Archive for December, 2017

I’ve finished the book review for the Racing Post. I reached the stage where I’d got the required number of words and it said what I wanted it to.  However, to paraphrase the old Eric Morecambe and Andre Previn sketch, I wasn’t sure that all my sentences were in the right order.  I’ve shuffled them round and I think they’re OK.  I could carry on tweaking it ad infinitum, but I think it’s time to let the commissioner of the review see it.

Writing Salisbury has continued, while being surrounded by Christmassy distractions such as new books to read and alluring chocolates to resist or eat (in that order). Progress can be halted by any time when the fatal phrase, “Oh, I must just check that,” leaps to mind.  Before long an hour or two has gone, reviewing something I have quite possibly looked at before.  Or getting a fresh idea that I might uncover a fresh story about so-and-so, and not stopping to think whether it will be interesting enough to make the published version.

I’ve even had another bash at the fourth and final box of old Sporting Lifes that have cluttered up the place for over a year. Noting articles relevant to Salisbury, the courses I have written about before, and others of interest takes time.  A determined effort seems to have increased the height of the “done” pile by about three inches, yet the unread pile only seems to have decreased by two.  Eighteen inches of unreads are left, so that’s a lot of rainy days to look forward to.   Surely I will finish them in 2018?

It was good to see the Racing Post do a feature on the top horses of 50 years ago yesterday.  More historical articles, please!  The sport has a terrific heritage and I suspect we don’t make enough of it.


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Continuing to compose the Salisbury text, I feel as if I have covered the first 200 years fairly quickly.  Yet I also know it will take a lot of revision.  There’ll be much more content involved in its more recent history.   There are still gaps that might be plugged by visiting the Chippenham archives again, Newmarket and one or two other places.

A fair amount of the last fortnight has been swallowed up by grappling with my first ever smart phone, which has entailed four visits to the O2 shop in that time. I downloaded my first app the other day; it must have taken three quarters of an hour between decision and completion.

Earlier this week I met an old chum who’s been working on the history of Alexandra Park racecourse for quite a while. I think he has gathered a stupendous amount of information, as a sample page I saw was very fully referenced with footnotes.  That’s a degree of academic thoroughness I choose not to exhibit, in spite of always being told at school to “show your workings!” when in exams involving calculations.  I always used to do so, in the hope that if my answer was wrong, I would get some credit if the workings showed my logic was correct.

I could use footnotes, which certainly add an air of authority to a book. Thinking about my reason for not doing so, it comes down to laziness.  Footnotes must add a lot of extra time to do, and to check and revise each time the body of the text changes.  (They also mean more pages, and therefore more expense when it comes to printing.)  I will see if I can continue not to attract brickbats for this.

Reviewers of some of my early books said they’d be better with an index, and I complied with my later ones.  I’ve been given a book to review for the Racing Post, and while it is very good, I keep wishing it had an index.  If I put that recommendation in my review it wouldn’t exactly be the pot calling the kettle black – would it?

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Concrete evidence

Writing Salisbury ground to a halt in the last few weeks, due to being sidetracked into studying the history of reinforced concrete.

It seems that the Tattersalls stand there, from the top of which a distant but wonderful view of the cathedral can be obtained, is made from that particular substance.  If it dates from 1898-99, as I believe, that makes it one of the earliest surviving buildings of its kind in the country.  Unfortunately I and my architect friend Neil haven’t been able to find contemporary evidence about its construction – yet.

Lots of online archive-trawling led to some plausible sources, but none that hit the jackpot.  One trail led me to the RIBA Library in Portland Place, not far from Oxford Circus.  It’s on the third floor of a splendid 1930s Art Deco building, which is well worth a wander round.  You don’t have to be an architect to go in and use the library.  Once I’d explained what I was there for, the librarian thoughtfully directed me towards four or five hard copy publications for me to search.  While there were snippets about other racecourse grandstands being built at the time, there was none for Salisbury.  It was a bit of a long shot.  Our enquiries continue.  We haven’t given up hope – there are more avenues to explore.

Composing the text resumed today.  Unlike many other people, the diary gets emptier as we get closer to Christmas, which means more writing time!

This is post number 200.  Who’d have thought it would go on this long when D set up this site for me almost seven years ago – and she’s not even a racing fan!  I met her for the first time in quite a while the other day.  In spite of many reasons to be otherwise, she is as sparky as ever.

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