‘Spring, the sweet spring . . .’ The flower shop round the corner from Slightly Foxed is full of daffodils and hyacinths now, and from our window the City spires are standing out sharply against a pale blue sky. It feels as if everything is drawing breath after the long cold winter, and after a busy season we’re drawing breath too.
Of course, being addicted royal watchers, we can’t avoid thoughts of the forthcoming royal wedding. We hope it goes without a hitch – unlike Queen Victoria’s where, according to Elizabeth Longford’s Victoria RI, the choir of the Chapel Royal sang ‘shockingly’, or indeed her son’s at which, as Christopher Hibbert tells us in his Edward VII, the bridegroom’s badly behaved 4-year-old nephew, the future Kaiser Wilhelm, caused consternation by biting his two uncles in the leg.
But back to the present. We’re not sure quite what vision most of you have of the Slightly Foxed office, but people do often phone asking to be put through to various ‘departments’. We’ve certainly expanded recently, as we mentioned in the last issue, but for those of you who have visions of separate offices and corridors and watercoolers we must reveal that we’re still shoe-horned into Gail’s hospitable family flat in Clerkenwell – which we seem to be gradually taking over in a Triffid-like way.
When we first moved here from Canonbury, all we needed was a corner for a couple of computers, a storage place for files and back numbers, and a table to chat round. Now the spare bedroom has become a mail room where one of us is usually crouched among the mail bags sorting the filing, and the hall is full of Slightly Foxed Editions (plus Tony’s folding Brompton bike when he cycles over from the bookshop in Gloucester Road). We still chat round the table, but nowadays it tends to be covered with boxes of leaflets waiting to be stuffed. Inevitably one day we’re going to need more space, but wherever we are, we guarantee that the phone will always be answered by a living person and that you will never, ever, be left on ‘Hold’.
By now, we hope, you will have received your new accumulated index for issues 1–28. We find that each fresh index prompts readers to discover pieces on authors and books of particular interest that they’ve missed. So do let us know if you’re in search of back numbers – not forgetting our smart grey slipcases, each holding four issues, which look so nice upon the shelves.
We hope there’s room on your shelves, too, for the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions, P. Y. Betts’s People Who Say Goodbye (see p. 17). Betts, who had a promising writing career during the 1930s and then disappeared from view, was a complete one-off, someone whose angle on the world was entirely her own. Rediscovered fifty years later living alone on a remote smallholding in Wales, she took up her pen again and wrote this poignant and very funny memoir of growing up in an unconventional family near Wandsworth Common during the First World War. Graham Greene called it ‘the most amusing book of childhood memories I can remember reading’. It’s a treat.
And finally, congratulations to J. P. Green, the winner of last year’s Literary Crossword, who receives a free subscription. You’ll find the answers on p. 94. Thanks to the many of you who entered, and to all of you for your loyalty and encouragement in these difficult times. Due to you, the Fox is still flourishing, and we’re looking forward optimistically to the rest of 2011.