It’s Christmas again – our second, which seems cause for celebration in itself, especially as subscriptions are holding steady and even (dare we say it) creeping up. We raise a celebratory glass both to those of you who have stuck with us, as the publisher Anthony Blond once said, through thin and thin, and to those of you who have come on board more recently. Thank you for all your letters of appreciation and encouragement. Slightly Foxed subscribers do seem a most convivial group of people – humorous, enthusiastic, impatient of pomposity, and with a telling, even poetic, turn of phrase (‘Ten minutes ago, out of the Atlantic wind, came the postman carrying Slightly Foxed ’ begins a recent e-mail from a subscriber in Donegal).
In fact our Christmas cover by Sue Macartney-Snape – known as the ‘Wodehouse of Art’ for her razor-sharp illustrations to the ‘Social Stereotypes’ column in the Telegraph magazine – got us talking about what a stereotypical Slightly Foxed reader might be like, and we’ve decided there really is no such thing. A trawl through our database revealed, for a start, that you are spread over 43 different countries, from Portugal to Papua New Guinea, from Tanzania to Thailand, from Nepal to Namibia. Some of your addresses we know only as British Forces Post Offices or Post Office Boxes in far flung places, and one of our favourite addresses is ‘c/o the Hong Kong Golf Club’.
We were once, early on, accused of being ‘metropolitan’ (a rude word, apparently), and it’s true that many of you live in the world’s great cities: New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney, Jerusalem, Beijing, and of course London – as well as in smaller places which we can only try to imagine (Sagaponack, NY, and Booterstown, Co. Dublin, are just two that spring to mind).
But that’s by no means the whole story. Just as many of your addresses have a comfortable country feel of wet earth, dogs and wellington boots about them. Slightly Foxed finds its way through the lanes to numerous Cottages, Lodges, Barns, Farms, Rectories, Mills, Courts, Halls, Manors, and even a Palace or two.
What many of you do seem to share – unsurprisingly perhaps – is a chronic tendency to acquire books, even though you don’t have any room left on your shelves, and an inability to throw any away.
Another is that you are extremely supportive of Slightly Foxed and wonderfully willing to spread the word. There’s nothing as effective as a personal recommendation, so we’re enclosing a couple of leaflets with this issue in the hope that you may find an opportunity to press them on likely friends and acquaintances – or even use them to give gift subscriptions yourself.
With gifts in mind, we’ve embarked on a rather bold new venture this Christmas. Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s Ghost Writer is the first in what we hope will be an annual series of ‘Christmas Foxes’ – specially commissioned miniature books containing sparky and original pieces of writing. Enough to say that this one has an unusual narrator – an 800-year-old manuscript in the Bodleian Library. Beautifully produced, and deliciously decorated by David Eccles, it’s ideal as a stocking-filler, or as a special Christmas card. If you’d like to order copies (UK £5, overseas £6.50 inc. p&p) do give us a ring. (As our print-run is on the conservative side it would be wise to order early.)
And finally, why not have a go at our ‘Christmas Competition’? The first person to identify the author depicted in Mark Handley’s linocut on the back cover will receive a free subscription, guaranteeing a year’s good reading for 2006. We hope it will be an excellent year for you, and meantime we wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.