Archive for December, 2018

Ffos Las

The Salisbury index is finished and now I wait to hear from Jeremy about what he thinks of the text and my picture suggestions.

I have turned my attention to Ffos Las, the subject of my next book.  This will be much shorter than my other books about existing racecourses, as is inevitable for one that’s been going for fewer than ten years.  The idea has been around for quite a while and although the track has changed hands in the last year I have the all-clear to press on with it.  People connected with its formation have kindly given me quite a bit of material to be going on with.  Though they first raced there in 2009, the story goes back quite a bit further.  There are some other individuals I might talk to and I plan to go there next month and get to know the area first-hand, having only been to the races there a few times.

The aim is to launch the Ffos Las book in June, the course’s 10th anniversary.  Seeing as Salisbury should be published in April or May, the appearance of two books by me within two months is going to seem like overkill or overwork.  It’s not the latter, as the time spent on researching them hasn’t clashed very much, and it is quite easy to keep their very different pasts separate in my mind.

After they’re finished I will definitely have a break.  There are at least three other subjects I wish to research – another of my local tracks, Bromley, is one of them – but there will be no deadline-setting.  Since early 2007 I should say that only about 10% of my time hasn’t had another book on the go with a target date for publication.

Best wishes for a happy 2019 to my loyal readers!

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I am doggedly indexing the Salisbury text now.  It’s amazing how many proper names (human and equine) there are on each page.  Not to mention race names and places.  Some can be quite a headache.  Gordon Richards is one example.  I suppose I should be consistent with my general practice of referring to people by their surnames, but “Richards” sounds so stuffy considering he was known so widely as “Gordon”.  Eventually he became Sir Gordon, but I haven’t got that far yet.

The nobility are also tiresome.  At any one time the senior member of the Pembroke family, which owns the land the racecourse is on, can be referred to as “Pembroke”, “the umpteenth Earl”, or “—- Herbert”, Herbert being the family’s surname.  With no regard for future indexers, the same Christian names tend to recur in different generations or centuries.

Worse still are common surnames.  You might have A Green being mentioned on a range of pages, but indexing in Word you can’t simply highlight Green and “Mark All” because B Green is in the story later and your don’t want the index to direct you to both A and B Green.  Not to mention extensions such as Greenham and Greenwood.  Still, it’s all on schedule.

It’s about this time of year that the Racing Post have in the past asked me to write a book review.  If the new Books Editor is reading this, hello.  I’d be happy to hear from you.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Fontwell earlier in the week.  We are now past the 10th anniversary of the book about the racecourse!  The happy combination of blue skies, no wind and a temperature that wasn’t too cold made it one of those days that prove winter isn’t all bad.

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I am still waiting to hear Jeremy’s comments about the Salisbury text.  Because of that I have left the latest of the two versions I’ve sent him alone.

I’ve also sent him my suggested list of images to have in the book.  Out of almost a hundred possibles my “short” list is about three dozen.  But they don’t include modern (ie post-2000) shots of good or famous horses winning there.  We’re now at the crunch time when we have to decide how much we want to pay press agencies for these photos.

I sought advice from the British Library about the presentation of certain historic maps. Their Map Room is a wonderful resource, but whenever I’ve been there I never see more than four or five people studying there.  They are usually outnumbered by the staff on the Enquiries desk, the security person who lets you in on production of a reader’s pass, and the people receiving maps from storage, handing them out, collecting them and sometimes making photocopies.  In other words, it’s often quiet there and the lady on the Enquiries counter was glad to be asked for guidance on a slightly obscure question, like the one I posed.

There is another racing book – or I should say booklet – in the pipeline.  I’ve gathered material on it off and on for over a year.  I’ve sort of been given the go-ahead a few times, although I’m still not completely sure it’s going to see the light of day.  Nevertheless I have made a start on composing something in this last fortnight and it looks like it won’t be as onerous a task as I first thought.  I’ve just returned from a weekend in Devon where, if it wasn’t raining, it looked ready to at any minute.  A lot of the time was spent indoors and with no wi-fi available to distract me, I was able to make good progress with this new book.  More news when I am 100% sure.

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