Archive for August, 2014

The entry I wrote two Saturdays ago scheduled to go out the day after did not materialise on WordPress. I don’t know why, but this one is being published immediately I finish it.

The good news is that the picture list is progressing, with a decision taken to spend a certain amount on copyrights from press agencies. The owners of those pictures have been informed and paid and I’m now collecting those book-quality images. And I’m told a firm of printers has been lined up. Against that, one of the picture sources is behind schedule, one of my proof-readers has been on holiday for two weeks, and my chief helper at the racecourse has left. It’s bad news for me, because the work that the racecourse does to promote the book will be increasing as we head into the autumn. While I am sorry for selfish reasons I wish S all the best in her new job.

I went to the third day of the early August Brighton meeting, and although the long-range forecast had been bad the day itself was warm and dry. I took the chance to walk down to the two furlong pole, which I’d never done before during a race meeting. From the stands and the TV pictures it looked like the bottom of a steep downhill run, and a less steep but still forbidding climb up to the winning post. Standing down there in the dip seemed a long way from the bustle of the crowded stands, but the race itself was a potent sight; half a dozen horses dashed round a left handed bend at the top of the hill, galloped headlong down it and fanned out across the track as they passed me. They were all going lickety spit; the jockeys were all putting in maximum effort as well. All this, as I say, with a quarter of a mile to go. In the next few hundred yards the hill, the horses’ relative abilities and how they felt on the day dictated how well they finished.

Time doesn’t permit me to go racing at Fontwell as much as I’d like. I missed their Ladies Night last week, a meeting I used to go to each year despite repeatedly being overlooked as a possible judge for the Best Dressed Lady competition. However, I did receive a phone call from a local man who’d unearthed a letter I had written to him in 2009. He wondered what had become of my research. The upshot is I am sending him a copy of The Days of Fontwell. He must have been the only person in the villages round there not to have known about my book. Fortunately I have a few left. It really has become a limited edition work!

I’ve also been asked to stand in for someone who writes an occasional racing column for a regional and a local newspaper. I am obviously flattered and pleased to do so. Writing 300 words to a deadline is familiar to me with a fortnightly blog in mind, but in the case of these newspapers I must make sure that what’s sent is received at the other end.

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It’s been a productive fortnight with Uttoxeter; more corrections, some additions, the promise of more to come, some rewriting, prices being obtained for pictures, and a lot of indexing. I only know the most basic process of creating an index entry in Word, which is fine most of the time, but with two unrelated people with the same surname featuring in the story it’s become a laborious exercise to make sure their index references don’t get mixed up.

More people have alerted me to the Fontwell housing development and I have had to go through my records to see if I could help answer one particular question. It’s reminded me that I have unfinished business there, ie my desire to find the blood link between one of the stars of that story, Binda Billsborough, and the Alfred Day family who laid out the course. And what happened to Binda before she reached thirty, when she materialised as the secretary of a famous film star? Further attempts to discover that, like a few other things, will probably have to wait until Uttoxeter is finished.

Next week sees Brighton’s big three-day race meeting, an annual early August event that goes back 150 years or more. To be frank the quality of the racing isn’t up to the standard of Glorious Goodwood, but they get their best crowds of the year, especially on the first two days. Last year I gave a couple of tips to some people who were going and they both won, which was unprecedented. I must find out if they’re going again and tempt fate. I shall be going on one of the three days.

I’ve been reading a book called Doped, about a gang of bookies and treacherous stable lads who nobbled dozens of horses around 1960. It was well researched and very entertaining, but I couldn’t help noticing the author frequently refers to news, events, standard or fashions of the time. On one hand you might say it added colour, but on the other it was irrelevant, the story being so firmly set in the self-contained world of racing and betting. I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not going to change the Uttoxeter story, but it’s a device that I should at least bear in mind when (if) writing another book.

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