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Columnist John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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The happy rediscovery of rare medieval carvings in the nave ceiling of Gazeley Parish Church is sad, too. It reminds us of the desperate conundrum facing so many of our towns and villages.

Churches have down the centuries become museums of mankind’s striving to make images of heaven and hell, beauty and horror, life and death. Sometimes these images were made by or were inspired by the peasants of the parish. Many are of an artistic quality found in international museums of art. The most obscure church may house carvings or paintings that bring glory among the mud and poverty of parish history.

But that glory can be a burden to those few who worship there now. Who can pay for the care of these precious works of art? Parish priests are there to save souls but they find themselves spending more time trying to save vulnerable treasures. As congregations dwindle, the problem worsens. Fewer and fewer people are trying to do more and more.

John Bone, the columnist who gets Newmarket talking.
John Bone, the columnist who gets Newmarket talking.

They must find it exasperating that when people talk about the arts these days they often confine themselves to the categories of television, pop music, the cinema, fashion, dance and so on. Very few authorities on the creative arts give a second thought to the magnificent things on view in almost every village.

If worms, rust, damp and thieves are not to reduce this legacy to ruin then a way must be found to expand the way our churches fabrics are financed. Charitable funds go some way. The state chips in a bit but the problem grows. It is a matter of honour.

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It gives me no joy to say that I was right when I warned the good people of Soham it would take an age to shake off the evil memory of Ian Huntley.

Soham grows, prospers and improves but the wider world knows nothing of this. Soham in many minds remains the haunt of a depraved murderer of children.

The year is young but already the national news goes into the tragic tale all over again and for the most far-fetched reason.

An innocent man, Geoff Monks, was jailed in an outrageous miscarriage of justice that has taken 24 years to resolve. In order to illustrate the depth of his undeserved ordeal in jail the national press, even that most august of organs, The Times, has been at pains to point out that his cell was near the loathsome Huntley, ‘the Soham murderer’. The implication is that one could hardly sink lower. So yet again the equally innocent Soham gets bolted to a monster.

Soham’s predicament is exactly what all public relations advisers and spin doctors warn against: never let your name be linked with anything awful.

To make matters even more unjust, Huntley was not even a local monster. He was imposed on Soham by a faulty filter system that should have kept him well away from not only Soham girls but any girls anywhere.

Even the Sunday Times has him in huge headlines as ‘the Soham murderer’.

Some newspapers have even said or implied that Huntley was Monks’ next door neighbour in his jail cell. Monks himself, innocent as he is, is a little at fault perhaps by dragging Huntley into the picture. The murderer’s cell was in fact, ‘directly below mine’.

The name Huntley yoked to that of Soham has become a sort of currency, a means of expressing horror and depravity. Soham must endure this in patience and wait for the day when Soham’s name is once again principally associated with extreme courage and valour on that great day in the history of bravery when in wartime a catastrophe was averted by ordinary railwaymen who saved many lives and never hurt a fly. But we must wait for that day.

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Most of us have suffered from potholes the way Julia Hammond did on Burwell Road near Exning.

The damage to her car, as we reported last week, cost £166 to repair. If we added up all the pothole repair bills nationally it would be many millions.

A county like Suffolk with its complex network of little lanes is a maintenance nightmare. It could take a decade to solve the situation.

Meanwhile, I can only repeat the suggestion I made a few years ago. Since the holes are so huge and permanent they should feature on Ordnance Survey maps so we can pick safe routes.

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How it must irk high street retailers who pay punishing business charges and other taxes to find the town council taking pains to facilitate booming car boot sales.

The council is right to help organise amateur traders with no premises even if their tax situation may be a little vague because car boot sales are what people want. But car boots attracting crowds while high street footfall struggles is a pain to some.

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When I read our sports pages last week squally rain was lashing my windows and dreadful things were happening to our cricketers in Australia. Yet I got a glimpse of sunny spring and summer Saturdays when I saw how Mildenhall CC has again been selected to host a county fixture when Norfolk CCC will visit on May 29.

This dreadfully dreary winter will end. Cricket will come back. And will there be honey still for tea?