There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Friday, 27 March 2015

An Afternoon With Jane

Something Stuart and I get asked all the time is, "Do you ever take time off?", to which we answer a heartfelt and resounding, "Yes!" We work seven days a week, sometimes 16-18 hours a day, so time off is imperative and our very survival as a couple depends on it.   But when you run two businesses, taking time off isn't always easy, so the minute we get new diaries for the coming year, the permanent marker comes out, and we start slashing weeks with reckless abandon.  A month at Christmas, a week in March, a week in September, time off for our birthdays in July, along with some random days here and there--and presto our holidays for the coming year are sorted.

This past week was our March holiday and we've been dreaming about it and looking forward to it since we returned from our Christmas holiday.  We decided not to go too far afield this time, and kept our plans simple--it was about having 'lie-ins' and afternoon tea, and catching up on sleep and reading.  The one thing I had my heart set on though, was re-visiting the Jane Austen Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.

They've added quite a bit to the museum since we were last there ten years ago, and it felt like we were going to visit an old friend, so I was very excited to spend an afternoon with Jane again.

Our 'Jane Day' was a typical English spring day--about three climates in one day or, "if you don't like the weather now, just wait five minutes."  We drove into Chawton in meagre sunshine, but it was enough to dance off the daffodils blooming in front of the house and sitting on the windowsills inside.  The showers that had been with us since Oxford held off for a bit, so we were able to wander through the garden, bright with spring flowers and showing the promise of summer.

Inside the house there were all the familiar scenes, and the quiet beauty that reflects Jane so well.  Posies of flowers here and there, her little writing table, so poignant in front of the window, and my favourite thing about the house--the windows.  I always look out the windows and wonder what Jane saw, wonder what she was thinking, as she sat and looked out.  Her writings are such a unique window onto the world, and a window into her wise soul; that she saw so much from such a quiet and simple place is a mark of her genius.

The colours of the house are also simple and show how Jane, her mother, and sister, lived a quietly elegant life in Chawton.  A pale primrose or a tiny bird pattern on wallpaper stand out in a pure and unadorned beauty.

"Know your own happiness"
  ~Pride and Prejudice

We lingered in each room, reading all there was to read.  I tried to imprint each image on my mind, like a permanent tattoo that would last long after our visit. Then, after saying goodbye to Jane's little writing table, it was time for a pub lunch across the street. There's also a tearoom next door, Cassandra's Cup, but the rains had returned, our stomachs were grumbling, and we were ready for a hearty pub meal, next to a warm fire.  

Sustained by an enormous plate of sausage and mash, and with the rains in remission, it was time to make our way down the little lane to Chawton House.  We were met immediately by a greeting party of hens, who obligingly pointed the way up to the house.

Chawton House was inherited by Jane's brother Edward, after the Knight family made him their heir, so Jane spent many hours in the house and her mother and sister are buried in the little church near the house. It's now the Chawton House and Library, devoted to the research, keeping, and chronicling of women writers from 1600 to 1830. It's a house devoted to reading, and everywhere I looked, I saw perfect nooks to settle into, with a good and very long book.

A window seat for reading and dreaming.

After seeing the house, we roamed through the gardens before making our way back to the car, passing by the church, the spring lambs, and the chickens on our way.

Our 'Day With Jane' was over, but I felt like I had caught up with an old friend.  Once again she encouraged and reminded me to face life honestly, look at the world directly, never lose sight of what I value in life, and always, always be true to myself.  Thank you Jane, as always, and we'll visit again one day very soon.

"We have all a better guide in ourselves,
if we would attend to it,
than any other person can be."
~Jane Austen


  1. We visited this Jane Austen's House Museum 2014. I'm a big fan of Jane (and Georgian/Regency period), Pride and Prejudice especially - I've read the book several times and seen BBC's 1995 TV series 30+ times! It is absolutely the guide line of my life: our wedding venue was a Georgian villa and my hair and dress were Regency style :D
    Visiting her home where she wrote all her stories was a very special moment.
    We had a sandwich lunch at Cassandra's Cup. They had so beautiful cups hanging in the ceiling! I asked if they would sell me one or two but they refused :( I so envy the English rich chinaware (porcelain) history. They are so easy to buy/get there. I love roses so I always try to find some rose china when I'm in England (just as you love blue and white).
    Now I have to continue working! Take care and kisses to Jack :D

  2. That's so wonderful that you could incorporate so much of Jane Austen in your wedding--how perfectly romantic. Chawton is a place I love going back to over and over again. Glad you could have a little Austen-esque break from work! Take care, xxCarrieoo