Archive for the ‘Bromley’ Category

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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Salisbury research continues steadily. There is so much material to go through that one steps back and questions the hours being spent on it, but putting in the effort is necessary – you never know if that “scoop” will be on the next page,  So far I’ve concentrated on its existence prior to 1899, which is when it started staging meetings run by the Bibury Club, a very exclusive institution that had already been going for at least a hundred years.  They were then forced to relocate their fixtures from Stockbridge.  The reason why is, I think, pretty well known.  I hope I can find a way of telling the story in a way that retains the attention of readers who are already aware of it.

Acting on a tip-off about publicly-available information about the location of some private race meetings in the Bromley area I put my walking boots on the other day and not only found it, but realised I had overlooked another very obvious source when I was researching the subject last year.  I may treat myself to a little more time on Bromley.

Having talked about long-forgotten but popular horses in their time such as Suspicion last month, I find the National Horse Racing Museum featured another one on its blog recently, the admirable Red Prince II, a star of the 1890s.  https://t.co/J4zt0saNsv

I’ve been to Epsom many times but never to the Rubbing House until the other day, when I was there for lunch. By luck rather than design I was seated at a table that looks more or less down the length of the finishing straight, with the stands on the left and Tattenham Corner in the distance.  It was a fine view to have on a fine, almost spring-like day.  Modest numbers of people were out on the downs, exercising themselves or, more commonly, their dogs.  The service road that leads to the pub is a great benefit to the locals, for they can leave their cars there and get out onto the great invigorating open space that is free for all to use.  They can extend their walk if they wish by using a public footpath that crosses the track close to the winning post, though not on race days.  I wonder if anyone has ever compiled a list of the rights of way that cross all our racecourses?

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I had a very enjoyable break in Uttoxeter a couple of weekends ago.  It hardly seems possible that a year had passed since that book was launched.  It was good to renew contact with some old friends on and off the course.  I remember the book-signing day there last December, when most of the copies I was asked to sign had already been purchased by the annual members.  On this recent trip I was very pleased that the first member of staff I met on the racecourse had a colleague with her who was carrying a copy of the book, which is proving useful for the behind-the-scenes tours on which racegoers can enlist.

While there I was asked to sign more copies to top up their stock.  They’re not resting on their laurels, which is good as it’s the time of year when people buy more books.  Furthermore, I was reassured by David, the top man there, that he really does read this blog.  In response I signed up with Twitter in order to Follow him and congratulate him on his ten years in charge there.  Nowadays ten years in any senior job is a real achievement.

It’s easy to follow someone on Twitter, but quite what I can usefully lead on is another matter.  I’ve never taken the plunge and invested in a smart phone, so I can only tweet from the laptop at home.

I’ve finished the ad hoc work I mentioned last time, a series of articles about the Top 10 Welsh Grand National winners.  I drew a great deal from a book about the race’s history by the south Wales journalist-author-historian Brian Lee.  He’s written around 25 books – that’s some achievement too – mostly about Cardiff or racing, and still turns out regular newspaper columns at the age of 80.  His most recent publication Racing Rogues has a subtitle “The Scams, Scandals and Gambles of Horse Racing in Wales” which explains it perfectly!  Read more about it at http://www.gwales.com/goto/biblio/en/9781902719313/?session_timeout=1

My backlog of handwritten Bromley notes has been typed up, and though I’d like to complete my scrutiny of one particular source of material before putting that course on the back burner, it would require about 10-12 hours of work when I should be concentrating on Salisbury research.  Can I do both for a while?  I have started on the latter, and I expect the pace to pick up in the next few weeks.

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Salisbury next

I can now reveal that the history of Salisbury racecourse is going to be the subject of my next book. Like some of my others, I’ll be starting with a clean slate as I know next to nothing about it.  I went racing there three times this year, which doubled my tally of lifetime visits.  I understand there was racing in the area in the 16th century, and the Corporation sponsored a race from very early on, which is still run as the City Bowl.  I shall be interested to see how far back any physical records go.

It’s not owned by Arc, the group that possess most of my old books, so there’ll be no need for me to have the inevitable chapter titled Northern Racing or Arena Racing. It so happens that I have a fair chunk of one-off work to do for one of the Arc courses on my plate, and I need to polish off in the next few weeks.

I’m quite a way into Bromley research and there are aspects of that which I hope to complete before putting it to one side and focusing on Salisbury. Whether I can continue or finish Bromley remains to be seen, but Salisbury takes precedence.  More trips to the British Library and to Wiltshire beckon.

The Racing Post ran my second review last weekend, which was the memoir of a former vet who specialised in horses. He had great success in the 1950s with the then new technique of hobdaying, an operation to help horses’ breathing that worked wonders with a number of Cheltenham Gold Cup winners in the following decade.  His exploits in the RAF, which he joined when only sixteen (lying about his age) were quite dramatic too.  It’s called Clearing the Airways and the author is Jeffrey Brain.

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My second book review, about a very different and much shorter publication, needed quite a bit of time to be spent on it arising from queries on my first draft raised by the books editor. I hope it’ll appear in next Sunday’s Racing Post.

I’ve also been composing a review of The Blood Is Racing, mentioned here six weeks ago. The only place it might appear is here, but as the author has asked me to write it, I will discuss it with him first.

I’ve spent some time on Bromley finding maps of the district around the racecourse before and after its existence. Will these help me to establish its location?  I speak only of the principal course, which lasted only fifteen years, not long enough to catch the eye of map makers.

I was at Newbury last week, where two book signings were advertised. One for me, after the third race, attracted rather less attention than the second one, which was Jilly Cooper signing dozens of copies of her new hardback Mount!  Hopes I had of us sitting together and swapping one of hers for one of mine were dashed.  It’s good that it will have increased awareness of my books, for all of them were on display and I chatted to quite a few people about them.  Buyers, however, were elusive.

I looked in on Bath racecourse about ten days ago, and my goodness it has changed since I was last there in July 2015.  The plush new stands look top-notch inside and out, although to enjoy all of them – and I’m thinking of the new Roof Garden – racegoers do have to pay a premium.  It was great to meet the staff there, even more so as they gave me an impromptu guided tour and were complimentary about the book.  I was pleased to see they had used it to give names to various parts of the new facilities and are keen to play up the heritage aspect.



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Project number 2 completed last Sunday, when my first ever review of someone else’s book was published in the Racing Post. I couldn’t be sure when it would appear until the day itself, and I didn’t want to say anything in advance in case it was deferred or radically altered.  The author in question has produced rather more studious works than mine, so it felt a bit presumptuous for the apprentice to give feedback to the master.

It is quite a delicate art. One has a deadline and given a number of words to keep within.  Obviously I had to explain what the book is about and give an opinion, but some critics use reviews to show how clever they think they are.  I wanted to concentrate on the description so that readers would get a good idea of they would like the book and buy it.  The word count limit meant that I had to choose every word very carefully to ensure it conveyed the desired description in the briefest possible terms.

Seeing my words make it into print without many changes by the books editor, I felt pleased and relieved. He has sent me another one to review, so I hope I can become an established member of his panel.  This book is only ninety pages, and I’ve been able to compose my first draft quite quickly.  I read it in one sitting, unlike The Blood is Racing (see four weeks ago).  This is a very different kettle of fish containing lots of history, familiar and otherwise, and demanding much more concentration.

There hasn’t been much time for Bromley work, though this morning I had a walk round the area where the 19th century racecourse was.  I would like to pin down its exact location; it didn’t last long enough to feature on any maps.  There were some parts where I thought, “Yes, it might have been here.”  Further research needed!

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Big project number 2 is proceeding but I will keep mum about it until it’s complete.  Suffice to say I have been working on it and its novelty makes it a challenge.  Research and writing is involved, but in a way that’s significantly different from what I’m used to.  Project number 1 is on the back burner and has to wait for others to make a decision.  Bromley work is ongoing too.

Ten things you didn’t know about Bath appeared in the Racing Post a fortnight ago, with  some of my contributions and (even more importantly) my name.  I hope this link to it works.  Racing Post   However, there is one error in the article.  If you think you’ve spotted it, let me know.

There’s been much more activity in the last fortnight from two of my old blog-watchers and researchers into the history of the Alfred Day family, both being distant relatives.  Independently they had their own interests in the family tree and it’s come to the boil again, with S getting ever closer to proving the blood connection between Binda and the days.  Circumstantial evidence says there is one, but frustratingly the information to prove it doesn’t seem to be accessible without going to West Indian records offices.  Nevertheless we may not have run out of domestic places to look for it.

I was going to call my other correspondent A but there’s no point, as he has published his book about the Days (and the Cannons, another branch of the family steeped in racing history) after fifteen years of research.  I speak of Andrew Ager, who challenges some of the long-standing assumptions about the misdeeds of the nineteenth century Days.  You can find more about it here.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Racing-Cannon-Family-Danebury/dp/0995500800/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474742584&sr=1-1&keywords=andrew+ager

If the book is as good as its title it should be a very interesting read.  I’m looking forward to getting a copy.

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