Writer June Lewis' 444th issue of Cotswold Life

Well! If my simple sums serves me right, this is the 444th issue of Cotswold Life that I have written for! by June Lewis

I still have the first copy: October/November 1967, price Three shillings, with a front cover of Chipping Campden. The only other colour in the 74-page magazine was a dark red background of a full page advertisement for Dunhill cigarettes (luxury length), which allowed for a splash of the same red to highlight the huntsmen's coats, the postbox and the postbag carried by a whiskery old postman in Colin Carr's delightful cartoon of Cirencester Market Place. Hyde Lodge, near Minchinhampton, an eight-bedroom mansion set in six acres of grounds which included a notable arboretum was offered on the property page for �21,000. Roy Faiers, the Editor, welcomed the reader to 'an entirely new magazine and the only one published for England's loveliest region', concluding his introductory letter with the reminder that '... the life of every publication ultimately depends on its readers'. In the second issue he wished his readers a Happy Christmas and New Year in the January/February 1968 magazine (with no mention of why December was not covered!

From being one of those earliest readers I became a contributor: my first piece was Talk About Going Dotty - a brief look at the significance the impending change to decimalisation could have on our language and everyday sayings - published in the June issue of 1970, by which time the cost of the magazine had risen by sixpence. A full feature on my home town of Fairford, From Conqueror to Concorde, spread across several pages of the November 1970 issue, and included a quote from the Daily Telegraph which brought the nation's attention to the fact that 'After more than 100 years, gas lamps are to be replaced by electricity in the streets of Fairford - the test base for Concorde, the world's most modern aircraft'.

So, we were in the modern world. In 1971 Cotswold Life published its new price on the cover as Eighteen new pence, along with the Coat-of-Arms of Gloucestershire. The Editor gently berated the readers for not noticing that the first appearance in the April issue of this visual allegiance to the county we served the colours has been transposed, making for a rather psychedelic piece of heraldic work. By now I was writing a regular piece and Tony Faiers was sitting in his father's editorial chair, and I was local editor.

For some four or five years Tony came every month armed with the copy which we spread out on my kitchen table and juggled around with to decide on a basic structure. I still have the May 1971 issue marked CUT as it was my blueprint for typefaces and a new vocabulary of points and ems, line blocks and the effect of 'reversed out' blocks in a second colour or pierced. I cut and pasted - literally, with scissors and glue, after editing the features to size, and painstakingly rubbed through the individual letters and characters of Letraset for a number of the headings. A visit to the printing works at Exeter to see how the magazine was finally set up and printed was a highlight of that time.

1992 was Cotswold Life's Silver Anniversary, it now cost �1.25 and still had a limited number of pages in colour. I was still writing on my first ever typewriter - an Olympia portable, bought in 1960, and bumbling along the Cotswolds highways and byways in my Morris Minor, seeking out the facts and fascination of towns and villages and their diverse characters and characteristics. On a couple of occasions my pen directed me overseas - to Russia, Canada and Jamaica, but all had a Cotswold connection.

Come the Millennium I had not only changed my old Morris for a new one - well, eleven years newer actually, and was cajoled, coaxed and coerced into the computer age through my ever patient and tolerant colleagues on Cotswold Life. (I still ring them up to see if they have received my copy by e-mail - and just hope they don't notice the unearthly hour I send it with great trepidation to 'the postbox in the sky'.)

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I had also by then changed my name by dint of marriage - but not for writing for Cotswold Life, although over the four decades I have written under the 'by-lines' of Fieldfare, Rosemary Tame, Mary Hale, and Jenny Morris when I have had two or more features in the same issue. On one occasion I became Jeremy Bates for Tony's early series on Wining and Dining!

It is difficult to pick out highlights from hundreds of features I have written - interviews of so many interesting people doing so many interesting things, from celebrities to craftsmen, monks and Mummers, three 100 years old Cotsallers, the chief test pilot of Concorde, the Red Arrows aerobatic team, artists and authors, dancers and musicians, and the last true tramp in the Cotswolds. And, what does one wear when interviewing Sir Hardy Amies, dressmaker to the Queen? Well, I plumped for a smock dress of unbleached calico, which I had made myself. (I scrutinised photos of HM for a long time afterwards to see if the idea had been translated to higher realms!) I have certainly lost count of the dishes I made to photograph and give recipes for in my long running series on Cotswold Cookery, and the books I have read and related subjects researched for my latest series on Cotswold Heritage.

I still have the same thrill of anticipation of opening the latest copy as I did 443 editions ago. Cotswold Life has been so much a part of my life and I am proud to be part of its Cotswold heritage.

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