For some months now the office in Hoxton Square has been ringing to the sounds of hammering, banging, drilling, and tools dropping on to scaffolding, and we’ve often struggled to hear one another speak. If you build an extension in London today it can usually only go up or down, and our freeholder is adding an extra couple of storeys. We’re told the agony is nearly over and now it’s summer we’re looking forward to coming out of forced hibernation and opening the windows.
Nevertheless it’s been business as usual at Slightly Foxed. Jennie is continuing to develop the website, which is also gradually serving more and more as an SF community noticeboard where we post information we think will be of interest to subscribers and where eventually, we hope, subscribers can communicate with one another and with us. We’re gradually extending our range of membership benefits too, setting up partnerships with independent bookshops and institutions such as the London Library and the Royal Society of Literature to offer subscribers special terms. If you have any suggestions for possible new partners, do please get in touch.
The Slightly Foxed Writers’ Competition produced a record number of entries this year, all of them worth reading. Subjects tackled were many and various, from Dr Johnson to taxidermy, and we had such difficulty choosing a winner that we finally opted to award a joint first prize. The two pieces we chose are very different, but both are examples of how books can change a life. One is Alastair Glegg’s account of being introduced to books at his prep school, where the masters instilled in him a love of words and encouraged him to become a real reader. It is affectionate and evocative, and led us to think of the difference between his experience and that of a child who is taught mechanically to decipher words on a page but is given no feel for the magic of reading – a lesson for our test-obsessed government. The other was Richard Crockatt’s elegant and thoughtful piece on the galvanizing effect of studying Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain at a particular moment in history and in his own life. Congratulations to them both. They will each receive £250 and we look forward to publishing their pieces. Three others were also, we felt, worthy of publication and so as runners-up Janet Walkinshaw, Posy Fallowfield and Peter Radford will each receive £100 and see their pieces in SF in due course. Our thanks to everyone who entered.
And finally to our summer Slightly Foxed Edition, The Blue Field (see p.14), which completes John Moore’s trilogy based in and around his home town of Tewkesbury, lightly disguised as Elmbury in the books, and the village of Brensham. Between them they take the reader from the end of the First World War, when a country town like Tewkesbury had a sturdy independent life of its own, to the aftermath of the Second, when in Brensham the heavy hand of the War Agricultural Executive Committee is being felt and the developers and weekenders have started to arrive. The hero of The Blue Field is farmer William Hart, a man who refuses to be cowed by the authorities, and his story is both touching and hilarious. A must for anyone who has already enjoyed Portrait of Elmbury and Brensham Village (see SFEs nos. 26 and 34) and a pleasure in store for any lover of the rural past who hasn’t. And as you may notice if you order, we’ve taken another small ecological step by doing away with bubble wrap and substituting a wrapping of corrugated cardboard!