Well, summer’s here – at last. There are still plenty of people about in Hoxton Square, but it won’t be long before the city starts to empty out and that particular summer quiet descends which, if you’re still working, makes you feel both grateful and wistful at the same time.
Whether you’re travelling or not, the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions is, we feel, the perfect summer read. We love all our books, but Country Boy (see p. 14) is somehow especially close to our hearts, partly because it is such a compelling story and partly because of the modest and delightful character of its author. Richard Hillyer – whose real name was Charles Stranks – was a farm boy growing up in a remote Buckinghamshire village in the days before the First World War. There was no chance of his going to grammar school, but somehow he discovered books, and with agonizing determination taught himself Latin, finally winning a scholarship to Durham University – something unheard of then for a boy from his background. It’s an account of a lost world and of a personal journey that is unsentimental yet poetic and very moving.
Come the autumn we’ll be embarking on a new and exciting publishing venture. Between the 1950s and the 1970s the splendid storyteller Ronald Welch produced a series of children’s books which some readers may still remember with nostalgia. Following the fortunes of the Carey family from their involvement in the Crusades to their service in the First World War, these novels are gripping reads which also provide a wonderful overview of English history. Unaccountably they’ve long been out of print and difficult to find, so we’re delighted to be bringing them to life again in a new series, Slightly Foxed Cubs. Read more about it on p.95 of this issue.
The Slightly Foxed diary is pretty full this year. On Wednesday 19 June we’re off to the West Country, hosting a ‘Tea with Slightly Foxed ’ at the Simonsbath Festival on Exmoor (www.simonsbathfestival.co.uk). Then on 5–7 July we’ll be manning a stall at the Ways with Words Festival at Dartington Hall in Devon – a delicious setting if ever there was one. If you’re planning to be there, do keep a lookout for us (www.wayswithwords.co.uk). And on Saturday 20 July we’ll be at the Penzance Literary Festival for another ‘Tea with Slightly Foxed’ (www.penzance-literary-festival.org.uk).
On Saturday 9 November we’ll be hosting our third Readers’ Day at the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury. This event has become one of the highlights of our year – a great chance to meet subscribers, and for subscribers to meet and hear some of our contributors. It’s very relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable. Tony and his staff will be there with a selection of books from the shop, and, as always, tea and mouth-watering cakes will be provided by our contributor Frances Donnelly. Tickets for the day (including morning coffee and afternoon tea) cost £50 – the same as last year. They really do go like hot cakes, so if you’re planning to come, do book soon.
Our older writers’ competition brought in a gratifying number of entries. It was extraordinarily hard to choose a winner so we’ve decided to award equal honours to four: Gus Alexander, Paul Brassley, Cynthia Clinch and Donald Watson, each of whom will receive £250. You can read Cynthia Clinch’s piece on the delightful sounding children’s book The Far-Distant Oxus on p.82, and the others will appear in Slightly Foxed at intervals during the coming year. It’s great to find such good writers among our subscribers. Congratulations to you all.