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Charles & Camilla Still Life - The BFB May

. . . If for a whole month she could shed herself, get right away from everything connected with herself, be allowed really to forget the clinging and the clogging and all the noise, why, perhaps she might make something of herself after all.“ - The Enchanted April

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.- Jesus

Hello dear friends,

Is anyone else getting that itchy feet, spring fever feeling? April in the UK is always a tug-o-war between the elements and really messes with the British psyche! It’s no wonder our conversation is heavily dominated with a mixture of beration or prayerful desperation. The bluebells arrived in resplendent glory last month. Many little birds began to build nests and court a sweetheart, erupting in ‘careless rapture’ as Robert Browning describes.


I’ve begun to build a little nest over on Substack for the Beagle community under the banner of Chapel Studio. I'm continuing to share Beagle content as well as benefit from the various tools that encourage engagement. Honestly I'm still figuring out it all works. There seems to be some doubling up on emails and in-app notifications which could be off-putting. I think the best way is for you to download the app and then disable email notifications? 🤷🏼‍♀️


If you received an email from Chapel Studio and wondered who on earth it was, that's me! Please subscribe to the free platform and stay tracking with me. For the time being I think I'm going to need to post on both platforms until we all make the transition.


On Substack you can comment, start conversation threads, listen to my podcast, and read daily Notes (similar to Twitter minus the cess-pool). I’m delighting in this curated space for writers. There’s no noise, no virtual placard waving, I really hope we can connect more and future this community of like minded women (and some men).


It also offers me a financial avenue to support my growing work. Through paid subscription, readers become patrons, consumers become contributors. Patronage doesn't necessarily get anything for itself other than getting behind a vision and helping allow that vision to reach a wider audience. I'll write more about this soon.


Sadly I didn't qualify for the creative grant I applied for in February but I'm exploring other avenues to finance my art, bank robbery seems out. I just took delivery of a new backdrop for my still life. This month's edit was a bit of a nightmare due to my Tuscan style canvas. You'll read more below.


I finished The Enchanted April again with a wistful, satisfied sigh. Do you ever miss characters when you finish a book? Upon each read I've resonate in new ways with the four women. I felt Lady Caroline the most this time especially in respect to craving time to get away and write. I also think the onset of Spring fuels this cabin fever longing. I hope the Beagle provides a little space for rest for you today, helps the fever drop.


The new King and Queen Consort will be officially crowned next weekend. Already the streets are being filled with flags and shop windows adorned in every form of red, white and blue. Some of us here have mixed feelings about the monarchy, especially off the back of Megxit and of course that interview and that book. I think we're all bit weary but won't pass up the public holiday and the excuse for a knees up. Anyhoo, somehow, my still life this month steered me towards them in a rather teasing way, I hope you like it.

 

Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted, simply click the link.

 

Still Life

Charles & Camilla

(final image at the bottom)


This idea really came about by accident. I had wanted to take spring flowers from the garden and as I assembled the scene I felt to add in Isabella (sparrow) and Brad (Great tit). Flowers used are Pentaglottis, Common Bluebells, Grape Hyacinths and the yellow flowers of a Sycamore tree.


I did part 1 of a behind the scenes break down for my patrons on Substack.


I think camilla definitely fancies the crown.


The Common Bluebells are radiant, both mauve and white varieties. You may notice the tonal difference in the images. This is due to the light, the lens used and settings on the camera as well as post-edit choices.

Pentaglottis is quite lovely. The stems and leaves are super soft with fuzz.

I love this light for a closer shot on the white Common Bluebell. The blue vase pops!

Is there anything lovelier than a simple vase filled with natural beauty?

The final image


This is more of the direction I'd like to take this year, using composite backgrounds to work with my arrangement.


Compositing is the process through which two or more images combine to make the appearance of a single picture.


This concept was quite experimental and needs a forgiving eye but I'm excited to see this develop for next month.


 

Reading


The Enchanted April I'll be hosting a bookish chat over on Substack in May. Did you manage to get your copy? I'd love to hear your thoughts and hope you can join the conversation.


From Substack:

Can Soft People & Places Soften Hearts: Sometimes you just need to change the soil and what's in you will grow.

Books Are Therapy: How Characters Can Help Us Understand Ourselves & Our World (Podcast)


 

Watching


My friend told me about this film a long long time ago and I've only just gotten around to watching it. Silly me! I've since bought it on DVD and will make a great study of this beautifully moving true story. I shared a little about this on my Substack last week, in particular the cinematography. Hats off to the DoP, some of the set ups resemble a Vemeer.


Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay. The 'Last Supper' scene is beyond words. I can't adequately express how I feel about this important piece of cinema, history and witness to faith filled love.


In case you missed it, an angel by the name of Malakai Bayoh came to visit. 13yo Malakai is singing in 963Hz, better known as "the frequency of divine harmony" or the God note. The judges comments are spot on.


[Occasionally my recommendations may not be for everyone. My choice of films, books etc are based on my particular tastes and tolerances. Just a note for my G-rated friends]

 

For fun

 

Recipe


Creamy Tomato Gnocchi Soup with Sough Dough.


This is a good basic recipe from Short Girl Tall Order which I adapted to make mine. I found the basil was too overpowering the first time so left that out.


  • For mine I oven roasted some red peppers, large tomatoes, one onion and a garlic bulb. I loooove the taste of roasted garlic. I also added a handful of fresh kale and spinach for the last 5 minutes.

  • Once all my veg was roasted I added it to the pan with a little oil and sautéed for 5 minutes, I squeezed the roast garlic out of its skins. After adding approx 700ml veg stock I blitzed it in batches in the blender. You could use a stick blender.

  • Season however you like it. I added chilli flakes, sea salt and ground black pepper.

  • If your gnocchi is fresh it won't need long, only enough to warm through. If it's dried it will need 3-5 mins. Put your greens in at the same time if adding.

  • Add as much stock as you need to suit your serving size.

  • As I was dishing up I stirred through a splash of oat milk and a dollop of oat cream but of course you can use dairy.

  • Serve with your favourite bread or rolls and lashings of butter.

 

Listening to


A little Beagle playlist this month featuring The Enchanted April score, some Benedictine vocals in honour of Of Gods and Men, Pushkin's Garland because O, those voices. The rest are little summery beats.


I'm continuing to enjoy the insightful BEMA Discipleship Podcast with Marty Solomon.


I just finished another podcast series, The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling by The Free Press, hosted by Megan Phelps-Roper. This has some strong language in it but is one of the best podcasts and conversations I think I've ever listened to.

 

Art & Poetry


The big and controversial news last month was the winning submission for the Sony World Photography Awards by Berlin based photographer Boris Eldagsen. Boris conducted a little experiment which had a far larger impact on the world of photography than predicted. What he hoped would start as a much needed conversation morphed into a world-wide debate on whether AI generated or assisted images, should be considered art. A new word has come into existence - Promptography.

I conducted my own little experiment this week using AI Promptography.


Inspired by John Everett Millais' piece Ophelia (but with much less sombre theme) I entered this prompt.


SEARCH: image of a woman floating in water full body Dutch Masters style like Vemeer with flowers oil painting


The results were hilarious. Me thinks she's been at the sherry.


I think I have far to go even with a computer's help!


Ophelia


The motive behind being drawn to Ophelia was the depiction of floating as it tied to the poem I'd been pondering lately by Denise Levertov which I shared last month.


The Avowal

Denise Levertov


As swimmers dare

to lie face to the sky

and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air

and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain

freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,

knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.


Again and again I'm drawn back to this idea of letting go, of relinquishing control, of abandoning myself to that ancient faith as Wendell Berry writes. The older I get the more I simplify, the lighter I become as dead weights of expectation are dropped. It's very freeing but also pretty daunting at times.


As a writer and artist, space and alone time is something I deeply crave. As in the opening quote, I just want to gather myself and maybe make something of myself after all. I think time aside spiritually is as much a part of that process. Leaning in to stillness, to listening, to settle the soul and hush the ever worried mind. Denise's poem speaks of water bearing, air sustaining, free falling, floating. There is a sense of being embraced, held, no effort on our part is required only surrender and trust. And in this, this state, this anti-human nature state where all we want to do is control, we meet with Grace.


 

Snaps from home


This feature is now available on Substack to my paid subscribers. This month I'll be showing you some English countryside as well as Cliveden House (Hotel) and it's grounds. I've already shared behind the scenes of the Charles & Camilla shoot which as a new subscriber you'll gain access to along with all the archived posts. Look at this stunning fountain at the entrance of Cliveden.