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Pemberley, BFB Gift Shop, Elizabeth Goudge, Prayer & Pumpkin Spiced Muffins

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life, how do you go on?"

- Frodo, The Lord Of The Rings

“I am not at all afraid," said Miss Brown. “The pattern reformed for me once, and it will re-form again.” - The Castle On The Hill


Greetings from beautiful, autumnal London, and Happy 1st Birthday to the Beagle! I can't quite believe where that time has gone and also how much the Beagle has blossomed since that first edition. There are still some fun recommendations in there if you want to take a look. How are you all I wonder in your parts of the world? I love to hear from you so please drop me a line any time, what's happening in your life?

Apologies for this being late to your inbox this month, there have been some unexpected challenges which I'll tell you about. Isn't that life though in all it's glory! I've also written more this month than I usually do, it was hard getting my brain into gear I can tell you, I am working at this craft and it hurts the brain cogs. I'm thinking maybe someone needs to hear what I have to share this month so hopefully it is worth the wait. I've loaded my most delightful Pemberley pics as well as some extra goodies I don't usually include. It's a bumper crop for sure.

What's happening for me at the moment?

As a recently graduated Home Educator I've been finding my knew rhythm and learning more about the way I work best. I've been using Cal Newport's technique of Time Blocking for deep work when I need to focus. I can't work like that though, I need flexibility and freedom and, we're not machines. I don't have Cal's official planner I simply use a bullet journal. Why use this system? This time last year the Beagle took me 2 days to put together, this month it's taken me almost two weeks. I'm writing more which requires deep work, uninterrupted hours, I get this Mon-Weds when my son is at College. I now spend a lot more time reading, note taking and thinking and of course, photographing. One of my goals has been to finish books I've started, I am a notorious book buyer and multi-book reader! Using the Time Block method has helped me be disciplined in working through them. Of course we're all in different stages of life, it wasn't so long ago the only time I could get to myself was my nightly bath. I see you mums, keep snatching those pockets of grace where you can find them. I've also started using an incredible tool called Roam Research, it's kind of like a brain. I make my notes on there, quotes, thoughts, ideas, books I'm reading and excerpts, then you sort of hashtag those entires like this [[C.S.Lewis quote]] [[prayer]] [[jounral entry]] [[thoughts on faith]] [[Tolkien]]. At any time I can either search a word and Roam will bring up every entry mentioning that word, or, I can search the hashtag and it will do the same. It makes connections the same as your brain does such as, 'O, this made me think of that, and that quote reminds me of this film', and so on, it's been revolutionary, I'm not exaggerating. If you do any form of consistent journalling, research or study you might want to give it a free trial.

Isn't this a lovely scene? I saw this little florist tucked inside a courtyard when I visited the British Library last month, it definitely brought on all the autumn feelings.

This month

  • Still Life: Snapdragons & Seashells. Ikebana style

  • Giveaway: BOOK - The Castle On The Hill by Elizabeth Goudge.

  • Artists: 11 year old Naomi Liu

  • Watching: Vivo, Dune

  • Poetry: 1194, VI, Wendell Berry

  • Books: A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry. Dune. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Advent recommendation.s

  • Music: . BFB monthly Playlist. My Focus & Quiet Time playlist + the Groan playlist; music to pray or groan to. Joy Clarkson's autumn playlist.

  • Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Cake, Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Muffins, Chorizo, Chickpea & Sweet Potato Stew

  • Video: Walking Thoughts - If The Struggle Is Yours So Are The Spoils

  • When Faith Groans - Thoughts on Prayer

  • I Got A Nice Surprise from the Queen

  • Adventuring: Lyme Park (Pemberley from the BBC's adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, you know, the Colin Firth one ;)

  • Wonder & Inspiration: Chilie's Atacama Desert in bloom. How one man acted when a little boy kept riding on his driveway.

  • Snaps from home

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

The giveaway winner from last month, Leah, was delighted to receive her prize. I feel very honoured to see my art taking up residence in someone's heart and home. The dog looks pretty happy too!

Book Giveaway

And speaking of giveaways, I have one for you today friends. I'm sending one lucky person a copy of my of my favourite books, The Castle On The Hill by Elizabeth Goudge.

To enter:

1. Either reply email here with BOOK GIVEAWAY in the subject line.

2. Or if you're on social media, leave a like and comment on the post featuring this month's Beagle.

I'll pick one name at random on Sunday 7th November, 9pm GMT.

Drum Roll . . . . My Debut Collection Prints are . . .

. . . aaaaalmoooost ready. Sigh, friends, I've hit a potential blip with my packing slips and am hoping to get that figured out in the next 24 hours. I was really hoping to launch today until this snag presented itself yesterday. This also explains the lateness of this month's Beagle. My sweet, patient and ever so clever husband has finished the online Gallery Gift Shop, now we need this last little piece to fall into place. If I can't take the route I was set up for with remote printing I'm gong to have to take things into my own hands which will mean adjusting to a new method of operation. Thank you for your patience. When I picked up my camera last year during lockdown, after five years away from it I never imagined that today my work would be making its way into people's homes. It's very humbling indeed. It's been quite painstaking checking samples and suppliers, but I'm happy now that you'll be getting quality forever-art works in your hands . . . SOON!


A giggle for you


Still Life

Snapdragons & Seashells

I have some lovely shells which I've collected over the years and this felt like a good time to let them make a full appearance. You saw a preview of them last month but I wanted to share a larger composition with the snapdragons and butterflies. The movement of the snapdragons is quite balletic. The arms are sweeping, the toned limbs curved and pointed, reaching, reaching. My new bee can be seen. I found this majestic chap quite deceased on the path and so set about rehydrating him, pinning and posing, he is lovely don't you think? I did have to snip his stinger off, just in case. Do you see the other small bee? That was another find which I worked with. And finally my two butterflies, a yellow Eurema and a now rather faded Indian Red Admiral. I wanted to try some Ikebana style also. This style of Ikebana is a rather modern approach on an otherwise ancient Japanese art form of flower arranging. It seeks to display simplicity, movement and balance. I wanted to blend my love of the Dutch Masters and so incorporated the gold frame. The arrangement is free to exceed the bounds of the frame and grow as if wild, alive, a living painting.

The origins of Ikebana are thought to trace back to the sixth century when flower displays were used for religious purposes. I selected three stems to feature, each with direction but only two with significant movement. The snapdragons arch and bend in opposing directions while the wild grass is upright. Only the lengthily leaf of the long grass curls, as an arm, around and onto the apple, almost protectively like a mother's arm across their child as they step off too early across the road. The horizontal leaf stem of the apple mirrors that of the vessel. The apple is perched outside of the frame, almost precariously. The butterfly balances itself between the two scenes. I hope you like it.


What I've Been (re)Reading *** SPOILERS***

(all quotes are taken from The Castle On The Hill by Elizabeth Goudge unless otherwise stated)

Re-reading my favourite Elizabeth Goudge book these past couple of months has been a deep delight. I'm coming to think you can't really know a good book until you've read it at least twice. But I really shouldn't put that kind of pressure on myself when my 'to be read' pile is already teetering! This story set my soul soaring when I first read it a few years ago, it resonated with my own sense of disorientation and the desire at the time but is a timeless message. The Castle On The Hill is about coming home, place, belonging, legacy, faith, family and love.It's a redemption story of lives rebuilt from rubble and ruins. It follows several characters all thrown out of their usual pattern of living by WWII. As they struggle to make sense of the world and their place in it each faces their fears and losses and becomes willing to yield to whatever the future may hold.

One of the main characters, Mr Isaacson, a displaced and formerly persecuted Jew, has the most significant redemptive arc in the story. Here's is a man, a musician, who has lost faith. He sees prayer as a childish toy, set aside long ago. How did this happen? The obvious answer seems to be the cruelty he experienced under German oppression and from his fellow man. He views prayer as a childish game for the naive, a play thing which implies pretence, a toy for amusement and distraction. It holds no real meaning (this aspect of his character lodged in my heart this month which you'll read about further down). To him prayer is deceptive, yet he still cries out to God. His reasoning is, prayer was so instinctive a thing, and as fair and shining as the Andante with its beautiful betrayal. Mr Isaacson is an accomplished violinist, music is his passion and religion. You can hear the betrayal he feels by both. Like the Andante he plays, which seems to offer something transcendent and hopeful, life's realities have persuaded him it's an empty promise. He plays his violin from instinct, yet no longer believes the power it holds. Yes he prays, but from instinct also, he doesn't believe it holds true.

Sarah Clarkson writes in This Beautiful Truth, 'Beauty and brokenness told me two different stories about the world. I believe that beauty told true.' Mr Isaacson is waiting to see which story holds true. Little by little Mr Isaacson encounters kindness, hospitality and finds purpose. He is unaware that his playing has reached into the most desperate part of another lost soul, Miss Brown. "You are not back where you were," said Mr Isaacson decidedly. "You are a great deal further on. You have lost your fear." "Miss Brown smiled. "If I have that is partly because of you," she said. "Whenever I feel afraid I think of what your music made me feel that day--I can't exactly describe it--sort of leaning back against the multitude."

There is a Divine presence in the beauty of music and the arts which pushes back against the darkness.

There are a couple of breathtaking crescendos towards the end of the book, this really is a feel-good read. I enjoy seeing the lives interweave, the way they either intentionally or inadvertently play a part in the restoration of others.

A couple of weeks ago I attended an evening prayer service at Pusey House chapel in Oxford called Compline, my first. I was intrigued to take part and witness this centuries old tradition. I hadn't a clue what I was doing but a kind and patient friend guided me through each step. We were handed candles and an order of service, the lights were turned off and a quiet anticipation fell upon us all. The faces across the chapel were illuminated by soft flickering flame, our eyes would meet occasionally, there was a oneness. The sung responses were especially beautiful. A moment that touched me though was when we each lit our candle from our neighbour's flame. There was something in that passing on of the light that spoke to me of fellowship. We are created to gather, to encourage and stir one another to good living and devotion. We each have a light with which we can illuminate the life of a fellow life traveller who may feel lost in the darkness.

You see this all throughout The Castle On The Hill but towards the end an exchange between Mr Isaacson and Miss Brown reveals the ways in which they've had their lives touched upon: "But how did I save your life, Jo?" gasped Miss Brown. "Just having a use for me," said Mr Isaacson. "I thought if you had, well, maybe life had."

The bus arrived, and they got in, and all the way home Miss Brown sat marvelling at the fact that apparently she had unconsciously done for Mr Isaacson exactly what Mr Birley had of deliberate intent done for her . . . Made him feel again that he had his place in the pattern.

I think this is such an encouraging, hopeful and restorative read. The characters aren't perfect, they reflect reality. They doubt, fall, rail, fear and wrestle it out, but it is ultimately redemptive, which for anyone feeling a bit wobbly is just the tonic.



Taken from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems (1979-1997) by Wendell Berry. For many years, each Sunday, Wendell Berry would write a poem. This is from that collection. ***Sensitive Content***

1994, VI

A man is lying on a bed

in a small room in the dark.

Weary and afraid, he prays