Tuesday, 12 February 2008

It's all in the details...

As the book comes together, we begin thinking about the flourishes that will enhance Dave's narrative - bits of incidental detail to really accentuate the story of Bromley's season.

Tom and Dave have voiced the idea that every chapter should end with a league table, effectively punctuating each episode, rounding off and reinforcing Bromley's steady rate of decline through goals conceded, games lost and points squandered. Dave is great at conveying this obsession with league tables, as he recounts poring over the sports pages in the local paper, feverishly calculating every single possibility and permutation from the week's matches, dreaming of the best-case scenarios that would enable his team to haul themselves one or two places above their rivals. His hopes, dreams and wide-eyed enthusiasm provide the perfect counterpoint to the stats, to get readers turning the page to be confronted with, in stark black and white, the full league table of the Isthmian League 1969/70 season, scanning down anxiously until they see the name Bromley - perpetually stuck in the bottom three at the foot of the table.

So begins some research, to obtain and compile enough tables for use in the book. Fortunately, Dave's collection of programmes and cuttings has meant that we already have most of the relevant league tables. Of the 38 games Bromley played over the season, only the figures for nine weeks in which the team had played league matches are missing. Off I trot to British Library Newspapers in Colindale, almost at the end of the Northern line, to trawl through local papers in search of those vital statistics. I order up musty, leather-bound volumes for 1969 and 1970 of the Bromley Advertiser and the Bromley & Kentish Times, with some success, but still need to search further afield - papers that covered news and results from Bromley’s fellow Isthmians; Sutton United, Hitchin Town, Dulwich Hamlet, Walthamstow Avenue et al. Rooting through the sports pages is a slow, protracted task, and it’s odd to pick out Dave’s ‘stars’ in the match reports – identifying Bromley players’ names when they appear, and studying the occasional grainy mugshots of ‘Postman’ Pat Brown or Johnny Warman with a strange curiosity. Such is the power of the Bromley Boys that it reels you in, as you become familiar with the Bromley squad and all its attendant injuries and suspensions.

The Newspapers Library closes up for the day, but there are still three tables to get – another trip later this week then, with more local papers to hunt out and look through. Unless, of course, there’s a reader out there in possession of a complete season’s set of league tables for a minor club playing in a lower tier of English football over 35 years ago?

Moving Right Along...

With the page count decreasing, it is time to report on the Bromley Boys again, now the hull has been breached and the sentinels are inside…

I’m making decent headway, with the questions and comments for Dave piling up as I do so. It’s a slow process, made slower by other nagging schedules Portico has, but then if no one can hear you scream in space, what hope do you have in publishing?

I’ve promised I would deliver all my questions and revisions to Dave next week. Possible rephrases, cuts and revisions are minimal – the only real issue is cutting down and amending sections that stop the energy and flow of the text when it’s pacing nicely. Though that’s to be expected for a book of this ‘memoir’ nature. Dave and I have revised a few bits and pieces together as we have gone along, but as far as I am concerned this is the fun part – studying the book as if it were a menu and coming to a decision that’s both filling and delicious.

The process is made slower by the fact that every couple of sentences it is impossible not to stop and think about just how many fun and imaginative ways we could design the book. I’m not a designer but it’s difficult to not think about it when the inspiration leaps out at you from the page. I keep thinking of how we could set out the contents list to look like a division table, or have the endpapers be a scrapbook collage of old ticket stubs or have an illustrated pair of muddy boots hanging over the pages as if they would do on a peg in some timeless 1960s stadium changing room. I'm thinking of tedious clich├ęs, obviously, and I shouldn't, because so far I haven't come across any in the book. I’m getting ahead of myself, but the manuscript really does evoke that immediate kind of nostalgia and imagination.

Which is weird as I wasn't alive in 1969. Not even close. But, somehow, with each new chapter of Dave's text, I can imagine it just that little bit clearer; what it was like to have been a childhood fan of a team that was going through a 'bad patch' – just like I remembered when I was thirteen and wanting to be the next Bruce Grobbelaar. The outrageous transfer fees, the prima donnas with shaving foam sponsors of today, and their WAG’s, all seem such a distant cry from the innocent enthusiasm and passion of a young boy in the days when football seemed to mean a lot more to people is infectious. And thats the USP of this book – to use such a torrid modern acronym.

I’m pretty enthused by working on this book because, ultimately, with each page I tick off, I’m wondering when the next goal will slip past David Jensen… I imagine it wont be long.

My deadline for Dave looms, so I better crack on…