All work and no play…

…Is no way to run a life. We all know it, but it’s hard to remember sometimes. I think it’s true that just now life feels busier than it has in a very long time. Sometimes – this is just a coalition of diary horrors… next week, I’m out of London for the whole week on this job or that one. Sometimes, it’s a perfect storm of jobs starting up at the same time. You can sort of plan for it, but never entirely. Do you know the feeling? Well, that’s where we are now. And then combined with the fact that we’ve run out of room in the office, but are not quite moving to Lamp Office Court for another eight or nine weeks… and you can see I’m rather looking forward to Autumn ’14. The office will be ten years old. We’ll have just moved to the new studio. And I’ll have just come home from what I’m hoping will be two blissful weeks in Greece.

For now – that’s all to come. All the more important therefore to switch off when you can. Well, we did this weekend. Best you don’t call Ben Pentreath Decoration at 9am tomorrow morning expecting us to be entirely on the ball. We might be a bit sleepy. The Decorators have had a weekend in Dorset.

We all made our way via various activities on Friday evening – Luke & Lucy from the Decoration office, Duncan, Luke’s other half, and of course Bridie, without whom nothing would be right. It had been quite a week for all of us. The solution was gin.

It was a beautiful soft misty evening. The valley looked like a Chinese watercolour.


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And a gentle dusk light was settling on the village.P1030289 P1030292 P1030295 P1030296

Friday night was a riot; the morning was ropey. Saturday slipped by quietly. I gardened and Bridie dozed while the  kids did a trip to Bridport. The afternoon saw us pottering down to Abbotsbury.  My favourite, unreformed, swirly-carpet-fish-n-chips-and-cheap-beer-pub, The Ilchester Arms, has been given a Gastro-pub-out-of-a-crate makeover. Disaster. I love a basic british pub with adequate food and reasonable service and a log fire. I can’t stand fake mismatched chairs around modern-made distressed pine tables and weird utterly false industrial lighting tacked to the ceiling looking as though they might fall down at any minute, and fancy menus where the food now comes stacked on the plate and the veg portion is measly. I know we’re fussy but can we have a stand against the endless standardisation going on here? Well, we had a very nice time nonetheless. The owner and staff are lovely. They were so nice, that I really couldn’t tell them how much I miss the crappy old pub.

We went to the Abbotsbury swannery. That could be a blog on its own, except I’d left my camera at home, and I really wouldn’t want to impose that on your Monday morning. It too was one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been in my life, and not in a good way. Swans are a bit creepy when you get down to it, but the swannery takes creepiness to an extreme level. Weird. The swan maze.  Swan feeding time at 4pm.  Tourist attractions in high season.  What were were doing? But, weirdly, we had a very nice time nonetheless.

We got home and the whole household descended into a deep afternoon sleep. And then it was time to get ready for dinner.
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Duncan’s superb home made tarragon mayonnaise. P1030306

A lot more gin:

Herb buttered chickens, prepared by Luke. delicious.P1030308

The dining room.

Okay – the walls are waiting for 100s of Piranesi engravings that I’m slowly slowly getting framed at the moment. But believe me the purple rocks. It is intense.P1030311

Radishes from the garden were nibbles.P1030313

My friends Edward and Jane Hurst had come over. Jane arrived with an ENORMOUS bunch of peonies from her garden. I cannot tell you how jealous I was. Who has enough peonies in their garden to bring this many over for dinner? Will you look at these? P1030314 P1030315


Also with us were Anthony & Harriet Sykes.  A long time ago I lived in the west wing over at their house in the next village. (You will find photographs in your first copy of the Farrow & Ball book).

Here are Edward and Anthony tucking deep into my copy of the Country Houses of Dorset. It won’t be an entire surprise that Edward was charmingly dismissive that I have the 1959 not the 1935 edition. A fair point. In fact I think I’ve got the real deal in the office. That’s my Parsonage copy.P1030319

Jane Hurst and Harriet Sykes formed an elegant pair during their fireside chat. As much as I love warm summer evenings, I love those that are cold enough to still need to light a fire.P1030320

Dinner was bonkers. I will not confess how many bottles we had consumed when it was time for Anthony and Harriet to say goodbye. Here is Anthony saying good bye to Lucy…P1030321

…and to Bridie… how to make a happy man.P1030322

The evening took on that magical moment. This is why I love dining rooms. Purple or not. There’s just something so… other… about the dining room – your experience is entirely enclosed, the outside world is left outside; life for that brief moment is entirely about friends, conversations, food, wine, smoking, pleasure. We were all transported.P1030328

I love the bleak debris of Sunday morning even more.P1030333 P1030335

And I love washing up hungover, transforming huge piles of washing up in to neatly stacked piles of creamware dishes, for instance:P1030337 P1030339

The stack providing Luke Edward Hall with, um, another potential subject to Instagram. Be sure to follow Luke’s instagram account here. It’s beyond beautiful.P1030340

Breakfast. Recovery. P1030343 P1030345

We left and meandered back to London via our clients near Salisbury… to inspect the beautiful Peter Hone wall in the staircase, recently installed… Do you not dream of things like this? P1030354

And tea in the garden with Lucy and Duncan, and their son Kit. Who really knows how to play.  So it’s really quite appropriate that the last word in this blog goes to him.


Kit and Ben

A blissful weekend. This is what life is all about. LIVING!

I hope you had a good weekend too.

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