It’s bitterly cold today – frost on the London roofs, and the spires of the City churches rising sharp and white against an ice-blue sky. For a lot of us it feels internally pretty cold too. Talk in the news of worse economic times to come, global warming, wars across the world. One could get pretty depressed . . .
It’s certainly the moment when one needs a good book, not necessarily as escapism but to put things in perspective. And for that, we suggest you take a look at the financial journalist Robert Bruce’s piece (p.33) about a favourite of his called Where Are the Customers’ Yachts? – an unusual title but, as you’ll see, a relevant question. It does remind one, as Bruce says, that there’s nothing new under the sun. And that can be a comforting thought.
For us there are certainly a number of things to take comfort from. Given the present situation, we’ve almost learned to type with our fingers crossed, but we’re constantly cheered and made optimistic by the warmth and enthusiasm which come across to us from you, our subscribers, in all sorts of ways – in your notes, and phone calls and, yes, even gifts. But most important of all, in your loyalty in sticking with us. For some of you, we know, it’s a very definite choice you have to make – Slightly Foxed or something else – and we want to thank you once again for making it and to say how much we appreciate your support.
Though some may see Slightly Foxed as something of a voice from the past, we like to think that we are in fact in the vanguard – the face of things to come in a world where, inevitably, people are going to have to draw in their horns and think about what to conserve, and where the idea that ‘small is beautiful’ may become more than a mere catchphrase. We’re aware that a lot of you already buck the current trends. Well over half of you still pay by good old cheque, and we know that you value the fact that when you phone us you’re answered by a human being, rather than being put though to voicemail or – worse – an automatic dialling system where you hold on for what seems like hours to a raucous rendering of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
All that said, we can’t escape the fact that Slightly Foxed is – very gradually – expanding, and what with the steadily increasing number of back issues, as well as the binders’ parcels of new Slightly Foxed Editions, it’s getting a bit crowded here in Clerkenwell. Fortunately we’ve been able to create some extra storage space, sandwiched between the log store and the garden implements at Gail’s house at the end of a remote lane on the edge of Dartmoor. We’re rather pleased with our new little Hobbit-like, grass-roofed storeroom, and thought you might like to see a picture of it.
Another cheering thing – the memoir we’re publishing with this issue, Priscilla Napier’s A Late Beginner (see p. 12), is sheer delight. It describes, with wonderful perception and humour, a childhood spent in colonial Egypt before and during the First World War. As Penelope Lively writes, ‘This is the kind of memoir-writing that is invaluable social history – eye-witness stuff with the gloss of subsequent wisdoms.’ Another book, in fact, that helps to give one the long view, to put things in perspective.