Was there ever a moment when a good book seemed more essential? And not just because Christmas and the annual search for presents has come round again. Comfort, instruction, amusement, escape, a new perspective – whatever it is you’re looking for as a steadier in unnerving times, it’s all there in books.
This winter’s new Slightly Foxed Edition is certainly a lifter of spirits and an escape route to what feels like a freer and more straightforward world. Following on from his childhood memoir Boy, which we published in the autumn, Going Solo (see p. 13) is Roald Dahl’s invigorating and often very amusing account of working for Shell in the country then called Tanganyika, travelling the dirt roads to visit the eccentric expatriates who literally kept the machinery of Empire running. The second half of the book takes on a somewhat darker tone, as war breaks out and Dahl drives the 600 miles to Nairobi to enlist as a fighter pilot and subsequently take part in the RAF’s heroic defence of Greece. It’s a young man’s story, bold, stomach-churning and brilliantly told, all overlaid with Dahl’s irrepressible determination, optimism and humour.
At this time of year we don’t need to remind you that the winter Slightly Foxed catalogue is full of ideas for presents to suit all tastes, not to mention our traditional literary Christmas crossword. But we would like to draw your attention to something rather special this year: the Slightly Foxed Revolving Bookcase. Made to order in oak or ash at Dominic and Arabella Parish’s Wardour Workshops in Wiltshire, and designed to hold around 90 Slightly Foxed Editions or books of similar size, it is an elegant modern take on the traditional revolving bookcases which were so much a feature of Victorian and Edwardian homes; and it’s both useful and decorative. Inevitably an original piece like this comes at a price, but if you do happen to be on the lookout for a very special present for someone bookish, or even a special (and very practical) treat for yourself, you would be supporting real craftsmen and commissioning something truly lasting.
And while we’re on the subject of independent businesses, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: please this Christmas, if you can, support your local bookshop. We’ve recently learned of the demise of one of our favourites – Wenlock Books in the lovely Shropshire town of Much Wenlock – which had been there for 30 years, largely killed off by the online giant. Small really is beautiful, we believe.
It’s almost a year now since we started the Slightly Foxed podcasts. After initial nerves about exposing ourselves on air (Hazel still fears she sounds like recordings of the Queen circa 1950), we’re enjoying this new way of being in touch. We’ve learned from some fascinating guests about a range of subjects, from the art of biography to the history of garden writing, and judging from the letters and press mentions we’ve received, many people look forward to these monthly glimpses of life here at SF. We’re already lining up a selection of interesting guests for the coming year. We do hope you’ll join us. Meantime we send you our very best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and an optimistic 2020.