After a long winter of disruptions, there’s definitely a feeling of spring in the air at Slightly Foxed. We know we’re not out of the woods yet where Covid is concerned, but the start of the year has been busy, and we’re still enjoying the novelty of meeting in the office instead of facing unflattering versions of ourselves on Zoom. Outside in the square the trees are just coming into bud, and the tatty old London pigeons are bowing and flirting on the ledge outside the office window.
It all feels like an invitation to be out and doing, perhaps in the kind of countryside captured by our spring cover. It’s by the landscape artist Sandra Graham, and was, she says, inspired by the many different shades of green she saw during a walk last year in the Midlands along the River Rea. We do enjoy choosing and commissioning the SF covers, and doing so has introduced us to artists and illustrators working in many different media, from oil and watercolour to wood engraving, lithography and mosaics.
Walking in parks and in the countryside was one of the things that made lockdown bearable for many of us, and this included our contributor Daisy Hay. On p.7 she describes the pleasure it gave her to walk in the country to the accompaniment of an audiobook reading of Trollope’s Barchester novels. The year she spent among the inhabitants of that imaginary cathedral town, with their ambitions, feuds and love affairs, transported her into a world soothingly far away from the stresses of the present day.
Our spring Slightly Foxed Edition Lark Rise (see p.14), Flora Thompson’s lightly fictionalized memoir of her rural childhood at the end of the nineteenth century, is another guaranteed de-stresser. Flora’s father was a stonemason and then a bricklayer in a tiny, poverty-stricken Oxfordshire hamlet. While most other countryside writers of the period were comfortably middle-class, this record of a vanishing world came from a writer who was part of it. As Flora’s biographer Margaret Lane observed: ‘She was able to write the annals of the poor because she was one of them.’
Flora educated herself by going to work for the Post Office in a nearby village, and she describes this experience in Over to Candleford and Candleford Green, which we’ll be publishing as one volume this coming June and which can be pre-ordered now. The trilogy is an enduring masterpiece, acutely observed, poetic, poignant, but never sentimental. ‘You are going to be loved by people you’ve never seen and never will see,’ a gypsy tells Laura, the fictional name Flora gave herself, and that prediction turned out to be true. These lovable books will be a joy if you are reading them for the first time, and if they are already a favourite why not enjoy them again in our two lovely Slightly Foxed Editions.
And finally, the podcasts. We get so many cheering and enthusiastic messages about the podcasts and some of them ask if they could be longer. It’s true that sometimes after a recording we do have a feeling there’s more that could have been said, but we’ve been wary of bombarding you with too much too often. So we’ve decided on a compromise: from now on the podcasts will be longer – an hour or so – and there will be four a year rather than one a month, going out six weeks after each issue. We feel this will give us both a little more breathing space and enable us to offer you more depth and variety. The next podcast will be in mid-April so do please listen in and tell us what you think.