News from Slightly Foxed: A Sublime Comedy
Winter is fast approaching here at Slightly Foxed. The streets of Hoxton Square are awash with leaves and the SF office is awash with brown paper and our new Foxed ribbon ready for Christmas gift orders. Anna, Faith, Jennie and Olivia are bracing up in anticipation of next weeks visit from Smith Settle with box upon box of the new Winter issue of Slightly Foxed and the forthcoming Slightly Foxed Edition: No. 28, perennial favourite My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Well be celebrating these new offerings at our bookshop on Tuesday 2 December at our annual Christmas drinks, and we hope that many of you will be able to join us. Do read on for more details of this, and other upcoming gatherings.
But before we dive headfirst into winter, let us join the cast of our autumn edition, Marrying Out: Harold Carlton (lightly disguised as Howard Conway) and his larger-than-life family. Amanda Craig writing in the Jewish Chronicle described it as beautifully observed, poignant, affectionate and thoughtful, this sublime comedy is to urban families what Stella Gibbons’s classic Cold Comfort Farm is to those living in the country.’  We couldnt put it better ourselves.

Monkey-Puzzle Trees and Crazy Paving

The rise and fall of my family took place between my twelfth and fifteenth years and it is a tribute to my self-absorption that I hardly noticed. At the age of 12 I believed that everyone’s family was exactly like mine. I thought every boy had a beautiful mother who adored him and a bad-tempered father who frightened him. I thought that all children loved their mothers and hated their fathers, that all families toasted cheese on toast and called it Welsh Rabbit, slept with their bedroom doors wide open and windows tight shut, made tea by pouring boiling water through a tea-filled strainer, and filled bookshelves with china ornaments since there wasn’t a book in the house.
   We lived in the London suburb of Willesden, postal district NW10. Our large semi-detached home was reached after driving through Kensal Rise and up Chamberlayne Road into a Jewish enclave. Most front gardens boasted a tall monkeypuzzle tree and were crisscrossed with crazy paving. Our back garden had flowering broom and lilac, plus cherry, pear, plum and apple trees from which we impatiently ate unripe fruit and got tummy-ache. I liked to sit reading in the lower, broad branches of the cherry tree, feeling as if I were daringly high in the sky.
   My mother’s cries of delight at my first doodles had convinced me that I must be an artist. She considered me a genius. It never crossed my mind that she might be biased. I was a trusting child and tended to believe what I was told. The problem was that a genius artist did not really fit the niche that my family had carved for itself. Jews did not become artists, my parents explained. They became accountants, doctors or lawyers, or they went into their parents’ businesses. Since my father manufactured ladies’ handbags, this was not a very exciting prospect.
   I had an elder sister, Rachel, who took me around with her if no one better showed up, and a younger brother, Lawrence, whose main aim in life was the destruction of all my possessions. Both my sister and my brother believed that I was the favourite. I was one of six Jewish boys in a grammar school of five hundred. The odd taunt of ‘Dirty Jew’ was hurled at me, but it was as automatic as red-haired boys getting ‘Ginger’ or acne-afflicted boys getting ‘Spotty’.
   ‘They’re just jealous, darling,’ Mum assured me, her allpurpose explanation of any hostile behaviour towards me. I wondered what they were jealous of. I grew up pretty oblivious to any evil in the world. We were told that the Nazis had killed my father’s parents, but later found out they hadn’t. Perhaps it was my parents’ clumsy way of alerting us to the fact that being Jewish often meant persecution.
    I felt so different from my family that I sometimes wondered whether I had secretly been adopted. I often leafed through the family photograph album to study the first snaps of us arriving back from the nursing home, swaddled in white shawls in our mother’s arms. Neatly pasted in beneath the photographs were clippings from The Jewish Chronicle’s Births announcements, which I reluctantly accepted as proof that I was a bona-fide member of this family. I knew that my mother adored me. She assured me that my father did too. But when my father loved someone it was a secret; someone else had to tell you. I did not really believe he loved any of us. My mother whispered to me that I was the light of her life, which I took to be a pretty responsible title, as if her happiness and well-being were up to me. I had been extremely dependent on her as a small child and remembered with shame my behaviour at the age of 5 or 6, when I cried at the very idea of her leaving my presence. If she left the house I would feel sick and stand at her bedroom window for hours, awaiting the sight of her dear head bobbing up at the foot of our hill as she returned with heavy shopping. I was terribly ashamed of this and got over it by lying awake at night imagining her death and subsequent funeral. Picturing this almost unimaginable event, I would soak my pillow with tears, grieving before the tragedy in order to better prepare myself for it. Once I had got her death out of the way, I felt free to enjoy her company as ‘extra’ days spent with her. At 12, I was slowly reading my way through The Collected Works of Sigmund Freud in an attempt to gain insight into the way people – especially my family – behaved. I obtained the books from Willesden Library by informing the librarian that my Mum was ill and needed reading matter. Freud’s work was on the Restricted list. ‘Wouldn’t she prefer a nice Agatha Christie?’ the librarian asked, mildly surprised.
   We were all frightened of my father because of his unpredictable temper. He was Polish and had come to London at the age of 13. He had the trace of an accent, which became more pronounced when he was in a rage. The rage was always there, lurking, and flared up over trivial things: orange squash spilt on the tablecloth, a dropped fork. He would lash out at the nearest child, slapping face or head, or roar very suddenly at full blast in an ear, frightening us to tears. Rachel and I always tried to make sure that Lawrence was sitting nearest to him at the dining-table. When Dad left the house in the mornings, it was as if a black cloud lifted from our lives. We would join hands and dance in a circle around the hall, singing. Perhaps my mother shouldn’t have encouraged us, but the relief was too great. We loved knowing that she was on our side, celebrating the departure of the ogre for a full day at the handbag factory. Possibly she was afraid of him too? 
   My mother was Hollywood-beautiful with a heart-shaped face, big sparkling brown eyes, a small straight nose and a full mouth. I assumed that everyone’s mother was beautiful and was surprised when my friends’ mothers sometimes turned out to be dull or plain. Mum thought we were perfect too, especially me, and she stuffed red ribbon into my shoes when I was little to ward off the evil eye from other mothers. She maintained that my only problem in life would be coping with my unfairly good looks . . .


. . .  The high point of our week was Saturday afternoon tea at my grandparents’ flat. They lived ‘up West’ in a long, dark mansion flat off the Edgware Road. They were very proud of their home and lived there all their lives, in spite of becoming accidentally, mythically, rich later. They were unable to imagine anywhere finer and for this alone I loved them. I loved them for not wanting more. Indeed they might have been more comfortable with less, for the furnishings, mirrors and chandeliers were considered so precious that not even their owners were able to enjoy them: they were perpetually shrouded first in thick transparent plastic, then in dustsheets. Most rooms were too good to use or even see, especially the best room which was always firmly locked. The flat could be as glittering as a fairy-tale palace when all the chandeliers were switched on. The curtains were tightly drawn against the outside world in winter, and at evening meals we felt we had wandered into a pantomime, with Grandma playing both Fairy Godmother and Wicked Witch. 
   One Saturday, about a year before my bar mitzvah, Grandpa opened the front door. A gentle, plump, cuddly man, he kissed us and led us down the long, dark corridor towards the kitchen. It was a kitchen unlike any other, lit by a ballroom-sized chandelier that filled the upper half of the room. Glossy white walls bounced back a dazzling light, blocked by a bulky figure who stood waiting for us, arms akimbo. She had already begun to scream and her voice rose in volume as we drew nearer: ‘Oooooooohhhhhhheeeeeee!’ The light splayed behind her as if a spotlight was trained on the back of her head, lighting up a mop of frizzy orange hair that was piled up in an untidy bunch, like a Toulouse-Lautrec can-can dancer’s. Her face was powdered dead white and her crimson mouth stretched in a welcoming smile so wide it became a grimace. She caught us up one by one in her arms. 
   ‘’Allo darling!’ She held me at arm’s length, her eyes alive and sparkling, sometimes grey, sometimes green. ‘Gimme a kiss!’ she commanded. ‘Mmmmwhhahhhh!’
   Several kisses, each a suction-pad of love, were plonked over my face. Thrusting me back to arm’s length again she scrutinized me, staring into my very soul. How she loved us! Her eyes brimmed with tears, as if such love was too much to ask a human being to bear. As if love were tragic and God unreasonable to give her such adorable grandchildren. Briskly wiping away these tears, she plucked the next child from the corridor to begin all over again. ‘Now we’re all together!’ she cried triumphantly. ‘Soon we’ll eat!’
© Harold Carlton, 2014
Please read on for some Christmas present ideas, a selection of recent
words from our readers and news of this seasons literary events.

The Slightly Foxed Notebook

A good sturdy notebook – the kind you’re not going to lose – is surely one of life’s essentials; a place for those vital to-do lists, a repository for Great Thoughts, memorable quotes, notes of books borrowed and lent, important addresses, other people’s recipes – its uses are endless. As a record, too, a notebook is every bit as immediate as a diary – a patchwork of everyday life that, years later, can vividly bring back the essence of a particular moment.

Available in 2 sizes
and 4 colours. 

From £12 inc. p&p

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All things Slightly Foxed can be given as presents and, with our new foxy ribbon and brown paper gift wrap, they’ll look extremely handsome under the tree.

Browse & Buy Online

A Set of Four Paperbacks *Save £8

Delightful to look at, pocket-sized and elegantly produced on good cream paper, our Slightly Foxed Paperbacks make ideal gifts. The list comprises our most popular Slightly Foxed Editions, with titles such as Ysenda Maxtone Grahams rather unusual and ever popular, Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School, Adrian Bells famous rural work, CorduroyDodie Smiths charming and amusing childhood memoir, Look Back with Love and Edward Ardizzones delightfully illustrated account of his early years, among others . . . 

From £12 each or from £40 as a set of any four titles

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Ronald Welch
A Set of 12 Carey Novels

A set of Carey Novels would make a perfect Christmas or birthday gift for young friends and relations. The first six books can be sent to the recipient in time for this Christmas followed by the next 3 books for Christmas 2015 and the last 3 for Christmas 2016. That’s three Christmases sorted for a lucky young reader! Alternatively we can send each Carey novel to the recipient - or to you to give to them - as they’re published in spring and autumn over the coming years. Just let us know which you prefer when ordering.

‘For boys and girls of eight plus who enjoy rip-roaring adventures’ Historical Novel Society


UK: £180
Europe: £204
Rest of World: £216
inc. p&p 


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The New Website

Some eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that our website has a new winter coat. Like the quarterly, our website was ten years old this year and we thought it was time for a spruce-up. Many of you found ordering on the old site testing at times and we hope the new edition will be easier to use, and a little better-looking too. 

The website went live a few weeks ago and we are still coming across the odd niggle with the registration and checkout process. Please don’t be alarmed if you try to log in and are told you don’t have a member account. The website’s online member system is separate to our in-office subscription records and it’s possible that you may have checked out online as a guest in the past. Please do go ahead and create an account and be assured that doing so won’t duplicate your subscription record or cause problems in the office.

One new addition to the design is a messaging service which you’ll find in the bottom left of your screen on most browsers. If you have a question about your order or need help online you can send us a quick message via this service. During office hours one of us will reply straightaway and out of hours you can send a message for us to pick up when we’re back at our desks.

On a more interesting front our favourite part of the new site is the From our Readers page. We’ve had such a happy time going through letters, postcards and notes received from you all over the past ten years and have now put many of these up on the site, with more to go up in the New Year.

The website is very much a changeable beast and we’ll continue to tinker with it over the coming months and years. If you have suggestions or complaints please get in touch with Jennie: / 020 7729 9368 and she’ll do her best to help.

Christmas Drinks

All readers are invited to join us at our bookshop to help celebrate the launch of the Winter issue of Slightly Foxed and the forthcoming Slightly Foxed Edition: perennial favourite My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

Tuesday 2 December 2014
6.30 – 8.30 p.m.

There will be plenty of wine, festive canapés and a 10% discount on all purchases. So please do come, be merry, and stock up on Christmas presents!

Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road
123 Gloucester Road
London SW7 4TE

T: 020 7033 0258
This December, some of SF Jennies friends are putting on a special charity production of Frederick Forsyth’s classic aviation Christmas tale, The Shepherd, in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund.

The author himself will be introducing the performance and there will be wine, carols from the Saint Martin Singers and a pop-up Slightly Foxed bookstall. All readers are invited to join us for what should be a very special evening.  Please read on for booking information.

The Shepherd

 Introduced by Frederick Forsyth. Adapted by Amber Barnfather, performed by Nigel Anthony.

5.30 – 7.30pm
Sunday, 14 December 2014
St Clement Danes, London

Doors open 5.30 p.m.
Tickets £12 including refreshments

Book online

We are always touched and delighted by the notes, letters, postcards and emails we receive from you. Here are just some of our recent favourites:

‘Many thanks for your reassuring email that the subscriptions will be delivered for Christmas. It is much appreciated that you took the time to confirm. The sign of a company that understands its customers.’ J. Briggs, Buckinghamshire

‘I have been a subscriber for several years and I’m not generally the sort of person who sends emails like this. I adored John Walsh’s piece on Beryl Bainbridge in the current issue. It has inspired me to re-read her books . . . I look forward to every issue of SF dropping onto my doormat. Thank you for introducing me to so many authors I might otherwise never have met.’ H. Jones, Staffordshire

‘I am delighted to renew my sub for another year, I look forward to receiving each new copy of your journal. Keep up the good work!’ J. Nairn, Australia

‘Many thanks for all the interesting reading in your quarterlies. They always give me great pleasure.’ M. Roe-Bennett, Powys

Famous People’s Foxes Auction

Last February we launched our little charity book, Slightly Famous People’s Foxes, to celebrate our tenth anniversary and to raise money for the Hospital School at Great Ormond Street. The books have been selling like hot cakes: we’ve had to order a reprint and by next year, with your help, we will have raised over £5,000 for the school.
But we’re not stopping there! We will be holding an auction for the original drawings to raise more money for the Hospital School. The auction will take place this coming February and will be open to all. More details to follow in the New Year.

Meantime, we send our thanks to all who have bought Slightly Famous People’s Foxes. We urge you to stock up on copies for Christmas – it’s the perfect stocking filler!

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Hall Centenary Appeal Auction
Monday 17 November 2014

The Art Workers’ Guild is currently raising money to bring the building up to scratch. The building itself is crucial: it is there that connections are fostered, and the Guild can promote excellence, and the understanding of craftsmanship. 

To raise funds The Guild is holding an auction; it is now available online at and on view with a printed catalogue at 6 Queen Square on 16th and 17th November, before a reception and live auction on the evening of 17th. Commission bids may be left.

Please contact Monica Grose-Hodge by telephone: 020 7713 0966 or by email: for further information or to attend on the evening.

The 23rd annual Richmond Literature Festival is in full swing. Running throughout the whole of November, the festival features a range of literary figures and personalities covering a variety of subjects including history, music, art, politics and war. Still to come this month: there’s esteemed actor, and newly published author, Sheila Hancock in conversation with Slightly Foxed contributor Anne Sebba; the broadcaster and journalist Peter Snow discussing his book When Britain Burned the White House and two more Slightly Foxed writers, Simon Barnes and Anthony Sattin, giving talks on wildlife and T. E. Lawrence respectively.

There are still tickets left for many events. Visit the Richmond Literature Festival for more details.


David Roberts, Alan Brooke and Richard Johnson have whittled the submissions down to the following shortlist for the three judges, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Jane Ridley and Anthony Sattin: 

Ali Allawi - Faisal of Iraq - Yale
Rachel Cooke - Her Brilliant Career - Virago
Henry Marsh - Do No Harm - Weidenfeld
Rory Muir - Wellington  - Yale
Claudia Renton - Those Wild Wyndhams - Collins

The winner will be announced on 21 November.

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