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John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week




To preach against the evils of gambling in a town like Newmarket is a bit like recommending continence in Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet surely even the most addicted punters must have wondered why they do so badly when Denise Coates does so well.

Ms Coates, in case you have been hiding from the national news during the pandemic, is the lady who made a personal £421 million last year as joint CEO of her family firm, Bet365.

I am one of those really boring people who have renounced gambling with the single exception of the National Lottery. Lord knows why I find that way of wasting my money is somehow more acceptable than all the others.

Bet365 boss Denise Coates did rather well out of punters' lost bets this year .
Bet365 boss Denise Coates did rather well out of punters' lost bets this year .

My policy is typical of the absolute irrationality of placing a bet. There must be many thousands of poorly paid Newmarket people whose lives are based on two total illusions. First, that their lives will one day be redeemed by luck, and second that because they live in Headquarters and know a man who knows a man who knows a man who used muck out some stable somewhere they have inside knowledge.

It is no use telling these otherwise perfectly sane people that if they had any reliable prospect of prosperity Ms Coates would not have pocketed £421 million.

And another thing: what is Ms Coates going to do with all that loot? I bet she won’t bet. She’s not that silly.

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I have been walking my dogs on the same rural right of way for decades, sometimes with the missus but mostly alone. Lockdown has changed that.

I do not resent the hordes of strangers tramping 'my' path. They have as much right as I. But I do very much resent the litter they leave. One bank where violets are blooming is cluttered with picnic detritus.

And it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have another nag, so I want to know why these people on 'my' path cannot be coaxed into passing the time of day. Seldom as much as a grunt in response to my cheery 'hello'.

Do I frighten them? Or is it that they do not hear me (or the birdsong) because their ears are plugged with canned noise?

I feel better now I have had my little rant.

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Thank heavens Newmarket, unlike Ely, was not mentioned when the Sunday Times listed the best towns in which to live. Being popular is the kiss of death. It is only a matter of time before Ely will lose its unique integrity, atmosphere and cohesive community. Look what’s happened to Cambridge – ruined by popularity.

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We are a wonderfully dotty nation. If you doubt it, consider the case of the very English Newmarket businessman Simon Gibson, who will wear a kilt for a day to raise money for good causes.

And upon what day will this charitable Englishman perform his Scottish stunt? Why, on St George’s Day, of course. I trust that in a return gesture the Scottish residents of Newmarket will celebrate next Burn’s Night by Morris dancing.

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In his imagined village of Grunty Fen, that late great entertainer Pete Sayers once conjured up a daily delivery man exactly like a regular milkman except that he left bottles of vinegar on customers’ doorsteps.

That fantasy has taken a small step towards reality with last week’s full-page advertisement in the Journal promising to deliver gin to your door. Presumably customers will still have to slog to the shops for tonic and a lemon.

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I see a local dealer is so keen to buy cars and vans that he is prepared to accept even 'ugly' ones. I’m surprised he felt the need to mention ugly cars. To my mind almost all modern cars are ugly compared with the dignity, elegance and powerful presence of those treasured survivors we now see as museum items at vintage shows and rallies. So many of today’s motors look shoddy or silly.

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Here we sit snug and smug in our comfy homes while out there, just beyond those trees, is there another and alien world?

Once again we are reminded of this thought through the horrific death of a man living rough on the outskirts of Newmarket.

Quite recently and almost by chance, two young men were found surviving in bushes not far from where the rest of us live our lives. Meanwhile, on the A14, terrified travellers from far away smuggle themselves into lorries leaving our coasts hoping to travel to London although a few jump out at a layby and vanish into our fields and woods.

There is a whole small world of which we know little and perhaps care less.

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How is it that even though Easter dodges about the calendar the bad weather always tracks it down in time to spoil the holiday?

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Even when staycations are fashionable I do not think the television pictures that winged their way round the world during the Boat Race can have done much for fen tourism. The flat fields between Ely and Littleport are somewhat lacking in scenic allure.

But my elderly uncle Len, who was watching with me, had another way of looking at the event negatively. “Just shows how bad public transport is round here if those young people have to go to so much trouble just to get to Littleport?”