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All in the Mind?

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I have long wanted to offer an update on the latest additions to the Crowden Archive. Some subscribers may recall the first piece on the subject, ‘Something for the Weekend’ in Slightly Foxed No. 32. In it, I described a selection of the titles in my possession which have been collected over more than thirty years and which appeal to those possessed of a Lower Fourth Form sense of humour. My mother feels that I should now move on to more suitable pastimes, pokerwork, perhaps, or tatting, but books with questionable titles just keep on falling into my hands.

My intention has always been to leave the archive to my various scouts who have, over the years, been kind enough to contribute to it. Benjamin Whitrow, a fellow-actor, is a new recruit to the band of overgrown schoolboys who scour bookshops on my behalf in London and the provinces. Last Christmas he produced Smiling Willie and the Tiger and I’ll Come if You Will. I have bookended the latter with Taken by the Hand and Sooty’s Jumbo Trouble. Ben’s scouting skills are sorely needed, because my Yorkshire scout no longer passes on duplicate finds and my solicitor, an early recruit, has promised Biggles Takes It Rough but has yet to deliver.

All archive books have to be bought cheap, as I am still of the opinion that no title should cost more than £5, and I’m afraid I think purchasing over the Internet is cheating. Pansie’s Flour Bin, an obscure nineteenth-century title, failed on both counts, which was a great disappointment.

Inspired by a visit to the Slightly Foxed office, two doors up from a saucy emporium for ladies and a short bus ride from 100 Shades of Blue, which is not a paint shop specializing in Farrow and Ball emulsion, I returned home to tackle the books, now four deep on each shelf. A Dewey system unique to the archive has had to be created: Dicks now fill more than half a shelf, Queens the ot

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I have long wanted to offer an update on the latest additions to the Crowden Archive. Some subscribers may recall the first piece on the subject, ‘Something for the Weekend’ in Slightly Foxed No. 32. In it, I described a selection of the titles in my possession which have been collected over more than thirty years and which appeal to those possessed of a Lower Fourth Form sense of humour. My mother feels that I should now move on to more suitable pastimes, pokerwork, perhaps, or tatting, but books with questionable titles just keep on falling into my hands.

My intention has always been to leave the archive to my various scouts who have, over the years, been kind enough to contribute to it. Benjamin Whitrow, a fellow-actor, is a new recruit to the band of overgrown schoolboys who scour bookshops on my behalf in London and the provinces. Last Christmas he produced Smiling Willie and the Tiger and I’ll Come if You Will. I have bookended the latter with Taken by the Hand and Sooty’s Jumbo Trouble. Ben’s scouting skills are sorely needed, because my Yorkshire scout no longer passes on duplicate finds and my solicitor, an early recruit, has promised Biggles Takes It Rough but has yet to deliver. All archive books have to be bought cheap, as I am still of the opinion that no title should cost more than £5, and I’m afraid I think purchasing over the Internet is cheating. Pansie’s Flour Bin, an obscure nineteenth-century title, failed on both counts, which was a great disappointment. Inspired by a visit to the Slightly Foxed office, two doors up from a saucy emporium for ladies and a short bus ride from 100 Shades of Blue, which is not a paint shop specializing in Farrow and Ball emulsion, I returned home to tackle the books, now four deep on each shelf. A Dewey system unique to the archive has had to be created: Dicks now fill more than half a shelf, Queens the other half. Underneath those are a baker’s dozen Enid Blytons, including Mr Pink Whistle Interferes. My husband, a gardener, is particularly fond of Do It Yourself in the Garden, published in the 1950s, which is under a new category, ‘Household’. I began this one when offered a copy of Christie’s Old Organ by a subscriber, next to which I intended to put Archie’s Old Desk. Alas, the former never arrived, and is probably languishing in HM Customs. ‘Household’ now includes Rational Cookery (is there irrational cookery?), The Radiation Cookbook and The Right Way to Keep Cats (there’s a wrong way?) by Kit Wilson, who, as it turns out, was a well-known cat-show judge. I intend to add Confessions of a Decanter and The Empty Jam Pot if they ever turn up. ‘Euphemisms’ includes Star Probe, Trader Horn, Every Common Bush, Young Man with a Horn and Little Boy Blue’s Horn (a children’s book). Under ‘Toilet Humour’, Nevil Shute has crept in with Round the Bend, which I have placed hard by Constipation and Our Civilization, Tom Cringle’s Log and Period Stuff by Dornford Yates. I just wish I could add to these a title discovered in the index of another book: Hope for Number Two, Help from Number One. It’s quite rare, but perhaps a subscriber might oblige. Dust-jackets continue to be a source of deep joy. Who could not love the drawing on the front of Stormcock Meets Trouble which seems so innocuous at first, until a closer look reveals that the illustrator must have had a grudge against the publisher. One artist in particular I simply cannot trace, despite extensive research. His illustrations for two 1950s books, the infamous Queer Doings at Quantham and Ready, Aye Ready, suggest something else entirely is going on between the covers. There’s no new sheet music in the archive at present, though I have been promised a couple of corkers, but while they take their time to arrive, play titles are a new source of levity: Four Queens Wait for Henry has not been performed for years, though my researches show that Stop It, Nurse is a popular choice for amateur dramatic societies in Ireland. I Killed the Count (a James Naughtie moment if ever there was one), Sit down a Minute, Adrian and Hot and Cold in All Rooms are no longer in the repertoire of the Royal Shakespeare Company or the National Theatre, and since repertory theatre is more or less defunct, they are unlikely to be put on again. Despite the high ticket prices in London’s West End, I personally would book two seats in the front stalls to see a production of Radiance:The Passion of Marie Curie, having missed Married Love, a play based on the life of contraceptive pioneer Marie Stopes, which ran at Wyndham’s Theatre in 1988 for a matter of weeks. Some of my titles resonate more than others: Birds I Have Known reminds me of 1960s sitcoms. Darcy, The Young Acrobat evokes the most delicious visions of Colin Firth in a mankini. Simplified Dog Cures will be the first loan from the archive to Chudleigh, resident office dog at Slightly Foxed. I still search, fruitlessly thus far, for Roger the Missionary and Weymouth: The English Naples, and now wish to add a further request to subscribers: if anyone has a spare copy of A Man, Every Inch of Him or Peter Darington, Seaman Detective, please send them to me via the Slightly Foxed office. Postage will of course be reimbursed. In the meantime, the last word must rest with my beloved Romanian phrasebook published in 1936. English Words for All Occasions contains much useful advice. A sub-heading, ‘Intellect’, under the main heading ‘Education’, offers the exhortation ‘Don’t mutter when you’re reading’, which, with regard to this article, would be entirely appropriate for those who read Slightly Foxed on public transport.

Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 44 © Sarah Crowden 2014


About the contributor

Sarah Crowden has a Foundation Certificate in Bricklaying. Suggestive terminology in bricklaying is limited, but she is delighted to report that it is rife in Plumbing.

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