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Columnist John Bone with his own particular take on the week's news




I have a suggestion to make that is so outrageously unconventional that I do not expect it to be taken seriously by anyone ever.

Still, here goes. It concerns that eminent son of Suffolk, Mr Ed Sheeran.

It was recently revealed that our Ed is so punctilious in his financial affairs that he has ended up paying more tax than any other British musician.

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

He is not only that great rarity an honest multi-millionaire, he is generous with his time, too, and has offered his own wonderfully daubs to raise funds for Suffolk charities. Pity his works of art are so big and most modern rooms are so small.

Meanwhile, despite obstructive county planners, he is creating the cranky equivalent of Ickworth at his private estate near where he was born and raised and went to school with the girl who is now his partner.

Laugh if you like but it is hard to imagine a better candidate for the highest honour a Suffolk man or woman can win. How long must we wait for Her Majesty to name him as her personal representative and make him Lord Lieutenant? I’ve known worse.

Ed Sheeran is committed to his county and think what a good message it would send to young people who think such things are reserved for boring old toffs.

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In the light of the latest success in the battle to save the Weatherby Crossing, let me expand a point I made in passing a couple of weeks back.

Success, if and when it comes, will be specially sweet to those determined souls who have fought for footpaths, bridleways, ancient green roads and other sorts of ancient rights of way for very many years. Often cursed by landowners, they won precious little support from the very people they sought to serve in the general public whose forebears’ feet created the paths centuries, even millennia ago. They have seemed to some like tiresome trouble-makers with bees in their bonnets. Who cares about old rights of way when we all have cars and motor bikes?

But the campaigners, among whom I proudly number myself, stuck to their guns. We were convinced that this inheritance which seemed so useless in the modern ages should not lightly be lost. Who knew when we might need our neglected heritage again?

Well, that time of need has come. Some footpaths that had seen few walkers in the last century are now thronged with folk taking their lawful pandemic exercise. The “useless” old ways are arteries of health and recovery. Let us not risk losing them again when this crisis has passed. Our forefathers’ bequest is a literal lifeline.

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A source of smiles for centuries, Six mile Bottom is now, it seems, a commercial embarrassment. So embarrassing is the name that a firm wanting to create one of those so-called garden cities there have coyly named it Westley Green, which sounds like one of those fake villages created by scriptwriters for The Archers.

There is history as well as hilarity in Six Mile Bottom. I well remembers the fun I had when a lady living there won a slimming award.

But this new town, if it ever gets built, will be Westley Green, a somewhat stretched reference to another village in the Six Mile Bottom area, Westley Waterless. An ill-omened choice since homes are being built at such a rate that we are approaching a water supply crisis. I have always thought Westley Waterless should be twinned with Dry Drayton.

Alas, we live in an age of purse-lipped propriety where the language police are ever watchful for a spoken sin. Woe betide anyone who has not mastered the currently approved but ever-changing lingo for anything to do with race, gender or disability. Leading a lifetime of blameless compassion campaigning for love and justice does not absolve you from the fury of fanatics, proud of their own linguistic purity.

Six Mile Bottom is a bit rude. It might offend prospective purchasers of houses there so it must be erased. This is far from the first time we have endured such prissy silliness. Once when we were still free from pernickety prudes Newmarket had a lane called Shagbag. That had to go. What next?Must Burwell lose Cuckolds Lane? Doesn’t Red Lodge sound a little too political? Wouldn’t Thistley Green at Mildenhall be better called something like Daisy Dell? And can’t we all call the Bumpsteads the Rearsteads? Bum is even ruder than Bottom. To hell with history! Let’s all be twee and trendy and terrified of causing offence. I say this from the base of my heart.

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