4 March 2018
Ben Pentreath

The snow was wonderful.  I love the sense of disruption: a bit like the flu, when you have to cancel carefully laid plans left right and centre; but this time, everyone is in the same boat. So, I didn’t head out to the Cotswolds, early on Friday morning as planned, and then drive down to Dorset. That would have been total madness. Charlie had gone down with Mavis and Sibyl a day early to get ahead of the snow. And promptly found himself deeply snowed in, the village completely cut off, and without power for twenty four hours.  Thank god for ancient oil-fired AGAs at moments like that, chugging away, keeping everyone warm and giving somewhere to cook.

Back in London, we had a fun night in the pub with the office on Friday. I’d expected the storms to blow away by Saturday morning and that I’d catch the train down without problems.  But unfortunately no trains were running to Dorchester at all. Eventually I caught a train to Salisbury and all was well – Charlie could get out of the valley to come and collect me, driving across the snowy Plain.

We got home to find that the boiler had broken, so it’s been an interesting weekend of no heat and no hot water. Nice in its way – but makes one realise precisely how good the invention of “hot and cold running”, and baths, and showers is.

This morning, we took Mavis for her walk and found the landscape like a lucid, grey watercolour.

No one I know painted that moment of the thaw, snow lingering in corners, more beautifully, and more relentlessly, than John Nash – the less well-known brother of the much more famous Paul, but I can’t help but prefer John’s work by miles. So many of his paintings show that strange moment when the snow is just clinging on.  He must have loved and waited for the thaw with as much excitement as a child must have had at the first flakes of the white-out.  

It’s probably true that most of us prefer the more magical moment when the entire earth is blanketed in snow. Things seem simpler and purer that way. As the dirt and earth re-emerges, life reminds us that it’s complicated and messy and that nothing ever works out so smoothly in reality. 

Nash is really the only person I know who investigated that moment so thoroughly.

High up on the hillside we found a tiny calf that had become separated from its mother.  Picking it up, and finding it to be lighter than Mavis, I thought it was probably easy to carry it down the steep hill rather than call Tom, the farmer. There was something rather magical about this little animal, more legs than body, with its furiously beating heart, getting more and more excited as it got closer to its mum. A good feeling – a first for me, I’ll admit, to carry a calf.

This afternoon the sun came out and we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate what felt like the return of spring. Charlie was baking a cake for my brother’s birthday and basically the kitchen quietly turned into a lifestyle magazine shoot. 

You see what I mean (that’s the i phone ‘portrait’ setting in case you hadn’t noticed).   Also, that’s a Pentreath & Hall Ionic candlestick if you need one: about the most exciting thing Bridie and I did last year was bring out that candlestick – the realisation of a rather long dream. 

Mavis and Silbyl are being ridiculously cute and funny with each other.
Sibyl’s ears are growing really quite fast.

Sunshine streamed into the kitchen.

I promise this won’t turn into a pets blog but you can’t mind it for a week or two. 

Charlie’s making marmalade, meanwhile. 

We had a lovely late afternoon with Mum & Dad, and Jon & Laura, and my nieces over for a Sibyl greeting.  And now everyone’s gone, and it’s cosy in the kitchen and sleeping, and life feels, well, pretty good. Yet again, it’s time to focus on the simple things. As the storms of politics rage like the gales and blizzards outside our window, I’ll stick for one minute to what increasingly feels like the only proper reality I know. Wouldn’t it be a good thing at the moment if ‘real’ life could have a gentle thaw too?

24 comments on this post

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Always love to see your images of the seasonal changes, most especially as they are of course the opposite of what is happening to us in Godzone! That young Sybil is a scrumptious bundle and she does seem to be working her magic on Mavis and becoming her pal, which is so lovely to watch. Keep safe and warm as you see off the last of the wintery weather. Cheers from NZ!

Sally Leonardsays:

Ben, I’m pretty sure that you, Charlie, Mavis and Sibyl live in Heaven. Certainly looks like it!


Perfection! much gratitude from a devoted and happy reader. Your blog is such a good reminder of what is really important in life, and to be grateful for simplicity and love

Susan Toye Fergusonsays:

The babies have bonded – how wonderful! Oh, and I want a piece of that cake, too – typical New England kind of thing that my grandmother used to make when the fresh strawberries came in around the first of July. I’ll have to make one this year…and I have survived a true Nor’Easter this past weekend – no heat/lights for 2.5 days, spent Saturday night in a hotel and finally – lights on Sunday afternoon! Winds over 90mph – yikes! Your blog is always a wonderful way to start my week…thank you again…Susan


These photos warm the heart, in spite of snow in the air. The golden kitchen, the ‘lifestyle’ table arrangement, the cushions in sunlight, the piles of books, and, the best of all, those dogs. Everything glows! I will look again and again at the photos of those two. It turns out that a black labrador looks her very best when complemented with a small fox-like corgi with very big ears.


This is lovely. Always preferred J Nash to P Nash too. Your yellow glossed kitchen positively glows with warmth and the smell of (Seville?) marmalade doing that rolling boil thing. Happy days. All the best from Nicola.


Sibyl is simply adorable so as many photos as you like, a lovely addition to the family and Im still admiring your lovely kitchen sofa too – so glad you made it down safely – thank you for the John Nash pix I totally agree and you must have felt positively heroic reuniting calf and mum. Looking forward to proper spring now though after last week thats enough of that thank you

Clay McCleerysays:

Always a treat to read your blog. I enjoy your hearth and home photos. And thank you for the art history lesson!

Teddee Gracesays:

Oh, continue making it an animal blog! I consider myself somewhat of an animal whisperer and am looking forward to hopefully seeing that relationship between Sibyl and Mavis warm up a little. Sibyl looks totally rejected by Mavis. Look at those dejected eyes. You tell that big dog to shape up! She’s the big sis now.


What lovely photos. Sibyl is so darn cute and looks so at home next to Mavis. Thanks for sharing the “thaw” paintings. That’s how it looks here in southern Maine at the moment. Too bad a storm will dump a foot of snow on Thursday. That cake looks divine.


Dear Ben, Thank you for letting us share your lovely weekends. I loved seeing Mavis and Sybil sleeping together. I live in Italy and miss the English countryside a lot, so looking at your lovely photos makes me very happy. I think I saw something very Italian (una moka) on the kitchen stove next to the AGA!


I think Mavis and Sibyl need their own blog! I’d follow it❤️ (When I take a picture of my horse, she expects a cookie


Daffodils, cake and candlestick-what more could you want on a snowy weekend. Beautiful blog, Ben. The photos of Mavis and Sybil are charming especially in front of the Aga. Mavis knows where the warm spots are! Thank you for sharing the John Nash paintings. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!


What a lovely post, Ben!

I can see the snow on the Brecon Beacons from my sitting room window but the big thaw has begun. We’ve had frozen pipes in the kitchen (so no showers, a kettleful of water for washing and the slops flushed down the loo!) But the Aga has breathed gently like a contented dragon – ours is like one of the family. Sadly, unlike Mavis and Sybil, my cat never sits in front of it.

I adore John Nash and loved the images you posted. Thank you. When I win the lottery, I’ll buy one of his paintings – and another one for you!


Dear Ben & Charlie,
thank you for the wonderful blog from your perfect Weekend. So glad to see Mavis and Sibyl together. Charlie`s spongecake looks so beautiful, the ideal one for a perfect sunday afternoon ! Love to see the sun streamed through your beautiful home, spring is coming soon, I think all the people are happy about it !
Today in Germany is also a sunny and mild day !
Enjoy your week,have a nice time,
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂



Patricia Taylorsays:

Beautiful post to start my week – thank you.


I’ll second Denise,more of this bucolic bliss! The “real” world is dire at the moment. I do so appreciate your generosity of spirit in sharing these lovely snippets.
Southern Gal,I hope your move goes a treat & you settle in quickly chez vous.


Dear Ben I love your blog and your many adventures. This coming May my sister is treating me to a trip to England and the Cotswolds is on our list. We live in the US and love all that is English.


Oh please, more puppies, more hills and dales, more flowers and gardens, and the most lovely churchyards. Thank you Ben. Denise

southern galsays:

that last photo with Sybil curled in the corner between the couch and Mavis! i am in the throes of moving (d-day is Saturday) and despairing of ever owning anything much less lots of books. not moving to a house (four offers lost in the last year and with a deadline looming – landlord wants my apt – found a good deal for an apartment but it needs work) oh well this time next week it will be done and dusted. prayers needed…so ends my break for today. thanks for the glimpse at a restful sunday..not around here today.


Glad you made it home despite the snow.Lovely to see Mavis and Sybil getting along well l think labradors have an excellent temperament hope the tail biting has stopped poor Mavis!Charlie is doing well very domesticated making marmalade and baking l love the birthday cake it looked delicious.
How incredible to return the calf to its mother it must have been a very special moment.I would love to see Dorset in the snow to get a different perspective of the landscape but l don’t enjoy the cold even though we have had our fair share in the West Midlands.Thank you Ben for another welcome snippet of your idyllic life and your wonderful photos they warm the heart.All of us animal lovers never tire of pics of Mavis Henry and Sybil they are a joy.


this chapter takes the cake, dear ben! makes me teary faced seeing charlie’s sponge cake, wif’ real whipped cream a ton of it and real fresh fruit, we from down under know what a birthday cake is supposed to look like! went from teary faced over charlie’s baked birthday cake to bawling, hearing seeing your baby calf (in oz we call them poddies) story with renunion photo! sigh! you are a kind and most thoughtful chap, dear ben, thank you for including snow taking it’s sweet time to melt unfreeze’ paintings by john nash. looks the same here/high desert central california, the “same” storm swooped by, is still frigid and icy snow out there. thank you for sharing your dorset week, dear ben and charlie and mavis and sibyl! bless you!

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