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John Bone's irreverent look at Newmarket's week




My milkman is magic. He sells kindling for lighting fires and water to put them out. He sells compost and cabbages, potatoes and piccalilli, bacon and biscuits, bread and jam. He even sells a bit of milk if you ask. But his milk menu is much shorter than the veg and patisserie range.

True, he sells cow’s milk but, despite having his headquarters only a few miles from Headquarters, he does not sell mare’s milk. Yet.

Perhaps he hasn’t heard about Frank Shellard, a Cotswold farmer who runs a dairy herd of 14 mares. Mr Shellard is one of few pioneering European farmers trying to establish a mare’s milk market.

Mare and foal
Mare and foal

It’s not easy despite the apparent health advantages. So it may take some time for Newmarket studs and stables to develop a nice little earner on the side. I imagine milk from a famous brood mare would be a premium product.

But the British are strangely resistant to dietary expansion. We mock the French taste for frogs, snails and horses. If anything could make mare’s milk acceptable it would be the special cachet of coming from Newmarket. Think what it’s done for sausages.

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In the light of their sad state and sorry history we can only wonder why the Icewell Hill flats were built in the first place. Why did a town surrounded by open countryside decide to stack people up in high-rise blocks?

As it is, the flats have a sorry story. Their present state finds residents complaining of drink and drug-fuelled bad behaviour. Fly-dumpers blight the area. A councillor says staircases and corridors stink and lifts are too small. Solutions are sought. Tenants are consulted How many will dare use the word “bulldozer”?

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We may smile today to see how modest Victorian and Edwardian terrace town houses boast a fringe of fake battlements over a bow window at the front.

The fantasy that an Englishman’s home is his castle was there in stone to prove it. We may, as I have said, smile at the quaintly endearing fantasy of our forefathers. But we are much the same today. Our dream is not so much a castle as a cottage. So, if you study estate homes being built today you will often find a gesture of false beams quite unrelated to the true structure of a house but symbolic of a half-timbered antiquity.

As we thrust forward into a strictly scientific, no-nonsense future, we still cling to the safety of the past.

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I was horrified by a whole page of last week’s Journal devoted to urgent advice on how to chuck out stuff so you have more space in your home. There was a long list of things to bin.

For a while I was speechless with dismay but eventually I found the strength to shout into the empty air: “Don’t they know that as soon as you dump anything it almost immediately becomes useful and you have to buy a replacement?”

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Soham is growing so quickly that there is a risk really silly things will be done in this eager urgency to build.

Praise heaven councillors still have their senses and have ruled out a proposal to create a children’s play area close to a sewage farm. But it is a measure of these feverish times that such a stupid scheme was dreamed up in the first place.

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It is no wonder Bottisham’s doctors were 'petrified' by the prospect of a large housing development for pensioners.

“We are already struggling,” said Dr Emma McGrath. But people must have homes somewhere. Can anyone specify a spot so blessed with spare surgery facilities staffed by doctors with time on their hands that such a development would be welcome?

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We have reported that an Isleham driver has been fined £200 for failing to wear a seat belt. Essentially, he was punished for failing to protect himself. Yet people who fail to protect not only themselves but others by refusing the Covid jab are widely regarded benignly as crackpots. Why?

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So any gaps left in the Sunnica solar farm area may be filled with plastic greenhouses for salad crops.

Let’s face it, the sort of English countryside envisaged by the poets is approaching extinction. Look as hard as you like but you will not see a ploughman homeward plodding his weary way – he’s got a car now and his horses are merely memories.

Every step in the history of the farming landscape is accompanied by its own angry hoo-hah. I bet the traction engines we now treasure were menacing monsters a hundred years ago and even then lowing herds were seldom seen winding slowly o’er the lea.

Today’s infants may live to see the day when local museums will exhibit a precious panel of photo-electric cells, sole survivor of the millions that once smothered the landscape of the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire borders before a new power source made them redundant. By the same token, the windmills we now preserve for their elegant beauty may have been abominations once.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for the first poem about the beauty of a solar farm, although there’s quite a good one about grid pylons. Our 'changeless' countryside never ceases to change.

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