Wednesday 29 September was a red-letter day for us – the first time for eighteen months that we’d got together under one roof to record the Slightly Foxed podcast. Since the first lockdown in March 2020 we’d been sitting at home each month at our separate desks waiting – usually a touch nervously in our case as we’re neither of us entirely confident when it comes to anything technical – to see if we’d made the connection with Philippa our presenter in Cambridge and Lynne our producer in Cheshire.
Thanks to them, the podcasts have usually gone without a hitch, but it was so cheering to be together again in Hoxton Square and to meet our guests in person, on this occasion to talk about the graphic novel with the wonderful Posy Simmonds and the writer Paul Gravett. It’s well worth a listen if you haven’t already heard it. Altogether we felt distinctly festive, and now we’re looking forward – with fingers crossed – to a much more relaxed and sociable Christmas.
There could hardly be a more fitting book for the season than our latest Slightly Foxed Edition, The Wine Lover’s Daughter by Anne Fadiman, whose earlier book, Ex Libris, we praised in the opening piece in our very first issue eighteen years ago. As Adam Sisman says (see p.14), the title is something of a misnomer: The Wine Loving Father would be more apt for this affectionate but clear-eyed memoir in which the American writer remembers her convivial and amusing father, a complicated self-made Jew from Brooklyn with a passion for wine who, though moving in the best literary circles and heaped with honours by the end of his life, never felt he was quite good enough. It’s not just a book for wine buffs either, but one that breathes the atmosphere of a more spacious era in American literary life.
From father and daughter to father and son. Between the spring of 1945 and the autumn of 1947 the artist Charles Phillipson wrote a series of 150 illustrated letters to his young son Michael, who had just started school. These delightful, quirky letters, designed to whet Michael’s appetite for reading, were done when Charles had already been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but they are full of the lightness and humour he still found in everyday situations, and full of encouragement for Michael’s own efforts. Preserved by his wife after his death in 1974 these Letters to Michael, which we published in November, give a most touching picture of the relationship between a father and his young son.
And finally, for those many of you who have loved the Adrian Bell trilogy describing his life between the wars on a Suffolk farm, a reminder of another, recently published, treat. From 1950 to 1980 Bell wrote a popular column for his local paper, the Eastern Daily Press, 1,600 atmospheric little essays which vividly catch the fleeting moments that made up his life in the rural Suffolk he loved and knew so well. Surprisingly, very few have since been reprinted, but now they can be enjoyed again in A Countryman’s Winter Notebook, a seasonal selection by Richard Hawking, with an introduction by Bell’s son Martin and charming illustrations by Beth Knight. We hope it will be the first of these little seasonal selections.
We hope too above all, dear readers, that your Christmas season will be a peaceful and happy one. We send you our very best wishes and thanks, as ever, for your exceptional loyalty which has kept us afloat in these difficult times.