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John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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The text I have chosen for my Christmas sermon this year is drawn from a minor item tucked away at the bottom of page 14 of last week’s Journal under the cheery headline ‘Hiatus in green bin rounds’.

The report set out why green waste collections would cease for seven weeks in East Cambridgeshire while the district council struggles with a mountain of Christmas waste and a shortage of HGV drivers.

In the course of my reporting duties, I once visited a municipal dump a few days after Christmas. The festive season lay there, an 8ft deep acre of sparkling tat and tinsel. It was profoundly depressing and a shocking sign of our wild improvidence.

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

It is easy to be pious when no one reading this will get a chance to inspect any bins on Boxing Day, but I swear I shall try my hardest not to be heedlessly wasteful this year. I shall, as my mother did, carefully preserve the wrapping paper for use next year.

I shall save the aluminium foil from the roast for re-use on other dishes.

I shall not cook so much that we cannot eat it all.

I shall compost the holly and the ivy.

I shall make mulch of the tree.

I shall be so virtuous this Christmas that I may even brace myself to kiss Auntie Hilda, who always reeks of a scent that smells like Harpic.

I do not expect you, my dear flock, to kiss Auntie Hilda but do, please, try to ease the binmen’s burden.

Anticipating wild Christmas parties and the rise in cases of spiked drinks, police are begging revellers never to leave their glass of booze unattended.

“Take it with you wherever you go,” they say.

Laudable advice but is it practical? Can you jitterbug, or whatever dance the young people do these days, while holding a G&T? Can you go to the loo? I mean where in the gents can you safely stand a glass hygienically? We need more constabulary guidance.

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What a delightful man the D-Day veteran Bernard How must have been.

His obituary in last week’s Journal was full of a long life well-lived and humour, too.

I was tickled to read how he took his new bride on honeymoon to see Ipswich play Spurs.

But his story also gave a glimpse of my family Christmases as a boy.

In the RAF, Mr How was involved in Window, the scheme to confuse German radar by dropping reflective strips of aluminium foil. Some of his experimental foil was gathered from hedges by country boys and for decades long after the war is was brought out to feature in our Yuletide decorations. It was a case of sword into ploughshares.

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When we had the Duke of Cambridge piloting around our region in an air ambulance it did wonders for our self-esteem. Some young ladies even considered purposely ricking an ankle so the prince would come and collect them. It was all very light-hearted.

Now we know it was not at all like that for our future king.

He has spoken of how he is still racked by horrific memories of others’ suffering.

He speaks of ‘taking home people’s trauma, people’s sadness’.

In the light of his remarks, may I suggest all civil servants and politicians who speak of serving the people should at least take a trip like his and get a sense of reality.

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I generally strive to keep clear of comment on the language police who patrol our conversations, on the alert for banned words when discussing anything from racism to mental illness. (Have you noticed no one is mentally ill these days, they just have poor mental health?)

But there is a word I would truly like to ban, particularly when we are talking about housing. It is the wicked word ‘affordable’.

Affordable housing, whatever that means, is being used a great deal now that the Government is trying to level us up. We hear about ‘affordable rents’, too.

Let us not get bogged down in how our housing stock got into its present pickle, although I believe the loss of most of our council housing has been the ruin of village life. Few other countries have so brainwashed their people into believing home ownership is the greatest test of social success. No, what bothers me is that word ‘affordable’.

Its use condemns a great many good people to feeling like failures, unworthy, a sub-race to whom we should strive to be graciously indulgent while not wishing them actually to darken our doorsteps.

What the heck does ‘affordable’ mean when we very well know that so many people cannot afford it?

We can only pray that in its new approach our leaders create more social housing with genuinely affordable rents for good people who are themselves vital to the whole community. Otherwise we will end up with more lopsided villages full of three-car families and no one to do the hands-on work.