In a New York State of Mind…

17 June 2018
Ben Pentreath

It’s a strange thing about time, isn’t it? Ask me what I was doing last Thursday week and frankly I’ve got no idea.  Ask me what I was doing 19 years ago and the memory is crystal clear.

19 years ago, almost to this week, I’d decided I was about to move to New York but I didn’t yet know how. I’d been at the wonderful wedding, of my friends Titus and Jemima – an amazing, emotional day – when I realised, that evening, that however good things were, for me, they needed shaking up.  (Maybe, just maybe, a realisation that it would be easier to live the life of a young gay man in New York city than in a tiny village on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, who knows?).  A few weeks later, and I’d managed to get myself an interview for a firm of architects in Greenwich Village. In August, they were in London and gave me an interview – and a job. So life happens. A few months later my visa came through and on Valentine’s Day 1999 I moved to the city that became home for the next five years.

Life, then, moves in stages, and that was a great stage; and it’s a strange realisation that this was nearly 20 years ago, when it seems like yesterday. So much and so little have changed. Charlie and I had a wonderful weekend in New York last weekend,. I NEARLY got around to blogging immediately on our return, but life just ever so slightly got in the way. So here we are, a few days late, and maybe more reflective.

I always find this beautiful, happy, sad place compelling, almost hypnotic from the moment your plane circles to land and you spot the mythical towers and skyscrapers on the distant, hazy skyline. Then within a moment you find yourself blinking in the reality of crazy, noisy New York. And almost certainly, every time I first arrive, I head like a homing pigeon to my old neighbourhood Greenwich Village, where it really feels like nothing has changed at all.

A first lovely evening, with our friends Valentina, and Stephen and John.  Walking over to the East village – Washington Square looking perfect in the warm heat of the summers evening.

The next morning, after breakfast in Nolita, Charlie and I headed into Chinatown, early.

A quick walk to the South Street Seaport.

And then we headed uptown, to catch a train to Connecticut to see Frances Palmer in her beautiful garden.

The dahlia garden was looking impeccable, hinting of the richness to come.

Charlie and Frances. Dungarees are in, if you didn’t know.  (So is blonde hair).

Frances’s beautiful studio, serene as always.

We arrived back at Grand Central after a wonderful day and walked down to the village for dinner.

On Saturday morning we were up early.  We peeked into the La Guardia Corner Garden, close to heaven in early June.

Through Greenwich Village, waking.

Breakfast at Buvette with Val, and then to the 25th Street Flea Market. Heaven.

Charlie bought these 19th century nasturtium seeds, still in their packet.

Back down to Union Square for the Greenmarket.

And a wander around John Derian’s fabulous stores, happy to have caught up a couple of nights earlier.

New York was her usual crazy self…

And her usual serene self.  Everything changes, nothing changes.

Lunch at the Odeon, for old times’ sake. One of my all-time favourites.

Saturday evening in Brooklyn Heights for dinner with our friends Austin and Spenny.

A tiny corner of their apartment:

History doesn’t relate quite where we all went and got up to on Saturday night, or should I say Sunday morning, but the rest of the day was a happily contented wipe out. New York best.

On Monday we started early with a walk down the High Line.



Beautiful planting, maturing so well:

Crazy New York:

We zoomed uptown to the Frick, to find it closed, but the garden was tantalising through the railings:

So, to the Met, so crowded and crazy that we turned on our heels, but the domes of the entrance hall were serene and silent:

back through Central Park, so beautiful:

Down through Soho….

To Grand Banks, for a perfect last lunch in the sun:

A walk around downtown…

Through the concrete canyons:

And finally back to the East Village and a last drink before supper with Valentina.

And so we drifted back to England and to high summer in Dorset,

A world away from beautiful, crazy, mad New York, so near and yet so far away, which I miss so much, but so happy to be back when we can.

19 comments on this post

Diane Keanesays:

I will be in NYC next month to visit my daughter, see the High Line for the first time, go to the Met Breuer and generally get my NY fix. I will definitely visit that flea market! South Street Seaport photo looks like it could have been taken in England. Charlie looks good in coveralls! Of course, I can’t imagine anything he would look bad in (including babushka, overcoat and wellies.)

We are in a sorry state in this country right now, our American ideals of freedom and justice are under heavy threat (from those
supposed to defend them, no less.) Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

Hugs from Diane


Dear Ben and Charlie,

Thank you, from a new reader, for the dazzling photos and kind comments on my wonderful city. Let us all hope that we survive the perilous times we live in. For our part, we take comfort each day in friends and moments of beauty (that we must all seek out), as an antidote to the sordid tragedy of the current political world. Your posts are a part of that. Thank you.

Laurel Bernsays:

Yes, as Southern Gal said, “next trip there could be a gathering of your NY and nearby fans?” But then, you’d probably have to rent out Madison Square Garden! And yes, it’s hot as hell here all of a sudden! Frances’ gardens and pottery are amazing! Gorgeous post as always! xo ~ Laurel

David Sanderssays:

Addendum: Ben, the building I was enquiring about is the Verizon building (previously known as the Barclay-Vesey building – NY Telephone building). Designed by Ralph Walker during the inter-war period – Art-Deco with Maya influences. An important building, so it obviously captivated your all-seeing eye.

It was influenced by the zoning regulations at the time, which required buildings to have step backs – not set-backs as I had written.


what a wonderful post – feeling breathless just seeing it – the juxtaposition of NY and Dorset is truly breathtaking and so inspiring

David Sanderssays:

Quite a nice little photo-essay of New York, Ben – you may have missed your true vocation as a photo-journalist. Isn’t the flatiron building quite mesmerising? Is that tall building with the set-backs one of Rosario Candela’s? I particularly like his Art-Deco style entrances – always so elegant and understated. And what, no Trump Tower? lol.


Inspiring post Ben. So pleased to see the High Line in full bloom. We were there two months ago and although I’ve been to NY a few times since they created it, I had never visited it before. We had a lovely walk along it in unseasonably warm weather in early April, but it was too early to get the full impression of this ingenious bit of urban planning. Great to get a feel for how it looks in its glory. Also loved the flea market photos – always cheering to see how all the tat we accumulate through life can look amazing when its piled up artfully!


Where is Frances’s studio? or how can one purchase her gorgeous works?


As always great images. I can smell those NYC streets and feel the heat coming off them, as well as hear the rustling of the long grass and copper beech leaves in Dorset. Two of my favorite places. And on a fashion note, all the best people wear dungarees, especially when they are Carhartt.

Teddee Gracesays:

Thank you for showing us our New York. I haven’t visited since the 70s! The difference between Manhattan and Dorset is almost schizophrenic.


Thank you for these wonderful photos of NYC. I grew up 25 miles away and it might have been 2,500 miles as we NEVER went in to the city! My father was born and raised in Greenwich Village and once he left he didn’t return. I’ve lived in California most of my life now and really feel called to explore this amazing city soon.


I grew up across the river from Manhattan in northern New Jersey on the Palisades. Carried away in my teens to the northwest, I still think of New York as home, a wonderful, intoxicating, endlessly interesting whirlwind of life. Thanks for sharing your visit.

Jane Psays:

As a New Yorker, I discovered your Instagram postings a few years ago and lived vicariously through your pictures and stories of life in England. I ordered from your website and loved stopping by Rugby Street whenever in London. Now, as a New Yorker living in London, I’ve enjoyed your posts even more as one of my guideposts to our new city.
So of course, I thought this post was delightful. You two certainly covered a lot of territory. And some of our personal favs: the nostalgia of the Odeon, charming Buvette. The village, East and West where our grown children live and our own neighborhood —- the Met.
Thank you!

Penne Laytonsays:

I LOVE your pictures and postings! I’m in the midwest with an entirely different view but love it just the same.

Marcia Catessays:

Thank you so for your cool photos of your whirlwind visit to my crazy, sad and may I say resilient city. I really love your brilliant eye with detail and interiors.

Southern galsays:

Perhaps next trip there could be a gathering of your ny and nearby fans? A rendezvous at a bar in the village ? It would be such fun. Glad you were here before this awful heat wave.

But I would prefer the Dorset house and garden any day ,


Dear Ben & Charlie
Thank you for sharing your memories from NY with us, amazing photos and glimpse into a crazy NY, some houses are looking similar to houses in England.
But I think to be back in the UK, quiet and rural England and also crazy and busy London must be heaven on earth! I would be happy to live there ………
I think in the long run you too …… enjoy your heaven on earth!
With the best wishes for you, a busy and nice week and a very good time in the UK.
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂
PS: I am always looking for british antiques via Internet to fill our home with it 🙂


Glad your trip was a success and equally glad you detected a note of sadness in the US. All is most definitely not well and I dare say will not end well.
Brexit may pose a challenge to the UK but not on the order of magnitude that “he who shall not be named” & his fellow travellers. Very worrying times for anyone living in the states or anyone being adversely impacted by his madness.
On a happier note,the parsonage couldn’t look more beautiful. Happy (almost) Summer!


Thank you for your photos of new york interesting and busy we were there last year.It does have that effect that you need to be busy and make the most of it. I love your friends apartment so much character.One thing is certain it’s impossible to get bored in New York.It must have been like stepping into heaven returning home to Dorset.l really enjoyed your blog Ben what an exciting life you and Charlie have and such beautiful homes.

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