Read on for news, forthcoming publications, events, competitions and more . . . 
Although spring itself might not be as forthcoming as we’d hope, our Spring issue is just around the corner. The giant Heidelberg machines at our printers in Yorkshire are at full tilt, all rattle and clatter as they press a fresh batch of Slightly Foxed publications. There’s the latest issue of the quarterly to look forward to, as well as our 21st SF Edition and two new paperbacks to banish the last of the winter chills.

The legacies of grandmothers loom large this month. Firstly, there’s a taste of Diana Holman-Hunt’s childhood spent shuttling between two competing matriarchs in My Grandmothers and I, then there’s news of the forthcoming Slightly Foxed Edition, The Real Mrs Miniver, Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s lively exploration of her grandmother’s conflicting private and public lives.

We’re throwing a launch party for both The Real Mrs Miniver and the Spring issue of Slightly Foxed on Monday 11 March, so get it in the diary and bring along a friend for a glass of wine and a short talk in the bookshop (more details below). If you haven’t entered our competition for older writers yet, there’s still time to send an article in before 28 February. And while we’re on the topic of sending things in, we love to hear about the adventures of the fox as he turns up all over the world, or at least from Islington to Illinois. We’re even putting together an online gallery of his travels, so do send in photos and stories of you with a copy of Slightly Foxed or any other Foxed paraphernalia – in interesting places if you have them. Now, though, for a taste of childhood in the shadow of the Pre-Raphaelites:

Diana Holman-Hunt’s childhood was spent between two wildly contrasting households. One, in Melbury Road, Kensington, belonged to her paternal grandmother, Holman-Hunt’s eccentric widow Edith, known to Diana as ‘Grand’. The other, on the edge of the Sussex marshes, was the home of her mother’s parents, Grandmother and Grandfather Freeman.

While sweet-smelling, self-indulgent Grandmother Freeman lived for the present with a full complement of servants to minister to her whims, ‘Grand’ lived entirely in the faded splendour of her past. The two mistrusted one another deeply and competed for Diana’s affection while being spectacularly blind to her needs. Out of an essentially bleak scenario, Diana has woven a small comic masterpiece of pitch-perfect dialogue and deadpan observation.
In the following extract from My Grandmothers and I, Diana goes to stay with ‘Grand’ in London for the first time.
It was not until Fowler and I were crossing London in a taxicab that I began to feel uneasy. I knew she disapproved of Grand and of the house in Melbury Road, where she had taken me many times before but only for the day. When we drew up in front of the tall, grimy, brick and stucco house, I pointed out my name on the blue plaque let into the wall:
    ‘And see the O.M.? It means the Order of Merit.’ She was not impressed: ‘O.M. Pooh! What’s the good of that? A title now, a title would be nice.’
    ‘Grand says . . .’
    ‘Grand fiddlesticks!’ she snapped. ‘A barrack of a place, no butler, no proper staff. I don’t know I’m sure.’ As she rang the bell, she shook her head with disapproval and the cabby nodded. He put my hamper on the step and left us there waiting for Helen.
    ‘I expect she’s downstairs,’ I said after a while, perturbed by the delay. ‘When she climbs from the basement, her face gets very pink, as pink as her dress.’ For her sake I wished she would hurry.
    ‘Seeing as it’s afternoon, it’s to be hoped she’s changed from her print and washed and put on her blacks.’ Fowler tapped her foot, as if we’d already been there an hour.
    At last, there was a rattle of chains and a scraping of bolts. Helen peered round the door wearing her pink print dress.
    ‘Ah, good afternoon,’ said Fowler, scowling.
    ‘Like a cup of tea, miss?’ asked Helen, shyly. I sensed she was afraid of Fowler.
    ‘I’ll not trouble you,’ said Fowler, her nose pointing in the air, ‘but I’d be obliged if you’d tell the under-housemaid to steam Miss Diana’s velveteens and mind she keeps her kettle off the lace.’ She knew, of course, there wasn’t anyone to tell. She turned to me: ‘Well, I haven’t got all day. I must bustle back to the station. I’m sure you’ll be all right.’ Her expression showed she thought it most unlikely.
    ‘Oh, don’t go,’ I cried in a panic, throwing my arms round her neck. ‘Please don’t go, don’t leave me.’
    ‘What a way to go on!’ she said severely, adjusting her hat. Her face was very white and her eyes were shining when she pressed my hand and pecked me on the cheek. Helen and I watched her walk down the steps to the cab but she didn’t look round.
    ‘Well, miss, you haven’t shrunk,’ said Helen. This was the only joke she ever made. She bolted and barred the door. My throat was sore with worry. I stared at our dim reflection in the glass of the portrait of Grandpa Holman by Sir William Richmond and saw I was nearly as tall as Helen.
    ‘The mistress is in the sitting-room. You know your way, miss, don’t you?’ Helen vanished down the basement stairs.
    In the inner hall one jet of gas burned low and blue on an iron bracket, casting a glinting light on the brass plates, copper trays, daggers, scimitars and swords that dotted the walls, between oil paintings. Grandpa Holman’s portrait of himself as a boy, Christs, virgins and saints, great-uncle Waugh who was drowned; all gazed down at the Burmese gongs, supported by gilded dragons – these were a present from Papa and didn’t look right. A pair of tall church candlesticks, festooned with rosaries, stood each side of a massive table which was draped with altar cloths and shawls. On it stood a red chalk drawing and Chinese bowls filled with silver money. There were no flowers or signs of life: no coat flung down in a hurry, no secateurs, gloves or parasols.
    The sitting-room door opened slowly. Suddenly Grand was there with her arms outstretched like a cross: ‘My pet! I thought I heard voices. Come and give me a hug.’ She was straight and bony; her brooches, chatelaine and buckles pressed sharply into my ribs.
    Nothing was changed in the sitting-room; perhaps the leafy Morris paper was a little darker. The Della Robbia, covered with dust, still hung over the fireplace, the vases held the same sprays of honesty and peacock feathers, and the spindly bamboo tables, as before, tottered under the heavy weight of papers.
    A purple taffeta curtain was pulled across the Van Dyck crucifixion. Grand had said long ago that Crucifixions and St Sebastians were less valuable than Holy Families. Sensitive people couldn’t bear to see the blood, or the cruel arrows sticking into dripping wounds. I couldn’t bear them either. I spun round on my heel; another curtain of faded orange silk was drawn across the Bellini; a small piece of St Joseph showed in a corner.
    In the day-time, the more precious pictures too were covered, to prevent their fading by the sun; this precaution gave the effect of many windows of odd shapes and sizes, placed at different levels on the walls, through which peeping Toms could pry. I hated this sensation and wished all the pretty wallpaper was showing but I knew of course, as Grand had told me, that only poor uneducated people didn’t like pictures on their walls.
    ‘Shall we draw the curtains?’ I asked, taking off my woollen gloves. Without speaking she whisked a muslin veil off the Byzantine black Madonna, revealing the dark face under its jewelled crown.
    ‘The gold background is nice,’ I said, flinching from the wicked squinting eyes.
    ‘The furious seascape below is by Mr Ruskin.’ She leant forward to examine it more closely. ‘His waterfalls and rocky coasts are better. Take off your coat, my pet.’
    An inverted coolie hat, filled with catalogues and crumpled paper bags, lay on the Moorish throne which was made of ebony, inlaid with ivory stars and little bits of glass. Grandpa Holman had painted this in his picture of Isabella and the Pot of Basil.
    ‘Everything’s the same,’ I said, stroking a huge oak chest.
    ‘The Hobman chest, remember?’ She raised the lid which was carved inside. ‘Made in the Spanish Netherlands as a travelling altar. It once held the sacramental vessels but now, as you see, it’s crammed with clothes which the models wore; in fact, when it stood in the studio, Holman called it his “prop box”. See, here is Miss Siddal’s dress for Sylvia.’
    ‘Guggum’s dress,’ I said, fingering the folds. Danish ancestor Hobman had used the chest as a trunk when he brought his furs to England. He must have had a lot – fur coats, fur hats, fur boots, fur gloves, fur trousers, fur combinations, fur . . .
    ‘I told you, I hope I did, I always forget, Holman’s name was really Hobman? It was his Christian name; he was never called William. One day, looking up some papers in connection with a lawsuit, he found the clerk had written “Holman” by mistake. From that day he used no other name, and when I heard that Queen Victoria said: “We consider Hunt too ordinary a name for such an extraordinary man: we would like you to use a hyphen,” I naturally used the double-barrel. Beloved Holman . . . Come my pet, it’s only four o’clock, for a whole hour we will do as you like.

© Diana Holman-Hunt
My Grandmothers & I
Diana Holman-Hunt

Diana Holman-Hunt – granddaughter of the eminent Pre-Raphaelite  painter – spent her Edwardian childhood shuttling between two wildly contrasting households. My Grandmothers and I is her touching and darkly funny memoir of that time.

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Coming soon . . .

In the spring issue, among others, Ates Orga recalls how his father’s Portrait of a Turkish Family came to be written; Annabel Walker eavesdrops on Amos Oz in Jerusalem; Andrew Nixon says a prayer for the ginger man; Chris Schüler celebrates the atlas; Marie Forsyth volunteers in a charity bookshop; Derek Parker delights in the letters of Horace Walpole; Oliver Pritchett examines the etiquette of reading in bed; and Catherine Merrick visits the island of the colour-blind . . .

So, if you're not yet foxed, why not take out a subscription for yourself or a loved one this year? Slightly Foxed is an ideal companion – much more like a bookish and knowledgeable friend than a conventional literary magazine – and a subscription brings with it hours of entertainment, stimulation and the deep satisfaction that good writing can give.
A House in Flanders
Michael Jenkins

 ‘Perfectly realized, a seminal experience of life, beautifully recorded’
P.D. James

In 1951, a shy and solitary 14-year-old boy was sent by his parents to spend the summer with ‘the aunts in Flanders’. So began for Michael Jenkins a formative experience which, when he came to write about it half a century later, reappeared to him ‘as in a dream, complete but surreal’.

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This title will be published on
11 March 2013.

Please do
pre-order now.

Annual Subscriptions

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A Late Beginner
Priscilla Napier

Priscilla Napier grew up in Egypt during the last golden years of the Edwardian Age – a time when, for her parents’ generation, it seemed the sun would never set upon ‘the regimental band playing selections from HMS Pinafore under the banyan tree’.

UK: £12
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All prices inc. p&p

This title will be published on
11 March 2013.

Please do
pre-order now.

Coming soon . . .

Slightly Foxed Edition No. 21 will be The Real Mrs Miniver, Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s vivid biography of her grandmother, who wrote her Mrs Miniver columns in The Times under the pseudonym Jan Struther. Everyone assumed that the exemplary middle-class housewife was a portrait of Jan herself but, as Ysenda reveals, the reality was very different – one of a passionate love affair, soaring creative highs and dark lows as she fought with ‘the jungles’ of depression.

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This title will be published on 11 March 2013. Please do pre-order now.

Spring Launch Party

We’ll be hosting a launch party for the Spring issue and The Real Mrs Miniver at our bookshop on Monday 11 March, 6-8pm. There’ll be drinks and nibbles, and Ysenda Maxtone Graham will give a short talk about writing the book. Please do join us – and bring a friend or two – we’d be delighted to see you there.

Monday 11 March, 6-8pm

The Slightly Foxed Bookshop
123 Gloucester Road
London SW7 4TE
RSVP Jennie Paterson
tel. 020 7729 9368

The Fox Report

Slightly Foxed in the Antarctic . . .
We love to receive news, photos, and stories of our wily fox on his travels – so much so that we’re preparing a gallery for our website. In the last six months he has been spotted, in his various guises, in places as far flung as Illinois, Shanghai, New York, Paris and even the Antarctic. If you’ve taken the fox on an adventure, we’d love to hear about it, so send us a photo and a short description and keep an eye on our website for an appearance in the gallery in due course.

We’re always touched and delighted by the notes, postcards, letters and emails you take the trouble to send us. Here are just a few that have arrived recently.

‘Isn’t it lovely that we should be a little band of brothers and sisters united by Slightly Foxed. There is such a warm and charming spell surrounding your operation. Long may you flourish.’ H.B.

‘I can't tell you how much I enjoy the quarterly. It fills a deep need for intelligent conversation about books. I read every piece and treasure every issue. It is great that it has met with such success you have had to move to larger offices.’ B.H.

‘The gentle reminder about my sub was timely, SF has been helping to keep me sane, being housebound due to leg injuries sustained at the gym, (dangerous places gyms!) and now the snow. Every good wish for this coming year.’ E.N.

‘Your product is the perfect gift for someone like me who, having read very little in his youth (alas), is trying to play catch-up in his mature years. Keep it up!’ C.P.

‘I saw and bought Mr Tibbits's Catholic School in National Theatre bookshop, and was completely charmed and enthralled.’ J.B.

‘A note to let you know that Slightly Foxed arrived in the letterbox this morning. Thank you for your email confirming it was on its way to New Zealand. As I write this note, the sun is shining outside and a soft, warm wind is rustling the leaves on my trees - perfect weather for reading Slightly Foxed outside with the umbrella up and a cup of tea beside me.’ L.D.

‘There is a nostalgic – dare one say almost whimsical – quality to Slightly Foxed which is both appealing and quietly stimulating ... At times there is also ‘something of the night’ about it but in this case the sort of black night when there is no greater pleasure than pulling the curtains against the cold and lighting the fire’ W. M. M.

Older Writers’ Competition

Our competition for older readers is open until the 28 February, inviting those of 60 or over to write an article in the style of SF. We like our articles to be personal and engaging, and we’ve had plenty of excellent entries so far. There’s still time to send yours in, so check the details on our website and do have a go.

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