Out of the blue….


Welcome back to life – that end of August feeling, September turning, the new school year starting, new notebooks… have you been doing this weekend what is my favourite thing of all, an autumnal spring clean?  There’s something slightly melancholy about the end of summer, but something that I find incredibly energising about this time of year too.

Maybe it’s a little harder to feel optimistic in 2021 than normal, as the relentless bad news drums like a broken record, the same half dozen insurmountable problems that we are all completely incapable of doing anything about; the same media narrative (now playing out on the US President, and perhaps also on the Canadian Prime Minister, for good measure) of building up the most unrealistically tall pedestals – all the better for knocking over as soon as possible. It’s frankly exhausting. Don’t you yearn for the days when August was the month of silly stories?

But either way, I hope you’ve managed to switch off and realise that the most joyous thing about things you have no control over whatsoever is to realise that you have NO control over them, and therefore it is much more fulfilling to concentrate on the things you can control: an altogether better approach to life, and one which regular readers know is how and why I manage to stay by and large optimistic.

This blog starts out of the blue, as it were – as it will end – looking at the shimmering, beautiful blue sea… in this case, in mid July, down at Hive Beach, on one of those magical hot evenings when the horizon line between sea and sky vanished in a haze.  We had driven down to the beach in the Morris Minor at the end of the hottest day for a cooling dip. I must admit that the sea in Dorset has been freezing this year, much colder than Scotland too. So it was a very cooling dip, and very brief. 

August has been somehow unsettled, with as many days of cloud and mist as sunshine, so it was rather a surprise – looking back as I’ve been doing – to see just how many extraordinary summer evenings and days we’ve had. It’s funny how you remember bad weather and forget the good, unless there is an awful lot of good (I think we will never forget that magical spring of 2020, which is probably the only way we all managed to get through the fear and worry of the first lockdown).  But here is the garden in mid July, looking green and heavenly, on a hot summer’s evening as the sun is settling in the west:

So many mornings like this too….

It has been an incredible year for flowers up on the hill – flowers of the chalk – scabious, harebells, bedstraw… filled with butterflies too. 

Back in July there was an early hay cut too…. easily forgotten in the late harvest of August…

One morning we woke incredibly early – a 5.30am walk before I took the train back to London….

Evenings when the sky was heavy with thunder clouds…

Bright, breezy days:

And the first of Charlie’s many triumphs on the show calendar – Dorset County. 

Here’s Charlie’s bizarrely tall sunflower:

And here’s the veg garden looking astonishing, just before we went to Scotland.

We drove north – and the following afternoon found ourselves on a blue sea heading to Jura. 

Always the dream to arrive in the most perfect house in Scotland. 

Crystal clear waters…

Long walks…

Lots of swimming…

The familiar view leading to the pub on Colonsay…. the chapel up on the hill to the left…

Picnic on the beach at Oronsay, looking back to the paps of Jura…

And a walk over to the 13th century Abbey….

And to the walled garden planned and planted in the 80s by the great Penelope Hobhouse.
The Abbey next door is extraordinary.  It houses the tombs of early kings of Scotland…

A profoundly spiritual place, rock of centuries.  Is it at times like this, in places like this, that we realise that the narrative of history has played its tales for millennia – and will continue to do so.  We are just a part of it. 

Annabel doesn’t like thank you letters. Her preference is that every visitor leaves a drawing of the house. Here is mine, painted on the last day. 

We had blissful days at the bothy, with huge skies, downpours, sunshine, lots of trips. 

A day on Island Macaskin. 

Picnics on the peninsula….

Astonishing reflections…

beautiful evenings…

We traveled over to Inverness to see our friends John & Cathy, and to visit Tornagrain, but I kept those photographs out of the diary because it is already too long. Back to the bothy, and back over to Jura for a night with Sofie at Barnhill – the beautiful, wild, romantic house made famous as the place where George Orwell wrote 1984. How we would wonder at where we are in the world today….

Lobster for supper – the best.

Back to lunch at the Glen the next day…

And then we were home, through a wild and stormy Gulf of Corryvrekkan….

Peace and quiet back at the bothy. 

Dorset beckoned – Charlie needed to get home to tend the garden in the run up to the Melplash Show.   Beautiful evenings…High days and holidays – here is Charlie at the Upwey and Broadway Horticultural Society Summer Show….

Misty days too, almost more beautiful than the sunshine. 


I had to pop down to Cornwall, for work. If it feels like work – I’m not sure? 

My favourite farmyard in the whole of Cornwall, opposite the Logan Rock.

We got back to Lamorna to find this beautiful boat at anchor.

And the extraordinary orange moon of late August too.

Early that morning, Ruth (of the Bible of British Taste, as I am sure you have all guessed) and I went for a early dip. 

The ship sailed just as I was leaving. 

Back to Dorset, in time to see Charlie harvest his heaviest marrow entry – which narrowly won, the next day, I’m glad to say.

Beautiful high summer mornings.

And extreme Melplash success.

This riot through summer ends, back looking at at the deep blue sea – this time, this weekend, in Lyme Regis, where we went for an astonishing walk along the undercliff. I’d been wanting to visit for years, and it couldn’t have been a better day – with our friends Will and Brandon. Fish and Chips and beers on the Cobb, ice creams on the way home. The bank holiday is over. I’m writing in Dorset, before heading to London early in the morning. It feels more like the end of summer than I can remember for a while. Grey clouds have hung over us for most of the day, and a cool wind has been blowing, and blackberries are ripe in the hedgerows, and autumn is in the air. All of a sudden, I’m noticing the later mornings and earlier evenings – as I am sure you are too. I can’t say how nice it has been to gently look back at the last 6 weeks, and to be grateful.

Tomorrow, I’m back up to London; I suspect you may be too, reading this blog – perhaps, who knows, for the first time back in the office for the last 18 months.  That is going to be a very strange experience for very many people, this month. I hope it feels good, if it is the case…

Here in Rugby Street, of course, we are ready to welcome you, as always, in to the shop which will be filled with tantalising delights prepared by Bridie all summer long. And now let’s all jump onto the helter skelter that whizzes us into the end of the year, before we can blink. Let’s see if we can enjoy the ride – and stay safe, and well, and happy.


27 comments on this post

  • Nicola Lawrence

    I’ve missed your posts Ben – now that I have read this and have looked at all of the beautiful photographs. Paragraph three resonated – so true. I love having visited some of thr places you mention xx

  • Becca

    I had a sudden thought that, given that Scotland is an English-speaking country (sort of -hah) that Jura is perhaps not pronounced as it is in my head? I read “You-ra” with a lovely lilt of the /r/. Is it “Joo-ra”? I hope not.

  • Steve Henry

    Ben it’s always such a treat to hear your words as it adds an extra dimension to the images. Your watercolor is incredibly wonderful as are Charlie’s entries in the Melplash (sp?) show. You both have so many talents. Thank you for sharing them.

  • Tracy Gooding

    Dear Ben, as always, a balm to the spirit! Thank you for your insight and the beautiful photo’s! The scenery is magnificent but Charlie and his gardens really get my top prize! What a bounty! Have an easy September. Best to you both x

  • Mary Durham

    The beautiful pictures soothed my soul. Thank you for the peaceful settings.

  • Rose Dwight

    Ben we can never thankyou enough for all the thoughtful words and photos.. The times of various tragedies in the world and being on permanent lockdown is made tolerable by your blog. You should receive a few jewels in your crown for all the help you have offered us.

  • Pierre B.

    Great post as always. You guys had quite a summer. Congratulations to Charlie!

  • Mary

    Such beauty and thoughtfulness as always. Echoing Christina Sharp, above, your eloquence and wonderful photos, not to mention your optimism, are a joy and help to keep us going. Thank you!

  • E E Deere

    Thank you so much for this glorious post. Your writing and your photos restore and inspire me, I so deeply appreciate them. Charlie’s gardening is so masterful, too. It’s astounding how remarkable his garden is, and how many prizes he wins. Those local garden shows in Britain are some of the most competitive on earth.
    And just the sheer beauty that you share – it means so much. Thanks again for your generosity.

  • Anne Ellis

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful photographs and tales of summer. My spirit lifts when your email arrives.

  • Darlene Chandler

    So wonderful to receive this beautiful blog with such wonderful pictures and memories of your garden and many things you did this past summer. So nice to see something uplifting and joyful compared to what the state of the world is in. Loved to see Charlie at his shows and that they are taking place. Canada still in major it seems lockdown with so many restrictions still and probably more to come. Nice to see you having wonderful visits to the sea and picnics, drives and swimming. Look forward to to more stories and glad the shop is open and it will be an adjustment as here when some offices are going to open up slowly. Can’t wait to see pictures of fall.

  • Sally Leonard
    Ben, once again, you’ve sent a message of peace, hope and beauty. Thank you. Also, congratulations to Charlie! I’d call his many trophies “an embarrassment of riches.” I know you must be very proud of him.

  • Julie

    I always love your posts. They put me in a much needed gentle frame of mind. But this time there was a little something extra. I was delighted to see Charlie’s radish shirt. Too fun!

  • Angela

    Thank you for the gladdest and most uplifting tidings I’ve had for a very long time.

  • Brent McKenzie

    How lovely to get your blog. Here in NZ we are in lockdown, hopefully not too much longer, with all the stress and anxiety that goes with it. Your photos have cheered me considerably.
    I love your picnic, all it needs is lashing of ginger beer and the Famous Five would live again.

  • Teddee Grace

    Always so beautiful, so peaceful in this unpacific time.

  • Helen Anderson

    Your photographs are just so wonderful, this blog never fails to buck me up & set me thinking and planning. An absolute joy, thank you.

  • Sarah Gomm

    Loved how you used the British tins to carry all for a picnic. What a brilliant idea! I collect them so was excited to see some that I hadn’t seen before.

    Stay well ~ Sarah

  • pamela spradbery

    Beautiful photographs. Surely the South West and Scotland must have some of the most beautiful views on this earth.

  • Ann Collins

    Once more your photographs are so very beautiful and thank you for sharing them with us. The photo of the tomatoes really caught my eye amid all the lovely vistas and buildings. Fall is here once again.

  • Barbara Wallace

    Your fabulous post, always just in time to boost my spirits!

  • Nancy Bowers

    Ben……Thank you, thank you, thank you for a view of your “riot through summer !” Peace and good health to you and Charlie.

  • Jayne Ann Fox

    Tear and goosebumps. Thank you kindly.

  • Clay McCleery

    You always keep me entertained! Let your blog run long…I love it!
    Kudos to Charlie, on his many prizes…a lot of hard work really pays off!
    And speaking of hard work…if you have energy to burn, after you’ve finished your cleaning, you’re morn than welcome to start in one mine!

  • Christina Sharp

    Please don’t stop writing this blog, however busy you are, it lifts my spirits quite wonderfully. Your eloquence is a joy to read and your photos are so unbelievably good. I cannot really express how much I appreciate you. Keep a firm hold on that optimism Ben, we need you.

  • Lisa Dunn

    So enjoyed your narrative as always. Still summer here in Atlanta GA USA. Waiting for the remains of hurricane Ida to come through. Can’t wait for fall!!

  • Anne

    Thank you for sharing your summer.

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