Sunday, 20 April 2008
"You might like to look at these", said my Neighbour Who Knows What I Like, holding out a heavy carrier bag. "But you're not to start another collection and when you've finished with them you can get them down to the charity shop". I closed the door, took one look inside and starting building another set of shelves in the Library Wing. I already had a small collection of 1950's editions, with plain over-sized green covers and illustrations by countrymen like John Nash. I love them as much for the ads for Atco Autoscythes and Cremona Assorted Toffees as for the editorial content on everything from redstarts on window-sills to the vegetation on British Railways' embankments. They were once as at home in a rural kitchen as a Rayburn and a gingham table cloth.
Founded in 1927 by J.W.Robertson Scott in the manor at Idbury in the Cotswolds (telephone Shipton-under-Wychwood 226), it was an immediate success, and although the offices have now moved from the comfortable-sounding Sheep Street in Burford to Skipton in Yorkshire, it sells 80,000 copies every month to countrymen all over the world. I think it's sad that the cover design is now a full-bleed colour photograph just like everyone else on the magazine rack, and that it was deemed necessary to lose the trademark green panels, but we now need The Countryman putting his feet up in our kitchens more than ever. Oh, I've just spotted an advertisement for Pick Knitwear with a drawing by Edward Ardizzone. Whatever else happens, this one's not going to Age Concern.