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Archive for the ‘Salisbury’ Category

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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Delusions of grandeur

I’ve completed another read-through of the Salisbury text – this must be the third re-read. I was on such a roll that I chose not to go to Sandown last week, when I had a cheap ticket.  I’ve made this latest version available to Jeremy, the Salisbury boss.   It has numerous corrections to the previous one (which he has had), but no significant changes.  I await his comments on either.  When they’ve been incorporated we should be close to a final version.

A few weeks ago we went through a list of all the available images, but now I’m going to suggest a near final list of those that could appear in the book.  Then we’ll go back to some press agencies to discuss costs.  I’m seeking advice on the anomaly of those images which more than one organisation claims to be the copyright holder.

My other work writing articles and ad hoc assignments takes up a fair amount of time and on one single day last week I had three requests for new “ad hocs”.  Two were done the next day but the other would be long-term if we can agree what’s wanted, deadlines and fees.  An unusual aspect of the ad hocs was my participation in a meeting to determine the winners of next week’s inaugural Welsh Horse Racing Awards.  Earlier this year, when I was first asked to work on this project, I fleetingly thought I was up for an award.  Dream on!

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Fontwell book launch, a wonderful day when I sat alongside Josh Gifford, who was signing copies, and my great friend Kim, a familiar figure to all the course regulars.  Between them they attracted over a hundred people to our stand to buy the book.  Josh said afterwards he’d never done so much handwriting since he was in school.

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Since the last post I’ve visited Jeremy, the boss at Salisbury, to talk about pictures that might go in the book.  We also resolved a few queries I had about points of detail and I’ve now sent him the draft text for him to read.  He’s got a few other things on the to-do list.  I must admit I’ve left the book alone for a week after that, due to domestic business, work on the weekly articles I do for regional papers, and some other ad hoc racing statistics that proved deceptively time-consuming.

One very welcome development in the last few days was the discovery of several historic photos of the course, whose existence I didn’t know about before.  This makes the process of selecting images for the book even more difficult.  In a good way, that is, as too much choice is better than too little.  We’d have to pay for them but I think we’ll find they’re good enough to justify the expenditure.

I’ve also been able to confirm that it’s all right for me to quote extensively from somebody else’s detailed research on a particular aspect of Salisbury’s history.  That’s very generous of them.  Generally I’d like to rewrite others’ input so that the overall style is consistent, but in this case I believe it would be better to leave the imported prose intact.

I’ve resumed contact with one of my other helpers who’d provided some family history information that shines extra light on certain parts of the story over 200 years ago.  I’d written to him – a letter, that is – because emails had gone unanswered.  It transpired that he had changed his broadband supplier and this had caused a lot of trouble for him.

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Cross the Ts

Last week I compiled a list of images I could use for the Salisbury book.  It’s on a spreadsheet that evolved during the production of my earlier books.  There’s a line for each image and about 15 columns to help describe, and eventually prioritise them all.  I was pleased to find I have over 70 to play with.  One of the most important columns is headed “Cost”.  Entries underneath it labelled “Free” are highly desirable.  Those that say “High” are those we’d need to pay press agencies.  Inevitably we’ll want to use some from those sources, and it’s a matter of balancing the cost versus the desire to have them in the book.

I went to the last Brighton meeting of the season last week.  Warm sunshine and a cool breeze made a welcome change from some other years’ last meetings, when sea frets or Arctic winds made going outdoors a health hazard.  There was a decent crowd, about 50% higher than their last midweek meeting by my estimate, which shows how much the weather on the day can affect the “walk-ups”, ie the unbooked cash-paying racegoers who come through the turnstiles.

It’s just as well I haven’t needed to look at the Salisbury text much in the last fortnight.  My laptop keyboard’s letter T gave up the ghost.  While waiting for it to be repaired a lot of very tedious pasting via the Clipboard has been necessary whenever using this machine.  I can well believe T is the second most common letter in the English language.  We have a spare laptop at home, which I resorted to at times, but that has its own quirks.

I have a new keyboard now and T works fine.  Unfortunately the down arrow key sticks sometimes and I can find myself 20 lines below where I should be.  Back to the repair shop….

 

 

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Hats all right

Good progress has been made with the Salisbury text-reviewing, and I’m now up to page 60 of 91.  I still have a feeling it’s too long, but I have one or two people who I can ask to read it.  I’ve got an appointment to visit the racecourse in a month’s time to discuss pictures – a subject I haven’t contemplated for a long time.  That’s easily remedied, as once I start looking through my collection of images and contact a few press agencies it will all come together.  In the past it’s been very helpful to borrow photos from private individuals, but with Salisbury there hasn’t been much in that line.  Still, we do have some old pictures in the racecourse’s files, and I always think the older ones are the most interesting.

I see there’s a Salisbury Literary Festival soon.  Maybe I’ll be there next year (irony).  Though I wonder why it’s a Literary, not Literature festival.

Sales of my other books have perked up for no obvious reason in the last month and some Croydons and Brightons have gone to eager readers.

A recent book-buyer with whom I had some correspondence was keen to identify a mystery man in a photo.  This was a stable lad leading up Sea Pigeon in the parade before the Derby.  You could see little of this chap apart from his hat!

Sea Pigeon was a good, but somewhat wayward horse on the flat before his long and highly successful hurdling career.  Fortunately I know someone who used to ride him out and he was able to name the chap in the photo simply by recognising his titfer.

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Lofty issues

More health problems have interfered with Salisbury book work these last two weeks.  I have, however, isolated all those “must check” items so that they can be researched methodically – eg with Racing Calendar queries I can deal with them by ferreting around the loft, where all the old issues are kept in big plastic storage boxes.  Invariably the loft is too hot or too cold, but I can be certain the light will be too dim, I’ll take the wrong glasses and it will be uncomfortable.  The criss-cross layers of diagonal wooden beams means that getting about up there is like playing Twister.  One cannot stand up straight. Two surveyors have looked at it and frowned.  They agreed it would be difficult (ie expensive) to do a loft conversion, especially as the roofline cannot be raised and it would be suitable only for people under six feet tall, which I am not.

I have started re-reading the text from page 1 to look for ambiguities and my recurring fear of the same word or phrase being repeated too often or too close to each other.  While Edit Find is great for seeing how often a selected word or phrase comes up, and a Word Frequency Counter website does what it says, I wish I could find something that can identify the most-repeated words and shows you where they are.

I felt that I did several hours on the re-read yesterday, yet progress is very slow.  I seemed to do no more than ten pages of the 95 in the Word document, getting me up to page 17.  I don’t know why, but I am optimistic that this will speed up.  I would like to finish this by the date of the last Salisbury meeting so that I have a fairly good version to hand then. We’ll have to discuss pictures for the book soon after.

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