What do you read?
I'm an avid reader. I always have been, ever since being little - I adored Enid Blyton (particularly her Amelia Jane and Faraway Tree books) and still have my collection up in the loft. Later, being pony-mad, I was hooked on Ruby Ferguson's Jill stories. Since then I've read so many novels by favourite authors: Joanne Harris, Alexander McCall Smith, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Agatha Christie, H.E. Bates, Stella Gibbons, E.M. Forster, Kazuo Isiguro. Our house has bookshelves in every room. To me, books and plants make a home.
I have a history of magazine-reading, too. I'd buy Horse and Pony, then later my pocket money went on Smash Hits and later still, Elle magazine. Pretty young to be reading glossies, but I did. I used to carefully cut the front covers off and put them on my bedroom walls instead of posters. During my twenties and thirties I read more glossies: Red and Marie Clare (but never Cosmopolitan, for some reason). I had a brief affair with Psychologies and was loyal to Eve magazine until its demise. Up until recently I regularly bought interiors magazines too. I love interior design but the more avant garde stuff's not really my thing.
I reached a point several years ago where I stopped buying glossy magazines. I got tired of all the adverts, the focus on diet and make up (which seemed to be getting predictable and repetitive), the notion that I have thousands of pounds to spend on a winter coat. I found that I was immediately flicking to the pages where I could read about homes and food, leaving the majority of content (exotic travel, fashion, features on 'power' careers) behind.
So what do I read now? Fiction or poetry for bedtime. For those rare and precious moments of daytime or early evening solitude: cookery books. I particularly love Nigel Slater - his gentle, lyrical style with elements of storytelling and an appreciation of the seasons are, to me, incredibly evocative and relaxing. The literary equivalent of The Good Life or Gardener's World viewed from under a woollen blanket, cup of tea close by.
I do still treat myself to Country Living magazine. But not the summer issues. Being an unashamed autumnophile, I generally wait until the October edition comes out then buy monthly until perhaps April (winter and early spring are special times for me too). Yes, there are adverts. No, I'm not in the market for a bespoke kitchen or an Aga or a tweed riding jacket. But I love the interiors features, the beautiful styling and photography, the celebration of seasonal living and of small independent businesses and makers.
These days I enjoy reading meaningful stories in magazines. About fellow creatives, the landscape, slow living. Celebrating seasonal food and activities, rustic home style and simple pleasures with friends and family.
Of course, you know that I currently write for Creative Countryside. I'm Nature Editor so I also get to share what's happening via social media, and to curate original and engaging content relating to all things nature.
Right now, it's getting exciting. Creative Countryside is an online journal but will be independently published as a magazine in October. There's a crowdfunding page to help get it off the ground as a printed publication which will have quarterly issues: one for each season. The first, Gather, will go to press regardless of securing this funding but would do so at a loss. We're hoping that we get the support to enable Creative Countryside to become a real magazine, ad-free and beautiful enough to become part of a collection to keep.
So: a little appeal for your help. Other than sharing my artwork, I don't write about products or services here as it's not that kind of blog (and I'm not that kind of person). I don't have sponsors or adverts. However, Creative Countryside is part of what I do. I'm an artist and writer.
I'm not asking for contributions to the crowdfunding page, but would really appreciate it if anyone reading this post could share the link. The more people who know about it - potential stockists or readers, those thinking of buying a considered gift - the more chance we have of creating something long-term.
I know there are a lot of publications out there at the moment. Mindfulness, slow living... advertisers and publishers are quick to catch on to trends and there's a lot of competition out there. But this would be a genuinely independent magazine with heart, small-scale, put together by people who are truly passionate about seasonality, nature, folklore, stories and adventures.
It's not one of those 'indie' independents - a bit hipster, a bit try-hard (with a prohibitively expensive cover price). Just an honest and simple magazine which acknowledges the importance of being in touch with our natural surroundings and heritage. Beautifully presented, of course. That goes without saying :)