Archive for June, 2018

I was pleased to get one of those occasional, random enquiries about something really obscure the other day.  It concerned a stud groom employed in the late 1880s at the Heather Stud near Bath racecourse.  The initial enquiry came in to Bath, and they passed him on to me, mentioning my book.  I had never come across it, but I dug out some information from the excellent British Newspaper Archive, which I think added a little bit to the enquirer’s knowledge.  Unfortunately for a someone who was a mere employee there’s usually a limited amount of information out there once you’ve gone beyond births, deaths, marriages and censuses.

I continue to be near the end of the full first draft of Salisbury.   Yesterday I settled down to make inroads into two discrete subjects.  Instead, I started on a third, found an old photograph that created a new mystery; solved another one that I wasn’t sure was a mystery; and found a ten-years-later epilogue to a story I thought had finished.   On balance, though, quite productive.  Yet I remain near the end, and feel just about the same distance from it as I did yesterday morning.

I made my first visit of the year to Salisbury races this week.  The first of what may be very few, as nearly all of their other meetings are weekends, evenings or days when I have other things lined up.  Something will have to give.

They have a fine new information panel on the wall of the rubbing house, explaining what it is and that it’s at least 300 years old.  As for the racing, I received a good tip.  “If Lady Rothschild is present, back her horses.” I was told this moments after she arrived in the winner’s enclosure to greet one of her horses, which had just scored at odds of 10/1.

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Bad behaviour

Despite domestic issues consuming a lot of time recently I have now finished the first rough draft of Salisbury, with the exception of a couple of self-contained chapters.  And I’ve made a good start on one of those.  If I keep up the momentum the whole thing should be done by the end of the month and I can then get on with polishing it.

I was sorry to hear of an altercation there the other day between a trainer and some yobs.  It’s a symptom of a racing-wide problem.  Undesirables always come out in greater numbers at the end of the football season and make summer Saturdays a no-go day for the genuine racing fans.  It’ll be interesting to see if using sniffer dogs at the entrance, which some tracks have used lately to detect drugs, becomes common.  Deterring the drug carriers will help.  Which course will be first to introduce a system that will limit the number of drinks each racegoer can have?  A method of rationing, by giving each person three tokens when they enter, might be worth a try.  Racecourses should be duty bound to put safety and a pleasant environment ahead of profits – otherwise they will suffer in the long run.

A small comfort is the fact there has always been bad behaviour in and outside the racecourse.  Three card tricksters, race gangs, protection rackets, pickpockets, welshers – they all feature in my books!  The old race gangs tended to confine their most violent crimes between themselves as the vied for supremacy.  The recent racecourse brawls also appear to blow up between groups of like-minded drunken idiots.   Not that you’d want to be a bystander when they came to blows.

On a cheerier note, I hope to increase my own racegoing soon.  Nine trips so far in 2018 is pathetic and I’m going to finish a long way short of my record for a year, which is 54.

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