Archive for July, 2011

We’ve had the first review in the Bath Chronicle, which is online at http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/History-Bath-racecourse-book-looks-like-favourite/story-13025529-detail/story.html

It’s not judgmental, but it’s certainly sufficient to give people an idea about the book.  A minor quibble is that it’s incorrect to say there was racing in 1663 at Lansdown.  But people won’t know that till they buy it.  I’m told there should be a review in the Bristol Times by now.  Each review should generate some more sales.  Always the pessimist, I remain perpetually anxious that we won’t sell enough. 

As expected, the crowd at Bath races on Friday night were not there for literature.  The Cider Festival and the Wurzels were on their minds rather more.  The food and drink outlets were heavily patronised, as was the fleet of portaloos brought in for the occasion.  I was at least able to see some racing, having seen none on book launch night when I was on duty selling and signing. 

When the Wurzels started playing after the last race, I found that standing fifty yards from the stage was a sufficiently eardrum-perforating experience and retired to my car.  I intended leaving straight away, the Wurzels not being one of my favourites, but it so happened that from the car I had a clear, albeit distant view of the stage.  Furthermore, with the windows open I could hear the words of the songs much more distinctly.  Reflecting on the events of the evening, I watched other racegoers who chose not to stay for the concert making their way back to their cars.  Presumably they weren’t fans of the group, but many were unable to prevent themselves from dancing or skipping along to the music.

I sat and sat and sat in the car, listening to the agricultural delights of “The Champion Dungspreader”, and then their tribute to the marrow, whose chorus went, “Oh, What A Beauty!  I’ve Never Seen One as Big as That Before.”  I realised I was in danger of being brainwashed into listening to “just one more” again and again.  I snapped out of it and made good my getaway. 

In contrast, the next day I visited the couple who are renovating Alfred Day’s house at Fontwell.  The house had been cleared years ago when the last of the Day family died, but they nevertheless found a few mementos behind a fireplace which they showed me.  I talked through some of my research files and a couple of hours whipped past, with the result that we are both going to copy, send or find out things for the other. 

I should mention a great fan of National Hunt racing called Paul Davies.  For the last fifteen or more years he has produced booklets about some of the major jump races and also those that have interesting backgrounds.  They are well known to jump fans without being household names, eg the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the Imperial Cup at Sandown and the Topham Trophy at Aintree.  Other jump racing subjects are covered, including reviews of individual years in the 19th century, “Jumping at Wolverhampton” and, a few years ago, a history of Taunton races.  All these contain lots of statistics and can justifiably be called the complete record of each subject.  Indeed, his enterprise is called The Complete Record.   I have quite a few of his booklets and recommend that any lover of jump racing should obtain a copy of his catalogue of over fifty publications.  Write to him at 38 Manor Road, Hoylake, Wirral, Cheshire CH47 3DF.

Next time, how my Bath book has inadvertently stolen someone else’s scoop.

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Just in case anyone wondered where the usual Sunday update was, I was away for the weekend doing unBathlike things.   But now I am:

  • responding to orders from people on my mailing list
  • entering into enjoyable dialogues with some of the orderers, and learning about their particular interests in racing history
  • struggling to remember promises to give some space on here to other people whose racing interests and researches deserve a wider audience
  • digesting a surprise development in the Francasal story
  • getting feedback from Jo the typesetter
  • banking some cash and paying some bills
  • looking for reviews and trying to think of who else we could ask to review it
  • feeling anxious in case we don’t sell enough
  • listening to suggestions for other books. 

Everyone suggests a different subject.  I’d like to do them all.  I have just been made voluntarily redundant and more time will be available, subject to whether I get another job and what the hours are.  That’s another big subject giving me food for thought. 

There’ll be more here next Sunday night, by which time I will have enjoyed the delights of Wurzels night at Bath’s Friday evening meeting (the mind is boggling already) and, in contrast, a visit to Fontwell.  There I hope to find a little more information about Alfred Day.  The Days of Fontwell will be the subject of my next book, and there won’t be a combine harvester in sight.

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J1395 BAT Book Cover A5_2pp_HR

The History of Bath Racecourse is now officially published and on sale.   We launched it successfully at Thursday’s evening meeting, when many of the annual members who had pre-ordered copies came to collect them and have them signed, with a glass of something to add to the occasion.  It was a pleasure to meet several people that I had seen before but who I now know to be proper Bath fans.  My only slight regret was that trying to sell books was not compatible with actually watching the racing, and I didn’t see any, apart from half of the last race on a TV.  Several cash sales were made on a fine warm late afternoon and early evening, but by the seventh race at nine o’clock while it was still fine it had become rather chilly.  This did not deter a streaker, who romped past the winning post a few minutes after the last race and did a cartwheel.  He couldn’t quite carry it off, though, and ended up on the ground.

Many thanks are due to all the people who have helped me with it.  I hope I remembered everyone in the Acknowledgements page of the book, but on Thursday night I was particularly grateful to Aimee, Jordan and Michael for drumming up business and lending moral support.

The book has been the subject of an article in today’s Racing Post and we now have to get it mentioned and reviewed in as many places as possible.   Just because it’s been printed doesn’t mean the story is finished.  Watch this space.

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Cutting it fine

Another set of colour proofs arrived on Wednesday and – phew – they are OK.   Separately I have given the nod to the colour pictures, the text and the covers, so in theory the finished product will be all right.   The printers say the books will be delivered to the racecourse on the morning of Thursday 14th – launch day.  Let’s hope the pages aren’t printed upside down or back to front.

The marketing machine is going into overdrive, with press releases and invitations to meet the author before racing on Thursday evening.  


I’ve complied with the request to supply Bath with a photo of me for publicity purposes.   My wife took a few and although in some I appear to be cross-eyed or squinting, with a bit of luck there’s one in which I don’t look too scary.  Though her camera was supposedly almost out of battery, not only did it have enough juice but we even managed to transmit the pictures to the computer, a feat not always successfully achieved in the past. 

I hope to get to Bath in time to look round Claverton, site of the 18th century course, before going to the races on Thursday.  They’ve had some big crowds recently and the Wurzels are playing there on Friday 29th, so I hope there’ll be enough people willing to come racing on the 14th as well, and who would like to buy a book.

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Nearly there, but nearly out of time!

There’s been three way correspondence between me, Jo and Ricky the printer this last week.  He had one query about the layout of the text, which Jo soon answered.  But the pictures continue to be troublesome.  The black and white ones didn’t come out very well in the first proof copy – but judging by the second version, that has been rectified.  Many of the colour ones need some adjustment by Jo, which she is due to provide on Monday.  Then we have until Thursday week to get them printed and ready to sell at Bath at that evening’s race meeting.  It’s good to know that some have been pre-ordered, as I’m always afraid that nobody’s going to buy my books.  Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet and each one has sold more than the last, but that can’t go on indefinitely.  The numbers involved are not exactly of J K Rowling proportions.

I have been able to take a back seat for much of the last week, which was helpful in view of dramatic events in my workplace.  I’ve also started to look back at my Fontwell follow-up book about Alfred Day, who trained at Fontwell and on whose land the racecourse was laid out in 1924.  There was so much I learned about him that wasn’t strictly relevant to the story of the racecourse, but there may be some people who’d like to know more about him and his family.  I am tempted try and finish it with a view to selling it later this year. 

More immediately, I should really be thinking more about marketing Bath.  I should review my contacts and see who I should inform that it’s about to be published.  As well as the racecourse, I’ll have some to sell at £10 plus £2 postage.  Good value, though I say it myself, for 50,000 words.  Or 210 pages at the last count.  Or 5p a page!

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