Tremendously busy now, trying to get Salisbury in a fit state to send to the printers by the end of this month.

I have it in mind February and March will be spent with drafts of the book going to and fro between us, concluding with a proof copy at the end of that period.  That leaves four weeks to print them and get them to the racecourse before a launch on Sunday 28 April.  That’s the plan at the moment.

I was pleased and relieved that Jeremy at Salisbury was largely happy with the draft I’d sent him.  We met a few days ago to talk through some amendments he’d wanted, and to review a short(er) list of images for the book.  I made those changes to the text yesterday and today and sent them to him, with a WeTransfer file of the 50 or so images we have in mind at the moment.

There is more for us to iron out between now and the end of the month, and I need to format the Word document in a way that the printers will recognise.  And compose my instructions about where in the text each picture should go.

Ffos Las is also pressing, and I’m going there for a few days soon to have a look round the area, do some local studies library research and reacquaint myself with some people I met there 18 months ago who gave me a lot of information to be going on with.  I’ve got to aim to get that text ready by the end of February to give me a similar amount of time to work with the printers before launching it in June.

What with my regular racing articles and other intermittent assignments, it’s just one deadline after another at the moment.  There’s a lot to keep on top of.  Better that way round than letting it get on top of me.


Ffos Las

The Salisbury index is finished and now I wait to hear from Jeremy about what he thinks of the text and my picture suggestions.

I have turned my attention to Ffos Las, the subject of my next book.  This will be much shorter than my other books about existing racecourses, as is inevitable for one that’s been going for fewer than ten years.  The idea has been around for quite a while and although the track has changed hands in the last year I have the all-clear to press on with it.  People connected with its formation have kindly given me quite a bit of material to be going on with.  Though they first raced there in 2009, the story goes back quite a bit further.  There are some other individuals I might talk to and I plan to go there next month and get to know the area first-hand, having only been to the races there a few times.

The aim is to launch the Ffos Las book in June, the course’s 10th anniversary.  Seeing as Salisbury should be published in April or May, the appearance of two books by me within two months is going to seem like overkill or overwork.  It’s not the latter, as the time spent on researching them hasn’t clashed very much, and it is quite easy to keep their very different pasts separate in my mind.

After they’re finished I will definitely have a break.  There are at least three other subjects I wish to research – another of my local tracks, Bromley, is one of them – but there will be no deadline-setting.  Since early 2007 I should say that only about 10% of my time hasn’t had another book on the go with a target date for publication.

Best wishes for a happy 2019 to my loyal readers!

As simple as ABC

I am doggedly indexing the Salisbury text now.  It’s amazing how many proper names (human and equine) there are on each page.  Not to mention race names and places.  Some can be quite a headache.  Gordon Richards is one example.  I suppose I should be consistent with my general practice of referring to people by their surnames, but “Richards” sounds so stuffy considering he was known so widely as “Gordon”.  Eventually he became Sir Gordon, but I haven’t got that far yet.

The nobility are also tiresome.  At any one time the senior member of the Pembroke family, which owns the land the racecourse is on, can be referred to as “Pembroke”, “the umpteenth Earl”, or “—- Herbert”, Herbert being the family’s surname.  With no regard for future indexers, the same Christian names tend to recur in different generations or centuries.

Worse still are common surnames.  You might have A Green being mentioned on a range of pages, but indexing in Word you can’t simply highlight Green and “Mark All” because B Green is in the story later and your don’t want the index to direct you to both A and B Green.  Not to mention extensions such as Greenham and Greenwood.  Still, it’s all on schedule.

It’s about this time of year that the Racing Post have in the past asked me to write a book review.  If the new Books Editor is reading this, hello.  I’d be happy to hear from you.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Fontwell earlier in the week.  We are now past the 10th anniversary of the book about the racecourse!  The happy combination of blue skies, no wind and a temperature that wasn’t too cold made it one of those days that prove winter isn’t all bad.

The Map Room

I am still waiting to hear Jeremy’s comments about the Salisbury text.  Because of that I have left the latest of the two versions I’ve sent him alone.

I’ve also sent him my suggested list of images to have in the book.  Out of almost a hundred possibles my “short” list is about three dozen.  But they don’t include modern (ie post-2000) shots of good or famous horses winning there.  We’re now at the crunch time when we have to decide how much we want to pay press agencies for these photos.

I sought advice from the British Library about the presentation of certain historic maps. Their Map Room is a wonderful resource, but whenever I’ve been there I never see more than four or five people studying there.  They are usually outnumbered by the staff on the Enquiries desk, the security person who lets you in on production of a reader’s pass, and the people receiving maps from storage, handing them out, collecting them and sometimes making photocopies.  In other words, it’s often quiet there and the lady on the Enquiries counter was glad to be asked for guidance on a slightly obscure question, like the one I posed.

There is another racing book – or I should say booklet – in the pipeline.  I’ve gathered material on it off and on for over a year.  I’ve sort of been given the go-ahead a few times, although I’m still not completely sure it’s going to see the light of day.  Nevertheless I have made a start on composing something in this last fortnight and it looks like it won’t be as onerous a task as I first thought.  I’ve just returned from a weekend in Devon where, if it wasn’t raining, it looked ready to at any minute.  A lot of the time was spent indoors and with no wi-fi available to distract me, I was able to make good progress with this new book.  More news when I am 100% sure.

Delusions of grandeur

I’ve completed another read-through of the Salisbury text – this must be the third re-read. I was on such a roll that I chose not to go to Sandown last week, when I had a cheap ticket.  I’ve made this latest version available to Jeremy, the Salisbury boss.   It has numerous corrections to the previous one (which he has had), but no significant changes.  I await his comments on either.  When they’ve been incorporated we should be close to a final version.

A few weeks ago we went through a list of all the available images, but now I’m going to suggest a near final list of those that could appear in the book.  Then we’ll go back to some press agencies to discuss costs.  I’m seeking advice on the anomaly of those images which more than one organisation claims to be the copyright holder.

My other work writing articles and ad hoc assignments takes up a fair amount of time and on one single day last week I had three requests for new “ad hocs”.  Two were done the next day but the other would be long-term if we can agree what’s wanted, deadlines and fees.  An unusual aspect of the ad hocs was my participation in a meeting to determine the winners of next week’s inaugural Welsh Horse Racing Awards.  Earlier this year, when I was first asked to work on this project, I fleetingly thought I was up for an award.  Dream on!

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Fontwell book launch, a wonderful day when I sat alongside Josh Gifford, who was signing copies, and my great friend Kim, a familiar figure to all the course regulars.  Between them they attracted over a hundred people to our stand to buy the book.  Josh said afterwards he’d never done so much handwriting since he was in school.

Since the last post I’ve visited Jeremy, the boss at Salisbury, to talk about pictures that might go in the book.  We also resolved a few queries I had about points of detail and I’ve now sent him the draft text for him to read.  He’s got a few other things on the to-do list.  I must admit I’ve left the book alone for a week after that, due to domestic business, work on the weekly articles I do for regional papers, and some other ad hoc racing statistics that proved deceptively time-consuming.

One very welcome development in the last few days was the discovery of several historic photos of the course, whose existence I didn’t know about before.  This makes the process of selecting images for the book even more difficult.  In a good way, that is, as too much choice is better than too little.  We’d have to pay for them but I think we’ll find they’re good enough to justify the expenditure.

I’ve also been able to confirm that it’s all right for me to quote extensively from somebody else’s detailed research on a particular aspect of Salisbury’s history.  That’s very generous of them.  Generally I’d like to rewrite others’ input so that the overall style is consistent, but in this case I believe it would be better to leave the imported prose intact.

I’ve resumed contact with one of my other helpers who’d provided some family history information that shines extra light on certain parts of the story over 200 years ago.  I’d written to him – a letter, that is – because emails had gone unanswered.  It transpired that he had changed his broadband supplier and this had caused a lot of trouble for him.

Cross the Ts

Last week I compiled a list of images I could use for the Salisbury book.  It’s on a spreadsheet that evolved during the production of my earlier books.  There’s a line for each image and about 15 columns to help describe, and eventually prioritise them all.  I was pleased to find I have over 70 to play with.  One of the most important columns is headed “Cost”.  Entries underneath it labelled “Free” are highly desirable.  Those that say “High” are those we’d need to pay press agencies.  Inevitably we’ll want to use some from those sources, and it’s a matter of balancing the cost versus the desire to have them in the book.

I went to the last Brighton meeting of the season last week.  Warm sunshine and a cool breeze made a welcome change from some other years’ last meetings, when sea frets or Arctic winds made going outdoors a health hazard.  There was a decent crowd, about 50% higher than their last midweek meeting by my estimate, which shows how much the weather on the day can affect the “walk-ups”, ie the unbooked cash-paying racegoers who come through the turnstiles.

It’s just as well I haven’t needed to look at the Salisbury text much in the last fortnight.  My laptop keyboard’s letter T gave up the ghost.  While waiting for it to be repaired a lot of very tedious pasting via the Clipboard has been necessary whenever using this machine.  I can well believe T is the second most common letter in the English language.  We have a spare laptop at home, which I resorted to at times, but that has its own quirks.

I have a new keyboard now and T works fine.  Unfortunately the down arrow key sticks sometimes and I can find myself 20 lines below where I should be.  Back to the repair shop….