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Adrian Bell, A Countryman’s Winter Notebook & Charles Phillipson, Letters to Michael | Hatchards Piccadilly

‘I don’t think Slightly Foxed has ever published a book which is not both beautiful and interesting’

‘This winter they have published two very different books, both completely charming . . .

A Countryman’s Winter Notebook by Adrian Bell

This was always going to be a favourite . . . From 1950 to 1980 he wrote ‘A Countryman’s Notebook’, a weekly column for the Eastern Daily Press, the newspaper for Suffolk and Norfolk. He wrote nearly 1,600 essays but only a fraction have ever been republished. Richard Hawking, an expert on Adrian Bell’s writing, has selected over fifty of the very best wintery pieces for Slightly Foxed. The result is a delightful companion to the winter months in all their glories and hardships: the dancing of a dead leaf, the unexpected pleasures of bad weather on Sundays or the memories brought to life by a Christmas card.

When asked about writing these essays, Adrian Bell said: “What I try to do is to show a unique moment which will never come again. It is like putting a framework around a moment of life, just as the French Impressionists did.” He has succeeded.

Letters to Michael, Charles Phillipson

The letters in this wonderful collection were written to Michael by his father between February 1945 and October 1947 and follow a set format: half letter, half drawing. The letters are short, usually relating a single item of home news or something that his father has noticed which has amused him or sparked his imagination. For as well as being a talented artist, Charles Philipson has a vivid imagination and a splendid sense of humour. The pictures range from everyday life, often seen from a slightly quirky angle, to fantasies such as having a pet kangaroo or riding on a firework. The pictures were often drawn quickly during Charles’ lunch-break on office scrap paper but they capture a moment just as perfectly as Adrian Bell does in his Countryman’s Notebook.

The drawings contain a wealth of detail and often tell a story themselves: the artist hard at work at his desk, a very upright man on a penny farthing bicycle or the joy of V.E. Day. The letters can be read straight through or dipped into at random, either way each page is an utter delight; it is impossible to look at any of these letters and not smile . . .’

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