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Columnist John Bone with his take on Newmarket's week




Watching TV coverage of Royal Ascot I was struck by the sudden and radical change in the Queen the closer she gets to horses.

Her Majesty is always a source of smiles and is gracious even to the most tedious nincompoops presented to her.

But when she gets within a few feet of a horse she is transfigured.

Her Majesty The Queen on a visit to Newmarket
Her Majesty The Queen on a visit to Newmarket

Not just her face, which lights up with interest, but her whole stance alters and I swear that at 95 she looks no more than 65.

Does racing realise what she has done for the sport and the industry?

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Thanks to my mates in the media, once a public figure gets a nickname it sticks. Even if Matt Hancock goes on to save the world he will still be known as Hopeless Hancock or, following the pattern of his late comic namesake, Ho-Ho-Hopeless Ha-Ha-Hancock.

The same goes for reputations even if they are undeserved. Take the case of Prince Philip who could not open his mouth without being accused of being racist, sexist or, even worse, German.

May I suggest Mr Hancock issues a statement mentioning 'Creepy Cummings'? That should stick and offer some revenge. It has the merit of accuracy.

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Why is it that jockeys last longer than other athletes? The strength and fitness needed by a rider like Frankie Dettori must be at least akin to that of, say, Usain Bolt but he’s still galloping into his 50s while stars in other sports are old by their 30s.

Premier League footballers can start at 17 but are knocking on a bit 10 years later while jockeys stay the course. True, our Frankie is talking about his plans for a busy retirement but he is not alone in the racing business by being in brilliant form after half a century.

The only other profession that comes to mind and has similar longevity is that of orchestral conductors, some of whom are still bossing the band in their nineties. Now that might make a nice career for maestro Dettori. With him on the rostrum, the Ride of the Valkyries would last about three minutes.

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Since we are in a world where we are always being told 'Do this!' and 'Don’t do that'! and being warned about the dangers involved in everything we dare to do, I am amazed at the success of the wild swimming event in the Lark at Mildenhall.

I have done a little outdoor swimming in rivers as well as the sea and it is a delight. Those 100 swimmers who joined the Lark event are among pioneers of a return to what our forefathers did for fun. Let us not be put off by Health and Safety zealots.

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Do we detect a shifting of the tectonic plates in planning policy? The Government has been making it easier to build anywhere whether local people like it or not. The shock result at the latest by-election could have a profound effect on the Newmarket area. Could even Robert Jenrick’s mystifying kindness to Lord Derby be open to review? We live in interesting times.

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For my money, the wisest words in last week’s Journal came from Christine Luxton. She heads Suffolk Wildlife Trust and came up with the simple but precious thought that “Each generation takes what they see now as normal.”

In other words, without study and well-kept records over a long period we may not spot slowly emerging calamities. It is only by painstaking observation of everything from ants to oaks that we can keep track of what’s going on. We need facts.

I have a hunch we have lost a lot in my little lifetime but hunches cut no ice with scientists or politicians. That is the main reason we need the Wildlife Trust. We can save nothing if we don’t know it was there until it is too late.

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I hope the editor will forgive me if I confess I am getting grouchy with our feature pages when they offer advice about what I should do in my own home.

A couple of weeks back some sage was telling readers to turf out everything, de-clutter and make our lives simpler and, to my mind, starker. I deplore this fad for minimalism. I hate homes that look like crematorium waiting rooms and kitchens like something suitable for post-mortem dissections.

I like rooms to look loved and lived in.

Last week we had another wiseacre going on about our kitchens. His basic advice seems to be to avoid working on our work surfaces or they will get dirty. We should always cover them with another protective surface.

I wonder what his advice is on cookery? Does he advise ordering take-away hot meals to avoid making the oven dirty?

Oh dear, I hope our interiors experts don’t read my column. They’d de-clutter the Journal.

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