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Columnist John Bone's irreverent take on Newmarket's week




Just as empty shops cast a pall over a high street, so dilapidated empty buildings can mar a town.

And when those ruinous old hulks are at the entrance to a town it offers a very tawdry welcome to visitors.

So let us pray the latest scheme to end 30 years of stubborn stalemate at the Queensbury Lodge and the White Lion are at last coming to an end.

Queensbury Lodge
Queensbury Lodge

If the best the neighbours can do by way of objection is to say that newcomers to the area might park in their private road then we’re home and dry.

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There is a certain irony in Robert Jenrick, the minister who overrode our local councils and local feeling to allow a vast new housing estate in Newmarket, should be the man to whom those councils are now addressing their request to be given more autonomy.

The man who rode roughshod over local powers is now invited to free them from the trammels of Whitehall.

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Our crumbling hospitals held up by pit props, our ambulance service in its usual disarray, our midwives desperately overworked, the curse of Covid lingers ominously. I bet our shamed MP can’t help feeling a sneaking sense of relief that he’s no longer Health Secretary.

How, as the Afghanistan crisis unfolds, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab must envy him,

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Spend £10 at Simon Johnson’s teashop and he’ll refund £1 to compensate you for the council’s latest parking charge increase.

It’s a novel idea.

If other traders took it up, the rebate would amount to shops imposing a new business tax on themselves but with none of the revenue going to the council. Thus the retailers struggle to preserve the prosperity on which the council depends for income. I’m not sure what children’s party game this remind me of. In and out the dusky windows? Musical chairs? Ring a Ring o’ Roses? But the last line is always “All fall down!”

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How pleasing and surprising to find the owner of the Three Ways pub at Cowlinge getting lots of local support for his B&B plan. Surprising because almost any innovation anywhere attracts objections but seldom support.

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An organised walk around Newmarket raised funds for the town’s Charitable Foundation but it also seems to have opened walkers’ eyes to what an exceptionally interesting and attractive place this is.

The landscape has obvious merits but it is the distinctive Newmarket domestic architecture that fascinates me. There are bits of the town that almost look like a rich Edwardian seaside resort . . . Newmarket Regis.

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The sheer cheek of Newmarket’s newly resurrected cricket club to aim at promotion in their first season was admirable but always seemed a little unlikely. But we doubters were very nearly put in our place by a brilliant run of successes that have only lately evaporated.

Now their best hope is in the failure of others. They have nothing to say sorry for. They have restored the cricketing pride of the town and are an ornament to a sporting scene so overshadowed by the gee-gees.

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I have noticed that fun dog shows are increasingly popular. Dullingham, for example, is combining one into their fete next month.

This is all very well and welcome for this dog-besotted country but it does bring problems for those poor souls who are dragged in as judges. I have twice been talked into acting as judge at so-called fun dog shows. It wasn’t much fun for me.

Dog owners are so sensitive. They take it so personally. I think I would much rather judge a baby show than a dog show. Tread on too many toes at a dog show and, well, they set the dogs on you. So be very careful to say something complimentary about even the most mangy pooch that growls as you approach.

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Bravo those few brave villages who went ahead with their traditional fetes last Saturday as lockdown no longer loomed. But, true to its traditional nastiness, the English weather decided to be wet and tried to put a damper on our desperate merriment.

We must not moan. It was only a shower. Elsewhere they have floods, earthquakes, wildfires and droughts. We are lucky to be merely a bit damp.

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How disloyal we were to our East Coast resorts when we succumbed to the allure of package holidays on the cheapo costas. And how eagerly we now plan a day trip to Cromer, Yarmouth or classy Aldeburgh.

We rediscover their historical joys and homely comforts. But how quickly we will forget them again when Covid fears are a memory.

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