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West Country to East Coast



Ben

We were in Dorset during the week…. always a pleasure. It was Dad’s birthday supper on Tuesday; I visited local job sites on Wednesday, including a meeting for the church re-roofing project, which is about to start (that is a very local job), and we had our Poundbury site day on Thursday. The golden evenings have been beautiful.  

Charlie hasn’t planted quite so many thousands of tulips this year, but he’s done three smaller blocks as cutting patches in the lawn borders, and they are still pretty amazing. 

Down in the meadow the cowslips are crazy. We planted a few plugs about five years ago; now they are everywhere. I think they are one of my favourite flowers, although I’d always forget to mention that if they weren’t out at the time.

On Wednesday night we went for supper with our neighbours. The sunset over the valley was breathtaking. 

Those nine beds that Charlie’s dug in the meadow are for his giant pumpkins and marrows.  the soil is warming up under the cloches. The dining room has been taken over as the seed nursery….

A last walk on Friday…. the sun has been shining but the air is crisp and clear, with an arctic wind blowing.

The blackthorn in is blossom.  I love those two ancient Sarsen stones that sit on the valley floor, looking always like cows lying down sleeping. 

And then I was via Winchester and London and up to Suffolk for the weekend. I was staying with Charles Morris, my old boss, and his wife Rachel.  Here is their beautiful garden, which they planted only ten years ago, on a high bluff overlooking the Blythe Estuary in Suffolk. 

Rachel’s veg garden with its little greenhouse is always neat as a pin. 

Looking back up to beautiful Blythburgh church.The church is a dreamy Gothic building, with astonishing flint work. 

It was twenty years ago this year that I left Charles’s office – my first ever job – and moved to New York. Wow, life changed! But I have never forgotten those first years, and Charles was the entirely the person who steered me on to the path of architecture, and taught me so much of what I understand about building today.  It was an amazing office, and even more amazingly, in a sense, the little band of us who worked there have stayed in touch ever since.

A few years ago now, we were brought together in real sadness when one of our colleagues, Gavin Brown, died of cancer – far too young, leaving his wife Sam and two young children. We all went to the funeral, and at lunch afterwards, we decided to meet for an annual lunch, ‘Gavin’s Day’, in his memory. And so that’s why I was heading to the coast. We met for a lovely lunch on Saturday in Bury St. Edmunds. As always, it feels like time stands still and no-one has changed at all, but whereas their sons and daughters were 8 when we worked together, now they are 28, with kids of their own. And so the circle of life goes round. It was a happy time, reminiscing about the old days, sharing new stories, thinking back and ahead.  Lunch lingered on and it was very late afternoon as we got home.

Early evening light in the garden:

Charles and Rachel’s beautiful arts and crafts house. 

Rachel and I took the dogs for a final turn around the estuary.  The Blythburgh church tower sails above the marshes below – what an extraordinary placement of a building.

And in Suffolk, the blackthorn glowed too, in the evening light. Charlie was in Dorset, having decided not to make the long trip from Dorset; he visited the West of England Auricula show, which I’ll have to go to another year, and going out to the pub with Dad, and generally being very busy in the garden, as gardeners are at this time of year.  We all missed him, but it was good as always to have that little moment of pause, Gavin’s Day, and think of times past. Twenty years travels very fast, in one sense, but as I look back, trying to remember individual days or moments, I can see an arc of time moving rather slowly, too.

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