Springtime, stateside…

We went to Chicago – my first time back in that beautiful city for well over twenty years. I was there for an event and to receive a very kind award from the brilliant architectural school of the University of Notre Dame – Charlie and I flew over, together with my friend George, and arrived, blinking with excitement and happiness to be back in America after such a long pandemic time.   We didn’t have masses of time on our own, to be fair, but just enough to get absorbed in the amazing collections of the Art Institute, and to hurtle around many beautiful buildings including the Chicago Athletics Club – with floors like this,  And walls of the elevator car like this: I could almost be interested in Athletics.

Chicago was still cold and wintry but we had a wonderful time.
It was a whirlwind of events and speeches and spending fantastic time with the architectural students.

Here was the beautiful view from our hotel room.  We walked and talked and after three days flew back to New York. What heaven to be back home – not quite home, anymore, but having lived here for five years back at the turn of the century (doesn’t that feel a long time ago, now?) I think a part of NYC is forever home in my heart.

Monday morning, beautiful and clear, walking over the Manhattan Bridge to our project in Brooklyn: And then after my meeting and after a lovely lunch, time for a wander around old Brooklyn,  Back down to the water, with those amazing views back to Downtown Manhattan… We took the ferry back over to Wall Street and meandered back via the South Street Seaport – still one of the most evocative parts of town for me.  Bowne & Co, a regular stop when I’m in New York, was sadly closed until Wednesday.  I can’t remember ever coming across this amazing Greek Revival chapel before, just up towards chinatown – we could have been in 19th century Glasgow, or in a god-fearing corner of Cornwall. Wonderful. Crumbling Ionic one or two streets over.  We walked to supper that night, I’m sure you’re all glad to know my new shop which has opened down in chinatown.  Absolute new favourite – The River, on Bayard.  A restorative breakfast the following morning at Russ & Daughters.
We headed up to the Met to meet our wonderful friend Frances Palmer – whose beautiful pots are the spring ticket in Rugby Street at the moment – or see here. Frances had been staying with us in London for her launch party last week, so it was lovely to have been able to say to her ‘we’ll see you next week’; needless to say next week came soon enough!

We started with the amazing show of Berenice Abbott scrapbooks – a photographer I’ve always adored, but it was fascinating to see and learn more.  Danish Art was extraordinary…. We walked through the Impressionist Galleries and I found myself lost back in everything I’d been learning when I was 17.  And then, the brilliant new British Galleries, re-imagined with incredible energy by Roman & Williams.  I loved the guard’s phone in the corner of the newly refurbished rooms. The best things in life don’t change.  We’d arrived at the Met in a rainstorm – we left in sparkling sunshine.   Almost spring in Central Park…. We walked back down to Orchard Street – it was good to stretch our legs!  Sunrise the next morning… And another huge walk, this time downtown…. all my favourite haunts.  We walked down The Highline, with all its amazing vistas… Across to Little Island. I posted this photo on instagram and someone commented saying ‘I hope I’m not the only person who sees a collection of stiletto shoes’. Once you have that idea in your head, it’s hard to get it out.  Downtown, Tribeca.  And, finding ourselves with an hour before lunch, we revisited the incredible, beautiful, profoundly moving 9-11 memorial.  I wondered – did anyone plan the dancing rainbows that play in the mist at the foot of the great basins, or is that just chance?  We looped through the concrete canyons, and ended with a wonderful lunch at our all time favourite, The Odeon, and again toasted that the best things in life really don’t change.  We had the best supper that night with Valentina, and then it was home to London early, early the following morning. We got home that night.  Charlie headed straight to Dorset the next day – I caught up in London.  What a relief to catch the 4.30pm train home.

It’s been a cold weekend, grey clouds, rainstorms lashing Dorset, but for brief hours the sun has shone through – and then, it suddenly feels like the most beautiful moment of spring – birds singing, warm sunshine, lengthening evenings.  But as soon as the sunshine retreats, and the cold wind starts blowing, Spring disappears and Winter is present once more. So was today.  Charlie was exhibiting at the Dorset Spring Show – a happy time was had by all, but far fewer daffodils on show this year compared to last.  We got home and took the dogs for another run up the hills.  As we left, the skies cleared and it was once again a beautiful evening.  The landscape glowed.
Happy dogs… And a touch of Paul Nash to the air. 

I sometimes think the main purpose of travelling is to remind you just how much you love that familiar place called home.  We had the best time in Chicago and New York – it was SO good to be back, but there has been nothing like tucking into our own bed, covered in plenty of dogs, and being… home.


Your posts and photos – always wonderful and heartfelt


Beautiful pictures of Chicago and nice memory of your time in New York and wonderful time there. I have been to both cities and enjoyed them very much. Beautiful landscape with spring and all of those daffodils are fantastic. Your garden is looking so nice. We had freezing rain today and cloudy and snow last week, but there is hope for high temperatures next week in Canada. None of our buds are out on our trees and things look gloomy with no flowers, so it was so lovely to see the beautiful nature again surrounding your home. And you are absolutely correct, there nothing like coming home after a trip. Happy Easter. All the best.

Darlene Chandler

beautiful photos, ben! you really brought out the best of chicago.


Congratulations on the ND award.
Such a sweet tale of a sentimental journey. As a New Yorker and former London resident, it is so lovely to know of your attachment to New York. Brooklyn and downtown NYC are indeed historic and charming. And love your commentary and photos of London and Dorset, which are sorely missed. Thank you, as always.



Ann Collins

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