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



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It is so easy for any aspect of public life in any small town to descend into a silly squabble that I am surprised that all sides are speaking such sense over the latest Newmarket market move.

The market, wherever it ends up, is no longer seen by some as a bothersome medieval hangover but as an institution central to the town’s life. Indeed, Peter Stevens, the councillor charged with leading the search for a permanent market location, sees an almost visionary role for what others have seen as an embarrassment.

The good councillor goes beyond merely defending the street market’s importance to trade. He believes it contributes to human happiness. He speaks of it supporting ‘the mental and physical health of residents’.

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

He is right. A few may scoff, but the social side of a market, the hustle and bustle as we bump shoulders with neighbours and strangers all hunting down bargains, lifts the spirits. I find such markets exhilarating and socially binding. We must trust Peter and his team to find a solution soon. And, if you will forgive an awful pun, no stalling.

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Speaking as a paid-up member of the chattering classes, I sense a risk we are all chattering ourselves into a crisis before it happens.

The news is so full of dire warnings about a calamitous winter full of illness and shortage that we are almost bringing it on and suffering before it has even started.

As I write this, the sun has just come out and everything’s looking lovely. Chin up, chaps, it may never happen.

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The loss of £1,700 to Newmarket Town Council by allowing the revived town cricket club free use of The Severals for another season is, as councillors agreed, trifling. I’d say the good the cricketers do for the town’s pride and status make £1,700 cheap at the price.

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Jockeys are courageous people. You’d never get me up on one of those nervy beasts. But Ray Dawson’s candid analysis of his drink and drug problem took a special sort of courage.

And, since so much of Newmarket’s prosperity rests on a Muslim community itself radically opposed to alcohol, it may show a certain depth of understanding on their part that he gets the rides he does.

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Some sarky soul once described Nissen huts as ‘a successful experiment in accelerated heat loss’.

Anyone who has ever spent a winter night in one will agree. Yet an abandoned specimen of this unlovely wartime structure fetched £169,000 out Isleham way the other day. I wish now I hadn’t demolished my garden air raid shelter.

But on the other hand even luxurious wartime accommodation had its drawbacks. Last week’s Journal obituary for Mrs Veronica Lymn, of Ousden, told how as a little girl she was evacuated to Chatsworth, the vast home of the Dukes of Devonshire, where sleeping in enormous stately rooms was ‘extremely cold’. So maybe there could be such a thing as a stately Nissen hut.

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Silly me! When I was writing a couple of weeks back about the value of sheer silliness in otherwise sober sided public life, I quoted several examples but left out one of the most obvious and magnificently silly local events – Soham Pumpkin Fair.

This year was another absurd success in celebration of a huge and barely edible vegetable that crowds out more useful food in the garden. Wonderfully, gloriously silly!

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The search is on for someone to switch on Newmarket’s Christmas lights.

So here’s a really crazy and possibly highly unpopular suggestion. Let’s be forgiving to a chap who, through his own fault, has had an absolute nightmare of a year. How about letting the shamed, the disgraced, the faintly ridiculous Matt Hancock move towards reputational redemption by pressing the button? No-one’s perfect.

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