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Book Review:
Concrete for Breakfast
More Tales from the Shale
By Jeff Scott

Concrete for Breakfast is the output from Jeff Scott's third straight year of travelling the UK to take in as much speedway as he can. It follows the groundbreaking "Showered in Shale" and its sequel "Shifting Shale".

The perspective of the author has changed significantly since the first book in the trilogy was written. He's gone from unknown outsider to being part of the speedway scene, often being able to pop-in unannounced to the speedway offices around the country. As his earliest meetings with promoters were by prior appointment it's a marked difference. It also changes the nature of his exchanges with the promoters he meets, previously these were based on an interview style with definite questions and answers. These have now been replaced with a more natural conversation and an increasingly open approach from the promoters. Scott uses this to good advantage and elicits many interesting anecdotes and opinions from the sport's top brass.

Each chapter of the book starts with some choice quotes from last season's Sky Television coverage. More often than not these 'escaped' from the mouth of Jonathan Green and Scott takes delight in highlighting the absurdity of some of these utterings, even if this is magnified by taking them out of their original context. It's fair to say that Scott isn't a fan of Green, something which he doesn't hide throughout this book. He's also made an enemy in (our own) Mike Bennett.

Scott on Bennett:

They say you can never mistake a Scotsman for a sunbeam and with visual entertainment at a premium, apart from Buster, on his tractor, industriously and expertly scraping the slop from the track surface on his tractor, all that's left is for Glasgow-born club "Presenter" Mike Bennett to step into the breach to try to entertain. Luckily he has a lot to say about one of his favourite topics - himself.

It's difficult to tell just how serious the bad feeling is between them, certainly neither misses a chance to make a 'dig' at the other - Scott through his writing and Bennett through his work on the 'mic'.

As always there are a huge number of interesting quotes in the book from a wide range of speedway people. Some of those quotes are so candid that you wonder whether they were ever intended to be made public. In the book Tony McDonald accurately sums up the perils of 'casual conversation' with Jeff:

"You've got to be careful what you say around Jeff - the worry isn't that you'll be misquoted but that you'll be accurately quoted!"

Jeff's books are noted for the delicious level of detail he always includes, one particular delight is his account of the Islanders v Mildenhall meeting at which Shaun Tacey brought along some glamour girls to promote his 'dating' website.

The talk in the pits concerns the rather racy dating website that Shaun Tacey has recently sprung on an unsuspecting world via the web. The chance for lonely hearts to potentially get together because of a shared mutual interest in speedway is obviously one factor, while the opportunity to meet or look at some lascivious girls is another.....

I meet with Wendy Jedrzejakski, the reigning 'Miss Long Eaton', who's been savouring the heightened, somewhat enervated atmosphere that applies to the Mildenhall area of the pits this evening at Smallbrook Stadium. "Tomas Suchanek's girlfriend has been asked to leave the pits, while those girls are lying all round the place! She said to me 'Often his dad doesn't take me to meetings so Tomas can concentrate but, tonight, what about their concentration?' She has a point. They didn't go topless or anything but the way she bent over the bike left nothing to the imagination! Another one took off her knickers and put another pair on - nothing wrong with that - it was just the way she did it, you could see everything!" The never-ending queue outside the stadium is still there and might even be longer, should news of the seductive wiles of the knicker-changing girls in the pits become common knowledge."

As with "Shifting Shale", and its chapter on the SRA awards night, one of the most interesting pieces in the book actually takes place away from the track. This time the 'action' is at one of Nick Barber's memorabilia auctions and Jeff gets the chance to study the speedway fan outside its natural habitat. The dealers, exhibits and purchasers are all subjected to Scott's critical eye and he is able to paint an excellent picture of what these events are like.

Though the Fayre has yet to officially open some of the stalls are already mobbed by eager males of a certain age. They're so keen to get their hands on the latest treasures that a group of twenty or so avid men storm the exhibitors' area before the official opening time of 9 o'clock. Whether the stock is already set out on display or in the process of being unpacked doesn't concern them as they politely search-cum-ransack the merchandise for prized goodies. There isn't much conversation or noise (other than to establish price) since an atmosphere of rapt concentration has descended on the room. It's the kind of expectant frisson that I imagine you find at the introductory drinks stage of an orgy organised and staffed by supermodels - everyone's panting for it but still presently attempting to amiably keep their behaviour just about within the accepted protocols and bounds of polite society.

This particular chapter could easily have been found in a quality Sunday newspaper, such is both the quality of the prose and the universal appeal of the auction room setting.

Those that enjoyed his previous books will find a reassuring familiarity here, this is "Showered in Shale: Volume 3" in all but name. The author is probably a little bit wiser than when he wrote his first book and the tales in this one are probably more personal than in his earlier work. The thorough investigation into the state of the sport has perhaps been slightly replaced by a simpler reportage of what he's seen, what he's heard and what it all means in the wider context. It all remains mightily entertaining and there's certainly no discernable dip in the quality of the writing or in the care taken in putting it all together.

 

How to buy "Concrete for Breakfast"

  • Buy at all good track shops (£20)

  • Order via paypal on the website at www.methanolpress.com

  • Send a £24.50 cheque to cover P&P made payable to: "J Scott" to

                 Methanol Press
                 2 Tidy Street
                 Brighton
                 BN1 4EL

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