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One month later….



Ben

You blink, and a month has whizzed by!  What happened? Well, I’m still alive, at least.

What happened was, I got far too crazy to blog.  Thank you for everyone for being patient.  As regular readers know, my normal habit is to write on a Sunday evening, sometimes a Monday evening, although I’ve learned over the years that there is nothing nicer on arriving at work on a Monday morning – particularly these dark autumnal mornings – to be able to be pretending to work while actually wasting 15 or 20 minutes reading Ben’s blog from the last weekend.

Well, for the last 3 weeks, that quiet, contemplative Sunday/Monday night ritual – which, almost by force of habit, I’ve come to look forward to and enjoy now, hasn’t happened. Charlie and I have been rushing around too much.  And some exciting – very exciting – things have been happening.

So this is a blog in three parts. Well, almost four.

 

Part I: New York

We arrived in New York on 20th September, and made our way straight to Connecticut. Charlie, Frances Palmer and their friend Emily Thompson were teaching a flower course at Frances’s amazing studio. Here is preparation under way. Dahlias for miles!

And, Frances’s extraordinary and beautiful garden.

We had a happy evening at Frances’s; the course was the following day, and I headed down to New York early for a very exciting meeting with Rizzoli. The Ben Pentreath book on all our varied work of the practice – interiors, architecture, masterplanning and urban design – is now underway! I’m afraid there’s a long time before anything will be published – 2 years or more – but watch this space. I can’t say how thrilled I am!!

And that evening, fresh from a brilliant day of Dahlia teaching, Charlie arrived in NYC too, and we had a fantastic weekend in that city that’s so close to my heart.  Friday night was with our friend Spencer, a riot. I think I went to bed at a certain moment, escaping the worst. Saturday morning was bright and breezy.

Popping into John Derian’s store (as always) and drooling over the agate ware….

And the paper cut out geraniums…

We had a wonderful walk up the High Line….

And met Frances and her husband Wally for lunch.  A strange visit to Hudson yards afterwards…. wondering what on earth has happened to this corner of New York, and what a disaster it is….

Walking back downtown, meanwhile, I loved this new building by Roman and Williams, now under construction: 

Scaffolders on 6th Avenue, looking like ants….

Saturday night was in Bushwick, with Val and Vito. Crazy and fun. This is Sunday morning. Charlie getting coffee. Serious. 

Details and wide vistas. What I love about NYC.

We visited MoMA, with its incredible collections; one forgets how every moment of the contemporary art century is recorded here in all its brilliance. 

On Sunday, later, brunch downtown with Peter Lyden and team, of the wonderful Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. HEAVEN. We drank bloody Maries and ate far too much and finished up as dusk was falling.  And walked out to this brilliant beautiful yellow car owned by the owner of Il Posto. We rolled around the corner for supper with Val and Kate. 

On Monday morning, bright up and early to the Flower Market, to meet Emily again. 

Nothing quite beats the rhythm and life of the New York Flower Market. We went up to Emily’s studio around the corner. What New York stories would be told and are happening in those windows opposite, and have been weaving their magic for decades now?

We drifted down to the highline to the Whitney, with its wonderful, dreamy top floor collection of the great American decades of painting. Maybe I was just missing the Parsonage at the moment I snapped this geranium…?

Edward Hopper. I’ve seen this painting so many times in reproduction; wonderful to engage in the flesh. 

The rooftop view is sensational, too. 

Our last hours were downtown, popping into see the AD crew, Amy, Mitch and Alison. 

And then the next morning, early, we were off, floating out of New York and home, looking at dream worlds in the sky, missing New York. 

We landed in London at dusk, beautiful, sprawling, messy. Home.

Part II: Dorset

Dreamy autumn has reached Dorset.  It’s amazing, now, writing two weeks on, how much more autumnal we are – back then, Summer seemed to cling on for days, weeks, warm winds blowing…. slightly unnatural, but magical.
I love this time of year, when the landscape is transformed into a painter’s pallette, with slashes of golden ochre and grey-blue and vivid greens:

Walking with Mavis and Sibyl, the big house in the background. 

Charlie’s veg garden has gone wild, and wildly beautiful, ebullient and overflowing. 

His nine new ‘show beds’ as I’m calling them, dug into the meadow, to make space for agricultural show veg and flowers…. glowing in the sunshine. 

Crisp, bright mornings of astonishing beauty.

Landscapes like a Nash painting, aeroplane labour trails hanging lazily in the sky. 

 

Part III: Scotland

Okay – so. The rest was exciting in a usual humdrum sort of way. Actually, flower courses and books are more than just humdrum. But now, for the really exciting news.

Charlie and I have bought a little house in Scotland.  Here is the landscape around us.

Do you mind if I don’t exactly say where it is?  But if you go in a straight line west from Glasgow, stop when you hit the sea. That’s where we’ll be.

It’s all very new.  We don’t actually QUITE own it yet – missives are underway.  But this was our first trip since the dreaded ‘sealed bids’.  The really crazy part was – Charlie hadn’t even been up before.  I’d had to dash up to look around – C was submitting vast marrow entries into the Dorset show that weekend.  There wasn’t time to get up again before the agents announced the closing date. We submitted our offer and crossed our fingers and toes.

So here we were, in heaven. First walk with the dogs. 

Around the corner is an old stone jetty.  Mavis was in heaven. 

not a seal, but a black lab. 

The face of happiness:

More faces of happiness:

Rainbows were all around….

Here are our little houses. Our friend David had found them for us…sent with an email saying “I think this just might be the one”. It was.  There are two tiny bothies, next to each other.  They were being sold to be knocked down – development plots, to put up a giant modern bungalow.  We love them exactly as they are. There is a job of work to be done – the roof is gone on both; there is no water, there is no bathroom or kitchen.  But it’s a project for the long term, and we are so, so happy and excited. 

Sibyl inspecting the landscape:

And the sun began to go down.  

There will be so much more on the blog over the coming months and years… as you can imagine. For now, we are just getting going. It’s been our dream for well over two years now, and we’ve been on a lot of trips to Scotland looking at tiny houses, trying to find something unspoiled, remote, quiet, in the middle of nowhere.  We’ve found our little place. I’m sure along the way it won’t be easy, but it sure as hell is unbelievably exciting and amazing just now. For Charlie, who’s family moved to New Zealand from the Isle of Mull, 157 years ago, its like turning full circle to return to Scotland.

It’s a place where we really will be able to get away from it all.  Dorset will stay, and grow, and be amazing, but even I from time to time these days find myself muttering, it’s all a bit busy!

If you recognise any of these island views, I’d be so grateful if you’d just… keep that fact to yourself, in the comments! I’m sure you’ll understand.

We settled down for a pint in the pub, after our first long afternoon of exploring, and another rainbow shimmered on the dying rays of the sun, and we felt like we’d landed in Paradise. 

The next day, a huge storm blew in; we’ve never seen such rain. Amazing… but not quite so much fun when you don’t yet have your base sorted. We headed down to Dorset a day early, and chuckled at the joys of buying a house in what is probably the wettest place in the whole of Britain.

Part IV: even more exciting news

This is just a little taster.  And here’s the other reason I’ve been keeping my head down low and not finding time to blog.  Bridie and I are shortly sending to press an amazing book – to celebrate the ten year anniversary – can you believe it? – of the shop next month.  It’s called THE PENTREATH & HALL ALPHABET and it is a celebration of everything we dream of and love in the world of P&H.  We’ve been collating and photographing hundreds and hundreds of images, and designing a wonderful collage of delights with our friend Connie, the graphic designer.  We think it’s looking pretty incredible, and we hope you do, too.  We are printing only 1000, numbered, signed, first editions – and we’ll be taking pre-orders very soon.   Please watch this space, and the website, and our instagram.

Phew, I don’t think I can cope with any more news just for now.  And I reckon you’ll need a cold compress now too, having read everything that’s been going on.

But for those with a tiny bit more energy, I’ll give you a postscript – written by our friend Ruth Guilding, over at the brilliant Bible of British Taste. Ruth’s just posted a long blog about the interiors at the Parsonage, and for those who would enjoy the tour – please step this way.

I hope all this has been worth the wait!

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