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Archive for March, 2015

Windsor racecourse

I am pleased to announce that my next book will be about the history of Windsor racecourse.  Following a meeting at the racecourse last week that gave the full go-ahead I can now speed up the research.  People there are going to sound out some contacts and I will approach others with the confidence that my enquiries are now official.  I’ve made some phone calls and sent some emails already.  I may meet others who can help me at the evening race meeting on 20 April, where I coincidentally have an invitation to one of the hospitality boxes.

While I was there last week I walked the course, the first time I had done so.  As on similar occasions elsewhere it gave me a better feel for the track that one can’t get solely by watching TV pictures or spectating from the stands.  I knew it was largely surrounded by water and now I’ve seen for myself the pleasure boats steaming past one end of the course, up as far as the weir near the mile start; the relative calm of the marina to the left of the far loop; the surprise discovery of a little church across the river near the six furlong start; traces of where the course took a slightly different line fifty years ago.

I have done a fair amount of work already but there is much more to do, and quickly; we want to launch the book in June 2016, the 150th anniversary of racing on this spot.  In the past that would have been an impossible target, but as I am just a few days from early retirement I will have much more time to be able to research and write it in the next twelve months.

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Abroad

It’s still quiet here, with domestic activity unrelated to racing filling the hiatus before news of the next book can be confirmed (soon though!) and indeed any developments on the Uttoxeter launch.

I will have to start preparing for a couple of foreign forays in the next three months. I have been to Chantilly once before and I need to muster enough understanding of French to get the right train and the right tickets. It’s about 25 miles north of Paris and the SNCF trains get there quicker than the other sort. According to the results section of the Racing Post French race meetings can start very early by our standards (dans le matin), but even if that’s the case we should be in time for enough races for it to be worthwhile. There is a truly unique backdrop in the form of a splendid chateau and Les Grandes Ecuries, a monumental 18th century stable, both of which deserve visits on a non-race day.

Later in the year I will be on holiday in Vienna and hope to take in a trotting meeting at Krieau, a track close to the city centre that dates back to 1878. What more can I find out about that before I go, apart from what’s on Wikipedia?

From past experience I know that homework is vital when going to foreign tracks. Take railway journeys into the Parisian suburbs, for example – what’s the difference between SNCF, RER and Transilien? SNCF is quickest but doesn’t always stop where you want. I’d studied Chantilly several times prior to my first trip there using internet maps and satellite images before realising that the name popping up next to the railway station symbol with the RER suffix was in fact where SNCFs stopped too.

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Plans

It’s a quiet time on the research front these days. There’s little more I can do on Uttoxeter. I can write a bit more about this year’s Midlands National in mid-March, but apart from that I am only waiting to see if there are some more photos they can send me for inclusion. After that I can liaise with the printer.

I am also waiting to hear from S, the Norwegian lady, about continuing to investigate the Alfred Day in-laws’ family tree.

The subject of the next book is, however, agreed. I have a meeting on the 24th that should confirm it, and at that point I expect to be able to make it public. Publication will have to be by the middle of 2016, which means I will have to research and write it in record time. This should be perfectly possible given my imminent retirement giving me much more leisure time, plus the fact I have been doing bits and pieces on it for a while in anticipation of being given the go-ahead. I have other subjects I plan to explore after that – though they will be even more esoteric/less commercial than my racecourse books.

The British Newspaper Archive is becoming an increasingly useful tool for me, as it has in the last few weeks added some nineteenth-century sporting newspapers to its collection. It makes me wonder what additional stories I could find now about the courses I studied in the past. Not that there is any likelihood of my old books being reissued in expanded versions!

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