Archive for May, 2011

We’re now on to what I think of as the physical production of the book.  I thought I might have a quiet week after sending the text to Jo the typesetter last Sunday, with guidance about which pictures went where.  Admittedly I didn’t have all of them in clean versions from the copyright holders.

Wrong!  I forgot how much of a rigmarole the pictures always are.   I sent all I had on a memory stick to Jo but she didn’t get them for almost the whole week, not helped by having to pay excess postage!  I’m staggered to find the thickness of a memory stick inside an ordinary envelope makes it cost more than a standard letter.

Negotiating the final deal with two press agencies came back to me.  There were some contrasts as regards their pricing structures, attitudes to bargaining, and speed of delivery.  The images from one will be available to us in a week, whereas the other firm emailed them immediately.  Unfortunately the three they sent included two we didn’t want!  I trust they will resolve that after the bank holiday.

For seven other images Jo couldn’t log in to the relevant website to download them, so I did, saved them, and emailed them to her one at a time.  They were all very large and I thought smoke would start coming out of the computer, but it worked.

Jo needs pictures in .jpg form, but some of the colour ones the course had and which they’ve emailed across are .pdfs.  I hope they can supply them as jpgs.

I am anxious not to increase Jo’s bill and our blood pressure by making lots of changes to the text I’ve given her, like I did with the Fontwell book.  I’ve found the remedy is simply not to look at it.   It’s a bit longer than Fontwell, which isn’t surprising in view of the much greater length of time there’s been racing at Bath.

I was pleased to put Graham, an old pal who is interested in Eastern European racing, in touch with the Oxford John I mentioned last week.  I had forgotten about Graham’s enthusiasm for that area, despite the clue in his email address.  They will have much to talk about!  I wonder how many people there are interested in European racing; I have a feeling there’s is a small band of dedicated fans who like to sample it.   More of that another time.

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On Monday I went to BBC studios in Great Portland Street to record an interview with Alex Lewis for Radio Bristol’s Afternoon Show.  The interview itself lasted a quarter of an hour. I wished it could have gone on longer, for I didn’t get a chance to say half the things I was hoping to!  The first half was talking about racing in general and my own interest, which I didn’t expect; the second half was more about Bath. 

As Alex said about Bath races in a trailer for the interview, which was broadcast that afternoon, “Stuff went on. There was intrigue and foul play afoot.”  Not very Jane Austen, but I wonder if I can use that somewhere.

Listening Again on the iPlayer I was pleased to hear I didn’t sound at all like Ken Livingstone, which is how my recorded voice usually sounds to me.  On the downside, I overused the word “er” and each answer seemed to start with the sound of my mouth opening.  You try it and see what I mean.

It was a super Friday at Bath races where the celebratory lunch kicking off the 200 year celebrations went off well; there must have been a hundred people there.   Fortunately I didn’t spill any of my food or drink and I had some great company at my table.  An interesting suggestion for the next book came up, which I will have to give more thought to. 

Two research appointments followed; one with Michael, who has provided me with a genuine Jane Austen link.  He is very interested in Mr Margerum, one of the 19th century racecourse officials, and we realised that I had some information on the subject that he didn’t.  But he had information about Claverton history that conflicted with mine!  We will share details.

From Bath I went to Cumnor, near Oxford, to meet John, a proper racing historian.  I should aspire to his standards of research.  We discussed our plans.  He was very informative and entertaining with stories of racing research across eastern Europe.  If only he would blog about that – I’d subscribe to it! 

Three hundred plus miles of driving and a very late night were followed by a trip to Chichester Theatre yesterday to see a musical called She Loves Me.  It had nothing to do with racing, but I so enjoyed it that before the first half had finished I resolved to go and see it again.  It’s only on for another month; can I fit it in with a trip to nearby Fontwell?  I do like long trips to have two purposes if at all possible, especially with petrol the price it is.

A fair amount of time was spent on the day job this week, but it was utterly forgettable in comparison to other events described here.  It’s been all out effort while commuting and in the evenings to bash the text into final shape.  I scribbled corrections over the second 90 page paper draft.  There were plenty, despite me having done the same exercise a week before.  Then I updated Word and did the spell check and grammar check.  Aren’t those automated checks in Word rubbish mostly?  Only occasionally do they come up with something useful.   

I sorted out chapter breaks and titles yesterday evening.  It seems amazing to be doing them so near the end, but in fairness the story does not suggest natural breaks all the way through at nice even intervals. 

Today has been full of finalising the pictures; suddenly we seem to be awash with them.  The fees for some are not quite agreed with the picture agencies, but I’m 95% sure which ones we’re going to use and I’ve written captions for them, crediting people where necessary, and composed guidance for Jo the typesetter where to put them in the text.  It’s been a big effort needing a lot of concentration.  At ten o’clock tonight I emailed the text and various picture instructions to Jo.  The pictures themselves are on a memory stick which I will post to her tomorrow.  Questions about the remaining pictures we need formal permission to use have gone to Aimee at Bath.

Sending the text to Jo was necessary from a timetable point of view, but an anxious moment in a way, because I will inevitably spot mistakes and want to change things.  Yet the fewer changes we give her the better, and I could carry on tinkering with the text ad infinitum.

I have a feeling that the book is going to be longer than we first thought, and that probably means the printing costs will go up – unless we cut text or pictures.  I’d better give some thought to that in the next week.  Cutting out pictures saves more space more easily.  I would say that, though, wouldn’t I?

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After amending and proof reading the ninety page print of the Bath manuscript I’ve got another printed version now, which I’m checking and editing again.  The number of amendments is decreasing each time but I’m sure I could tinker with it ad infinitum.  I will have to stop soon because the typesetter is expecting the final text in just over a week.

I am preparing for a radio interview I am recording tomorrow at a BBC building next to Broadcasting House.  The interviewer is in Bristol, which should make for a novel experience.  That’s the local radio station where it’ll be transmitted from, but I don’t know when.  Although I should know all the answers, I still need to try and anticipate some of the questions so that I am not left umming and ahhing.  At least with it being recorded, they can edit out my worst gaffes.

Friday will be a busy day.  I meet one of my expert Bath historians that morning to talk about the Jane Austen connection and make sure I have the story straight.  That means an early start for me from London to beat the rush hour and avoid the worst of the M25.  Then I pick up a friend from the station before going up to the racecourse for a 200th anniversary celebration lunch – and a race meeting!  On the way home I hope to meet another racing author near Oxford.  I think of him as a proper historian and I’m sure he’s going to be very interesting to talk to.  I am particularly keen to get ideas about how writers of offbeat racing subjects can finance and advertise our work.

Also needing to be fitted in in the next week or so is deciding where to place the pictures in the text, the composition of captions, and physically getting the scanned images back from the racecourse.  I begin to think I might not have everything 100% ready for the typesetter.  I hope she can get by with most of it on time and the rest a few days later.

I have to do the proper job four days out of five next week.  It really is a nuisance, taking up time that could be better spent finalising the text, broadcasting and having a good time at Bath.  Just have to keep going….

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Mark time

I’m very pleased to have gone through a printout of the whole Bath story this week.  To me, reading ninety pages on A4 is much more comfortable than scrolling through one computer screen after another.  It is quite satisfying to put lines through words and sentences, to draw arrows where I see I should relocate text, and to note little extras.  However, I seem to have added quite a few extras.  Looking at some newish material from the Newmarket family albums means I now have two conflicting versions of some events.  I’m inclined to tell every version and let the reader choose which to believe.   The events I’m talking about are a long time ago, and some of their authors may have been misled or genuinely mistaken.

Translating all this onto the Word document is going to take a bit of time, and I could really do with completing it and getting a new ninety-page printout to read by next weekend, which is sort of where I was last weekend. 

I want the text to be finished by the 23rd, and I also need to spell out where we’re going to put all the pictures.  Happily my typesetter Jo has confirmed that the timetable – as far as her part in it is concerned, which begins on the 23rd – is feasible.

I allowed myself two trips to the races and one to Newmarket this last week on the basis that they were welcome breaks from editing and proper work, but that’s not going to be the case next week.  Newmarket included returning the albums kindly loaned to me, and a visit as part of a tour arranged by the National Horse Racing Museum to the trainer Sir Mark Prescott.   He was plain speaking but very entertaining.  His thoughts on racehorse psychology surprised us. He has a great feel for the history of the sport. I asked him if he was considering an autobiography or a biography (hint, hint) but he said no.

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I spent two or three hours in the loft this weekend with my dusty old form books, checking on some queries and producing some statistics on the former champion flat race jockey Sir Gordon Richards.  During my research I kept coming across reports of winners he rode at Bath and I thought I would count them.  A tedious job, but at least it has created some new information to include in the book.

The text is nearly complete and is in fair order, but there are still plenty of rough edges that need polishing.  For example, I haven’t divided it into chapters yet; I have made a start on the Acknowledgements page; I need to think urgently about which pictures go where.  I’ve just found my typesetter never received my email three weeks ago about whether her part in the timetable I discussed with Bath is feasible, so I’ve re-sent it.  Note to self: don’t let things drift as book prep nears its climax!

Should my Fontwell book ever be reprinted, another paragraph wrote itself on Friday evening when I was there to see a horse called Royal Wedding win on Royal Wedding day.  I had expected it to be a hot favourite, with the world and his wife likely to bet on it to the exclusion of all its rivals, but the odds drifted from 7/2 to 5/1 on the course.  That didn’t stop it making most of the running, and throughout the last half mile nothing else looked likely to catch it.  It was trained by Nick Gifford, whose father Josh trained the Grand National winner Aldaniti.  

When the date of the royal wedding was announced Fontwell’s astute general manager, Phil Bell, soon realised the opportunity for some good publicity.  The wedding day coincided with a race meeting there.  It would be ideal if he could persuade the connections of a horse called Royal Wedding to run their horse at Fontwell that day.  It had won a race at the track in early February.  There was a possible race already in the programme for 29 April, but it was limited to horses with a maximum handicap rating of 115, ie its ability level expressed in numerical terms.  Royal Wedding’s mark was 114 but it was sure to be raised because of that win.   Phil changed the conditions of the 29 April race to increase that maximum rating to 120 – which meant increasing the prize money on offer – but the outcome was that Royal Wedding was much more likely to be eligible.  It all worked out.  It’s good when a plan comes off.  

Bath had their second meeting of the season last week, but one day before the wedding.   So near yet so far!  At least Frankie Dettori made a rare appearance, and he rode a winner.

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