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A Vanished Warmth

A Vanished Warmth

At school I loved our history lessons. I spent hours drawing plans of castles and battles, and was a binge reader of historical fiction by anyone from Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece to Mary Renault and Robert Graves. A little later I enjoyed exploring first-hand evidence from the past and I particularly remember some volumes in the school library called They Saw It Happen. The third of these English historical anthologies, covering the years 1689–1897, was especially well-known to us because it had been compiled by bufferish Mr Charles-Edwards and suede-shoed Mr Richardson from our very own History Department.
SF magazine subscribers only
Giving Pain a Voice

Giving Pain a Voice

A lone doctor hares down a country lane in his Land Rover, his thumb jammed on the horn to warn the oncoming traffic that he’s not stopping. A woodman’s been pinned to the ground on a remote hillside by a falling tree and every second counts. Even at the start of A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor (1967), we are given an inkling of what makes Dr Sassall an exceptional GP. He had his thumb on the horn partly, he explains, so that the man under the tree might hear it and know he is on his way. Dr Sassall understands that even when the immediate danger is physical, his patients need him to keep their minds in mind. A good doctor treats the whole of his patient, not just his wounds.
An Obscure Form of Magic

An Obscure Form of Magic

I’ve just read Party Going (1939), Henry Green’s comic and melancholic masterpiece, for the third or fourth time, and I’m still not sure how to convey its complex flavour. It’s a fantastically busy and exuberant novel, in which nothing really happens. (The major events include: an old lady picking up a dead pigeon and subsequently feeling ill; a beautiful young woman having a bath; a servant getting a kiss from a stranger.) It’s at once so beautifully written that I want to quote the whole thing, and so eccentrically stylized that it isn’t easy to find a quotable line. (Green was intolerant of standard English grammar and syntax; witness for example his take-’em-or-leave-’em approach to articles, as in the novel’s bizarre opening sentence: ‘Fog was so dense, bird that had been disturbed went flat into a balustrade and slowly fell, dead, at her feet.’) It’s an effervescent comedy of manners, set almost exclusively among members of the English upper class – and yet its most remarkable quality is an anguished sense of human suffering.
SF magazine subscribers only
Left, Left, Left

Left, Left, Left

In the early 1980s I began working on my first book, a biography of Nancy Mitford. Four of the six Mitford sisters were then still living, Pamela in the Cotswolds, Diana in Paris with her second husband Sir Oswald Mosley, Debo, wife of the Duke of Devonshire, at Chatsworth, and Jessica, always known as ‘Decca’, with her family in California. Throughout my research Pam, Diana and Debo were immensely kind and helpful, all of them possessed of great charm and a slightly idiosyncratic sense of humour. They invited me to stay, gave me access to hundreds of letters, and mined for my benefit lucid memories of their early lives and of their family and friends.
A Separate World

A Separate World

When I think back to that first visit of mine to Estonia in 1988, I see muted, metallic-grey tones of fog and sea; above all I remember a sense of wonder that I was finally on my way to my mother’s homeland. Ingrid was 17 when, stateless and displaced, she arrived in England in 1947, having fled westwards from the Baltic ahead of Stalin’s advancing Red Army. She had not been back to her native land since. Now, half a century later, I was sailing to the Estonian capital of Tallinn from Helsinki – a three-hour journey by ferry across the Gulf of Finland. The Independent Magazine had asked me to report on Moscow’s waning power in the Soviet Baltic. A hammer and sickle flapped red from the ship’s stern as we set sail. The air was pungent with engine oil as I walked towards the stern and watched Helsinki’s Eastern Orthodox cathedral dwindle to a dot.
SF magazine subscribers only
1st September 2020

Slightly Foxed Issue 67: From the Editors

There’s a fox’s earth on the cover of this issue, but thanks in large part to you, this Fox has far from gone to earth. We’ve loved receiving your encouraging messages and emails during this difficult year, and you’ve pulled out all the stops with extra purchases, subscriptions and renewals. ‘I read Slightly Foxed in bed with my morning tea as an antidote to the news,’ writes N. Reifler. Now it’s autumn, and we’re happy to say that our publishing programme is up and running, with a great deal to look forward to.
- Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood
From the editors
Episode 23: A Writer in the Kitchen

Episode 23: A Writer in the Kitchen

The food writer and chef Olivia Potts joins the Slightly Foxed editors for a literary banquet. Olivia was a barrister for five years before enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu, becoming a cookery columnist on The Spectator and writing A Half Baked Idea, a memoir with recipes. From finding consolation in cooking and precision in pâtisserie to nostalgia-soaked blancmange and family dinners in the Cazalet Chronicles, the conversation flows, welcoming Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David, Charles Dickens and the extraordinary Fanny Cradock to the table along the way. And in this month’s taste from the magazine’s archives, Rachel Khoo’s cookbook conjures up feasts in an attic in Paris.
43 minutes
The Secret Orchard of Roger Ackerley

The Secret Orchard of Roger Ackerley

‘“It was Uncle who was your father,” she said.’ So begins SF Edition No. 33: The Secret Orchard of Roger Ackerley, Diana Petre’s utterly unselfpitying and often very funny account of what must be one of the oddest childhoods on record. Diana and her twin sisters were abandoned in 1912 by their mother, the enigmatic Mrs Muriel Perry, whose real name and true identity were a mystery. After an absence of ten years, Muriel reappeared and took charge of her children, with disastrous results. For the girls, one of the highlights of their isolated lives were visits from a kindly man they knew as ‘Uncle Bodger’. In fact, as Muriel finally revealed, he was their father, Roger Ackerley.
21st August 2020

Slightly Foxed Editors’ Diary • 21 August 2020

It’s true that I’m writing this in Highbury, but mentally I’m in Suffolk. We came back yesterday from a week’s family holiday, and after months of being confined to London and seeing very little of our grandchildren, I’m finding it hard to make the transition. In my mind’s eye I’m still on the harbourside at Walberswick grasping the back of my 7-year-old grandson’s T-shirt as he crouches above the water, his small body tense with excitement as he strains over the edge to see if there’s anything in the net he’s dangling into the murky depths below. ‘Shall I pull it up now?’ ‘Well, wait a little bit, you’ve only just looked.’ ‘But there’s something in it. I know there is. I can see it!’ We peer down. Something seems to be moving, and yes! Oh joy! ‘Granny, it’s a crab! It’s huge. It’s gigantic. Quick, come and look!’
- Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood
From the editors
J is for Juster, Norton | From the Slightly Foxed archives

J is for Juster, Norton | From the Slightly Foxed archives

‘If a rainbow ever fell to earth and became a book it would be The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster. It is a thing of light, and wonder, and beauty.’ In this week’s free article from the archives, we welcome you to Dictionopolis, the realm of words ruled by King Azaz in Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. You’ll find an extract in the newsletter, together with a link to read the full article by Rohan Candappa from Slightly Foxed Issue 29. We do hope you enjoy travelling beyond the tollbooth.
Episode 22: Independent Spirit

Episode 22: Independent Spirit

Small but discerning, choosing passion over fashion, Little Toller Books shares an independent spirit with Slightly Foxed. Jon Woolcott joins us from this publishing house based in a converted old dairy in Dorset, and charts the rise from cottage industry origins to a wide, prized backlist. With roots in rural writing, Little Toller has branched out to seek unusual voices, resurrecting the life of the wood engraver Clifford Webb, turning landfill into prose, uncovering Edward Thomas’s hidden photographs and finding a bestseller in the diary of a young naturalist along the way. We turn to the magazine’s archives for John Seymour’s advice on cheddaring, sparging and gaffing, and there’s the usual round-up of recommended reading from off the beaten track.
38 minutes
The Last Enemy | From the Slightly Foxed bookshelves

The Last Enemy | From the Slightly Foxed bookshelves

The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary is one of the great classic memoirs of the Second World War. Hillary was a charming, good-looking and rather arrogant young man, fresh from public school and Oxford, when, like many of his friends, he abandoned university to train as a pilot on the outbreak of war in 1939. At the flying training school, meeting men who hadn’t enjoyed the same gilded youth as he had, his view of the world, and of himself, began to change. Shot down in 1940 during the Battle of Britain, he suffered terrible burns and was treated by the pioneering plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. During those brief and gruelling wartime months this once privileged young man was forced to grow up as he struggled to come to terms with his defacing injuries and mourned the loss of his friends
24th July 2020

Slightly Foxed Editors’ Diary • 24 July 2020

On Sunday afternoon we set out for a walk in what is to me one of the strangest green spaces in this part of London, Abney Park Cemetery. Hidden behind the chic little boutiques and coffee shops of Stoke Newington Church Street, its 30-acre site originally formed part of the grounds of Fleetwood House and Abney House, both built in the 1600s and now demolished, one of which was lived in from 1734 until his death in 1748 by the preacher and hymn writer Isaac Watts.
- Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood
From the editors

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