A second month in the country

17 May 2020
Ben Pentreath

How’s it possible that four weeks have drifted by since my last blog?

Partly – work has been weirdly busy… from time to time, intensely so. Partly, Charlie and I binged watched Normal People (did you too?), and that took care of at least one weekend where it was easier to sit watching the projector than download photographs and write a blog. Partly, we had a technological problem where – just at the moment when I was ready to blog – the website wouldn’t load any photographs.

And partly, life was drifting by and seemed as if it didn’t entirely need a record… do you know that feeling?

And the strange thing is that it’s now a month later; a second month, after the first month in the country. In some ways, these weeks have taken on a hyper-reality; in another, they are a dreamtime, otherworldly…. and like all dreams, they ebb and flow in weird ways, without reference to proper time. We’ve been up, we’ve been down; we’ve been happy and full of energy, the next day we’ve been listless; we’ve slept like logs, and have had awful, restless nights, awake hour after hour all night long. I’ve been through moments of panic and sadness and calm and feeling frantic, all in one week. We’ve been missing so many of the little moments of our daily and weekly round – Bridport market, Saturday lunch in the pub; seeing neighbours and friends; and at the same time, learning too see and enjoy so many tiny moments too.

We’ve settled in to new routines, but they are daily rather than weekly ones – very little changes day by day. I try to work less at the weekends, but it’s no doubt a time to catch up on things – drawings especially – that I haven’t had time to look at during the week. And every day is just like every other day. Thursdays are bin day: that’s quite an event in the calendar.

And suddenly, just this week, do you feel like coming out of a deep Sunday afternoon sleep… that sleep that is intense but not quite normal? Life is hinting at a return – to something… I am not sure it’s going to be something normal. And the change brings a sense of relief – but simultaneously, a sense of secret sadness that the dream time is nearing an end – like that moment when you know that an over-long holiday is shifting inexorably to its close.

And what will we find of the new place in which we wake? I’m not sure. But life is slowly coming back to a sort of normal now, isn’t it?  In our own small way, Bridie, Emily and I are delighted to announce that as of this week, the website for the shop will be fully up and running again. We might still take a bit longer than normal to dispatch your parcel, but it’s good to be getting going again. We’ll be opening the doors of the shop as soon as it’s safe and we are able.

Whatever the trials and tribulations that are to come, I think that we’ll forever remember these weeks just gone by – the weeks of nothing, and everything.

So here, for the record, four weeks in the country.

W E E K   O N E

The April heatwave hung on for a few days longer.  The copper beech is just breaking too – that magical moment. 

Apple blossom, a week away from peak.

Horse Chestnuts – a week ago, just starting; now in full leaf and glorious flower.

The chickens become more adventurous.

Charlie’s lilacs break in to flower.

Warm evenings that belong to May or June. 

Followed by warm summer mornings too, in spring.

The heatwave broke. Grey clouds; saturated colours.

Wild crab apple in full bloom.

We went for a walk on the hills above the village, covered in cowslips.


W E E K   T W O

Sunshine returns – this extraordinary spring.

 But days of mist and cloud, when they come, are as beautiful.

Sunshine returns. Cold air though… northerly winds.

The light on the hills early in the morning has been extraordinary. 

Ducks and chicks venturing into the garden. 

Intensely coloured evenings.

bright mornings.

That weekend we went to the bluebell hills above the valley.

W E E K   T H R E E

More mist…

The copper beech in full early leaf; garden filling out. 

Full May moon rising.

V.E. day was a poignant, yet happy moment. 

Then, a May frost…

W E E K   F O U R :

The May blossom is in full force.

Compare the copper beech to three weeks ago…

On Wednesday night, this week, I ventured out to Portesham to get fish and chips from the mobile fish n chip van…. heaven.

Extraordinary light on the way home.


Here was the light this morning. Compare to the photograph at the beginning of this blog. Four weeks in the country. 

The light was beautiful. We woke up very early and went for our walk before breakfast. 

Cow parsley in full force, about to turn. 

May blossom, ravishing.

Like walking in a Paul Nash landscape.

Who knows quite where the lane will be leading?

But whatever is around the corner, the weeks that have just passed will, I think, be ones to remember.

I hope you are staying safe, and well, and have been okay these past few weeks. 

27 comments on this post

Elaine Bambersays:

When are you going to blog again – miss it/ you/ Charlie/ dogs/ ducks so much!!

Amanda Wilsonsays:

Dear Ben. So wonderful to find you here still with your soft words and inspiring images. I followed you so keenly a decade ago, bought your book which still has bedside-table pride, rennovated an old Melbourne home as I followed you and Katy Elliott, and a few years ago left that home whilst divorcing.
Thanks for blogging during this strange time; I have loved coming back to the inspiration, and yes the comfort, of how you tell the story of living with both ease and surprise.


Dear Ben Pentreath,
Although our pandemic has served tough lessons and experiences for many, there is also much for which to be thankful.
I am thankful that arly in, I discovered your blog and photographs and had time to savour your writings.
I conclude that you, with your family and friends, are not only generous with your artistic spirit, you are also genuinely inspirational; a tall order at this time.
So, I am writing to say thank you to you and your husband; you have inspired me to remember gentle aspects of life and for that reason, this summer, I appreciate even more my geraniums and beef casserole served on my favourite dishes.
I wrote to you the account and outcome of a powerful dream that I once had. It was a cathartic moment for me, thank you for receiving it.
Kind wishes from Ireland,


Glad I checked in again to your blog. It encapsulates much of what is going on in nature and in human beings throughout these past weeks. Bin day is Tuesday here! Best wishes as ever, Nicola

Joan MacDowelllsays:

Thank you for sharing your photo diary with us, if one must be in isolation I can’t think of a better place I would want to be. You and Charlie have made such a inviting home & garden, full of inspiration… when I run out of ideas for landscape paintings, I’ll now know where to look!


I’ve heard these moods swings being referred to as the coronacoaster! And of course every day is Blursday, except Tuesday which is bin collection. I have mixed feelings about emerging. So much harder to navigate.


After the church roof, I think you should canvas the blog readers about funding the installation of a K2 telephone box at the often-seen junction. R


Lucky, lucky guys! Thanks for sharing!


I am heartbroken that my June trip to England was cancelled. These pictures make me long to be there even more.

Merne Branscombesays:

WoW! What a wonderful walk to have taken with you. The scenery is gorgeous and a reminder that whatever is going in in the world at the moment, nature stills thrives. It is a reminder to slow down and admire what we all have been given. Thanks for the uplifting post.


What a beautiful environment.

Natalie Canningsays:

Thank you for sharing so many beautfiul images! We also live very rurally and the lockdown has forced us to really stop and really appreciate everyday the absolute miraculous explosion of nature all around us. You made me smile when you shared the joy of buying local fish and chips for the first time in weeks! We still haven’t been brave enough and I think we are a little institutionalised by the whole thing. So pleased to hear the online shop is opening again and I am sure it will not be long before you will be able to open the ‘normal’ shop. Take care and thank you for taking the time to snap so many incredibly pictures!

Darlene Chandlersays:

Thank you Ben and Charlie, I so missed your blog the past few weeks, but the pictures, May blossoms and wonderful scenery and your lovely garden is just wonderful. You VE celebration and decoration beautiful. The Bluebells are fantastic and the horse chestnut tree in bloom. I do love the pictures of the Chickens and Ducks and your dogs lounging. Again very uplifting to me; we are having very rainy cold weather in Toronto and still wearing our winter coats. Warm weather coming and so nice to see all of your beautiful greenery again. Yes this lockdown has made everyone slowdown and take account and as you say some good days and some bad days, but in the end I think we will all have a different outlook and enjoy what is in our future. It has been good to slow down and reflect and take some time to ourselves, even though missing family and friends and shops. But ours are starting to open gradually, so brighter things to come.

Lyn Haydensays:

Resilience ! We must learn from copper beeches, blue bells, ducklings and you.
Thank you Ben.


glorious photos. thank you for continuing to shine a light during this odd, unsettled time.


Thank you Ben and Charlie. Once again your lovely words and pictures have captured how many of us are feeling at the mo. And, as if on cue to maximize the absolute feeling of England in the Spring of COVID-19 of your blog, CBC Music has just started to play the Enigma Variations.


Next lockdown, I’m coming to your place. Beautiful.
Auckland NZ


Yes, this span of days has been a gift: long empty days filled with minutia of the garden, for once uninterrupted by work or appointments! 🙂

Thank you for your excellent blog, lovely photos, and peaceful low-key approach, so calming when everyone else seems stressed.

I never dreamed that the bin collection might become an anchor for my week, but it has. Too funny!


Such wonderful photos and words Ben, all those colours and images are gorgeous. I have enjoyed them so very much, thank you for sharing.
The chickens and ducks are so cute …. love especially the ducks.
You are really living in heaven on earth ! Please keep safe and well, sending love ….. Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂


beautifully written; many many many thanks


You always know how to put into words what so many of us are feeling. Thank you! And that copper beech. And those lilacs!


that made me smile – the bin collection seems to be the only constant in my life since I was furloughed. Recycling again?! Thank goodness I have a garden to take up the rest of my time.


Dear Ben,
I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years, since signing up following buying a John Derian plate as a wedding present for a nephew.
Each week I read it with such joy; I love your observations and compassion for all things human and nature.
I’ve recently lost parents, and my husband at the premature age of 65, and reading the way you’ve worked through and worded the loss of your parents has been a huge help.
Your blog this week was so true to the way I’m feeling at the moment, and probably thousands of others, ranging from optimistic and feeling blessed to have my daughter and her family with me so that I’m not living through this alone, down to busting into tears over a Sunday roast dinner.
The picture I loved most this week, was the one with the little red post box sitting proudly on it’s post by the roadside. As I walk around the village where I live, I pass two such post boxes. Both sitting proud, set into old flint stone walls, having served so many generations to keep in touch – the stories they could tell of the letters that have passed through their opening – births, marriages, deaths and businesses that have come and gone.
Technology has been a saviour to so many, helping us to keep in touch, but a simple greetings card, with a personal message, will never go out of fashion.
Thank you – keep safe, keep well and keep writing.
Love Tina

Debra Mooresays:

Dear Ben oh my word such incredibly beautiful photos what a treat. The valley the dogs the ducklings the bluebells the list goes on and lots of sunshine , paradise. Thank you for sharing so uplifting in these difficult times.


Bluebell hills, copper beech, ducklings… Magic!

Debra Mooresays:

Dear Ben
I am so grateful to see your blog it is always a joy even in these stressful difficult times. Your photos are truly amazing we have been blessed with beautiful weather this spring which has helped us greatly during the lockdown. Lovely to see Enid and Sybil cuddled up together.The ducks and ducklings have been lovely to watch on Charlie’s Instagram. Your blog really has helped to lift my spirits thank you keep safe and well all of you.

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