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Columnist John Bone takes an irreverent look at Newmarket's week



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The widespread, vocal but essentially mean-spirited, public response to desperate cross-Channel migrants has been well reported.

The worst I have encountered was an apparent attempt to interfere with a lifeboat launch at Hastings.

A grim picture has been painted. But is it accurate? I think not. The public is not so unkind as it might seem.

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

Horrified by the distress along the Channel coast, donors have been pouring funds into the RNLI and I was delighted and heartened to see how The Boot pub at Dullingham has been a centre for gathering food, shelter and clothing for refugees in Calais.

The problem is that kind people don’t make such a noise about it as those who would let the wretched migrants drown.

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Explaining why jockey Robbie Dunne was handed a tough18-week ban for bullying Bryony Frost, the BHA’s panel chairman, Brian Barker, told Dunne: “Your behaviour and language would not be tolerated in any other walk of life.” Has Mr Barker not heard of the Metropolitan Police?

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Heaven forefend I should get involved in all this Partygate nastiness, but I feel bound to point out that when ministers and their spokespersons expressed a preference for the word ‘gathering’ rather than ‘party’ they must have been unaware that one definition of a gathering in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘an accumulation of purulent matter in any part of the body’ or, to, put it another way, ‘an abscess full of puss’.

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I guess it comes of living in an old town with a complex history of property ownership, but it certainly seems to take longer to get anything done here than other towns.

Cross fingers the decades-long dispute over historic stables may be drawing to a sensible solution but now we have a hang-up over one of the best buildings in the High Street, the Rutland Arms Hotel.

Time is running out for the permitted improvements while lawyers try to unpick a cat’s cradle of undefined impediments.

While I pity the owners, it may be a little comfort to them that these snags have come at a time when the hospitality industry is in the Covid doldrums.

Perhaps they are not losing much trade now but will the dear old Rutland be ready when the good times roll again?

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A Newmarket house is available to let but the agent warns: “Pets considered.”

This conjures up a nightmare scene in which I am the potential occupant but face the ordeal of getting my dog past the pet interview obstacle.

She is a very dear and very well-behaved old lady but I’d bet my bottom dollar she would pee on the doormat and up the hall just to make my move impossible.

What’s worse, she’d then come up to me and nudge my knee to seek my approval.

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For obvious reasons, pantomimes seem in short supply this year, so it is all the more admirable to see Stetchworth’s Ellesmere Devils Panto Society preparing to give their Dick Whittington in February.

Panto is at the heart of English popular culture and one of our unique contributions to world theatre. Does that sound a bit pompous? All together now: Oh yes it does!

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Glad to see that, following my mention the other day, Stinky Ditch is back on the itinerary for Soham’s Heartbeat Health Walks. Gooseberry Arcade, which always sounds a bit rude to me, seems safe, too

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Despite the seriousness of their structurally unsafe shop in Newmarket, I can’t help seeing something a bit comical about McColls, a chain of newsagents who, like us at the Journal, are in the business of gathering and providing information, refusing to say a word about the crisis in their St Mary’s Square store.

But on the other hand, and to be fair, there are many embarrassing things in my life that I haven’t even told Mrs Bone.

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Poor Matt Hancock, he might have harboured hopes that his famous breach of social distancing as Health Secretary might die down with time.

He has even said “I’m sorry” again. But then along comes Partygate and his lapse gets another airing.

We sometimes wish that Newmarket was famous for something other than horse racing, but not this way.