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Archive for April, 2011

Most of this week’s developments occurred in Bath without me.  The first race meeting of the season took place on Tuesday evening.  Coverage by BBC and ITV news teams was obtained, highlighting the 200th anniversary of racing at Lansdown.  ITV did a two minute report with, amongst others, Ron the ex-head groundsman, who has a great fund of stories arising from his family’s long involvement with the course, and the new general manager Holly, who summed up the Francasal story as if she had been telling it all her life.

ITV also came up with a  report from 1996 which they put on their West Country news website.   This had useful snippets that I had not known about before.  I am reminded that my research is not as structured as it should be, for I hadn’t dreamed of asking ITV if they had any material in their archives.  I will know better next time. 

Thanks to Aimee at the racecourse I have a date next month for an interview to be recorded with BBC Radio Bristol, but that will be done with me sitting in a studio in London.  Many thanks to my boss Chris who is allowing me to work some very flexible hours that day.

Somehow we need to get the course’s history – i.e. the book – mentioned again throughout the season, although the TV companies may not want to broadcast the same story more than once.  As with my other books, and those of other Non-Mainstream Racing Authors (not a very elegant term; I must find a better one) we may get them mentioned once here and once there, but if your audience blinks or didn’t buy the paper that particular day they won’t know what they’re missing.  By chance the other day I found someone had written a book about the history of Doncaster races in 2009.  I’ve sent off for it.  I was completely unaware of it and I expect many other racing fans were too.   I must ask the author where he advertised.  How do us NMRAs reach a bigger audience?

Text bashing has reached page 85 out of the 94 that are left, so it’s well on the way.  The last nine pages consist of items I thought should be mentioned, but haven’t been sure exactly where in the narrative they would best appear.  I still have plenty of details to check and I expect to do that up to the last minute, if not beyond.

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Sink plug

Text bashing galore this week, with good progress editing, reordering and rewriting the text.  I am waiting to hear from my typesetter whether the timetable for her part in preparing the book for the printers is suitable for her.   I hope I don’t have to bring my deadline forward for finishing the text and deciding where all the pictures go, but after this week’s effort I feel I am slightly ahead of schedule.

Neil the architect returned to the course earlier this week to take some pictures of the old stand’s most interesting features, and he has written a piece about them for me.  I am very grateful to him, although I do wonder why he took a picture of a sink!   Perhaps it is a sink of significant design or historical interest.   As far as I can tell the building is the third or fourth oldest racecourse grandstand in use in the country.  I may be wrong, but in the absence of a comprehensive guide to racecourse architecture I’ll go with that. 

The facilities inside are of course much more up to date.  I won’t be able to get to Bath’s first meeting of the new season on Tuesday evening.  I hope I can get to one before 20 May, when there’s a special lunch to celebrate 200 years since racing was established on Lansdown.

Having met ten days ago to agree the pictures we’d use, since then the opportunity to use more at no extra cost has arisen from three sources.  It looks like the book, priced at £10, is going to have even more pictures than we thought, and be even better value for money.

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Standing tall

All the good weather of the last week has meant little to me as I have been pounding motorways and meeting people indoors. 

Meeting my comrades at Bath racecourse midweek demonstrated they are both decisive and on the ball administratively, which makes life easier for me.  We each have things to do and an agreed timetable.   The outdoor highlight of the week was following a tour of the mysterious innards of the old stand, when we were able to admire the view from its roof.  It’s a pity it’s not safe enough to open to the public.  Being such a glorious day, and so high, we could see the Brecon Beacons even though there was a little bit of haze.  Architect Neil, who was kind enough to accompany us, found lots to interest him during our inspection and I’m afraid that will have made him late for his next appointment.  He spotted some of the stand’s original features.  So far I can think of maybe just two older racecourse grandstands in the country.  

Walking the course after our meeting, the turf seemed in very good condition.  There was a small army of people people painting and smartening up the racecourse buildings in readiness for the first race meeting on the 19th. 

Yesterday’s trip to Newmarket produced five or six family albums of assorted sizes full of newspaper and magazine cuttings.  Because it was more about the family, their lives, interests and illustrious contacts, there wasn’t a huge amount relating to Bath.  Nevertheless so much of it was interesting it was difficult not to stop and read it.  There are some titbits I can use and there are certainly some pictures we can add in.   

There was more material about the Days, a famous racing family.   The last Day who trained, Alfred, laid out the Fontwell course on his land.  I have enough unused material for a follow-up to the Fontwell book, concentrating on the story of Alfred and his immediate family.   I can resume work on that in the autumn.

I’ve had little time this week to smarten up the Bath text, but according to the timetable I am not behind schedule.  Yet.

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I have finished the first complete rough draft, and started reordering and reformatting it and checking one or two things as I go along.  I seemed to spend half the weekend on it, but only got through a third of it.  I need to crack on!   Perhaps if I had a laptop or some other flash gadget I could do some on the train to work, but I prefer to read while commuting.  At the moment I am enjoying a detective story called Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey, which is relevant to my book as it is set in and around Lansdown, and brings in some of the local history that I will be referring to. 

I rang one of my local contacts who was very helpful when I spoke to him last year, to check some details about his reminiscences.  There is still one dramatic episode I need more information about before I can include it in the book, so that means another visit to the library.  I hope to squeeze that, another dose of telegraph-pole research and a few other meetings into my trip day to Bath next week.  They have to fit round the centrepiece of it, a visit to the racecourse to finalise the pictures for the book and choose a title. 

I have another appointment with a gentleman in Newmarket next weekend who I hope has uncovered more fresh information in a family album.  It is very difficult to turn away from the possibility of new material, however little time remains before the text ought to be finalised.  Here’s hoping all the travelling goes according to plan in the next seven days.

I should also thank some more people who have responded to my letter alerting them to the Bath book, and say how interesting it has been to learn about some of their racing interests.   More on that subject another time.

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