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John Bone's take on Newmarket's week




Keep it quiet but I suspect Soham could be among the worst places in the county for noisy neighbours.

According to freedom of information statistics, in the past three years there has been a noise complaint against one in every 17 people in East Cambridgeshire.

Loud music is the worst cause, followed by barking dogs. But the surprising third runner in this catalogue of shame actually makes East Cambs look splendidly ambitious and energetic. The No.3 cause of complaints in East Cambs is DIY and property renovation work.

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

Some experts are putting this down to lockdown. Shut up at home, the noisemakers are banging away at nest building. Still that attracted only 180 complaints compared with 1,779 for loud music.

To my mind, the really sad thing about this shameful picture of East Cambs is that I am certain only a minority of the music offenders have the least idea how much pain and fury they are causing.

Their normal is the neighbours’ hell.

A bit of Burwell now belongs to its county council.

Cambridgeshire has a long tradition of leasing small farms to people who might never otherwise get a foot on the farming ladder. But the latest acquisition of 240 acres is the first for 50 years and follows a sad series of farmland sales as housing sites.

The county has the biggest farmland holding in England and is a brilliant intervention in protecting the landscape. I find this sort of investment much more imaginative than some Suffolk experiments in, say, power production. It is so hard for good young people to get a toe-hold in becoming their own boss in agriculture.

Bringing joy to the jaded in January while we cower under the Covid curse, snowdrops blooming so beautifully now are a promise of better times to come.

Plant snowdrops this year to get a good show next winter
Plant snowdrops this year to get a good show next winter

Things may be better by next winter but we will still need cheering up in the worst of winter and there is something we can do about that in the next few days. The best time to plant snowdrops for next year is right after they have finished blooming this year. They prefer to be dug up, divided and replaced 'in the green'.

So, if you have a lot on your plot, give away some and if you have none then smile sweetly at a luckier neighbour or, as a last resort, buy some. You’ll be so glad next January.

While many despair, an optimistic minority see opportunity. Even a deadly pandemic has its bright side for lively business minds like Roboscientific at Littleport.

For some time the firm has been selling a bird disease detection device to chicken farms. Now they have converted the original screening system to detect Covid-19 in, for example, school classrooms

Once the bug is found the headteacher would be alerted. This echoes a wartime attitude to technology when peaceful purposes were weaponised.

As dog theft is a booming business in our corner of the country, I cannot help wondering at the state of mind of the people involved.

I’m not talking about the robbed owners and I am certainly not talking about the thieves who are obvious greedy thugs careless of the pain they cause to pets and owners alike.

No, the people who puzzle me are the ones who buy the stolen animals. Even if they have been spun some story by the thief, how can they have in their home as a beloved pet a creature that has murky origins? How can they stroke a pooch they must suspect was almost literally torn from the arms of the real owner? To buy a dog under such suspect circumstances is to become complicit in a disgraceful trade

The pandemic and Brexit have produced a mass of new official forms to be filled in by importers, exporters and claimants for Covid business grants.

I’m glad to see East Cambs are trying to simplify and unify the 19 different forms they started with in their business grant system. It would be no bad thing if all form-designers, especially Government Ministries, took a hard look at the bureaucratic hoops they make citizens jump through.

Above all, before any form is launched on an innocent public, an independent person should try to fill it in.

What I really hate is those forms that provide a tiny space for something like your address. City dwellers’ addresses may be quite short but we rural yokels have addresses that include villages with two or even three-word names to say nothing of long multi-word road names and house names. I am such a yokel – my basic address has nine words apart from the postcode. Try getting that into a teeny-weeny slot provided by some urban dweller who lives at 21 High Street.

My congratulations to Dan Phipps who has been voted into the chair of the National Sheep Association. But this may not free him from the disappointment he must see flickering across the faces of people who ask him what he does for a living.

When he says he looks after the animals at the Newmarket stud of the man who is possibly the greatest racehorse owner and breeder in the world.They gasp:“You work for Sheikh Mohammed?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your role in the world-class equine outfit?”

“I look after his sheep.”

“Sheep?”

“Yes, sheep.”

“So you’ve got no tips for me when I’m looking for a winner?”

“No stallions but I’ve got some champion rams.”

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