Autumn journey...

I last posted eight weeks ago, as I was on my way to Scotland.  Sorry for the intermission! As you will see, it's been a busy little time.  And we have shifted from what felt like a lingering late summer to winter now.


I was in Scotland working at beautiful Broadwoodside, staying with Robert and Anna Dalrymple. I was here for a week of long days sitting with Robert - who is a fantastic graphic designer - on the layout and pages of my book - which comes out next September.  We started the week with 1000 photographs and 352 blank pages and ended the week with something approximating a layout. It was an immensely civilised place to be.... in an old, converted steading, in the the Scottish Borders.  As well as the amazing house, Robert and Anna have created an astonishing and multi-layered garden, completely magical.  The house is in a piece of old country, with amazing ancient avenues criss-crossing the East Lothian farmland.  One morning I crept out early to go and have a look at the little housing development that Rob, in the design studio, and I have designed on the edge of Longniddry, a coastal village.  The light that morning was incredible - the air was cold and clear.  On the left is an  older persons care home, and on the right one of the terraces of cottages. New houses around a small green, planted with trees.  It was really good to have a proper look - I haven't been for two or three years now, and the whole place is taking shape beautifully.  The masterplan is by our friend Ed Taylor and the whole place - a bit like the New Town of Tornagrain that I'm building - is the vision of a long-term developer and landowner - in this case, Socially Conscious Capital, and the Wemyss and March Estate.  It is possible for new housing to be beautiful, if the landowner is prepared to take the patient approach, as here.   But most of the time, Robert and I had our heads down - we fell into a routine, early walk, hours of work, break for lunch, more hours of work, into the early evening. Break, sometimes returning after supper, and start again the next day.  We got there. On the last day, just as we were finishing, Storm Babet came sweeping through Scotland and there was a power cut. We lived by oil lanterns but work (being digital) was over.  And then the power came back on, and we could finish. Here was Longniddry the following morning, in the tail end of the storm, snapped from the station as I headed back into Edinburgh to take the train back down to London. 

D O R S E T   I N T E R L U D E

It was the following week that I was down in Dorset again. The late October light glowed golden, but it had been the mildest autumn, and the garden was still filled with dahlias, late summer clinging on.  A week later, still glowing late autumn sunshine, on a familiar walk.  The leaves were beginning to blow off now.  Just the beech and oak holding on, as always.  We bumped into our friend Evie, riding out on the hills.  Back home, the Virginia creeper turning scarlet. 


And then we were in California - for the project I'm working on there for my lovely client, restoring a beautiful 1920s house and a Victorian building in Ojai. On our first day, we went to see the magical garden at Lotusland, Santa Barbara, the extraordinary home and garden of famous mid-twentieth century Polish opera singer, Ganna Walska.   A good title for your autobiography.  The best butler's kitchen.  Happy times.  Roses in November.  Brilliant cacti.  We had the best few days in Ojai - lots of work, and some fun too. And then Charlie was home, and I was over to South Bend, Indiana - where I was visiting the University of Notre Dame for a few fantastic days. I was doing a bit of teaching and gave a talk, but the absolute highlight was my first ever American Football game which I somehow assumed I wouldn't love at all - and absolutely loved.  A completely brilliant trip. Thank you Notre Dame!


Back home, I'm glad to say nothing changes except the seasons.   Frost tracks: Weekends went by this autumn of writing and finalising my text and captions. From time to time I felt like Sibyl.  Or Mavis. 


And then last weekend, we went to stay with our friends Lizzy and George, for a night.  The air was freezing, a magical fog and frost.  On the Saturday, we went to visit Old Wardour Castle - a place we'd never been to. Thrilling.  The light was astonishing, mythical.  And afterwards for a walk around the lake.  Incredible light.  The Banquet House in the fog.  We came across a farmyard of warm, contended cows, munching hay.  And then to a perfect pub, where we munched our lunch. 


We were back to Dorset the next day.  The season was changing.  Rain sweeping in.  This morning, we made the usual round, in a landscape utterly drenched by overnight storms.  But as we climbed up top, a clearance was blowing through: the glimmer of sunshine on distant hills. And sure enough,  the sun came.  The air washed clean, the light glowed.  Of course the dogs found the muddiest puddle. Winter light, long and low.  And a bunch of anemones, in the window, sunshine streaming in. 

Tonight, I'm back in London for a busy last week before Christmas. Do come and visit our beautiful new shop on Lambs Conduit Street, which we have gently opened just in time for the festive season.  The main launch will be in the spring, but it's already buzzing beyond belief! I will post some photographs this week if there is time, for those not able to make it - and please, for those who cannot come in person to London, do visit our beautifully stocked website and let the Christmas elves in the warehouse carefully pack and send some of our lovely presents, filled with love from us to you.


Thank you. Thank you.

Jennifer Prince

Just home from a short spell in hospital – your posting is a great tonic as always – thank you.

Patricia Taylor

What a joy…a lovely Christmas present to see your dogs, the Scottish light, the garden= oh my the dahlias, the Irish lol football game…you do get around. Thank you and blessings for a wonderful Yule and a grand 2024. Yikes…

Mary Lou Bethune

Thank you for this lovely post, Ben, I actually said ‘wow’ out loud to myself over the Wardour photos. All that fleeting beauty captured at the right moment.

Susan Merritt

Gorgeous ! Magical ! Thanks for the armchair trip to your beautiful slice of the globe.
Peace and happiness to you and Charlie

Patricia Starkey

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