Archive for January, 2016

I’m back from Uttoxeter, having signed several more books for their stockpile that awaits further buyers. That was a good excuse to linger in the nice warm racecourse office between races; though the day was sunny, the wind was very bracing from time to time.

The Racing Post tell me that the book review is due to appear in the 7 February edition, so I remain on tenterhooks. At least the reaction from Uxonians who’ve bought the book is good.  I brought twenty home with me, and now that most of my old book-buyers have got one I expect I will sell these quite slowly – although come to think of it two are spoken for already.  When I need to replenish my stock that’ll be a good excuse to go back.

That’s likely to have been my last visit to Uttoxeter for some time. There’s no more marketing for me to do there.  I will, of course, keep in touch with people on and off the racecourse who I’ve met and who have been very kind and helpful to me.  I must commend the executive director, David, first for agreeing to have a book and more recently for his tenacity in reading the three and a half years of this blog that’s spanned my involvement with the course.  It seems no time at all since our very first meeting, when he took me up on the roof of one of the stands to get a spectacular 360’ view of the Staffordshire countryside.

I am also grateful for his generous thank-you offer of a table for two in the new restaurant there.  Not that I will see that racing scene that I mentioned last time, which had been hidden behind a wall of the old restaurant for years until rebuilding work started.  It was a painting of Newmarket in the 1870s that had been enlarged and printed onto wallpaper.  It had no great historical merit after all, and it turned out to be too fragile to preserve anyway.  Diners will surely be happy with the great panoramic view they’ll have of their own racecourse.

I met that other racing author last week for our book exchange. I wished I could have talked to him for longer but unfortunately for me I had to dash off to another appointment. I hope we can keep in touch.  It would be nice if I could help him with his next project.  It’s in its early stages but touches on subjects I have worked on.

Windsor writing continues apace. The last fortnight has been enlivened by discussions with Neil, one of my Bath helpers, about the architecture and history of one of the grandstands.  More about that another time.

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The big news from Uttoxeter since my last post was the discovery of a large racing picture hidden behind a wall. They found this when about to knock down the wall as part of the creation of a new restaurant.  It came as a complete surprise to all concerned.


Hundreds of people took to social media to beg them to try and keep it. I hope they can make it a feature of the new restaurant, which they are calling “1907” in honour of the course’s foundation year.

I only have one of the Uttoxeter books I brought home on launch day remaining, after sending out a few review copies and selling the rest to people on my own mailing list. This last one is destined for another racing author who I’m going to meet next week; we’re going to exchange copies of each other’s new books.  Someone who’s read his book has eulogised it as one of the ten best books ever.  In deference to fans of Austen, Bronte, Joyce, Orwell, Tolstoy etc I think he meant one of the ten best racing books.  Either way, I’m going to be benefit most from this swap

I’ll get some more Uttoxeter books when I’m next up there. I anticipate they’ll go quite slowly.  The racecourse will be selling far more than me, as that’s where the marketing directs would-be purchasers.  There’s still no review in the Racing Post.

I’ve been able to find some more old photos of Windsor from a very generous source who is going to scan them and let me use them free of charge.  Otherwise, much of the last fortnight has been spent writing Windsor. Getting the words down, not necessarily very stylishly, is the priority; spucing them up comes later.

I think there are discrete elements of the story that mean that I don’t tell it in strictly chronological order. For instance, the creation of the current course can be told separately from the history of another steeplechase track a mile or so away that was already in existence and carried on for another eight years afterwards.

I’m about halfway through at the moment. At the current rate of progress …. well, at the risk of tempting fate, I will finish this first draft during February; the earlier the better, as it’ll give me more time to proof-read it and smooth away the rough edges before getting it ready for the printers.


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Perhaps the last bit of Uttoxeter marketing that I can actively do was two days before Christmas, when I went to a BBC radio studio near Broadcasting House to be interviewed by Denholm Siegertsz, who was sitting in a similar studio at Radio Stoke. Den was interested in serialising the conversation by dividing it into three-minute segments to be broadcast on five consecutive days.  I’ve done a few of these solitary interviews before and when you’re seated in the soundproof room with the headphones on and the microphone in front of you it’s surprisingly easy to talk to an unseen person 150 miles away.  We had the London studio booked from 9.30 to 9.55, so when the clock had ticked round to 9.35 and I’d heard nothing via the earphones I was beginning to wonder whether we could fit in fifteen minutes of book chat.  Then Den rang me to say that Stoke couldn’t get a line to London, and to make the controller aware of it, but as soon as he said that a connection was made.  With little spare time for niceties, I gabbled my way through the five segments (which I had suggested in advance) with Den getting little opportunity to say anything apart from his opening remarks to each segment.  I know I wasn’t perfect and can only hope a little discreet editing will smooth some of that away.  Den told me they’ll be broadcast twice a day, at about 5.50 am and sometime around 2pm, from Monday 4th to Friday 8th.  Whether I have the courage to listen to any of them online remains to be seen.

Another welcome burst of publicity has come from the expert on Welsh racing, Brian Lee, who writes for the Western Mail and a number of local papers in South Wales. He has generously given the Uttoxeter book a mention in tandem with having me as the subject of his occasional “Turf Talk” questionnaire on 22 December.   It’s a good job he sent me a cutting seeing as I can’t find it online.  Separately another article of his has plugged my other books and the Welsh connections he’s found in them.  For example, google “Cowbridge Gem digital edition” and go to page 19 of the 31 December edition.  It’s in other local towns’ Gems too.  Welsh racing fans cannot fail to be aware of my books.

In return I should refer to his newly-updated book “The Welsh Grand National: From Deerstalker to Emperor’s Choice”, which describes the history of every race from 1895 to 2014.  And another book he is bringing out soon is Welsh Horse Racing’s Great Scandals and Gambles.  I’ve seen a draft of this and there are lots of entertaining stories.  Both are highly recommended.

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