Shock Slow Down Announced by Graham Cooke
The speedway websites that you just have to look at throughout the year are few and far between. While the British Speedway Forum is a guilty pleasure, one must bookmark site is the always informative and wide-ranging speedwayplus. While the other is the Blunsdon Blog written by Swindon track staff member, potter, renowned speedway wordsmith, ex-teacher (of 25 years) and all round nice bloke, Graham Cooke.
Using but not abusing his privileged but hard earnt out of hours access to the sport, Graham has provided many wonderful insights into the often peculiar workings, rich characters and interwoven intricacies of speedway. He’s been an excellent guide to things you thought you knew about already but didn’t really or things you’d just assumed happened without ever considering how, what, who or why! And I haven’t even mentioned the unique photographs that Graham scatters throughout each blog.
Along the way Graham has travelled away from his beloved Blunsdon with BBC Radio Wiltshire and also to Sweden. He’s not hidden his obsessions with Sarra Elgan or Rune Holta and his affection for many other riders, such as Travis McGowan or the always immaculately turned out equipment owned by Sebastian Ulamek.
Without breaking confidences, he’s also shone a light into darkened corners and onto some essential but often overlooked speedway dramatis personae. Namely, the many different unsung volunteers who, behind the scenes (like they do at every club in the country), give their labour to keep the Swindon speedway show on the road on a weekly basis at Abbey Road. Regular readers of his comments and musing will be familiar with a wide variety of his co-workers along with their many idiosyncrasies and foibles.
The “hidden side of speedway” we’ve been shown is both glorious and mundane, everyday and extraordinary but invariably shown to be human in scale and ambition on the Blunsdon Blog. But, then, that’s what you’d expect given Graham’s own generous view of people and life also informing his perspectives on speedway. Eschewing spitefulness in favour of warmth, Graham has preferred to see positives even when others might not have been so sanguine. That hasn’t meant that he’s been afraid to show things as they are and, the fact that he doesn’t see his job as to blow smoke up some *****, has sometimes led to discomfort among the more easily irked. However, you characterise his approach, it has definitely been popular and the volume of visitors to the site has grown exponentially.
Though in the hands of a lesser writer you’d worry about the problem of repetition, in Graham’s case even well-worked topics and themes come over as fresh and each blog is filled with gems and engaging minutiae. The recent Robins defeat typifies his genre and prompted Graham to note:
“Later on in the evening Gary [Patchett] makes the comment of the night that has all of us doubled up. Having been covered with the dust cloud that descended upon us after the first heat, he comments that we now all have suntans like Terry Russell.”
So, the news that Graham is to reduce his writing and activities on the Blunsdon Blog is a disappointment and, hopefully, just a temporary decision! His tales of the shale have been essential reading these last couple of years for all keen followers of the handlebar heroes on show in this country.
Let’s hope Graham will soon end his “slow down”, get back out on the real and metaphorical track and, once again, line up at the tapes!