Last Thursday was a red-letter day for me because it was that now rare thing, a real letter day. Among the catalogues, bills and offers to sell the house shoved through the letterbox was an envelope addressed in the distinctive handwriting of an old friend. For many years now, widowed and against all advice, she has lived alone in a slightly dilapidated house in a remote part of rural France, reading and rereading her favourite books, ruled over with an ‘iron paw’ by her dog and cat and subsisting on very little money. She sees a few local friends, but nowadays, she says, she tends more to reclusiveness, quoting Colin Dexter’s verdict on Inspector Morse: ‘He was somewhat of a loner by temperament – because though never wholly happy when he was alone he was usually slightly more miserable when with other people.’
Greetings from Hoxton Square where, following the dispatch of our autumn publications to readers around the world, our thoughts are beginning to turn to woolens, fireside nooks and making our way through the toppling piles of books we’ve selected from a bumper crop of recent titles. One of these books is James Rebanks’s new offering, English Pastoral, a history of the Lake District farm he inherited and how the land has changed over three generations. Reading of farm life in the northern fells prompted us to revisit Ursula Buchan’s article from Slightly Foxed Issue 53, which takes us back to James Rebanks’s first book, The Shepherd’s Life, and to W. H. Hudson’s A Shepherd’s Life, the book which ‘turned the young Rebanks into a reader’.
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