R is for: The Readers. Without whom, of course, none of us would have had our jobs. They trusted us to an alarming degree at times. One woman wrote in to our problem page with the name of the tablets her doctor had prescribed for her. She didn’t know what they were for and wanted us to tell her! Given the lead times for the magazine, the poor soul may well have been dead by the time the issue came out, if indeed her letter was even printed. But I imagine someone would have immediately told her to go back to her doctor or, at the very least, speak to a chemist.
Another, unfortunately for our editor’s secretary who opened the post, had carefully snipped off some of her pubic hairs and enclosed them in an envelope, along with a note that questioned why said hairs weren’t the same colour as those on her head (sample also enclosed).
One year, we raised funds for “Wells for Gambia” which was a charity set up by the author Philippa Gregory, who used to write for us. One day, we received through the post a very small, thin, flimsy brown envelope which was tightly packed with what amounted to a thousand pounds in notes, with no covering letter. The girl who opened it was shaking. I can see it now and I often wonder who had sent it – and in such a casual fashion.
R is also for: The Robin Family. Nestling (or nesting) in amongst the pages of the magazine, there resides a tiny world of feathered and furred creatures, chief of which are the robin family. The weekly adventures of Rowley, Rowena and Rosemary robin, their family and all their little woodland friends, have entertained and enthralled generations of children for many years. Plenty of feathers were ruffled, however and there was uproar amongst the readers when it was decided to “refresh” the magazine some years ago now and the robins were encouraged to fly to pastures new – namely, the monthly Fiction Special, where they were given a more colourful new look (having rather quaintly always been drawn in black and white up until then), rebuilt their little community and have continued their adventures ever since, no doubt delighting a whole new generation with their avian antics.
R is also for: Romance. I’m not just referring to our wonderful fiction, of course. Inevitably, in a largeish office, there appeared to be plenty of shenanigans (should be under “S” I know) and much gossip fodder (“G” perhaps?). Some I daren’t mention here. However, I can mention that someone wanted to know if it could be considered being unfaithful to one’s partner if one snogged someone else. They were “asking for a friend” naturally. The conclusion we all came to was that, technically, it WAS being unfaithful but that, so long as it was a one-off, unplanned and spur-of-the-moment, and things didn’t go any further, it could be excused (we never knew the outcome). Someone else did a romantic “daylight flit” with someone she had been seeing on the side, so to speak (though probably mostly on the back), while both being with other people and this involved a lunch-time visit to the nearest chemist to stock up on essential supplies. No, not those! I’m talking make-up and toiletries here. Even when in the first heady throb of lust, the practicalities still have to be addressed (or undressed, in this instance).