We had quite a celebration for our tenth anniversary in 2014 and now this summer we’ve reached what feels to us like another significant milestone – our 50th issue. You could say Slightly Foxed has reached middle age, but it still has a spring in its step and we enjoy putting it together as much now as we did when four of us sat round the kitchen table (one of us holding a baby who is now at secondary school) and planned the first issue. One of our somewhat irrational fears at the time was that we might run out of books to write about, and people to write about them, but the reverse has been the case.
We know from the steady stream of suggestions arriving from contributors inside and outside the literary world that there are still countless unusual and fascinating books to discover. That’s another enjoyable aspect of editing SF: the proof, if one were needed, that you don’t have to be a ‘writer’ to be able to write.
It’s true there’s been a certain amount of middle-age spread at SF. We have a proper office now of course, and more staff – most of them younger than we are and all of them completely at home in the world of new media which we find so bewildering. But it’s still a very personal operation and we hope you feel that too. Thank you, as always, for your support, and especially for your funny and enthusiastic letters which reach us from all over the world. Over the years Slightly Foxed has come to seem more like a club of people who love books than just a magazine.
This is always very noticeable at Readers’ Day, a high point in the SF calendar to which some of you come year after year, to meet the staff and some of our contributors, and enjoy the delectable cakes produced by our versatile contributor Frances Donnelly. This year it will be on Friday, 11 November at our usual London haunt, the Artworkers’ Guild in Queen’s Square, a short walk from Russell Square tube station. Among our speakers will be Margaret Drabble on how we understand, at the end of life, whether we have lived well – the theme of her new novel The Dark Flood Rises; countryman and author of The Cabaret of Plants Richard Mabey on the extraordinary role of scent in plant communication; historian Jane Ridley on the pleasures and pitfalls of writing royal biography; and biographer Peter Parker on A. E. Housman and English culture. It’s a great line-up, and tickets are on sale now by phone and online. We love the Artworkers’ Guild for its atmosphere and its associations, but space there is limited and tickets always go quickly, so do get in touch if you are interested.
Meantime, summer is here, and anyone looking for a relaxing and evocative holiday read could do no better, we feel, than the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions, Brensham Village (see p. 14). This is the second book in John Moore’s trilogy set in and around a lightly disguised version of Tewkesbury, where Moore was born in 1907. Some of you may already have read the first book, Portrait of Elmbury (SFE no. 26), but if not it’s well worth starting there. In it Moore vividly recalls his growing up in the self-contained and characterful society of an English market town in the days before war, mass media and mass travel began to encroach.
The second book, Brensham Village, set in a Gloucestershire village deep among market gardens and apple orchards not far from Tewkesbury, features some of the same characters. It’s the 1930s, there’s unemployment in the countryside, and change is creeping in with the arrival of a shady ‘Syndicate’ of developers, weekenders from the city, an ugly petrol station and a local cinema. Yet young boys still go bird’s-nesting and moth-hunting, and on summer days there is still cricket on the village field, played to the ‘lullaby sounds of bees, wood-pigeons and far-away cuckoos’. Another war is approaching, and Moore celebrates, in a clear-eyed yet poetic way, a world that’s on the very brink of vanishing.
And finally down to brass tacks. As everyone knows, the cost of things creeps up inexorably and we’ve been struggling with the idea of a price rise, having held the UK subscription price at £40 for some time. However, we do very much value the loyalty of those of you who subscribe, so we’ve decided to leave the subscription rate as it is and increase the price of a single issue from £10 to £11 (£13 overseas), making SF cheaper per issue to subscribers.
We’re also reducing the annual subscription rate for Ireland from £48 to £40. We feel close to our Irish readers and it seems an anomaly that they should have to pay more than people in the UK. And we’re dropping the rate to subscribers in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and everywhere else outside Europe from £52 to £48, to bring it in line with Europe.
Lastly, we’re offering a new service to UK subscribers, who can now order any of the new (as opposed to out-of-print) books covered in this issue, post free, from the Slightly Foxed website or by telephone (020 7033 0258). We hope they’ll provide you with some good reading until we meet again in the autumn issue.
Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood