I hope this finds you faring well. Welcome to the Beagle's 2 year birthday edition! I look back on that first issue and am so grateful for how it saved me during those lockdown months and, how small were it's origins! It has certainly flourished since then. I've gotten to hear from so many of you and we have grown on our journey together. I'm deeply grateful you stuck with me and hope we can continue to keep putting our eyes and hearts on all things lovely and occasionally wrestling out some tricky subjects too. I do so enjoy our conversations.
It's been quite a month here in the UK with the passing of the Queen and the appointment of a new King. The Queen's death and the changing of the guard so to speak has brought up a mix of thoughts and feelings in the country, old conversations are being revived regarding Monarchy but there is within us a deep desire for stability and reassurance. We've also seen a change in Prime Minister who has brought in controversial financial changes and as a result our currency is plummeting like a Red Arrow in spectacular display. On the upside, any of my USA friends planning a trip here, now is the time!
This is life is it not, mountain tops and valley lows, ebb and flow? In the midst our little boat is anchored invisibly to a depth of hope that holds fast. I'm almost through reading Disappointment With God by Philip Yancey, a solid message of comfort in stormy seasons. Much of our sense of disappointment and distance from God can be traced back to either bad theology or a lack of understanding of the character of God and our place in his love. I highly recommend his book if you're wavering and wondering where God is in all this.
Another change personally is that I've decided to defer study for a year. The timing is not right and it means I can devote more time to the Beagle and other writing and creative projects in the coming months, as well as some travel with hubby.
I made a big booboo last month with the Beagle apparently. I've been taught over the years to always communicate clearly what it is I'm wanting to say yet in a press to get the Sept Beagle out I put a far too short and apparently 'spammy' email header. Result? A small group of unsubscribes. Whoops.
I am considering a small subscription set-up from November or December. This will allow me to invest further into flowers and my still life for my audience as well as provide a little income to support the time I give to it. It will only be the cost of a coffee and you can be assured the full content will be exclusive to you as a subscriber. I'll keep you posted.
To celebrate the Beagle's 2nd birthday I will be giving away a host of goodies in the last week of October.
★ A signed original print of my work, choose your favourite
★ A sterling silver earrings and necklace set by UK award winning designer Candice of Devine Silverware
I'll send out details of how to enter nearer the time in a separate email but it will only be open to my email community so please let your friends know and get them in on the opportunity!
Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted and underlined simply click the link.
An Oxford journal...
I’m sitting at a friend’s dining table, looking out on her little walled garden at her Oxford home. Today has been a much needed dose of tangible grace spattered with violent assaults of British autumnal showers. I drive up from London each week to join my friend at her women’s get together and usually stay over so we can go adventure the next day, even if just for a couple of hours. This morning we hopped in the car and found ourselves in the quaintest little village, Cumnor, with its historical buildings, thatched roofs and pasture land. We had to literally take shelter in St Michael's Parish Church between 'thunder plumps' (heavy rain fall) and discovered a little grisly past too. You can read more in the link.
St Michael's had the most beautiful carved spiral staircase beside it's bell tower and I was very impressed with the amount of bells. My friend and I had quite the odd experience while in there when out of the blue, breaking in on a most serene moment jazz music began to play. It did this on and off for a few minutes but only in 3-10 seconds bursts and always from the start again. After a couple of minutes that was it, we never heard it again.
There were some ancient and beautiful fruit trees in this area. I spotted this little beauty and also brought it home to capture in one of this month's still life. I also came across these sweet flowers, I'll tell you about them below.
Whenever I get to spend time around people who have learned to fill their souls I cannot help but feel the kiss of heaven. I believe people like this have learned to embrace the beauty and goodness in life out of necessity because life is so very taxing. I have also learned that I need to live a sustainable life, I must build in renewing practices that will help me go the distance. Such friends bring the tangible presence of God to your finger tips. Jesus was the Word made flesh, the invisible person of God come to live in visible earth clothes. For just a short time people were able to audibly hear him, to see his face without falling dead. They touched his robes, washed his dirty feet, ate his beachside barbecued fish, and experienced that penetrating sparkly-eyed gaze of love as he looked and truly saw them. He was the fragrance of love and life wherever he went yet he was also a man of sorrows who lived with a burden of anguish. I think the most life-giving people aren’t those who magically skip through fields of daisies because life is just so darned peachy, but are those who walk through darkness, deal with rejection, loneliness, abuses, yet walk with the love of God aflame in their deepest heart. To live as Christ lived is to deny self, suffer much, unconditionally love, thanklessly give out yet possess a fathomless anchor into a hope that cannot be removed, swayed at times but not thoroughly moved. That’s why I feel it’s so very important to make time to be with others who can help you refill your soul cup. Someone who is committed to following Christ will carry many burdens but will also be the one to help lift your chin and sing the song of hope back to you. Do you have such a person? I hope you can find one if not, they can make the difference between being able to keep going or throwing in the towel.
My friend Sally and our Monday night group in Oxford. We stopped for coffee the next day and they brought a little dish of smarties with our coffee. "They're vitamins", she said, "So we must eat them all up!"
Thoughts On The Queen
Have we seen the last righteous beacon?
I wouldn't consider myself a Monarchist per se but I was a bit of a Lizzy fan. Queen Elizabeth II was a person who transcended I think traditional monarchist stereotypes, was above politics and paid no mind to class. Yes she was born into privilege but she used the position as an opportunity to serve. I think she was a true servant leader. She could have shirked her responsibilities at any time and passed off the crown to an eagerly awaiting Charles but what good could she really have done from the sidelines? Rather than
seeking to escape the confines that came with her birthright she sought ways to forge fresh ways within those bounds.
"Many of those who spoke to her – either intimates or those meeting her for a few moments – felt a sense of deep personal goodness. Such goodness can be a little frightening, for she embodied standards the rest of us can not often attain". - The Spectator
One of the most moving moments during a funeral is when the coffin is lowered into the ground, do you agree? There’s something about the finality of it, a sense of closure falls. Like countless others I was deeply moved during that moment of the Queen’s funeral, “From the dust you came, to the dust you shall return”.
'Well done ma’am', I thought, you made the most of the earth suit and now it returns to the earth.
Mentor and communicator Paul Scanlon talks about ‘living full and dying empty’, the idea that we should withhold nothing and be fully spent by the end of our run; a grape squeezed out, shrivelled, wrinkled and thin, not plump and unpressed. Whether that’s applied to my craft, marriage, parenting, this thought has challenged me often. Queen Elizabeth II was a person fully dedicated to the service of others, she found herself in a position of headship she probably never imagined would come to her. Yet when her father died greatness was suddenly thrust upon her and she responded like Mary, “So be it according to your will”.
"I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel."
(Christmas message, 2002)
Sovereigns & Sparrows
“Two sparrows sell for a farthing, don’t they? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Never be afraid, then—you are far more valuable than sparrows."
We will all lay our crowns down one day. From princes to paupers, sovereigns to sparrows, there is a place for us in the heart of God.
An Oxford Basket
Dashing back to where the car was parked while the rain held off, I spotted this sweet bouquet at the little post office in the village. Of course I had to have it and so paired it with the apple I'd seen (and picked) earlier and made this sweet moment.
In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney. I've wanted this for a few years and finally treated myself. As a creator and business person I really appreciate the voices of those who have put in the hard yards ahead of me and are willing to share their insights. A must have for everyone regardless of trade or gender. This would make a great gift.
"Bonney's quietly radical, profoundly moving project brings together short interviews with a diverse group of women who share insight on their life's work. . . . Gorgeous photographs reveal a kaleidoscope of joyful enterprise. Small business owners and poets, chefs and cartoonists, potters and musicians all give generous, humorous counsel to taking risks and following one's heart. Their creativity is so inspiring that this book should be in every female's possession, especially young girls in need of positive role models and old girls looking for a kick. Seeing women of so many ethnicities, backgrounds, and abilities successfully living their dreams is totally uplifting."
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, I'm already re-reading and will come back to this gem time and time again. Whether you want to write for others to enjoy or simply for pleasure this really is a must have.
"I don't think you have the time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good enough at it, and I don't think you have time to waste on someone who doesn't respond to you with kindness and respect. You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath."
Austin Kleon. If you've been around here a while you'll know I'm a big fan. I've devoured all his books and subscribe to his weekly newsletter and blog. This particular one was lovely with its poetical excerpts and quotes, but also his art.
Mr Malcolm's List, on at the cinema but may be streaming somewhere by now. I loved this so much! based on a 'popular novel' (Austen fans will know) this adaptation was witty, fun, beautiful. My hubby surprised me with a date night at The Electric Cinema in Portobello Road which was built in 1911. Breathtaking is all I can say, I had no idea what was behind its modest doors.
Soft warm low lighting was at every chair side, the seats themselves were red leather with velvet cushioning. At the very back of the cinema were double couched and at the very front double bed, yes beds! Red velvet beds. I think I would fall asleep on those! Drinks were served to your seat on a mirrored tray with wooden handles and if you ordered a meal it also came to where you were sitting. I loved the little ticket booth out the front and the original mosaic tiling. Such a treat.
Sidney on Apple TV+
This was such an inspiring watch. There is a wealth of wisdom in this film not only from Sidney but from those who contributed. How do we choose to respond to the darkness of life? We can be changed or we can be part of the change. In our time we have an opportunity to either be overcome and silently dissolve ourselves into the darkness or stand strong reminding ourselves we are not alone, we are part of a group of change agents in our time. Sidney Poitier was a change agent. The Queen was a change agent, which leads me onto The Batman with Robert Pattinson. To me it showcased the humanity of the super hero. In the face of relentless darkness, rising crime, unrelenting evil, The Batman went from bringer of hope to Vengeance. You see him wrestling with the point to his calling, can he go on, doesn't evil's triumph seem inevitable? Can he still do good? I won't spoil anything but the last scene with the flare in the water is a masterpiece and is the turning point.
“You and I can join the struggle to reverse all that is wrong with the universe. We can make a difference“ - Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God
[My recommendations may not be for everyone. My choice of films, books etc are based on my particular tastes, tolerances and interests. Just a note for my G-rated friends]
By Philip Larkin for the Queen's Silver Jubilee 1977
In times when nothing stood
But worsened, or grew strange,
There was one constant good:
She did not change.
All-in- One Mushroom Ragu
I have changed my way of eating these past couple of months, no meat apart from fish, no dairy, does that make me a Pescatarian, I have no idea. Anyhoo, I feel the better for it and this recipe is hands-down scrumptious. As a former spagbol lover this hits the spot, I hope you like it too. I got this from the Gousto food company, it's so so easy.
250g Chesnut mushrooms
210g canned chopped tomaotes
11 veg stock mix
1 garlic clove
35g grated Italian hard cheese (vegan if desired)
32g tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
15ml balsamic vinegar
190g dried spaghetti
Preheat the oven to 220℃/200℃ (fan) gas 7
Grate the mushrooms then peel and grate the garlic
Add them to either a large stove top pan/wok or a hob and oven proof dish with either a knob of butter or your choice of oil
Add the tomato paste and give it a good mix
Add the chopped tomatoes, veg stock, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano and 650ml boiled water and give everything a good stir. Bring to the boil over a high heat, season generously with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and put the dish in the oven for an initial 30 mins or, transfer to your oven proof dish and cover with a lid or foil - this is your mushroom rage.
After 30 mins, remove the rags and give it a good stir. Break the spaghetti in half and add it to the dish, give it a stir and separate all the strands.. Return the dish to the oven and cook, covered, for a final 25 min or until the spaghetti is tender - this is your all-in-one mushroom rage spaghetti.
You can serve this just as it is or add a side salad, some garlic bread etc. You could even do this in a slow cooker and cut out the middle man. Trust me, it's tasty and very comforting in the autumn season.
I follow an account on Instagram called daily_paintings curated and run by Emil Oskar Andersson. Last month he ran a series on women reading and this one in particular tickled me. It is by Ramon Cases, Spain (1866-1932) and is titled Young Decadent (After the Ball) (1889)
He wanted to title it 'Me as a parent of a toddler, having an ambition to read'. I prefer his title!
I have a pretty skinny playlist this month but I'll continue to add to it as the month goes on, be sure to check back in.
I've been discovering Bon Iver.
I'm really enjoying the Homilies podcast with Richard Rohr, you can find that on Apple.
Snaps from home
So much autumn loveliness in the shops at the moment, images 1-3. 4. Milliner in London. 5. Pretty glass plate display. 6. Marylebone coffee shop.
7. Lunch out with Zoe. 8. World's smallest loo! 9. Pastry date with hubby and Alba.
10-12 beautiful Great Missenden where we visited the Roald Dahl museum.
13. Dahlia's in the local shop. 14. Mary handing Jesus flowers (tapestry at St. Michael's) 15. Alba in the morning light.
16. Found an old pic of my Uncle when he was an active Grenadier Guard, 1976/77.
17. Oxford footpath. 18. Still going with my Curly Girl method routine, I call this look beach wind!
Thank you for coming along on another month of exploration, beauty and thoughtful conversations. I'm really looking forward to all that lies ahead, to being a change agent in my little part of the world. Drop me a line as I always love to hear from you. Until next time -