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The Summer of 2020: Part II



Ben Pentreath

And then – we were to be in Scotland for weeks. We woke that first day to find bright skies and a powerful breeze; blue skies over Jura… Mavis was the first in for a swim.

I love these clear days in Scotland – the air is so different from down south; you realise why the Scottish Saltire is blue and white.

The view down the lane; the gable of the bothy in the distance. 

As so often, at any moment, there was a sense that the weather could change from sparkling sunshine to rain, and back again.  

Looking back across the Estuary to the bothy and the cottage:  Some days, the sea was mirror flat…   

On other mornings, lowering cloud huddled over Jura, hiding the mountains from view. 

But the colours of Scotland are always supremely beautiful. Imagine an interior decorated in these hues….

So many mornings we were greeted with beautiful sunshine. Sibyl is sniffing the morning air.

That morning we went for a long walk around the coast and back across the valley. 

Looking up towards Crinan and a distant Mull beyond. 

Remnants of ancient bothies can be found in the valley – only a few gable walls and fireplaces remain, emerging from the bracken.

Another morning it was still, clear, completely flat.   

We walked all the way to the end of the point – seeing the sea otter feeding on a rock ledge for the first time. 

We met our friends David and Sven at Arduaine Gardens…

And afterwards visited the astonishing St. Comghan’s Chapel, on the Kilchoan Estate, Kimelford – a beautiful new stone-built chapel, constructed in 2017-18.  It is worth a visit. 

The first week had sped by. We had to head down to Dorset briefly. Charlie wanted to spend a little time looking after the garden… and I was photographing our new William Morris & Co collection of wallpapers and fabrics. The house had been completely redecorated while we were away! It was good to be home, albeit briefly. 

The dahlias were really beginning to get going… 

Dreamy, misty morning walks… England was in the start of a heatwave.

And then, via London, and then a trip north to Cheshire and Glasgow, and late that evening I was home to the bothy. The following morning the air was hot, and perfectly still – magical Scotland. 

The sky and sea was the colour of Greece; the hillsides are covered in a multitude of wild flowers. 

We were heading to Jura for a few days. We left in hot sunshine.  

We arrived at William and Annabel’s in the late afternoon. 

Probably the most beautiful house in the whole of Scotland….   

The following day, we all went on a beautiful trip to Colonsay and Oronsay.  

Heavenly Colonsay:

And then, the mirror-flat sea as we went down to Oronsay – sea and sky merging together…

The water was clear, and warm – warmer than Dorset.

Happy Charlie – sweaters on for the boat ride home.

Crystal clear Jura.

The evenings were soft and still – for our entire trip. Incredible days. 

Walks;

Lots of dogs;

Annabel’s beautiful china and shells…

Sunsets, happy days, happy evenings. 

but then it was time to return to reality…

Everyone was exhausted.

The dogs could hardly keep their eyes open on the way back over…

Home.

The next day, the weather had broken; we had lunch at beautiful Inveraray Castle. 

The following day we woke bright and early….

A walk at Taynish woods…

Like looking down over a mythical world. 

Bath time that evening.   

We had extraordinary high tides…

Beautiful sunsets…

Friends over for supper…

Long walks to clear the head…

Lunch at friends, marvelling at the views across the mirror-calm Sound of Jura again. 

A sunset walk one evening – Charlie wearing his 1970s Girl Guides poncho.

Incredible light that evening.

Incredible light in the mornings too, mist hanging in the valley.

Day after day was clear and perfectly still.

We met our friends Fee and Aldred for a beautiful day in East Loch Tarbert. 

And experienced the same extraordinary dead-flat water again; blue and white, the colour of Scotland. 

Cows came down to the waters edge while we had our picnic, pulled up on a sand bar. 

Looking south to the Isle of Arran. 

Barbecues outside the little bothy…

Perfectly flat evenings without a breath of wind…

Walking down on our shoreline that evening…

Was like entering another world.

The dream had to come to a close.  We’d been up in Scotland for nearly six weeks; the incredible consequence, not least, I suppose, of all of Charlie’s summer shows being cancelled by the virus – Melplash, Dorset County, The Yeovil Dahlia Show. It has been so sad to have such an eventless countryside this summer; but the silver lining was spending so many happy weeks exploring and discovering and pottering, and tinkering around with the cottage and bothy.

Eventually we had to come back. Charlie came down to Dorset; I made site visits to Inverness and Aberdeenshire. We’ve been up in London now for two weeks; the start of the new term.

We’ve had the quietest weekend in Dorset. The weather has been heavenly.   

Late Summer meets Autumn; we are on the turn.

The world feels unsettled; cases of the virus appear to be on the rise, but somehow there appear to be a million solutions as to what or what not we should be doing; for everyone who says ‘do this’, you’ll find another newspaper commentary saying ‘do that’. And we all just have to muddle on through. I guess none of us have a clue what the right answer is.  My new strategy is to agree with whoever I’m speaking with.

For my part, and I have a feeling I’ve written this recently before, I try and stick to my mantra of: don’t worry (too much) about the things out of your control; do worry a lot about the things in your control, and do your best to look after them. It’s surprisingly calming to look at the world in this way.

At every turn, right now, there is a sense of disquiet in the air. The American election looms just a few weeks hence; trouble seems to breathe the streets of that great and beautiful country, but – I know this is unfashionable – I believe that everything will be alright in the end.

I can’t be the only one who’s spent time this weekend thinking back to those unreal minutes, hours, days of 9/11; there I was, standing at the end of Gansevoort Street, on the West Side Highway, watching with my own eyes at the first burning tower, as the second aeroplane hurtled in. Never have we experienced such fear, and such grace; such sadness, and despair.

But time really is the great healer. Here we are, 19 years on; of course we have new troubles, just as New York had different troubles 19 years before that, and as America had troubles 19 years before then. And there will be trouble 19 years from now too. But I’m afraid I’m a believer that despite all the troubles of the world, the good outweighs the bad, a hundred, a thousand, a million times over; for everything that we are told gets worse, many, many things also get better. Problems are understood, sometimes too haltingly; solutions are found, sometimes too slowly. But the solutions are there. We all see far more acts of kindness and care than of pain; nowhere more so, I happen to believe, than in the beautiful country of America.

We will do well to remember this fact in the weeks to come, as the media bombard us all – on both sides of the Atlantic – with a diet of imminent disaster.  Here in Britain, we have our own narrative of imminent disaster playing out too, on the airwaves and in print.

And yet, and yet… something tells me that our little bothy in Scotland will still be around two or three hundred years from now; and that those beautiful waters of the Sound of Jura, will still be there, majestic, for thousands of years to come. And the troubles of today will all be forgotten. Life carries on, and so must we.

37 comments on this post

  • Joyce Morris

    I can only echo all of the above. I live in Scotland . Sometimes it’s so beautiful it makes one ache. Interesting times ahead, but there’s always you, Ben, to keep us grounded. Thank you.


  • Birgit Theobald

    Amazing photos of an amazing place on earth ….. wonderful Scotland !
    Thank you for sharing :)


  • Nicola Lawrence

    Heavenly photos Ben. Your part of Scotland – and Jura – looks so beautiful and calm(ing). I’d love to explore those areas one day. The shell work around that fire has inspired me yet again to hang a large mirror at the beach house and have our grandchildren add shells to it, in an ad-hoc manner, over time. I think it would be such a lovely thing to do with them.

    I too love seeing what Charlie is wearing. What a beautiful fair-isle jumper. I wonder who earned all of the Girl Guide badges on the smock – and for what. Happy reminders for me of earning Brownie badges for ‘walking a balance beam’ (with great peril along the side rail of a very spiky wooden fence that adjoined the Guide’s hall) – and helping an old lady clean out her smelly kitchen cupboards (whilst my father wrangled a deadly brown snake from under the car!).

    I agree that all must be okay in the world. I am facing something and trying to do so with tranquility as it’s not something that I can do a lot about – and there is so much joy and beauty surrounding me and ahead and I’m just trying to think of that – and each day at a time. I’m off to explore Jura on my laptop. Thank you Ben – wonderful pics xx


  • Paula Diane Zwagerman

    Bless you for your gorgeous photos and beautiful, hopeful, inspiring prose.


  • Alison

    Ben wonderful post and photos.I have always lived by the adage if I can’t change it do anything about it box it up and look to the next thing.
    I agree with everything you say and let’s think about tomorrow as Scarlett said “ after all tomorrow is another day. “
    Take care you Charlie and the dogs.


  • Tracy Gooding

    Oh dear Ben. You have a wonderful way with words, and for putting across exactly how I am feeling, love will conquer all! Thank you for sharing your little piece of heaven with us, and for your beautiful photo’s which are so calming and happy! There is truly a daily round of beauty for those who make time to embrace it. All the very best to you both xx


  • Darlene Chandler

    Thank you, thank you for this lovely post. The pictures were magnificent. With all the upheaval in the world, this was the most beautiful post to see such beauty. So uplifting to see beauty and nature and lovely friends and days that you and Charlie enjoyed. And of course your dogs in their glory enjoying the outdoors. Charlie’s garden of Dahlias are so beautiful. What a beautiful place you have in Scotland.


  • Anna

    Beautiful – what a wonderful world we live in and I share your ‘take care of what we have around us’ rather than despairing at the world problems. But a little pang when I remember that last year we had such a glorious time very close to where the your bothy is and had planned a return this year with some of the family. Ah well. Your photos are the next best thing, so blessings and gratitude for them.


  • Anne Ellis

    Thank you so very much for this balm for the soul. As a Scot living in the south it reminds me it is time to head north once again to my ‘spiritual’ home. I love your writings and your beautiful photographs.


  • Deb Miller

    Beautiful, beautiful post. When I fly home to Western Canada the flight often passes over beautiful white sand, crescent beaches and clear blue ocean somewhere in Western Scotland, wherever it is, and it maybe close to your bothy, its a place that seems to be embedded in my psyche that randomly appears in my dreaming and waking time. As a realistic optimist, who knows from personal experience the power of hope, I’ve been feeling pretty meh this summer . . . your words are a balm for my soul. Thank you.


  • Anne

    Ah,Candide! Is this the best of all possible worlds? I fear not. No mention of climate change? No mention of systemic racism? No mention of virus, wildfires, floods, hurricanes? No mention of the need to vote in the USA. Lovely photos though.


  • Malcolm Pym

    Hi Ben, Fabulous photos ,once again, and your words are so comforting. Yes , the virus has turned the world upside down, but it will eventually pass when we get a vaccine. Hopefully. Isn’t Scotland such a magical place and love where you and Charlie spend time. You are both very fortunate. Cheers from Australia.


  • Lauri Gaffin

    Thank you for a wonderful post with such beautiful photographs, I feel like I have been a perfect holiday.
    I hope one day to visit Scotland and immerse myself in all its beauty.
    Your writing is so thoughtful.
    Best to both of you.


  • Wendy Smith

    Thank you Ben for allowing us into your world of beautiful gardens & seaside splendour as you travel from one idilic location in Devon to the vast seashores of Scotland. The desire to travel is ignited by your glorious photos but I feel it may be a long, long time before it is safe to do so esp living here in Australia & the long flights involved to get to the UK. I will hold your calming words close to my heart as comfort . Wendy


  • Elizabeth K

    I’m with the other Americans posting here, who thank you not only for your uplifting and calming photographs— Richard is right, this is one of your best posts ever — but your generous words and your faith in our country.


  • Jennifer

    I am a transplanted Scot from Thurso in the 1800’s. As is my husband whose generations of Campbell’s came from Islay. We have been back a couple of times and I feel I belong. Your pictures reaffirm my love for Scotland.


  • Lisa D.

    Ben, thank you for this. So beautifully articulated, so calming, and so important to put everything in perspective.

    I fantasize often about moving to the English countryside.


  • Josette

    Ben…..thanks so very much for such a POSITIVE post today. The world needs this. Beautiful photos in a idyllic spot. You and Charlie are truly blessed.
    Jo from America


  • Jenifer Digby Gile

    All shall be well, and all shall be well; all manner of thing shall be well…..


  • Sarah

    Beautiful, inspiring, thought provoking. I love your posts Ben, thank you.


  • Julianna Vaughan

    Hello and thank yo for these beautiful images where I can virtually escape To Scotland and Dorset.
    I agree with your positive outlook on what appears to be dire problems in this current era. Martin Luther King said”
    “ The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice “
    I believe justice can include solutions, kindness and positive change. For me it’s the only way to think.


  • Jane in NYC

    Ben,
    Thank you, as always, for your beautiful, healing, inspiring post.
    As a New Yorker who spent a few lovely years in London, and who’s family a few generations ago, made it’s way to this country from Scotland and Ireland, I so appreciate your perspective on America and on Britain.
    Like Deborah above, I have a love of Cape Cod and appreciate the historic and geographic link between this New World idyll and the land its early, Old World settlers left behind.
    Thank you for your faith in America. As someone once said, Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, once they’ve exhausted all alternatives.
    Nevertheless, I remain optimistic that we will shed the current darkness we find ourselves in and hopeful that brighter days will be here before the end of this year.
    Jane


  • Anna

    so many slices of so much heaven on earth, wise words, images that would lift anyone’s spirits on the gloomiest of days, you undoubtedly have an old soul, and your beautifully written, care full words give us all hope Ben. thank you


  • Andrew

    Thankyou as always for allowing us to visit arcadia with you.
    And you are right…whatever happens we must all enjoy what we can an endure only what we must…fate cannot be averted but kindness always eventually triumphs and is never too far away..


  • Brenda Acker

    I’ve often said that ‘nice light’ seems to follow you and I guess the same can be said for optimism. But you find what you look for and you are an inspiration to me to keep looking for beauty and nice light and to be optimistic. Thank you.


  • odl bauer

    DOG bless you, beloved ben!


  • Deborah Wagner

    Gorgeous photographs, Ben. Maybe because it’s been bred into my bones, but I believe the northern British Isles to be the most beautiful place in the world.

    Charlie is killing it again. It’s like a fashion shoot when he wanders into the frame. I’m glad to see he favours Birkenstock’s. My husband always has about three pairs on the go, and my father the same.

    There’s an ill wind blowing, but all ill winds blow somebody some good. My American husband is softening to the idea of leaving the US for England, as I have been wanting to do for years. He is a painter and has always intended to live in Wellfleet, but Cornwall would work. He loves it there. So, we shall see.

    For now, we will enjoy the change of the seasons and ignore the news. Autumn only comes once a year, after all.

    Deborah in Cambridge


  • RIchard COrnett

    Ben, I think this is one of your finest posts. Scotland is so beautiful. And thank you for you positive words about
    America. I hope you are right. This election is the most frightening time in my 82 years.


  • Bo Parrish

    With your beautiful pics and lovely thoughts you have
    gathered OUR Summer 2020 thoughts.


  • Frances E.

    Thank you for all the really beautiful pictures. Scotland is such a lovely country. Thanks for your sweet comments about America. We will survive but it is a sad country now.


  • Frances E

    The pictures are just lovely.


  • AnnieD

    Thank you.

    I feel like I could have written your final thoughts. All the best.


  • Holly

    Yes, yes and yes. Everything will be alright. Thank you for your generosity of spirit!


  • Stephanie Louise Murray

    I grew up in the highlands and seeing it again here brought back so many incredible memories. Even as a child I could appreciate the extreme beauty of the country, spending hours sitting on the stone beach watching dolphins and seals and the occasional whale and then the water would turn to glass and the sky would drop down into the water and look up at itself, amazing. It is difficult not to take a photo of Scotland and not have someone ask if it has been retouched, NO it is like this except in a photo you don’t get the smells of brine and heather and peat. The highlands are in my blood until I die and one day my ashes will dance in the wind over the heather and fly over the sea to Narnia. Thank you god bless.


  • ELaine Bamber

    Stunningly beautiful west coast light and sea. We have that in far west wales too – when it turns from turquoise to pink to almost navy blue, with mirror flat sea and the dolphins playing just off shore then the mackerel come inshore and the sea appears to bubble with their jumping. Thank you for sharing the gorgeous summer photos.


  • Chris Hoyer-Millar

    Beautiful pictures. Just fabulous.


  • Christina Paumgarten

    Lovely post. We were sailing around Jura and Colonsay at the same time as you. Best holiday of our lives. As American, your kind words about the country are so nice to hear. And, for me, a newly passported Brit, I hope this wonderfully funny, albeit, stubborn country pulls through and shines in the future.

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