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John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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Let me offer words of comfort to stallholders and councillors alike as they thrash around trying to solve the puzzle of where to put Newmarket market. It’s nothing new.

A cursory glance at the history of markets in English towns shows a torrid tale of bitter disputes, corruption, violence, deceit, rancour, envy, malice, ambition and, ever so occasionally, sensible solution.

Markets have brought out the worst in kings, bishops, judges, universities, dukes, barons and coroners with, ever so occasionally, the people. The stall holders are rarely allowed a word in edgeways.

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

So we should not despair of Newmarket’s long failure to live up to the event mentioned in its very name and hold a successful market.

What is surprising is that in this online age of shopping without humanity people still care about something as old-fashioned and embarrassingly clunky and cranky as a market where you chat with vendors, meet mates, see the merchandise and do deals.

I wonder why the grand bricks-and-mortar shops in the High Street are little heard in this saga.

Many of our famous retail names began as market stalls and they have something to gain from the footfall a live street market creates.

Let us be patient. The market matters. A sensible solution must exist and must be found.

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Is the fact that provincial gambling arcades are the dreariest places in many benighted towns a good enough reason to oppose these ‘amusements’ in Newmarket?

Is the fact that they are even drearier and dingier and more depressing than the closed and rotting backstreet chapels they have supplanted a sufficient reason to set our faces against one?

And, since the whole of Newmarket society, from millionaires to paupers, is saturated in gambling, isn’t it a bit strange to pick on this one to fight?

I can think of nothing less attractive than a noisy nightmare of some tin-pot casino. I also detest speedway and boxing but I would resent an attempt to ban them.

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Nick Dean’s compassionate sensitivity in concealing the names of two of his Cambridgeshire police officers who engaged in repeated sexual activity while on duty seems sensible on the surface.

I do not doubt the mental health of the officers is at issue. No-one wants to be cruel even to the most foolish of our public servants.

Two questions occur to me. Will the county force be equally kind to non police officers who behave disgracefully and neglect public duty? And does not his policy throw embarrassing doubt on all his other officers, male and female, inviting the public to speculate on who the actual offenders are?

That said, I can think of at least one former Cabinet minister who would have been abjectly grateful for such merciful anonymity.

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There’s little room for sentimentality when the world is getting hungrier but I am horrified by the ‘vertical farm’ which has arrived in Newmarket Business Park.

I find the whole idea of treating lettuces like battery hens with no access to real sunlight, rain or fresh air quite repellent. But since we treat human beings with similar severity by stacking them up in high-rise blocks until we need them to do some work, I guess I must be glad the lettuces are not actually driven insane by isolation.

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I happen to know a bit about Perennial, the gardeners’ charity for which Mildenhall trainee Gary Bean is helping to create an exhibit at the Chelsea Show.

Gardeners have something in common with cooks. Their professions are haunted by celebrity practitioners who make millions while the rest of them may get little attention or reward.

But Gary must prepare himself for the pain of seeing his precious plot torn apart when the show’s over.

Gardens are like flowers – they rarely last long.

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I was inclined to give Nick Frankau a five-star review even before he appears in the Nomads production of 'Allo 'Allo.

For a professional actor in a long-running national TV show to get involved and appear in an am-dram production shows a lack of silly snootiness and a love of theatre that is extraordinary and utterly admirable.

There are only a couple of shows left in the present run at the Kings Theatre but you might be able to book.

I’m not ashamed to admit I still watch old episodes of 'Allo 'Allo when I should be working. Once I realised that the show is pure pantomime in which everyone – the French Resistance, the Nazis, the communists – is sent up rotten, I fell for it. The plots are ridiculous, the acting is exaggerated, the characters are preposterous. That is the joy of 'Allo 'Allo.

So small wonder Nick could not resist.