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Read on for news, forthcoming publications, events, competitions and more . . . 
With all the hype they get, one might think that farmers’ markets are a new thing. That might be the case in terms of finding a few rashers of organic beech-smoked, thick-cut, rare breed bacon in deepest central London, but in the extract this month Adrian Bell takes us on a tour of the sort of farmers’ market that’s been going for centuries. In October we featured an autumnal extract from our paperback edition of Corduroy. It’s been such a popular reissue that we thought we’d share a second seasonal piece, together with a short excerpt of Christian Tyler’s foreword to the book. Adrian writes of a day in April that is ‘like a summer breath’, which seems rather optimistic as we sit here still wrapped in a hundredweight of woollies and shivering over cups of tea, but for the moment we’ll have to make do with mere thoughts of a proper spring.

With their sprightly mood and thronging crowds, it appears that literary festivals are not too dissimilar to Adrian’s description of the farmers’ market. We’ve yet to see the book traders ‘wield codfish and gesture magnificently with frying-pans’, although it could be effective in the battle with Amazon. In any case, we’ve just returned from a lovely spot at the Oxford Literary Festival, and we’ve got plenty of other events and festival outings planned for the brighter months, the details of which are below. We’ll be foregoing codfish and frying pans for teacups and cakes at our stalls and events, so do get the dates in your diary and come along to see us.

We’ve also got plenty of things planned closer to home. There’ll be a delightful mix of coffee and books at the bookshop later on this month, and we’re delighted to announce the date of the 2013 Readers’ Day. Details of both are below. The results of the Older Writers’ Competition are in, and there’s a new competition to get excited about. A rather handsome cat meets the fox in New South Wales, and we are, as always, very grateful for all our readers’ kind words, some of which we’ve included below. But first, off we go to market:

Though the author of more than twenty books, Adrian Bell was not perhaps a ‘Great Writer’. He is probably better known for being the first regular compiler of The Times crossword puzzle. In Corduroy he goes on a journey to a strange land – the English countryside. And it is as good as anything I have read by such pastoral panegyrists as Richard Jefferies, Ronald Blythe or Richard Mabey. At times, as he plumbs the deep psychology of the farmer, the book rises to the descriptive heights of a Hardy or a Turgenev.
 
Published in 1930, it portrays a way of life which had been overturned by the First World War and was to go on changing rapidly through the century. It is more than a nostalgic lament for a vanishing world, however: it describes a way of living that is very much alive. Indeed, it might prompt us to ask why it is that the farming mentality seems unaffected by change and decline. The answer, I think, is the fundamental difference, which Bell brings out so well, between those who live from the land, and those who merely live on it. The focus of the latter is essentially aesthetic and sentimental; the former’s is economic, therefore pragmatic.

Christian Tyler
 

Chapter IX

 
There came a day in April that was like a summer breath, not the timorous, tender wish of late February. It was a Wednesday, and I attended market with Mr Colville. Mrs Colville came too, tempted out by the day.
    When farmers take their wives with them to town on market-day they part from them on getting out of their cars, and do not meet them again till it is time to go home. No Market Ordinary for madam; she lunches delicately in a restaurant with small tables. Mrs Colville asked her husband for some money.
    ‘Ah, no!’ He wagged his head, wisely jocular. ‘What you buy you pay for.’ But she, with a smile to me, filched his notecase from his breast pocket and helped herself to a pound.
    ‘There now,’ he said, ‘that’s what it is to have a wife.’ Stambury is aware that summer is imminent. The stalls are crowded close. Some are golden with fruit – pyramids of oranges and tumbled heaps of bananas. Some are spread with sweets – glistening slabs of hard-bake, batons of rock thick as barbers’ poles, white squares and oblongs of nougat shining in the sun like flat-roofed villas of Babylon, and others with almonds embedded like fossils in strata of pink and yellow.
    There are stalls that bear silver-shining mounds of fish; others are hung with gay flapping garments and festooned with lace; others overflow to the ground with ornaments, accessories, polished pans. Some beneath canopies are dim and lustrous with blossoming plants.
    Nor are the vendors shy. They shout and hullabaloo with one another; they wield codfish and gesture magnificently with frying-pans. They strain at indestructible cycle-tyres, and wind garlands of unbaked toffee upon hooks. They fling new farthings into bags of their wares, pretending that they are giving away half-sovereigns. They hold mock auctions. They squabble eloquently with one another to collect a crowd in their mutual interest.
    It is, perhaps, this confused effect of colour and vivacity set about with steep old houses that breathes a suggestion of the exotic; perhaps it is the thin music of a street piper somewhere in the midst; perhaps just the beautiful day. The people are out with new hearts; there is an air of unrestraint. For now the corn will grow, the earth crumble, and the grass make rich milk. This might be the festival of spring, they laugh so together. They all seem to know one another; they meet acquaintances at every step, and long-lost friends at every corner.
    The stalls hum with trade, for today they buy a little more than they can afford. The women flaunt airy clothes, and one catches at moments some bewildering bright expression, some breathless look or daring  turn of the head. But at dusk, perhaps, the vigour of the scene is most apparent, when the flares are lit along the stalls and the flames leap fanatically and search the darkness, making the shadows of people dance upon the canvas backgrounds. They add a touch of the barbaric, for their light is the light of torches flowing with the wind. The stalls become islands of light into which the people are born out of the night; in the glow their faces have the over-expressiveness of masks. Everywhere trembles the fingering of fire. The face of a church clock stands like a yellow stage moon on high. A cracked bell sounds the hour slowly.
    But there are two things here that are portents, that sound, amid this flourish of life, a note of self-consciousness. One is an antique stall set a little apart from the others, hung about with engravings, passionate and dim. It has old silvers, brasses, coppers, and veined and pictured china, and wineglasses with spirals in their stems. There are books, too; tattered volumes of religious treatises by eighteenth-century clergymen, tucked in among Victorian school prizes and mirrors of the times.
    Sometimes there are choice flat volumes from ancestral libraries – classics usually, their leather bindings laced with gilt patterns, looking like inscribed golden bricks dug from ancient tombs. Here people linger. Often it is just a person in search of an Ethel Dell or a book on horses, but sometimes it is a more insidious type that looks at the undersides of china and brings out a magnifying-glass to the engravings.
    The other portent is an ‘olde’ tea-shop. It succeeds, one hopes, in spite of the ‘olde’. It has black oak beams awry, cream-washed walls hung with little windy autumnal impressions of Versailles. Blue and yellow check curtains hang half way up the window. Between curtains and window are glass shelves with iced cakes on them, so dainty and pure, one feels.
    The girls who serve wear no uniforms; one suspects they are ‘superior’. Now, these things are contrary to the settled dispositions of the countryman. He likes wallpaper on the wall; he likes irregular beams well wrapped up out of sight; he likes a carpet on the floor, not oilcloth imitating wood; he likes large pictures that you do not have to peer at, and for frames he is not afraid of plush; he likes lace curtains that begin at the top and go the whole way; and he likes currant cakes with nuts on. And he likes a serving-woman to look like a serving-woman. Yet this place succeeds. As a symptom it is dangerous, for it is patronised by the younger folk. The older men, what have they to do with four o’clock tea?

Extracted from Chapter IX, Corduroy by Adrian Bell
 Corduroy is now available as a Slightly Foxed Paperback

Corduroy

Adrian Bell was a rather frail young man of 20 when, in 1920, he left the bohemian life of London to work on a Suffolk farm. Out of that experience he wrote Corduroy, one of the classic accounts of life in the English countryside.

UK: £12
EU: £14
Rest of the World: £15
All prices inc. p&p

Buy Corduroy
 
A House in Flanders

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’.

UK: £12
Europe: £14
RoW: £15
All prices inc. p&p

A Late Beginner
 
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
Europe: £14
RoW: £15
All prices inc. p&p

 

Our calendar is fast filling up with literary festivals and bookish events, so here’s a roundup of the ones to put in your diary. If you happen to be a member of the West Meon WI, we’ll be talking books and cakes with you in May. If you are not part of their esteemed circle, you can catch us on Wednesday 19 June, when we’re off to the West Country:
 
19 June, 3.30 p.m.
Tea with Slightly Foxed
Simonsbath Literary Festival

In early July we’ll be manning a stall at the Ways with Words Festival at Dartington Hall in Devon. It’s the sort of medieval estate where the Knights Templar might joust, and there are sculptures by Henry Moore and Willi Soukop in the gardens, which should be in full profusion by then. 
 
5 - 7 July
Slightly Foxed Stall
Ways with Words Festival
Dartington Hall in Devon

And later in July we’ll be at the Penzance Literary Festival, taking tea in the place where they take it best:
 
Saturday 20 July
Time TBC
Tea with Slightly Foxed
Penzance Literary Festival

Coffee and Books
Your Grind will be running a pop-up café at our bookshop later this month. We do hope you can come along for a free cup, a browse, and a rumination on the two best stimulants for the mind: caffeine and words.

Coffee & Books
Friday 26 April, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road
London SW7 4TE

And, even if you can’t make the event, you can still take advantage of a special offer for Slightly Foxed readers. Simply sign up with Your Grind and enter the voucher code slightlyfoxed2013 to receive a free bag of coffee with your first order. www.yourgrind.com

Readers’ Day
We’ve booked ourselves in at the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury again for our 2013 Readers’ Day which will be on Saturday 9 November. Those who come do seem to love it and tickets go fast, so if you’re interested do buy your tickets in good time. The programme will be finalised by 1 August 2013.

Click here to buy tickets.

This month our wily fox has been used as a cushion by a sleepy puss in New South Wales . . .


And here, it’s been spotted looking most stylish in Toronto:


Thanks to Judith Ridge (and Louis) and Claire Sharpe for the photos.

We’d love to be able to travel as far and wide as our quarterly does, but for now we take just as much pleasure from the pictures that get sent home.  Email Jennie your photos of Slightly Foxed at home and abroad, and follow the adventures of the fox on our website noticeboard and Facebook page.

All good farm kitchens and other homely hubs should be well-stocked with sturdy mugs and tasteful tea towels. This month, we have one of each up for grabs.
 
To enter, simply answer the following farming-related question in under 100 words.
 
What is a fiddle drill?
 
A correct answer pulled out of our hat will win the mug and our favourite incorrect answer will win a tea towel. Send your entries in to Jennie by 1 May 2013. We’ll announce the winner – and best loser – in May’s newsletter.
 
The answer to last month’s competition was of course India, which is where Dervla Murphy cycled to in her first book, Full Tilt. Congratulations to the winners, Sonja Mes and John Akeroyd, to whom signed copies of A Month by the Sea are winging their way in the post.

‘Perfection is understatement. I am absolutely foxiated!’ J.G.

‘For some time I have been seeking a literary publication that goes a bit further than the average book review without being pretentious in any way. I first tried the ‘xxxxxxx’ but it was not to my taste, the articles were written by too many academics showing off their specialised knowledge. Next I tried the ‘xxxxxxx’ which was better, but spoiled by frequent spats about who wrote what first and who had ignored who. Then I invested in a single copy of Slightly Foxed. I have read less than half of it – in fact I have now rationed myself to one article each day, to make this delightful publication last longer. And, if I had any residual doubt whatsoever, it was quickly dispelled when I read the responses of Mr Sly Fox in your Gloucester Road basement. So congratulations, Slightly Foxed is just what I have been looking for. The reviews are of books that I am likely to find interesting, and their readable approach is at just the right level – nobody is trying to prove anything. I will be placing my order for an annual subscription imminently.’ G.G.

‘I love Slightly Foxed. It gives me the illusion that the England that I grew up in is still there and that people still love books in this age of technology.’ A.Z.

‘Thanks for another year of great reading. The arrival of SF reassures me that civilization is still hanging in there. Long may it continue!’ N.W.

The Royal Society of Literature is delighted to offer Slightly Foxed readers the opportunity to win a pair of tickets to hear Richard Mabey talking about nightingales on Monday 15 April. The event will be followed by a wine reception.

The acclaimed nature writer will give a talk interspersed with recordings of nightingales, asking why this bird’s song has been so widely represented through literature, and considering why for him, as for Keats, the song of the nightingale has been 'a tranquil and continued joy'.

Monday 15 April, 7 p.m.
Courtauld Institute of Art
Somerset House
Strand
London WC2R 1LA


To enter the ballot for tickets, please email Jennie at SF including your name and contact number by 4.30 p.m. today (Friday 12 April). The winner will be contacted by 5 p.m. this evening.

Our older writers’ competition brought in a gratifying number of entries. It was extraordinarily hard to choose a winner so we’ve decided to award equal honours to four: Gus Alexander, Paul Brassley, Cynthia Clinch and Donald Watson, each of whom will receive £250. You can read Cynthia’s piece on the delightful-sounding children’s book The Far-Distant Oxus in the forthcoming Summer issue of Slightly Foxed and the others will appear at intervals during the coming year. It’s great to find such good writers among our subscribers. Congratulations to you all.
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