Archive for April, 2013

Asked to check some Brighton historical information last week, I realised not for the first time that the contents of my book (now ten years old) could be improved upon if I trawled through the additional and easier access to archive information nowadays. I would like to investigate a question that bothered me when doing the original research; why, after laboriously buying or leasing pieces of land over so many years, when they acquired the whole two miles of the course in 1898, they never ran any more two mile races? The land was given up eventually and the maximum distance run there has been a mile and a half as long as anyone can remember.

I’m preceding a few days in June at Uttoxeter by going to Bath, as they kindly sent me a couple of members badges. I have a couple of Uttoxeter appointments and plan to fix one more. That should leave me time for impromptu activity, either swotting in records offices, doing some walking, or following some long shots. By this I mean there are a few people that I’ve emailed with questions who haven’t responded. Whether that’s because they’re not interested or I’ve run into their spam filter I don’t know, but by following them up nearer the time, and when I’m in the area, something may come of it.

Last week’s racing jaunt was to Auteuil in Paris, on a glorious warm sunny day. As ever the midweek racing in France is very quiet and relaxed. Nobody is wandering around with pints of lager; the men stick to espressos, and they consume them indoors, quietly. If only it could be as decorous here! With plenty of time before our return Eurostar train, we walked part of the way back into the city, part of it a stretch along the river. This guaranteed that we wouldn’t get lost, for we headed for the Eiffel Tower. Standing underneath it you can’t fail to be impressed. No time to go up, though, and on my only other visit there it was closed because of a strike. Maybe another time when I’m writing my history of French racing. If only someone would commission it, and pay expenses…..

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With my sister-in-law’s help I have begun to understand the way my Facebook page is set up.  We can safely say it is still only work in progress, but it looks a lot better than it did.

Since last time there’s been another enquiry about Brighton history, a walk round part of the Chepstow racecourse estate, which is much bigger than TV pictures implies, and my first trip on a raceday to Ffos Las.  Once again I have completed the set of visiting all British racecourses – having first achieved it well before Ffos Las and Great Leighs were built.  (I made it to the other one before it closed down.)  

There was also an email from another researcher interested in West Drayton and  other London suburban courses.   He wrote a book about the infamously crooked 1844 Derby after his daughter stumbled across hitherto-unseen evidence about the story.  What a great find – the sort of scoop we all hope for.   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Search-Running-Rein-Tony-Byles/dp/190635894X

Online research in the last two weeks has thrown up a great deal more Uttoxeter information.  The time saved by not needing to do laborious page-turning-in-library research is more than enormous.  It makes me wonder what my earlier books are missing; those digitised records didn’t exist a few years ago. 

I also wonder what “history of the future” isn’t being recorded now for posterity – paper records seem more durable than emails and attachments. 

Gathering all this Uttoxeter information is not the same as taking it all in, and I am aggregating so much that one side of me says I should stop and think about it whereas the other says go on, find more and more data. That scoop might be round the next corner! Don’t try to rationalise everything into a meaningful story until you have everything.  But when will I know I have everything?

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