Archive for July, 2018

Good progress with Salisbury.  I’m halfway through revising the first draft now.

I made welcome contact with a fellow researcher who bought three of my books.  His passion is Sea Pigeon, who was good enough to run in the Derby but is best known as a Champion Hurdler with a fine turn of foot.  He won it twice, latterly at the age of eleven under the most confident ride imaginable from John Francome.  He was the last in a glorious golden age of hurdlers from 1971-81 including Bula, Comedy Of Errors, Lanzarote, Night Nurse and Monksfield.

Fellow Researcher has 15 lever arch files about Sea Pigeon and I am now on a mission to help him identify some people in a photo of the horse on Derby Day 1973.   There’s somebody I know who might recognise them, who I hope to visit next month.  This is of academic interest, to say the least, but sometimes We Just Have To Find These Things Out.

Sandown on Thursday was very hot, but relative coolness and comfort was found by darting between various shady places, such as the trees by the pre-parade ring (NB: very few horses pre-paraded) and the breezy upper level of the grandstand overlooking the paddock.  At one stage of the afternoon when I was at the latter vantage point, the commentator for the day, Mike Cattermole, came and stood not far from me to familarise himself with the horses who were walking round the paddock.  It wasn’t long before he was approached by a lady asking to be photographed with him, clearly a fan of his from his Channel 4 days.  Then her friends joined in, seeking autographs and more photos.  A jolly conversation between them all ensued.  Mike couldn’t have been nicer.  I fear he will never escape being labelled as charming, suave and debonair.  I wish I had his problem.


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Editing begins

I’ve done enough with the Salisbury text to refer to it as a first draft, even if it has some loose ends and rough edges.  I’ve gone back to the beginning to read it through, correcting, checking and (I hope) improving as I go.  It spans 90 pages of a Word document and though I felt as if I’d spent a whole day on editing, by the end of it I had only reached page 7.  Another half day got me to page 11.  This seems very slow progress, but if I am honest it is very easy to find myself checking a detail that I have probably studied (but not recorded) before.  I tell myself that it will speed up as I go along.  Also, I think this exercise will be easier to do for an odd hour or two than original composition, which I always felt I had to set aside half a day at least.

Nearly everyone I’ve come into contact with researching and going racing has been polite and helpful.  There was a stark contrast in the reaction of a racing pundit I saw on a station platform a long way from home last week.  It was obvious we were both en route to the same racecourse.  I have seen him many times at the races and I thought he might have half-recognised me, as he was walking steadily in my general direction.  I thought I’d be friendly and piped up and said, “It is X, isn’t it?”  “Yes,” he said, and I began to say something innocuous about often seeing him about, but he just carried on past me, mooching along the platform.  I was staggered at his crusty attitude.  It was a lovely day out otherwise.

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Planning to pop in to the British Library the other day to do an odd bit of research, I looked at my Reader Pass (yes, that capital R is correct) to find it expired in three weeks’ time.  It doesn’t seem long ago since I last renewed it, but it must be three years.  I took proof of ID along to renew my pass for a further three.

I recall my original application for a Reader Pass in 1990, when I first set out to study defunct racecourses.  With that pass you could go along to the British Library and order any book that had ever been written in this country.  In those days you had to justify your need to use it.  Nowadays it seems much less stringent.  I applied in writing, explaining that I was working on a subject that nobody else had.  (I was not to know that somebody else was in the process of doing so, but that’s another story.)

I can still see in my mind’s eye the letter I received from Charlotte something saying that my application had been granted.  How pleased I was!  The British Library was still in the Reading Room of the British Museum then.  It was wonderfully atmospheric – albeit a little archaic.  You could imagine Dickens and Marx and any number of eminent Victorian authors sitting in the same seats, poring over the books they’d ordered.  I can still hear the rumble of the wooden barrows that were used to deliver books to people.  Nowadays you have to go up to a desk to collect them.

While renewing my pass I asked, facetiously, if I could have a silver card or maybe even a gold one for having over 25 years service, so to speak.  The chap processing my renewal was sorry to refuse, but he said that if I’d come on the following Monday I could get a special purple card.  This was a one-day-only arrangement, celebrating 20 years in their new premises.  I’m not sure why purple is a suitable colour for a 20th anniversary.  I said I was unable to attend on that particular day, so he kindly gave me a nice sharp British Library pencil as consolation.


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