Like John, in the last edition, I can get quite misty-eyed when thinking about those early days of the Villager. Indeed, in my editorial interest with the local magazine here in Herefordshire, I’ve been known to refer to it as The Villager! Which says everything, I suppose.
I’m not much good at dates either, so it came as a surprise to learn that it’s almost forty years ago that Fred Heyworth and I felt that a village magazine was needed so much that we’d have a go. There had been a hesitant run of church-based magazines, all of which we then regarded, collectively, as “Volume 1" so the first issue started at Vol 2. Why was it produced every other month, and not every month like everybody else? I’m not quite sure, but that’s what Fred decided. Other decisions, made over that glass of beer, were that, not only that it should be free and go to every household (whether they wanted it or not) but that it should be independent of, and not a financial burden on, the Parish Council. Thus we needed to sell space to advertisers – and it’s a particular pleasure to find that so many of them are still there. But what John didn’t mention was that, at one time, when both he and I were drumming up the advertising, we were finding advertisers playing “Biggs” against “Griggs”, saying to each of us that they’d done a deal with the other. Even so, the income never seemed quite enough and so the additional contribution from the Community Association was always most gladly received. Eric Dore designed the lovely cover. I’m looking at it now, unchanged for all those years – as is the general design, typography and layout.
I’m also looking at my album of photographs, showing the team putting the thing together. What a laborious business! As we trudged round the table, Fred would be in the lead, because he was the slowest, followed – somewhat demurely and at a respectful distance – by the rest of us (including Joan Everex and Joy) – rather reminiscent, I always thought, of a kind of slow-bicycle race. Percy (Smith) was in charge of the bonker (alias the long-arm stapler, fully charged) with Bess and Betty (Johnston) folding, “boning down”, and checking that nothing was missing or upside down. It seems to me, on reflection, that nothing ran smoothly for very long; every ten minutes or so we’d have to stop because someone had found something wrong with the piles of sheets – upside down, wrongly backed up, badly printed, or simply missing. Then we’d all have to stop for another tea break whilst I sorted things out – usually requiring yet another trip next door to the office to run off some more copies. And John was right: in those days printing was a filthy business.
From time to time, we’d have to discuss whether this or that should be included. Although Fred was known for his left-wing inclination, he couldn’t bear to see anything included that was remotely political – party or otherwise. And, to his credit, he stuck to his guns. The other contentious matter that sticks in my mind was a long-running exchange of letters on how long the grass was on the cricket outfield.
Looking back, I think the pleasure stems from helping to make something which was not just tangible but useful, and which, clearly, had a part to play in the ebb and flow of parochial village life.
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