site and it is a highlight to my day. Looking forward to puppy pictures.


When we lived in Cornwall, I used to walk up to the field where my donkeys lived and the snowdrops were above my head on the steep sides of the lane I could look up into the flowers and appreciate all the details of the flowers when seen from this angle. I learned they had been planted in memory of a son who died in the war, so each year I would love the snowdrops whilst being aware of the sacrifice of his life.
Yesterday, here in the hail in Sussex I found violets out in the lanes as well as snowdrops. Spring is on its way!


Me again,just a little story why I love snowdrops so much.
In the past times, twenty and much more years ago when my grandma was still alive, she brought me every year the first snowdrops from her garden on my birthday on february, it was for me the most beautiful gift, I will never forget it !
Thank you for hearing me once again,
Yours Birgit 🙂


touching as always. it makes such a good start into the week. thank you very very much.
Trudy from Germany


Dear Ben,
thanks so much for your lovely blog from your nice weekend. I love the landscape and the english lovely villages, houses and cottages with open fire, this is my favourite thing to live !
The snowdrops are amazing, a reminder forever of Jill !
Yes we must enjoy this moments in our life, in a busy world .
They give us the power for the week and we can looking forward to another wonderful weekend 🙂
With the best wishes for this week !

Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂


A lovely post, as always, Ben. The uplifting stories of Jill and Budd bring a sense of calm to our for turbulent world. The beauty they created will outlive them; and remind me of the closing sentence of ‘Middlemarch’:

‘…the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” ― George Eliot, Middlemarch.


A lovely post, as always, Ben. The quiet labours of Jill and Budd, which will delight others long after they are gone, remind me of the soothing and uplifting closing sentence of ‘Middlemarch’ (the greatest novel in the English language, imo):

… for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” ― George Eliot, Middlemarch.


Your blog always gladdens the heart lovely photos of Dorset in winter the snowdrops are beautiful thank you for sharing.Looking forward to seeing pics of Cybil a lovely surprise for Mavis and Henry.

Cecilia Stauntonsays:

Just a quarter mile down my road is a field that is locally famous. Every spring it sprouts thousands of daffodils planted over the past half century by Budd McQuaid (he turned 100 last year) who lives next door to his field in his yellow house. He quietly created his masterpiece, at what point did people start to notice? Now they come and he always let’s them take a picture of their babies and kids sitting amongst the happy flowers. Inspired, I have begun planting 100 narcissus and 200 crocus every year in the knoll along the same road in front of my house. Thanks to the Jills and Budds in the world, leaving it a better place than they found it.

David Sanderssays:

It’s a good thought Ben, about not worrying too much about the world and embracing the things you can. We are so often told that being insular is such a bad thing to be, but we all need a bit of insularity at times; a time time to just be – be ourselves. Loved the story about your neighbour Jill and her snowdrop mission – spreading beauty down the lanes.

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